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Republic of Texas
Comancheria prior to 1850

The Texas Annexation of 1845 was the voluntary annexation of the Republic of Texas to the United States of America as the twenty-eighth state. It quickly led to the Mexican War (1846-48) in which the U.S. captured further territory west to the Pacific Ocean. Texas claimed but never controlled parts of present-day Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, and disputed them with the federal government and New Mexico until the Compromise of 1850 in which these lands became parts of other territories of the United States.





Anglo-American immigrants, primarily from the South, began immigrating to Mexican Texas in the early 1820s at the request of the Mexican government, which sought to populate the sparsely inhabited lands of its northern frontier.[1] Anglo-Americans soon became a majority in Texas and eventually became disillusioned with Mexican rule. Coahuila y Texas, a Mexican state of which Texas was a constituent part after 1824, endorsed a plan for the gradual emancipation of the state's slaves in 1827, which angered many slaveholding settlers who had moved to Texas from the South.[2] For this and other reasons, Texas declared independence from Mexico, resulting in war with Mexico. In 1836, the fighting ended and Sam Houston became the first president of the Republic of Texas, elected on a platform that favored annexation to the United States.

Initial Texan proposal

In August 1837, James Freeman, the Texan ambassador to the United States, submitted an annexation proposal to the Van Buren administration. Believing that annexation would lead to war with Mexico, the administration declined Texas’ proposal. After the election of Mirabeau B. Lamar, an opponent of annexation, as president of Texas in 1838 and the United States’ apprehension regarding annexation, Texas withdrew its offer.[3]

Failed treaty

In 1843, President John Tyler came out in support of annexation, entering negotiations with the Republic of Texas for an annexation treaty, which he submitted to the Senate.[4] On 8 June 1844, the treaty was defeated 35 to 16, well below the two-thirds majority necessary for ratification.[5] Of the 29 Whig senators, 28 voted against the treaty with only one Whig, a southerner, supporting it.[6] The Democratic senators were more divided on the issue with six northern Democrats and one southern Democrat opposing the treaty and five northern Democrats and ten southern Democrats supporting it.[7]

Annexation by joint resolution

James K. Polk, a Democrat and a strong supporter of territorial expansion, was elected president in November 1844 with a mandate to acquire both the Republic of Texas and Oregon Country.[8] After the election, the Tyler administration realized that public opinion was in favor of annexation, consulted with President-elect Polk, and set out to accomplish annexation by means of a joint resolution.[9] The resolution declared that Texas would be admitted as a state as long as it approved annexation by 1 January 1846, that it could split itself up into four additional states, and that possession of the Republic’s public lands would shift to the state of Texas upon its admission.[10] On 26 February 1845, six days before Polk took office, Congress passed the joint resolution.[11] Not long afterward, Andrew Jackson Donelson, the American chargé d'affaires in Texas and the nephew of former president Andrew Jackson, presented the American resolution to President Anson Jones of Texas.[12] In July 1845, the Texan Congress endorsed the American annexation offer with only one dissenting vote and began writing a state constitution.[13] The citizens of Texas approved the new constitution and the annexation ordinance in October 1845 and Polk signed the documents formally integrating Texas into the United States on 29 December 1845.[14]

Options for secession and the formation of new states

Right to secede

Neither the ordinance of annexation nor the joint resolution included provisions giving Texas the right to secede.[15] In its decision in Texas v. White in 1869, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Texas’ secession in 1861 had been illegal. The Court held that “[t]he Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States.” The court did allow that divisibility might be possible "through revolution, or through consent of the States."[16]

Forming new states

The joint resolution and ordinance of annexation contain language permitting that formation of up to four additional states out of the former territories of the Republic of Texas:

New States of convenient size not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas and having sufficient population, may, hereafter by the consent of said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution.[17]

The joint resolution required that if any new states were formed out of Texas’ lands, those north of the Missouri Compromise line would become free states and those south of the line could choose whether or not to permit slavery.[18] Article Four of the Constitution prohibits the creation of new states out of existing ones without the consent of both the legislature of that state and of Congress, but the division of Texas into multiple states has never been attempted.

Border disputes

Proposals for Texas north and west boundaries in 1850 debate

The joint resolution and ordinance of annexation have no language specifying the boundaries of Texas, but only refer in general terms to "the territory properly included within, and rightfully belonging to the Republic of Texas", and state that the new State of Texas is to be formed "subject to the adjustment by this [U.S.] government of all questions of boundary that may arise with other governments."

