December 29th, 1845

proposed_annexation_of_texas_1845_cornell_cul_pjm_1051_01When the Texas War of Independence ended on April 21st, 1836 there were many in the newly formed Southern Republic that believed it would be openly welcomed into the United States as a part of the Union. Yet, there was more to consider than just territorial expansion. President Andrew Jackson had remained neutral on the issue during the Revolution that begun in his final year in office, believing that Texas wouldn’t be able to stand alone or maintain its independence against the newly formed Centralist Republic of Mexico. As the slavery question raged on he didn’t want to give an issue to the anti-slavery candidates by recognizing the large slaveholding nation that, in his opinion, was doomed to failure. Martin Van Buren, his successor, would recognize Texas as free and independent in 1837 but he was unwilling to welcome a new state that would ultimately shift the equilibrium struck with the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which established the balance of free versus slave states in the Union. At any rate Mexico refused to recognize the legitimacy of the newly seceded nation. To welcome it into the United States would be to welcome hostilities with that southern neighbor, hostilities that could very easily escalate into war. Still, less than a decade after Texas first won its independence, a series of events would occur that would see the Lone Star Republic being welcomed as the 28th State in the Union on December 29th, 1845.

When William Henry Harrison was elected President few people perhaps foresaw him dying within 32 days of his inauguration and Vice President John Tyler ascending to the highest office of the land. With 8 men having served before Harrison none had failed to serve the full tenure of the office. Yet as pneumonia made the now 68-year-old Harrison’s Presidency the shortest in history, Tyler had to take the reins. Soon it would begin to crumble. His opponents would refuse to recognize his legitimacy referring to him as the Acting President or as the Vice President, the majority of Cabinet would resign, finding him impossible to work with, he would be expelled from the Whig Party and forced to remain as an independent. The Senate would hold up or reject his cabinet appointments, which had, until that point, been practically unheard of, and by 1842 the House, outraged by his use of a veto on the Tariff Bills the Whigs favored, was seeking to bring articles of impeachment against him, something that had, until that point had been more constitutional theory than anything else. Though it ultimately was tabled, Tyler was dying a slow political death. Yet if there was a path to saving his Presidency Tyler believed it laid through Texas, it could even, in his mind, secure his re-election in 1844. Yet it would not be soon enough and the hopes he had of securing his own mandate faded even as treaties were signed. As he faced tough opposition in the House and Senate, and setbacks, he looked to another path. A Democrat before he joined the Whig Party that saw his election on the Harrison ticket, as he shifted towards the Democratic Party once more, they were not yet willing to welcome him back to the fold, and as James Polk was nominated by the Democrats, Tyler formed his own new Democratic-Republican Party, styled in the form of the late Thomas Jefferson under the slogan “Tyler and Texas”. Ultimately his goal wouldn’t be win, the chances of that had slipped through his grasp. It was to appear as a potential spoiler and to strike a deal with Polk to force him into an annexation position. Polk and Tyler would enter a secret pact at the encouragement of Andrew Jackson, a supporter of annexation, where Tyler encouraged his supporters to back the Democratic nominee having been assured that Polk would push annexation. In the end the Democrats would win the Presidency by a narrow margin, 49.5 to 48.1% in the popular vote, 170 to 101 seats in the Electoral College. Texas would be one of Polk’s first orders of business.

Tyler’s legacy would not be safe, despite believing that Texas’ admittance in the Union would vindicate him. For him, the saving grace was that he would go from being considered one of the worst Presidents in history to the obscure. Still, he would perhaps be best remembered not for Texas but for being the only former President to side with the Confederacy during the Civil War, serving not only in the Virginia Secession Convention but the Confederate Congress before his death in 1862.


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