by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS
Texans used to brag a lot more than we do now, and one source of pride was that
Texas alone of the forty-eight states had been
an independent republic before we annexed the United States. |
right there is full of braggadocio, isn't it?
Anyway, the admission of
Hawaii tampered with our claim to exclusiveness in independent nationhood, though
those little bitty islands did spend more than sixty years as a territory before
becoming a state while we made the metamorphosis in a flicker after nine years
Four presidents served the Republic of Texas during
that time. First came interim president David G. Burnet, who was selected
for the post by the second meeting of the Consultation in March 1836. Burnet was
never elected by the people, so he was really a caretaker for the Consultation
for six months until Sam
Houston became the first elected president of the Republic in September.
for two years -- a constitutional limitation for the first president only; successors
served three-year terms, though none could succeed themselves immediately. Here
is a list of Houston's
problems: no money, or really any way to raise it, but a mountain of debt from
the revolution; Mexico repudiated the Treaties
of Velasco in which Santa Anna agreed to Texas'
independence to save his life, and could have mounted another invasion at any
time; and Texas was unrecognized by the nations
of the world. Houston
sought immediate annexation, on any terms, but anti-slavery forces prevented the
US from accepting Texas.
was succeeded in 1838 by Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, who had served as Houston's
vice president. It is difficult to imagine men more different in physique, personality,
was a large, boisterous man, Lamar slight of build; Houston
was all action, while Lamar was more reserved and thoughtful; and Houston
wanted to get Texas into the Union as quickly
as possible and bequeath its problems to the larger US, but Lamar wanted Texas
to remain independent, even expand to California. Most Texans probably think their
concept of self-reliance and independence are the legacy of Houston.
In fact, these traits better describe Lamar.
Lamar could not retain the
presidency in 1841, so Houston
took another turn. Lamar had spent millions of borrowed money, but Houston
spent only $600,000 in three years and renewed efforts to join the Union. He got
close. His administration negotiated a treaty that would have added Texas
to the US as a territory, but it failed by a single vote in the US Senate. That
rejection affected presidential elections in both nations and produced annexation
advocates in both -- James K. Polk in the US and Anson
Jones in Texas.
Jones served a year in which Congress admitted Texas
as a state by joint resolution, effective December 29, 1845.
Jones styled himself thereafter as the Architect of Annexation but the claim
is hollow for he actually reaped the seeds sown and tended by old "Sam Jacinto"
for six of the preceding nine years.
would still be the largest state except Alaska came right along with Hawaii and
messed that up, too.
Things Historical February
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association
and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas)