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Reminiscences of the Texas Republic
By Ashbel Smith, 15 December 1875

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Antonio Lopez Santa AnnaThe armistice proposed by Mexico and the negotiations which took place without result in the winter of 1843-4 must not be passed over without notice. Notice is rendered more necessary in order to correct a grave error in the incomplete and otherwise not wholly reliable history of Texas by Mr. Yoakum. In vol. ii, 421, Mr. Yoakum writes: "At the same time Texas was informed that Mr. Doyle, the British charge d'afaires had been instructed to propose to Mexico a settlement of her difficulties with Texas based upon the abolition of slavery in the latter." Mr. Doyle was not so instructed, he was not instructed at all on these matters. The proposition of an armistice came unsolicited from Gen. Santa Anna. Mr. Doyle had nothing to say about it. Apparently it grew out of, perhaps was a part of, the conferences of General Santa Anna with "lawyer Robinson"---matters of peculiar notoriety at the time. Mr. Packenham was at this time in London on leave of absence from his post in Mexico. He stated stated emphatically that Santa Anna could not retain his position two days were he to treat with Texas on the basis of independence, and also that Santa Anna was himself personally bitterly opposed to it.

On the 16th of June Lord Aberdeen said to me with special reference to this armistice---"The British representative at Mexico has been for some time silent on this subject"---silent on the subject of the relations of Texas and Mexico and on British mediation. At the same interview, on my intimating that the armistice might be preliminary to peace on the basis of independence, and that it might be the result of the friendly offices of her majesty's government; he replied that he did not think the armistice was the result of such friendly offices, nor that the possible interpretation which I had suggested of its being preliminary to peace was the correct one. In a conversation the same day on the same subject with Mr. Addington, under secretary of state, after alluding pointedly to his conversations with Mr. Packenham, he said that "possibly Santa Anna's object in proposing the armistice might be to gain time for disposing of Yucatan"......."with the purpose of taking active measures afterwards to subjugate Texas." It was intended to let me understand, if I could see it, that this was clearly Mr. Packenham's opinion. Many of you will remember that Yucatan was at that time in insurrection. I need not dwell longer on the armistice---it had no results---it did not impede nor hasten annexation. President Houston at once saw through it and promptly disavowed the acts of the Texas commissioners. This step of Gen. Houston excited some surprise---events vindicated his sagacity.

Near the close of 1843, to wit, Oct. 16 of that year, Mr. Upshur, American secretary of state, proposed to Texas in the solemn form of intercourse between nations, through Mr. Van Zandt, Texas minister at Washington, to make a treaty of annexation. Previously he had on different occasions called Mr. Van Zandt's attention to this subject and had informed him that "he had been actively engaged in preparing the minds of the American people for it."  This preparing the minds of the people meant not only the setting forth of the generate substantive advantages to them of annexation and the appealing to the Anglo Norman greed for land, for territory and also the urging upon their attention the singularly vulnerable south-western frontier as it then existed; but it meant also inflaming the public mind still more by charging on the British government the machinations and plots of the anti-slavery fanatics for interfering with southern institutions, and on that government the fixed purpose to secure a firm footing in Texas and control over its policy. A treaty of annexation, as is well known, was negotiated after long pending before the American senate it was rejected. While this treaty was so pending, its rejection was foreseen by the British and French governments, and distinctly foretold by them to your speaker.

After the rejection of the treaty, the two European governments undertook the settlement of the relations of Texas and Mexico in vigorous earnest. Simply alluding to the fact that the United States after inviting annexation had receded from their invitation, the British minister said in effect---we had hitherto in good faith earnestly, repeatedly pressed on Mexico our good offices supported by the strongest arguments in favor of peace on the basis of independence. In this we have acted in the interest of both countries in the interest of humanity, of the peace of the world, in the interests of commerce. You could not expect us to use more stringent means. Mr. Polk, democratic candidate for the presidency, declared for annexation. Mr. Clay, the leader and exponent of the whig party in a public letter gave as his reason for opposing annexation that it would be the adoption of the war with Mexico. "You cannot," added the British minister, "expect us to beat the bush for the United States to catch the bird." If Texas now, said he, wishes to remain a permanently separate, independent state, peace shall be established.

