Texas Annexation Controversy Resolved: February 28, 1845
This text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.
In May 1836, John C. Calhoun said: “there [are] powerful reasons why Texas should be part of this Union.” The southern states, he said, “owning a slave population, were deeply interested in preventing that country from having the power to annoy them.” With other southerners, Calhoun feared an independent Texas could not maintain the institution of slavery by itself; and if Great Britain should annex Texas, slavery would end there. No fugitive slave agreement, as the South had with the North, would exist with an independent Texas; and if slavery were abolished in Texas, slaves in the states could easily escape there. Some southerners, too, thought admitting Texas would provide, as one Senator McDuffie said before his colleagues on May 23, 1844, “a safety valve to let off the superabundant slave population from among us.” Texas annexation, McDuffie continued, would “at the same time improve their [the slaves’] condition; they will be more happy, and we shall be more secure. But if you pen them up within our present limits, what becomes of the free negroes, and what will be their condition?”
Southerners had another reason to favor Texas’ annexation. As in 1820, Calhoun and other southerners feared the political dominance of the North. To date, there were 13 slave and 13 free states; but with Florida remaining the only potential slave state, and with Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, all free territories, waiting in the wings for statehood, Southerners feared to lose their power in the Senate as they already had in the House. Texas, they thought, could be divided into several slave states and so provide their section the representation it needed to maintain its power in the national councils. (more…)