The Republic of Texas
1845: The Twilight Year
Part Two of Two Parts
By Ira Kennedy

 

sam380A.jpg (32149 bytes)The intrigues and influence the U.S. brought to bear on the Convention for Annexation convened on the 4th of July, 1845, began long before the event. To appreciate the circumstances President Anson Jones was faced with, we need to examine the actions of his predecessor, Sam Houston.

On election day, September 2, 1844, President Sam Houston left for his home in Grand Cane, presumably ill. He did not occupy his office again, but left the affairs of government to Secretary of State, and President-Elect, Anson Jones/. Houston’s only official act after his departure was to issue to Jones an order, on September 24, to declare that Texas would accept the overtures of England and France to negotiate a treaty with Mexico, and "pledge Texas against annexation for all time to come."

Jones wrote on the back of the order, "The within order cannot be obeyed for it would either defeat Annexation altogether or lead to a war between Europe and America...Gen. Houston has furnished no explanation of his motives for this course or policy."

Jones suspected Houston had a hidden agenda with this directive. As Jones noted on another occasion, "Gen. Houston was calling my attention one way while the game was running another."

"I could not be willing to see everything lost" Jones wrote in his History of Annexation, "...to gratify the whim of an individual [Houston] who appeared to have determined that, because I had not succeeded on consummating annexation during his administration, he would prevent me from effecting it during my own. I was not bound to commit such an act of official suicide."

Before leaving office on election day, over three months before his term had expired, Houston had been playing the US and England against each other, less through diplomacy than deception. He did manage to ignite interest for annexation in the U.S.; and his speculation to U.S. Officials that Mexico was about to invade Texas resulted in the invasion of Texas by the U.S.

Although the Order of September 24 was not acted on by Jones, the news of its contents inspired extreme distrust against him. The President of the Republic was often called a traitor bought by English gold by members of the press and agents of the US Government. Even thought Houston was painted with the same brush as Jones, he had the luxury of being out of the public eye and free of political responsibility.

General Duff Green, a US agent, wrote to Anson Jones on September 30, 1844: "I have this day written you an official note, enclosing my commission as Consul. I enclose you herein a copy of my letter to the officer commanding the naval station at Pensacola, that you may be apprised of the energy with which the [US] Government is acting in your behalf.

"From my own private advises from Mexico, I have no fear of a formidable invasion by land; but I do apprehend that Santa Anna after so much bluster, will send his steamers here, to bombard this place. Should there be any danger of this when I arrive at Vera Cruz, I will despatch the "Woodbury" to Pensacola; and, unless I am very much disappointed our fleet, now there, will be off Galveston, prepared to forbid or punish any attempt to do so."

Providing official deniability for President Polk, Green continued, "I am not authorized to speak for the Government, but I took the liberty to make the suggestion in the proper quarter, and believe it will be acted on."

When Green arrived at Galveston he demanded from Acting Consul Stewart Newell the services of the "Woodbury".

"Mr. Green made no communication to me," Newell wrote Jones, "other than his having been appointed Consul to this port, but did not exhibit to me even a letter upon the subject; and without further communication appointed Col. E., A. Rhodes, Vice-Consul; and in forty-eight hours after his arrival, sailed again for Vera Cruz...I still retain possession; and am doing the business of Consulate, until advised by the Government of the United States if the appointment of Rhodes will be permitted; he having been reported by Mr. Green, deceased, to the Department."

Apart from appointing dead assistants, Green was a journalist, promoter and "diplomat-on-special-mission". His mission, at least in part, was to inspire discontent among the Texans and distrust in their President. In newspapers of the day he spoke of his expectation "to encounter the combined influence of the British Minister, and the President of Texas, Acting in concert for the purpose of defeating the wishes of a majority of the people of Texas and the United States."

Green was doing his part, along with US Charge d’affaires, Andrew Jackson Donelson to defeat any other alternative than annexation. Donelson was the grandson and godson of Andrew Jackson the mentor to both President Polk and Sam Houston. When Donelson was sent to Texas by the US in November, 1844 he frequently visited his old friend Houston. During his visits they stayed in adjoining bedrooms, the door remaining open so they could talk politics long into the night.

"I find my mind falling back into a channel, where the current flows in domestic peace and quiet, without one care about the affairs of Government, and only intent upon domestic happiness and prosperity." Houston wrote to Jones on December 23, 1844. The correspondence held no reference whatsoever to politics."

While President Jones was busy negotiating with Mexico, so he could offer Texans a choice between annexation and independence, Donelson was overactive in his lobbying efforts to convene a Convention for Annexation.

In April, 1845 he wrote a lengthy letter to Jones recommending the Convention be held in June. He further outlined his recommendations for the "apportionment of the representation to the Convention," and items of business.

"I am aware of the impropriety of my becoming to any extent the organ of the feelings." Donelson concluded in his letter, "You will not, therefore, ascribe to me, in this communication, a departure from the line of conduct, which as a representative from the United States, should keep me from all interference with the independent judgement of the Government and people of Texas on the proposals for the admission into the Union."

On May 5, Donelson wrote Jones another letter revoking his recommendation for the call of a convention. He concludes his letter noting; "It is probable I may go to New Orleans with Gen. Houston...."

Jones’ note regarding this letter stated, "Major Donelson’s letter of 29th May recommends the call of a convention; this revokes that recommendation. The change in Major Donelson’s mind was made by Gen. Houston, whom he met at Galveston, who was opposed to the measure...I had acted in the matter, however, before Major Donelson’s...letter came to hand."

Houston, a delegate at the July Convention, showed up with his wife and family in New Orleans near the end of May en route to Tennessee. Upon his arrival in Nashville on June 8 he was notified that his old friend and mentor, Andrew Jackson was dead. Jackson was buried two days later with Houston leading the funeral cortege.

From The Hermitage, Jackson’s plantation, Houston notified President Polk that their friend and mentor had died. Houston and his family stayed on at the A. J. Donelson plantation, Tulip Grove, which adjoined The Hermitage.

Only ten days had elapsed between the time Houston gave a speech in New Orleans, and his arrival at The Hermitage. Following the funeral, Houston had three weeks to return to Texas before the Convention convened. Neither the Charge d’affaires for Texas in Washington, or the President of the Republic knew the whereabouts of Sam Houston.

From September 2 until after the demise of the Republic of Texas on December 15, Houston was, in Jones’ words "holed up". During this time Houston’s behind the scenes maneuvering further incited Jones’ distrust of his on-time friend. For example, on May 5, 1845, Jones wrote, "Gen. Houston is playing the ‘snake in the grass’, but I do not intend to let him bite me." About Houston’s friend Andrew Jackson Donelson, Jones wrote this:

"In the American Minister’s [Donelson] letters to the Secretary of State of the United States, there is one fact disclosed, which while it reflects unfavorably upon the fair fame of the whole country, must ever remain a source of mortification to Texas in particular. This is that [Donelson] and the emissaries of Mr. Polk sent to act with him, had so far succeeded with the Congress of Texas and the Convention, that both those bodies were believed to be perfectly subservient to him, and that they would do his bidding in everything. The secret of this belief in his influence was the lavish promise of office to members. I have been told by very reliable authority that there was not a single member who was not this assailed."

One of those "assailed" was Sam Houston. President Polk found a job for a Houston protege and proclaimed he would not only become a US Senator from Texas, but eventually President of the United States.

Anson Jones was virtually alone in the eye of a storm holding to a course which would assure the best offer from the US and Mexico for annexation and independence.

"I knew of the storm," Jones observed, "for I felt its blasts all around me. Demagogues, emissaries, factionalists, disorganizers and personal and political enemies, all, all united against me; and many of my friends, Sam Houston among them, quailed and stood still with very fear, or went over to the enemy.

Ashbel Smith looked "with admiration on the sublime calmness of Mr. Jones, who pursued the unruffled tenor of duty amidst threats, denunciations and falsehoods...amidst insidious plots to betray him into fatal measures and to overturn his administration."

With US Troops concentrated in Texas, its fleet offshore at Galveston, Duff Green and others plotting to have Jones ousted from office, and General Houston, at best, quietly sitting on the sidelines, it was time for the Special Convention to convene on July 4.

"Through fifty-six hot July and August days," Jones’ biographer Herbert Gambrell wrote, "the delegates worked away at a constitution for the new state—and at intervals considered informally what they should do about Presidnet Jones."

Jones’ mother-in-law was on her deathbed in Houston, so the President and his family went there and waited until, on July 9, she was buried. The convention, at least in regards to Jones, was virtually a lynch mob. There was a movement to abolish the existing government of Texas and establish a provisional one. General Morehouse writing from Austin noted; "The enemies of the President are willing to sacrifice any and all, so as to reach the administration."

Francis Moore Jr., editor of the Telegraph, who generally stood against every President of Texas wrote, "I believe every motive of policy should induce the people to retain the present form of government and the nationality of Texas, until...we shall have the final assurance of merging our nationality with the great Union of North America. If we rashly and indiscreetly part with our existence as a nation we throw off the treaty making power and cut off all our treaties now established...placing ourselves at the back and under the control of our enemies in the United States...If we retain our government and President, we can then immediately form a new treaty."

Ultimately Jones remained in office but as he noted, "From this time I had no further material control...my duites...became merely ministerial."

Virtually from the moment the convention convened, President Polk considered Texas then a part of the Union. Even the annexation of Texas, according to Jones, was a smoke screen to accomplish other goals. "It is true, the United States made the war ostensibly for the DEFENCE of Texas;" Jones wrote, "but, in reality, to consummate views of conquest which had been entertained probably for many years, and to wage which, the annexation of Texas afforded a pretext long sought and wished for. Texas never actually needed the protection of the United States after I came into office; and the protection so much talked about at the late period was all a trick, so far as the United States was concerned."

The Convention was still in session, the constitution had yet to be approved by the members, voted on by the general public, and ratified by the US government. The US presence in Texas had the dual effect of being an occupation force and an invasion force. On August 23 Jones wrote "to Gen. Zachary Taylor, [last President of the United States] in reply to a letter of his of a date shortly previous, that I had no intelligence of any hostile demonstrations on the part of Mexico—that I did not apprehend any—that her [Mexico] concentrating troops at Matamoras was in self defence, and in consequence of the United States concentrating forces at Corpus Christi, and not for the purpose of invading Texas..."

Despite the fact that Texas was still a Republic, Polk’s administration, ignoring the full democratic process, refused diplomatic recognition to Texas.

"I had unofficially, made the acquaintance of Messrs. Walker, Buchanan, and President Polk, as also Mr. Ritchie of the Union," acting Charge d’affaires William Lee wrote to Jones from Washington, "I was received cordially by these gentlemen...I was not prepared consequently for what has occurred since...On Sunday evening, 31st. ult., I received the communications from the Department of State of Texas, of 2d August, covering my commission as acting Charge, with instructions...I called at 12 o’clock yesterday, and immediately on entering the office of the Secretary, was informed that the delay in answering my note arose from the President’s doubt whether he ought to receive me as the representative of a foreign government, and that the President had the matter under consideration, and it would be laid before the Cabinet to-day.

"Everything said and done here in Cabinet meetings seems to be immediately known, and I presume the public will be as well informed, and perhaps a little sooner, than I am. The Government having sent militia to Texas, there dare not now recognize a Charge as a from a foreign government. They have now to stand to the ground taken in justification of sending militia out to Texas, and will, I think, insist that the act of 4th of July, in Convention, was the consummation of annexation, and, strange as this may appear, eight men out of ten here who discuss the matter take the same ground, and this is mostly the language also of the Democratic press...I have even heard such language as this:—If Texas is not now a part of the United States, the President is liable to impeachment for sending the militia there...

"Sunday evening—I cannot detail a tithe of what has passed on conversation with Mr. Buchanan [US Secretary of State]. I told him that the powers of the Convention were defined by the proclamation; their acts must be sanctioned by a vote of the people; they can reconsider to-day what they did yesterday; and on the last day of their session annul all they had done, and adjourn; and that no power of any sort had been taken from the existing government.

