The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986 Page: 138
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Texas had won its independence. Although Texas was "a truly interna-
tional question," which "involved Europe more intimately in the affairs
of the Western Hemisphere" than any other matter since the Monroe
Doctrine, the problem of slavery proved to be most important in shap-
ing, defining, and dominating the Texas issue.2 The idea of annexation
involved significant diplomatic, political, and constitutional considera-
tions, but the Texas debate was never really confined to these matters
because abolitionism, slavery, and sectional controversy engulfed the
In the North, abolitionists and such prominent antislavery politicians
as John Quincy Adams charged that annexation was an integral part of
a Slave Power conspiracy to expand southern political influence and
spread slavery to the southwest. In the South, proslavery forces re-
sponded that annexation was essential to southern political and eco-
nomic interests, as well as to the very security and domestic tranquility
of the slave states. Annexation, argued southern extremists, would pre-
vent British schemes to abolish slavery in Texas, undermine the institu-
tion in the South, and further encircle the United States in North
America. Although the extreme views of abolitionists and apologists
were accepted only by a minority of people in the North and South,
these emotional arguments infused and complicated annexation with
the issues of sectional tension, rising abolitionism, partisan controversy,
and diplomatic intrigue. Once combined, these forces prevented either
dispassionate debate or easy resolution of the issue. The annexation
question would undoubtedly have been resolved much sooner, with less
rancor, and with only limited political ramifications had the issue been
confined to its diplomatic and constitutional merits, but the politics of
slavery and sectionalism made such a result impossible.
From 1836 until 1843, annexation remained a dormant but sensitive
issue. Four presidents, including avowed expansionist Andrew Jackson,
evaded the matter, primarily because discussion of annexation invari-
ably raised the explosive question of slavery. Finally, in 1843, President
John Tyler pressed annexation as part of a strategy to create a political
coalition in support of his reelection campaign. Annexation now be-
came an urgent political and diplomatic objective, one the administra-
2David M. Pletcher, The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War (Colum-
bia, Mo., 1973), 207 (quotations). See also, Paul A. Varg, United States Foreign Relations, 1820-
z86o (East Lansing, Mich., 1979), 141; and Eugene C. Barker, "The Annexation of Texas,"
Southwestern Historcal Quarterly, L (July, 1946), 50 (the Quarterly is cited hereafter as SHQ). The
impact of slavery on the annexation question has been discussed in most detail, from somewhat
different perspectives, in Cooper, The South and the Politics of Slavery, and Merk, Slavery and the
Annexation of Texas.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986, periodical, 1985/1986; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/m1/176/: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.