Accordingly in June, 1844, Lord Aberdeen proposed to the minister of Texas to "pass a diplomatic act," in which five powers should be invited to participate to wit: Great Britain, France, the United States, Texas and Mexico. The basis of the proposed diplomatic act was peace between Texas and Mexico and the permanent separate independence of Texas---the parties to the act to be its guarantors. "The United States would be invited to be a party to the act, but it was not expected that they would accept the invitation." It was believed Mexico would participate, but in case of her refusal, England, France and Texas, having passed the act as between themselves, Mexico would be immediately "forced to abide its terms. The act if passed only by three powers would not be abandoned ---it would be maintained." The terms, effect and possible consequences to the several parties to the act, and to powers not parties to it, were maturely considered, fully discussed and clearly understood between Lord Aberdeen and the minister of Texas. The two European powers asked no privileges, hinted at none, did not propose to touch directly or indirectly, made no, allusion even to any institutions of Texas, nor to its domestic or foreign policy outside the express terms of the act. These were limited absolutely to the objects on the face of it---peace and permanent independence.

The French government, both the king in person and Monsieur Guizot, in response to my inquiries replied that they would unite in the diplomatic act embracing the terms proposed by Lord Aberdeen. This cooperation of France, Texas also agreeing, would have made the diplomatic act a certainty and secured peace with Mexico and the separate permanent independence of Texas. An incident occurred in this connection which illustrates Louis Philippe's ready use of idiomatic English and the fact that at times at least he was his own minister. On a visit of courtesy to him at the palace of Neuilly, after conversation on other topics, I said that I wished before leaving for London to make an inquiry of Monsieur Guizot, if I could do so without indiscretion, whether the French goverment would unite with the British cabinet in the diplomatic act. The king promptly rejoined---"As for the question you put to me, Mr. Smith, I am ready to answer it now." It was not with him "an inquiry of Monsieur Guizot"--It was a "question put" to himself. The next day I found Monsieur Guizot ready, without any preface, with his affirmative reply.

In answer to my dispatches to the Texas department of state, communicating the proposition for a diplomatic act with the tenor of its terms, President Houston, in a note written in his own hand, instructed his secretary of state, Dr. Anson Jones, to forward immediately to Ashbel Smith instructions to conclude the diplomatic act on the terms proposed by Lord Aberdeen. Instead of sending instructions as ordered, Mr. Jones sent me a leave of absence to return to Texas. Mr. Jones was not only secretary of state; he was then president elect.

Great events in human history appear often to be caused by slight or contingent circumstances. More profound study leads to the conclusion that great events find their true cause in immutable facts and in ripeness of circumstances; that contingent incidents are occasions merely, not causes.

Still, we might pause here and contemplate what order of things would probably have followed had Mr. Jones obeyed the orders of President Houston. The British minister was ready---the Count de Ste Aulaire, French ambassador at London, was ready with instructions and full powers to pass the act. There were no new points to be discussed and settled. The negotiation might have been completed at a single sitting. The act could have been, forwarded to Texas as soon as the clerks could have prepared engrossed copies. The senate, probably both houses of the Texas congress, would have been immediately convened. I was not in Texas at the time, but persons of different parties, thoroughly conversant with public sentiment have led me to believe that an honorable treaty bringing peace to this land would have been accepted with shouts of joy. Such was the opinion of Sam Houston. Such was the opinion of Anson Jones. I had it from themselves. The diplomatic act negotiated in conformity with the instructions of President Houston, as just stated, would have been submitted to the people of Texas at a moment when annexation twice spurned by the United States seemed hopeless. The excitement on the subject of British meddling with American slavery had not yet reached Texas---the minds of politicians in Texas had not yet been tempted and dazzled into extreme eagerness by promises of office under federal appointment---the masses of the people of Texas had not yet been cajoled into a desire for annexation by unstinted promises of the great and goodly things which the administration at Washington was burning to do for Texas, so soon as it should become a member of the American union. The country had but one wish then---that wish was for peace. The promises of Mr. Polk's administration are utterly unredeemed to this day.