"September 8th—I am requested by the President to communicate to you the substance of a conversation I had with him this morning...After the acceptance, by the Convention of Texas, of the terms of annexation proposed by the United States, the contract was, substantially, executed, and in fact Texas is since then part of the United States. This is the ground upon which Major Donelson was recalled, and upon which rests the propriety of assembling the naval forces of the United States in the Gulf, and the appearance of the land forces on our western frontier...and the President is apprehensive, were he now to receive a diplomatic agent from Texas as formerly, it would be virtually acknowledging her separate nationality, and reanimate the Opposition."

Writing to a friend on October 5, the Charge d’affaires, David S. Kaufman, expressed in his terms a similar experience to that of his compatriot, Lee. "You have no doubt heard that the U. States Government refused to receive me as Charge d’affaires—the reasons for the course are these—They had sent their troops into Texas, General Gaines certain that there was about to be a war between the United States and Mexico, ordered out the Militia of Louisiana—the Whig papers then charged President Polk with having involved the United States in a war with Mexico by sending their troops into Texas—a foreign country—the administration organ explained that Texas was not a foreign country, but already a part of the American Union. This position being once taken, of course, I could not be in reality yet a foreign state—These are the reasons for the course taken which as you know is incompatible with the actual relations of Texas, although not with its interest.:

The US had put the Republic of Texas in a position which made it difficult, if not impossible, to govern. The US presence in Texas exacerbated the problems and heightened the necessity for a transfer of power. On October 29, Lee wrote to Jones; "There has been a number of inquiries made of me, by Texas merchants, as the time when the United States revenue laws will be extended over Texas. I answered them all, that the United States Government could not extend its laws over Texas until the time fixed by the Convention, as the people of Texas, if they adopt the Constitution, Schedule, &c. will fix the time of the organization of the State Government as the time when Texas will cease to be a republic, and as long as she is a republic the laws of the Republic of Texas will prevail..."

The turnout for the October 13 election to ratify the decision of the convention was dismal, considering all the passionate opinions spent up to that moment. Only about 6,000 votes were cast, half the number that voted in the election the previous year. And, of the thirty-six counties, only twenty reported results. On November 10, Jones declared the Constitution adopted and he set December 15 as the date for the first state election.

That Houston would be elected to the US Senate by the citizens of the state of Texas was a foregone conclusion. Jones hoped he would be the other.

"There is one respect in which I could be of more service to Texas in the Senate than any other person. The verbal promises made by Mr. Polk of what the US would do for this country in the event of annexation were made to me only by Gov. Yell who was sent here for that express purpose. It is of infinite importance to this country that those pledges should be fulfilled. I alone know of them & if I should be at the City of Washington, there could be no misunderstanding...& and backing out."

Jones’ hopes were in vain. Thomas J. Rusk, president of the Convention of July 4, was to be the other US Senator.

Formal transfer of authority from the Republic to the state; from President Anson Jones to the United States and Governor J. Pinckney Henderson occurred on February 19. 1846. Jones addressed the crowd, concluding with the words; "The final act in this great drama is now performed. The Republic of Texas is no more."

As Anson Jones lowered the banner of the Republic of Texas the pole that held it aloft for so one, broke in two.

Anson Jones, President of the Republic of Texas was never to hold public office again, despite his yearning. In early January, 1858 Jones deposited his manuscript, Memoranda and Official Correspondence Relating to the Republic of Texas Its History and Annexation, 1836 to 1846, in a Galveston bank. It represented a decade of labor. He informed his wife Mary of his action in a letter, "I merely mention this, for your information in case of any accident to myself."

A few days later, he checked into a room at the Old Capitol Hotel in Houston. He wrote another letter to his wife, "for fear of accident or delay, I write you today..." and he spent four days making the rounds, visiting family and friends.

When the hotel was actually the capitol of Texas, Jones frequented its halls with other heroes of Texas independence such as; Grayson, Childress, Collingsworth and Rusk. Each of them had committed suicide. On January 9, Anson Jones was found in his room in The Old Capitol Hotel with a bullet through his head.

Of all those who risked their lives and devoted their service to Texas, perhaps it was Anson Jones who gave more and received less than any other. Today, his name and his contribution is all but forgotten.

 

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