How Did the Republic of Texas Become a State

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Did you know that the great state of Texas was an independent country before it became part of the United States? The Republic of Texas was independent from March 2, 1836, to February 19, 1846.

But right from the start, many Texans wanted to join the United States. In fact, they voted for annexation in 1836, shortly after gaining independence from Mexico. However, it took almost ten years before Texas officially became the 28th state in December 1845.

During this time, the U.S. was unsure about annexing Texas. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren initially rejected the idea, partly because Texas allowed slavery and partly because they feared conflict with Mexico. Great Britain’s interest in an independent Texas made the situation even more complicated.

The annexation of Texas also helped spark the Mexican-American War. After Texas joined the U.S., unresolved border disputes between Texas and Mexico led to the war, which lasted from 1846 to 1848. These conflicts and political maneuvers were essential in Texas’s journey from being an independent republic to becoming a state.

A Brief History of Texas: From Territory to Statehood

Stephen F. Austin

Texas has a fascinating history, from its days as a Spanish territory through Mexican control to its fight for independence and eventual statehood.

From Spanish Territory to Mexican Texas

In the 16th century, Spanish explorers claimed Texas as part of their expansive empire in the Americas. They established missions and forts to convert Native Americans to Christianity and to fortify their claims against other European powers. San Antonio, founded in 1718, became the administrative center with its mission and presidio (military post).

When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, Texas became part of the new Mexican nation. Mexican authorities offered large land grants to settlers to populate and develop the area.

Stephen F. Austin, a prominent empresario, brought many settlers from the United States, who became known as “Texians.” These settlers were often at odds with the Mexican government due to cultural differences and policies such as the mandatory conversion to Catholicism.

Sam Houston

The Texas Revolution and the Republic

By the mid-1830s, tensions between the Texians and the Mexican government had reached a boiling point. In 1835, the Texas Revolution began, marked by several key battles. The Alamo, a former mission in San Antonio, became a symbol of Texian resistance.

During a 13-day siege in February and March of 1836, Mexican forces led by General Santa Anna overran the outnumbered Texian defenders, including the famous frontiersman Davy Crockett. The heavy losses at the Alamo became a battle cry for the Texians, symbolized by the phrase “Remember the Alamo.”

The decisive Battle of San Jacinto occurred on April 21, 1836. Led by Sam Houston, the Texian army launched a surprise attack on Santa Anna’s forces, capturing the general and securing Texas’s independence.

After this victory, Texas declared itself an independent nation, forming the Republic of Texas. David G. Burnet served as the interim president, and later, Anson Jones became the final president before Texas joined the United States. The Treaties of Velasco, signed after the Battle of San Jacinto, aimed to end hostilities, but Mexico did not recognize them, leading to ongoing tensions.

The Annexation Process: Texas Becomes the 28th State

President John Tyler

Now, after Texas became an independent nation, here’s how it transitioned to a U.S. state. The process of annexing Texas into the United States was complicated and influenced by political maneuvering, debates over slavery, and international relations.

Early Efforts and Opposition

President John Tyler was a significant advocate for the annexation of Texas. In the early 1840s, Tyler saw Texas as an opportunity to expand U.S. territory and strengthen his political support among Southern voters eager to expand slave-holding areas.

Despite his enthusiasm, Tyler faced considerable opposition. Many Whigs, concerned about exacerbating sectional tensions over slavery, were against the idea. Also, some fears annexing Texas would lead to conflict with Mexico, which still considered Texas a rebellious province.

Treaty Signing and Senate Rejection

In April 1844, Tyler signed a treaty with Texas for annexation. However, getting the treaty through the Senate proved difficult. The treaty required a two-thirds majority for approval, and it failed to pass due to strong opposition from anti-slavery senators and those wary of provoking Mexico.

Political Shifts and Changing Sentiments

The political landscape began to shift with the election of James K. Polk in 1844. Polk was a staunch supporter of annexation, running on a platform that included the expansion of U.S. territory. His victory signaled a change in public sentiment and political will toward incorporating Texas into the Union.

Under Polk’s influence, Congress revisited the annexation issue. Instead of a treaty, they pursued a joint resolution, which required a simple majority in both houses. In March 1845, Congress passed the joint resolution for annexation. This legislative maneuver sidestepped the need for a supermajority.

Texas Approval and Public Vote

Following the U.S. Congress’s approval, the Texas Congress needed to agree to the terms of annexation. Intense debates ensued, with some leaders concerned about losing Texas’s independence and others emphasizing the economic and military benefits of joining the U.S. Ultimately, the Texas Congress approved the annexation resolution.

