Heritage, Winter 2004 Page: 10
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about 50 million acres had been
disposed of between 1836 and
1845. But Texas would have lost
her public lands upon entering
the Union had it not been for
political divisions within the U.S.
Congress-and a dose of luck.
By the mid-1840s, U.S. President
John Tyler and Secretary of State
John C. Calhoun were eager to
have Texas join the Union. After
all, the United States could ill
afford to have right on its doorstep
a nation that might become a
satellite of European powers.
However, public opinion was divided,
and the U.S. Congress was
badly fractured over the annexation
issue between Democrats and
Whigs, Northerners and
Southerners, and pro-slavery and
As the Tyler administration
neared its end, no less than ten different
annexation proposals were
introduced in the House of
Representatives in late 1844. A
Congressional majority was for
annexation, but the devil was in the
details. It fell to Calhoun to sort
through the proposals and cobble
together a majority. Representative
Milton Brown, a Whig Party member
from Tennessee, had crafted legislation
that allowed Texas to keep
its unappropriated public lands as
well as responsibility for its public
debt. His resolution formed the
basis for annexation because as a
Whig, Brown could attract the
votes needed to pass it. His legislation
also had merit because no one
knew the actual boundaries of
Texas. Fiscal conservatives did not
want to assume a large debt while
getting less acreage than expected
in exchange. And many did not
want to begin a precedent of assuming
"There i6 land enough in
Texa6...to supply the
demand... of the whole
Texas accepted the proposal and
entered the Union with its public
lands and debts. Ultimately, the
debts were assumed by the United
States in the Compromise of 1850
in exchange for accepting the
present borders of the state.
With the ownership of public
lands secure, Texas continued to
make great use of them throughout
the 19th century. Under the
Constitution of 1876 the dedication
of public land to education was
expanded with the addition of 42
million acres. As acreage was sold
by the General Land Office, the
money was placed in the
Permanent School Fund (PSF).
Also, more public land continued
to be set aside for higher education
as the University of Texas began
operations in 1883.
continued on page 12
HERITAGE WINTER 2004
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Winter 2004, periodical, Winter 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45372/m1/10/: accessed December 14, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.