Controversy over Admission of Texas into the Union
The admission of Texas into the Union as the 28th state on Dec. 29, 1845, came after a great deal of controversy in the country and heated debate in Congress. For one thing, Texas had been an independent country since 1836, when it won independence from Mexico and formed the Republic of Texas: some argued U.S. law permitted annexation of American territories, but not other countries. Another concern was that annexing Texas would anger Mexico, which regarded Texas as a renegade province of its own—and sure enough, the Mexican-American War erupted the next year, in 1846. Finally, there was the nearly insurmountable obstacle of the Texas constitution allowing slavery; its admission would threaten the Union’s delicate balance between free and slave states.
The following five newspaper articles reflect the Texas controversy and the variety of opinions Americans held regarding its admission. The first was published by the Boston Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts) on Dec. 30, 1845:
The State of Texas
The Joint Resolution for the admission of Texas into the Union, which last week passed the House of Representatives, yesterday passed the Senate, after a debate, brief but of great interest, of which a full report will be placed before our readers.
The die having been cast at the last session, the consummation of “annexation,” in one form or other, at the present session of Congress, was to have been expected. But the act of admission is exceptionable in several particulars, and especially in its contravention of the spirit if not of the letter of the Constitution, in giving to Texas, without any intermediate term of probation, such as other Territories have all undergone before being admitted into the Union, a right to send two Representatives to Congress, her population not being sufficient to entitle her to even one, except under the special provision in the Constitution that “each State shall have at least one Representative.” What there is in the case of Texas, or in the claims of her population to the peculiar favor of Congress that should give to her, a State just born, privileges which are not even yet enjoyed by the older States of Arkansas and Florida—which were not enjoyed by other new States before them, and will assuredly not be extended to the State of Iowa when she comes into the Union—it required the assembled wisdom of the nation to discover.
In the Senate, the privilege of debate upon the subject, or of proposing amendments, we are happy to say, was not refused, as it had been in the House of Representatives. In both Houses however, this act of admission of a Foreign Territory into the Union—an act for solemn deliberation, if any act can be—appears to us to have been pressed to a decision with, to say the least of it, an unseemly precipitancy.
Not all New England newspapers opposed the admission of Texas. This exultant article was published by the Vermont Gazette (Bennington, Vermont) on Dec. 30, 1845:
Now constitutes the twenty-eighth State of the Union—she is finally annexed to this Republic, in spite of narrow minded Federalism, and the immortal “Free State Rally and Texan Chain Breaker.”
…After all the bustle and confusion which has been raised for two years past on the Texas question, but 13, and those all Whigs, could be found who were narrow minded enough to vote against its admission as a State, entitled to all the privileges of the other States of the Union.
…This acquisition of territory to our Union, which places a strong check upon the overbearing spirit of Great Britain, and renders her dependent upon the United States for her cotton, was ever from its commencement, a favorite measure of the Democratic party. It was forced by the Federalists into a party question, and used by them for electioneering purposes, with all the power that party could wield during the Presidential campaign of 1844. With this question, and the “Roorback” stories they told, they were determined to defeat Mr. Polk, who they pretended was an obscure man. But it awakes a thrill of joy in every republican heart to know that Texas now constitutes a part of this glorious republic, and that James K. Polk, who is worthy of the trust reposed in him, is President of the United States.
Slavery opponents, as expected, were displeased. This article was published by the Constitution (Middletown, Connecticut) on Dec. 31, 1845:
The passage of the resolutions annexing Texas to the United States is an act which will be long remembered, and a precedent, it is to be feared, dangerous to American liberty. When Louisiana was added to the Union, reasons could be found justifying the measure in a degree far more satisfactory than ever the annexation of Texas was justified. Yet the annexation of Louisiana darkened and almost shut out the hope that slavery, the greatest curse of a republic, would ultimately vanish from our soil; but the annexation of Texas has completely and most studiously excluded every ray of that hope which was left us. The acquisition of California, a part of which will be a slave country, is expected to follow the annexation of Texas. Without that, however, the hands of human slavery are riveted to our soil so firmly that they will not soon be broken.
The design of the founders of our glorious Constitution is most signally defeated. When they, urged by the necessity of the times, permitted slavery to remain sanctioned by the laws, they publicly and earnestly expressed their desire and expectations that it would gradually go Southward until abolished. How signally their wishes and just expectations have been defeated we have just seen.
By a provision in the Constitution of Texas, which has been accepted by Congress, slavery in that district is not only allowed but secured to their citizens—a provision not found in any of the Constitutions of the other slave-holding States. This point, Mr. Webster, in a few remarks made at the final passage of the bill, urged on the consideration of the Senate. It does not however require the acute mind of Mr. Webster to see the evil likely to accrue from the obnoxious provision—everyone of common discernment can see it.
Some abolitionist newspapers took their defeat in stride, determined to carry on the fight against slavery. This article was published by the Emancipator (Boston, Massachusetts) on Dec. 31, 1845:
What Will You Abolitionists Do, Now Texas Is Annexed?
We retract nothing of all that we have charged against the iniquity of this measure, as a base scheme for the benefit of slavery, and a proof of shameless subserviency on the part of the North, who have done the deed with their eyes open. It is the grossest exhibition we have yet had, of the detestable policy which has long governed this country. We solemnly renew our condemnation of it from beginning to end. But the question recurs, what are abolitionists to do next?
This is a question asked by many, at the present time—by some seriously—by others tauntingly—by both classes with an evident belief that the consummation of this iniquity has so changed the aspect of the anti-slavery cause, as greatly to dishearten its friends, if it does not cause a total abandonment of the enterprise. Our answer to the question is simply this. We propose to do now, what we have been doing these twelve years, and more—ever since the pledge was adopted and published—“to do all that is lawfully in our power for the speedy abolition of slavery in the United States.”
And our means and measures are those which we proposed from the beginning, “moral and political action.”
We do not feel that our enterprise is either baffled or defeated by this result. The object is the same, the means the same, the result neither postponed nor prevented.
The slave states, of course, welcomed the addition of another slave state into the Union. This article was published by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) on Jan. 2, 1846:
The State of Texas
The Annexation of Texas is at length a fixed fact. The passage in the Senate, on the 22d ult., of the resolutions which had been previously adopted in the House of Representatives, accepting the Constitution of Texas, and admitting her into full communion with the other members of the confederacy, was the last act in the drama of Annexation, and we hope the curtain has fallen upon the passions, heart-burnings and jealousies which were conspicuous during its progress. It was the inevitable result of a perfect freedom of opinion that differences should arise upon a matter so momentous as that of annexing a large foreign territory to the Union, and the particular juncture of time at which this question was brought before the people, and the influence it exerted in destroying party connections, were well calculated to impart bitterness to these differences. But now the crisis is past, the issue has been decided, a new daughter is born to the Constitution, and we hope the stranger will not be the less welcome on account of the long travail through which the country has passed.
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