Would war have followed the passing of the diplomatic act? Would an attempt have been made by the United States to enforce what is called the Monroe doctrine by an appeal to arms? No. The United States had spurned the admission of Texas---they had been invited to take part in the proposed negotiations---they would have had to confront Great Britain and France with Spain and Mexico. Individuals talk flippantly of war---men at the head of affairs are conscious of responsibility. And on the other hand turning our thoughts for a moment to later, to very recent time, and referring to the mightiest matter which has befallen this people since their birth as a nation in 1776, would Texas have been drawn into the war of secession? Would there rather have been an exodus from other states to Texas, an independent republic, like the people of God of old, to a promised land?


Why did Anson Jones, secretary of state, disobey the orders of President Sam Houston? Why did he not send instructions to Ashbel Smith to pass the diplomatic act? It is scarcely possible for me to be in error in asserting that Mr. Jones declined to send me the instructions, because he intended to make the diplomatic act, bringing honorable peace and independence, a measure, and it would have proved, as he clearly saw, the prominent measure, of his administration. It did not enter his thoughts to oppose, to attempt to thwart the wishes of the people of Texas. Annexation, just spurned again, appeared indefinitely postponed if not forever hopeless. He said to Ashbel Smith on his return from Europe and entering on his new duties as secretary of state: "It was hardly fair to deprive you of the honor of negotiating a treaty in London, but the negotiation shall take place here, and you as secretary of state shall conduct it for Texas." He remarked that as president elect he had the right to decline obeying the orders of President Houston in question. But events culminating in annexation were crowding on too rapidly, too powerfully, to suffer stay; they outstripped every other policy. New impulses too were added to this movement.. Some of this I propose to mention in brief detail.

Matters also had ripened in Mexico, probably in some degree under British and French influence. It is certain that Mexico changed its policy towards Texas in view of Texas becoming, as an independent power, a barrier against encroachment by the United States. Such encroachment seems to have been a source of apprehension to every Mexican administration. In January, 1845, I had an interview with Señor Arrangoiz, Mexican consul general, resident at New Orleans. We met singularly, by arrangement of the late Edmund I. Forstall, in Col. Forstall's office. No other person than Señor Arrangoiz was at any moment present at the interview---no introduction of any kind---neither his name or quality nor mine was pronounced -- he had been personally described to me. Entering the office alone, I found sitting there alone a gentleman of quite fair complexion - we commenced talking - the interview lasted long - the range of topics and views was wide and comprehensive. - I left satisfied that Mexico would make peace on the basis of independence.

No action had been taken in Texas responsive to the proffered diplomatic act. The British and French cabinets nevertheless continued to pursue vigorously their, efforts to procure peace for Texas by the most urgent representations in favor of it to the Mexican cabinet. They were kept fully aware by the reports of their diplomatic representatives in Texas and in the United States of the great and increasing excitement in the United States on the subject of Texas and of the fierce and unscrupulous activity with which the politicians of the opposition here strove to drive President Jones into the adoption of their own wild schemes. Had they succeeded, had Mr. Jones quailed, had he given way before their menaces of violent overthrow of his administration, this fair commonwealth of Texas would have been then wrecked. Their schemes were nothing less or other than, taking inspiration from their wild wishes and confident of the speedy passing of some measure of annexation, to declare the government of the republic of Texas at an end and to abide the organization of a new government after the federal government should have passed an act of annexation. They seemed to have a vague notion of some such unintelligible procedure as throwing ourselves into the arms of the United States.

It was among these schemes to renew active hostilities against Mexico by sending forward the militia of Texas to operate on the Rio Grande frontier. In this resumption of hostilities there was neither military plan, nor means, nor capable head, nor reasonable object. Its purpose was by exasperating Mexico to destroy the prospects of peace. For if peace with Mexico were tendered, these politicians, whom I shall presently characterize, feared the people would embrace it. This project seems to have originated in the United States east of the Sabine; for after the passage of the annexation resolutions by the American congress, the same policy of sending the Texas militia to the Rio Grande was vehemently urged on President Jones by the agents of the administration at Washington. Its purpose was to provoke Mexico to strike the first blow in the war which was deemed not improbable to grow out of annexation. It was a lost fear. There survived in Mexico enough of the unforgiving Castilian pride to need no pricking on. Mexico, as is known, struck promptly, first, and with her might. I return to our immediate subject.

More than thirty years have now elapsed, and I look back with admiration, on the sublime calmness of Mr. Jones, who pursued the unruffled tenor of duty amidst threats, denunciations and falsehoods in newspapers, in public speeches, amidst insidious plots to betray him into fatal measures and to overturn his administration. I may here repeat for the younger members of my audience, that I am not adverting to vague rumors which startle for an instant like a jack o'lantern and then vanish; but of false statements, such, as were published in letters over the respectable name of Ex-President John Tyler.

The people of Texas, as so often stated, had longed for peace, had repeatedly under every administration through congressional as well as executive action, imported foreign powers to employ their good offices to obtain it for Texas. These efforts were now about to be crowned with success in the firm establishment of durable peace. This fact was well known. There was no secrecy about it. Was it for President Jones to turn on France and England and say to these friends we don't want any more of your good offices? We can get along now without you? Was he too to forget the rough snubbing Texas had had to put up with when applying, and once on invitation, for admission into the union? Was he to forget that annexation was not yet an accomplished fact?

But why did England and France continue to press their peace measures, as they did even after the passage of the annexation act by the American congress? We must bear in mind as a general rule of action of these governments, that having deliberately adopted a course of action they do not hastily in mid ocean abandon it. Relying on their ministers in Texas they were led to believe that honorable peace with independence being tendered to the people of Texas, the people would embrace it. These ministers being here could judge for themselves of public opinion. They formed their judgment from all the elements of action and so informed their governments. Any attempt to mislead these gentlemen would have proved a mortifying failure; but no such attempt in any degree was made. Moreover their attention was specially invited to the representative character of the Texas government. This was declared in formal terms in the protocol accompanying the peace negotiations with Mexico; it was read by Ashbel Smith to Captain Elliot and M. de Saligny. This protocol was published several years ago. In these trying and difficult times Anson Jones indulged in none of the cheap sentimental Americanism then so rife he made no professions, he was carried away by no false enthusiasm he did not despair of the fortune of Texas---he was not blown about---he did not falter---and with consummate wisdom, he did not precipitate action. With him it was at all times the calm transaction of business. Peace offered he would present it to the people. Annexation tendered he would present it to the people. Both within reach at the same time, he would present both to the people for their option, for their selection, for their determination. His personal preference for annexation or for peace did not mould, did not bias his action as chief executive officer of Texas. The foreign ministers believed him lukewarm on annexation---they did not err---he manfully and honestly did his duty.

Where was Sam Houston and what part did he enact in these impetuous times? He could not be ignored, though again a private citizen. I found him at the seat of government at Washington on the Brazos on my arrival there from London and Paris in February, 1845. He generally abstained from much talking---no man could better be silent when he wished to be, when it was not his cue to talk --but his silence was not equivocal - he stood a. giant of power in the land---he stood by President Jones and on his strong arm Mr. Jones visibly leaned for support. President Jones's administration was in all its leading policy a continuation of the preceding administration of President Houston.

General Houston was not considered to be very ardent for annexation---nor was he. In my opinion his own judgment---and in him judgment was preeminently calm and thoughtful, his very bursts of tempestuous passion were premeditated---his own judgment was opposed to annexation. In intercourse with Houston running through more than a quarter of a century, I never imagined there was more the one human being to whose judgment deferred and to which he postponed his own. That man was Andrew Jackson. Gen. Jackson wrote to General Houston once urging annexation. Those letters were not shown by him at the time. I have never seen them. No man ever loved the American union, the United States, with more intense affection, than Houston. He had poured out the blood of his youth like water in its battles. But he had grave doubts whether the welfare of Texas or of the United States would be promoted by their union under one common government.

An incident which then occurred is not without significance as to the opinions he then pondered over. He was leaving Washington on the Brazos for eastern Texas one morning in February, 1845. He came into my private room, booted, spurred, ship in hand. Said he "Saxe Weimar"---the name of his saddle horse---"is at the door. I have come to leave Houston's last words with you. If the congress of the United States shall not by the fourth of March pass some measure of annexation which Texas can with honor accede to, Houston will take the stump against annexation for all time to come." When he wished to be emphatic he spoke of himself by name, Houston, in the third person. Without another word, embracing after his fashion, he mounted and left.

