Texas is the only state to enter the United States by treaty instead of territorial annexation. The state was an independent country from 1836 to 1845. Texas Congressman Ted Poe gave the standard account: "Texas decided to gain independence from Mexico, because Mexico went from a democracy to a dictatorship. Sounds familiar, does it not? That dictator was by the name of Santa Ana. And when Santa Ana became the dictator of Mexico, he abolished what we enjoy as human rights, civil liberties. And that is why Texas gained independence and fought for independence, to have those basic rights that now all Americans have."
Prior to 1824 Texas was a Spanish possession and thereafter part of independent Mexico. Americans began to settle in Texas beginning in 1821 when Spanish authorities allowed American to acquire land in the sparsely settled region. Although prospective settlers were required to be Catholic, conduct their affairs in Spanish, and swear allegiance to Spain and then Mexico, the loyalties of the overwhelmingly Protestant settlers remained to the United States. Grievances against the Mexican Government grew.
When Mexico adopted a new centralist constitution and abolished slavery in 1829, an institution upon which many Texas settlers depended, a movement for seccession developed. Despite US neutrality laws, the movement received considerable support from American citizens in the form of money, arms, and volunteers.
Texas Congressman Ted Poe gave the standard account: "Texas decided to gain independence from Mexico, because Mexico went from a democracy to a dictatorship. Sounds familiar, does it not? That dictator was by the name of Santa Ana. And when Santa Ana became the dictator of Mexico, he abolished what we enjoy as human rights, civil liberties. And that is why Texas gained independence and fought for independence, to have those basic rights that now all Americans have."
But in truth, Texans [or Texians, according to some sources] fought for freedom - the freedom to own slaves. The Lone Star flag is a slave flag, as surely as the Stars and Bars or the Confederate battle flag.
James Bowie, later of Alamo fame, realized a $65,000 profit from illegally transporting and selling 1,500 Africans from Sabine lake into Louisiana. Despite the Congressional interdiction on US participation in the international slave trade, many thousands of kidnapped Africans continued to be smuggled to North American well after 1808 ban. Sabine Lake, in eastern Texas, was a focal point in this illicit trade during the nineteenth century. Many of the Africans brought to Sabine Lake were kidnapped British freemen from Barbados, African indentured servants from the same region, or were kidnapped from Spanish slave ships.
Slave traders like Bowie purchased African Americans from privateers like Jean Lafitte. Privateers would capture Spanish slave ships, imprison the Africans in slave pens, such as on Lafitte’s Galveston Island, Texas, stronghold, then sell them to the highest bidder. American slavers continued the profitable traffic in Africans until the end of the Civil War. As late as 1865, the American slave ship "Huntress" was known to have escaped the African coast with a human cargo, though evidence indicates this ship probably landed in Cuba. The United States Navy maintained a Slaving Squadron off the coast of West Africa with the intention of intercepting slave ships and arresting captains, but these vessels were often obsolete and manned by incompetent officers and crew.
Texans, began fighting for independence from Mexico in 1835. The first offensive action of the Texas Revolution occurred in Goliad on October 9, 1835 when local colonists captured the fort and town. On December 20, 1835 the first Declaration of Texas Independence was signed in Goliad and the first flag of Texas Independence was hoisted.
Residents of the Mexican province of Texas revolted, only to be quickly overwhelmed in early fighting against Mexican soldiers. By December the small Texas army had captured the important crossroads town of San Antonio de Bexar and seized the garrison known as the Alamo. Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna [less frequently Santa Anna] recaptured the town on March 6, 1836, after a thirteen-day siege; the Mexican army suffered an estimated 600 casualties. Of the official list of 189 Texan defenders, all were killed. Historians continue to debate the number of defenders inside the Alamo.
The defense of the Alamo is well-known for those who fought for Texas. David Crockett, James (Jim) Bowie, and William Barret Travis were among those remembered by the "Remember the Alamo" reported to be yelled at the victory at San Jacinto. The cost entailed in regaining San Antonio contributed to General Santa Anna's defeat less than two months later.
On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston, commander of the Texas army, led 800 troops, inspired by the sacrifice of their comrades at the Alamo, in a surprise attack on Santa Anna's 1,600 men. Fortunes changed when this ragtag army commanded by General Sam Houston surprised and routed Mexican forces camped near the San Jacinto River on the outskirts of the present-day city of Houston, subsequently named for the general. The Texans captured Mexican leader Antonio López de Santa Anna, who had little choice but to sign a treaty granting Texas independence. Houston's decisive victory at San Jacinto secured Texas independence from Mexico.
The leaders of the republic first voted for annexation in 1836, soon after gaining independence from Mexico. Sam Houston, commander of the Texas army during the fight for independence from Mexico and the first president of the Republic of Texas, was a strong advocate of annexation. The administration of President Martin Van Buren, however, declined since annexing Texas at that point would have meant war with Mexico, and senators of the Northern States opposed entry into the union of another slave state. Accordingly, while the United States extended diplomatic recognition to Texas, it took no further action concerning annexation until 1844, when President John Tyler restarted negotiations with the Republic of Texas.
The treaty signed by Santa Anna designated the meandering Rio Grande River as the border between the new Republic of Texas and Mexico. Mexican authorities, however, vehemently disputed the treaty's validity, arguing that their congress never ratified the document that Santa Anna signed under duress. Furthermore, they insisted that the traditional Texas boundary was much further north and should remain there, paralleling the Nueces River. The Nueces flows into the Gulf of Mexico near the Texas coastal city, Corpus Christi. Between the Nueces and the Rio Grande, stretched dry, dusty earth, mostly sparsely settled. Called a "no-man's land," much of the disputed territory was controlled by outlaws who swore allegiance to no government, only to themselves. The question of Texas's southern border remained unresolved, with the border dispute festering, then erupting in 1845 when the United States annexed Texas.
For the nine years Texas remained an independent republic, recognized by many countries, but not Mexico. Texas was cultivated by England and France, who saw an independent Texas as a balance to the United States in North America. By 1845 the British convinced the Mexican Government to recognize Texan independence to forestall annexation by the United States, but it was too late. Mexico acknowledged Texas's independence, with the condition that Texas would not join Mexico's aggressive northern neighbor, the United States.
In 1845, the political climate proved more favorable to the request for statehood. James K. Polk, a pro-slave Democrat, had been elected president in November 1844. On June 23, 1845, a joint resolution of the Congress of Texas voted in favor of annexation by the United States. Acknowledging the idea of Manifest Destiny that had seized the American public, Secretaries of State Upshur and Calhoun negotiated a treaty of annexation with the Republic of Texas, but the treaty was rejected by the Senate due in large measure to the opposition of Northern senators. Recognizing that the two-thirds Senate vote required to ratify a treaty was unattainable, President John Tyler presented a simple declaration of the annexation of Texas to Congress, which passed it by joint resolution. On December 29, 1845, Texas officially became the twenty-eighth state in the Union although the formal transfer of government did not take place until February 19, 1846.
The annexation led to a break in diplomatic relations with Mexico, which had never formally recognized Texas independence, and created a US-Mexico boundary dispute. The historic southern border of Texas had been the Nueces River, the border recognized by the Mexican Government, while the United States recognized the Rio Grande River, the border claimed by Texas based on the treaties Santa Anna was forced to sign after his capture.