Annexation or Independence:
The Texas Issue in American Politics, 183 6-1845
JOHN H. SCHROEDER*
N 1836 THE SUCCESSFUL REVOLUTION BY TEXAS AGAINST MEXICO CRE-
ated a troublesome and complex issue for the United States. Over
the next nine years the question of whether Texas would or would not
be annexed to the Union first complicated and then dominated Ameri-
can politics and diplomacy. In the process, Texas became an issue of
"profound historical importance" and "a turning point in the nation's
history," in the estimation of contemporary observers as well as histo-
rians more than a century later.' Although the annexation of Texas
seems, in retrospect, to have been an inevitable and natural product of
the westward movement, it did not seem so at the time to many observ-
ers in Europe, Mexico, Texas, and the United States. To them annexa-
tion was neither a foregone conclusion nor an inevitable event. Other
alternatives seemed entirely possible in the late 183os and early 184os.
In the United States, antislavery forces and opponents of expansion
sought to prevent annexation. European diplomats hoped that Texas
would emerge as an independent counterweight to the United States in
North America, while some Texans proudly anticipated the growth of a
strong new republic. And in Mexico several regimes vowed to regain
control of their lost province.
In fact, the diplomatic and political complexities of the Texas ques-
tion explain why annexation took almost a decade to accomplish once
*John H. Schroeder received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia in 1971.
Since 197o he has been a member of the History Department faculty at the University of Wis-
consin-Milwaukee, where he is now an associate professor and also serves as the acting vice
chancellor for academic affairs. Schroeder is the author of Mr. Polk's War: American Opposition
and Dissent, 1846-1848 (Madison, 1973) and Shaping a Maritime Empire: The Commercial and Dzp-
lomatic Role of the U.S. Navy, 1829-1861 (Westport, Conn., 1985). In addition, he has written
numerous articles on American diplomatic and political history in the antebellum period.
'James C. N. Paul, Rift in the Democracy (Philadelphia, 1951), xi (1st quotation); Frederick
Merk, Slavery and the Annexation of Texas (New York, 1972), ix (2nd quotation). See also, WilliamJ.
Cooper, The South and the Politics of Slavery, 1828-1856 (Baton Rouge, 1978), 224; and Justin H.
Smith, The Annexation of Texas (1911; reprint, New York, 1971), v.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/. Accessed May 4, 2015.