In October 1845, Texas held a public vote to ratify the decision. The vote overwhelmingly favored annexation, demonstrating strong support among Texans for joining the United States.

Drafting the State Constitution

With the public’s approval, Texas began drafting a state constitution. This document outlined the new state’s governance structure and aligned Texas’s laws with those of the United States. Once the Constitution was drafted and submitted to the U.S. Congress for final approval.

Formal Admission to the Union

President James K. Polk, who had taken office by this time, supported the formal inclusion of Texas. On December 29, 1845, Texas was officially admitted to the Union as the 28th state. This event marked the culmination of a long and complex process and was a significant milestone in U.S. expansionism.

Aftermath of Annexation

The Battle of Chapultepec from the Mexican-American War

The annexation of Texas into the United States in 1845 had profound and far-reaching consequences. It not only reshaped the geopolitical landscape of North America but also sparked significant social, economic, and political changes within Texas itself.

Mexican-American War

The annexation of Texas had immediate international repercussions. Mexico had never recognized Texas’s independence and saw the U.S. annexation as an act of aggression. This led to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), a conflict that significantly reshaped the geopolitical landscape of North America. The war ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which Mexico ceded vast territories to the United States, including present-day California, Nevada, and Utah, as well as parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.

Economic and Population Growth

Following annexation, Texas experienced significant economic growth and population increases. The state’s abundant land and resources attracted many immigrants and settlers, bolstering its economy. The introduction of the railroad further integrated Texas into the national economy, facilitating the transport of goods and people and spurring development across the state.

The Compromise of 1850 and Texas Borders

The Compromise of 1850 played a vital role in defining Texas’s borders. Initially, Texas claimed land extending into present-day New Mexico and Colorado. The Compromise settled these disputes, establishing the current boundaries. In exchange for giving up these claims, Texas received $10 million from the federal government, helping it pay off debts and fund infrastructure projects. The borders set then, marked by the Rio Grande to the south and the Nueces River to the north, have remained largely unchanged.

Cultural and Social Changes

Texas Rangers at Realitos in 1887

When Texas became the 28th state, it experienced a blend of cultures and social changes.

  • Native Caddo and Comanche peoples interacted with settlers, and Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) played a key role in the state’s cultural mix.
  • African Americans faced harsh conditions as Texas entered the Union as a slave state. Enslaved people primarily worked on cotton plantations, central to the economy.
  • Women in Texas had limited rights during early statehood, reflecting broader national trends. They had minimal legal rights, public roles, and access to education.
  • The Texas Rangers were essential in protecting settlers from Native American raids, becoming iconic figures in Texas law enforcement, and shaping the state’s identity.

Economic Developments and the Railroad

Economically, Texas began transforming early in its statehood.

  • Cotton farming was the economic backbone, with Galveston becoming a major port for trade, especially in cotton and later oil.
  • The introduction of the railroad connected Texas with other states, making it easier to transport goods and people, spurring economic growth.
  • Austin, the state capital, oversaw political and economic changes, including the development of the state constitution.
  • During the Civil War, Texas joined the Confederacy, emphasizing its identity as a slave state. The war caused economic hardships and social upheaval.
  • Later, oil discoveries would revolutionize the economy, but in the early years, it was primarily agrarian, focused on crops and livestock.

Texas’s Legacy and Historical Significance

The U.S. and Texas flags at the Texas State Capitol

Texas Identity and American History

Texas developed a unique identity since its days as a republic. This period of independence, though brief, fostered a strong sense of pride and resilience among Texans.

Washington-on-the-Brazos, where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed, remains a key historical site. Battles at places like Harrisburg and Velasco are celebrated for their roles in securing Texas’s independence.

Texas’s diverse population, including French, German, and Spanish settlers and African Americans, contributed to its rich culture. This blend of influences has shaped Texas’s distinct identity throughout American history, affecting legislative debates like the Missouri Compromise and the Civil War.

Modern Reflections on Annexation

Modern views on annexation are mixed. While becoming the 28th state brought stability and growth, it also had controversial implications.

Public lands in Texas offered opportunities but also sparked disputes over ownership and usage rights. Comparisons between Texas and other states like Nevada and Arizona highlight how annexation influenced regional development.

Annexation remains a topic of discussion, viewed through the lens of historical consequences and current societal values. It serves as a reminder of the complex interplay between historical events and modern perceptions.

Conclusion

The journey of Texas from an independent republic to the 28th state of the United States was marked by cultural blending, economic transformation, and political debates. From its early days under Spanish and Mexican rule to its eventual statehood, Texas has developed a unique identity that continues to influence its modern character. The state’s history of annexation, economic growth, and cultural diversity remains a rich and complex tapestry, reflecting the broader American experience.

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