According to George Lockhart Rives, "That treaty had been expressly so framed as to leave the boundaries of Texas undefined, and the joint resolution of the following winter was drawn in the same manner. It was hoped that this might open the way to a negotiation, in the course of which the whole subject of the boundaries of Mexico, from the Gulf to the Pacific, might be reconsidered, but these hopes came to nothing."[19]

There was an ongoing border dispute between the Republic of Texas and Mexico prior to annexation. Texas claimed the Rio Grande as its border, while Mexico maintained that it was the Nueces River and did not recognize Texan independence. President James K. Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor to garrison the southern border of Texas, as defined by the former Republic. Taylor moved into Texas, ignoring Mexican demands to withdraw, and marched as far south as the Rio Grande, where he began to build a fort near the river's mouth on the Gulf of Mexico. The Mexican government regarded this action as a violation of its sovereignty.

The Republic of Texas never controlled what is now New Mexico. The failed Texas Santa Fe Expedition of 1841 was its only attempt to take that territory. El Paso was only taken under Texas governance by Robert Neighbors in 1850, over four years after annexation; he was not welcomed in New Mexico.[20] Texas continued to claim New Mexico as far as the Rio Grande, supported by the rest of the South, and opposed by the North and by New Mexico itself, until agreeing to today's boundary in the Compromise of 1850.

Controversy over legality of annexation

The original controversy about the legality of the annexation of Texas stems from the fact that Congress approved the annexation of Texas as a territory with a simple majority vote approval instead of annexing the land by Treaty, as was done with Native American lands. After the United States and The Republic of Texas were unable to reach a Treaty agreement, Congress passed a Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States.[21] The Republic of Texas' Annexation Convention then submitted the Ordinance of Annexation[22] to popular vote in October 1845 and the public approved the measure. This Ordinance of Annexation was submitted and approved by the House and Senate of the United States and signed by the President on December 29, 1845. While this was an awkward, if not unusual, treaty process it was fully accepted by all parties involved, and more importantly all parties performed on those agreements making them legally binding (see Contract Law). In addition, the United States Supreme Court decided in the case of DeLima v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1 (1901), that annexation by a joint resolution of Congress is legal.[23]


  1. ^ Ray Allen Billington,The Far Western Frontier, 1830-1860 (New York: Harper & Row, 1956), p. 116.
  2. ^ Ibid. , pp. 116-117.
  3. ^ Richard Bruce Winders, Crisis in the Southwest: The United States, Mexico, and the Struggle over Texas (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), p. 41.
  4. ^ T.R. Fehrenbach, Lone Star: A History of Texas and Texans (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2000), p. 263.
  5. ^ Thomas M. Hietala, Manifest Design: American Exceptionalism and Empire (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 40.
  6. ^ Ibid.
  7. ^ Ibid.
  8. ^ Fehrenbach, Lone Star, p. 264
  9. ^ Ibid., p. 265
  10. ^ Ibid.
  11. ^ Ibid
  12. ^ Ibid.; Hietala, Manifest Design, p. 43.
  13. ^ Fehrenbach, Lone Star, p. 266.
  14. ^ Ibid., p. 267
  15. ^ Joint Resolution of Congress, Section 2, March 1, 1845; Ordinance of the Convention of Texas, signed July 4, 1845.
  16. ^ Aleksandar Pavković and Peter Radan, Creating New States: Theory and Practice of Secession (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2007), 222; Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1868), Supreme Court Collection, Cornell University Law School.
  17. ^ Quote is from Joint Resolution of Congress, Section 2, March 1, 1845; see also Section 3 of Ordinance of the Convention of Texas, signed 1845 July 4.
  18. ^ Joint Resolution of Congress, Mar. 1, 1845
  19. ^ George Lockhart Rives. The United States and Mexico, 1821-48. 2. p. 47. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Peters, Richard, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, v.5 (Boston: Chas C. Little & Jas. Brown, 1850), 797-798.
  22. ^ Journals of the Constitution Convention of Texas (Austin: Miner & Cruger, Printers to the Constitution, 1845) 367-370.
  23. ^ De Lima v. Bidwell 182 U.S. 1 (1901). FindLaw.

See also

External links

Primary Sources

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