General Houston and ex-President Jones afterwards became very unfriendly. Bitter things were said on either side. Bitter things have since been unwisely as I think, published. Despite all after thought, there was during all this period, in the main, confidence and friendly counsel between them. The personal hostility was chiefly created afterwards by tale-bearing politicians, who had an interest in arraying Gen. Houston against Mr. Jones. The joint resolution of the United States congress was interpreted to authorize annexation by resolution or by treaty. General Houston once told me that he advised Mr Jones to insist on the mode by treaty as it is among the incidents of a treaty that it can be abrogated. whether any importance is to be attributed to this distinction, the idea indicates an underlying animus of Houston. He expressed himself as displeased at President Jones's repudiation of his advice.

I stated a few moments since that President Jones's administration was in its policy a continuation of that of Houston's. It belongs to the times of which we are treating to mention the leading features of that policy. The contemplation of them at this day will not hurt us. A hard money currency, gold and silver - a paper currency in general condemned. In the messages both of General Houston and of Mr. Jones---economy, appropriations never exceeding the current incoming revenues - no increase of the public debt - no offensive hostile expeditions against Mexico while that country confined itself to threats---peace with Mexico by friendly negotiation and not by further conquest --- peace with the Indian tribes by maintaining on our side good faith with them ---peace at home under the laws administered by the courts of the country --- these forded the permanent policy of Texas under Sam Houston's and Anson Jones's Administrations. Permit me to relate an incident. At one period the war fever run very high, and on one occasion a committee of gallant gentlemen waited on Houston asking his advice and cooperation, and they requested him to address our fellow citizens in this sense. He made a speech which he concluded with advice as he had been desired to give it. This advice was in two words---"plant corn."


At the close of the short session of the American congress, March, 1845, the joint resolution authorizing annexation was passed. About the same time that intelligence of its passage reached Texas came also official information that Mexico would conclude a peace on the basis of independence. This power had required that Texas should first sign the preliminary treaty. This preliminary treaty, embodying all essential provisions, was signed by the Texas secretary of state, Ashbel Smith. It was carried to Mexico by the British minister, Captain Elliot. This course was in pursuance of the mediation repeatedly asked for almost to importunity of the English and French governments. The preliminary treaty was signed by the Mexican secretary of state, Don Luis G. Cuevas---approved by Herrera, president of Mexico---and ratified by an immense majority by the Mexican congress. Official news of this ratification reached Texas. This was peace, peace so long desired, peace so earnestly prayed for. But the people of Texas now would have none of it. They appeared frantic in their hostility to it.

Whence came this hostility, taken by itself so inexplicable? Whence came this new born hostility? There was in Texas a party composed of gentlemen of great ability, of former public services, of high ambition, of ardent imaginations, of lofty patriotism, opposed to the administrations of Sam Houston and of Anson Jones, with the unreasoning energy so often characteristic of party contests. They were out of office which they coveted, and the success of the Houstonian policy already adverted to, crowned with peace, seemed to insure indefinite continuance in power of the Houston party and indefinite exclusion of the leaders of the apposition. The promises of high office made to them by annexation emissaries, of whom I shall speak presently, told on these gentlemen. I do not impugn their patriotism, but these promises told on them, perhaps unconsciously to themselves. Among them were some of the bravest spirits that fought at San Jacinto and who had borne full share in organizing the government of the republic. In the opposition also were adventurous, spirits whose day dreams were of warlike expeditions, men as bold, as ardent, as Cortez or Pizarro, and whose fancies reveled in desperate battles and in imaginary plunder of the halls of the Montezumas. The pacific policy of Houston, long and solid peace with Mexico, sounded a long farewell, the occupation gone for these restless spirits. The contingencies of annexation offered chances of war. War came, but alas for their dreams, it was waged under other auspices, other leaders; other counsels, in none of which had they part.

But how came the masses of the people to be so changed, so roused, so excited, so unanimous in favor of annexation? A somewhat succinct statement is needed to understand the events of the six months next preceding annexation. The acquisition of Texas became the cherished policy of Mr. Tyler's administration. He left it an unimpaired inheritance to President Polk and the party of which he was the exponent. It would be childish to attribute their policy to friendship for Texas. Nations and political parties have no cousins: The party now in question coveted Texas for their own fame, for their own political advantage, for using it as subservient to the strength of the United States. Texas was becoming so prosperous its capacity for self government established---its foreign relations so friendly and advantageous---peace with Mexico in prospect with certainty of speedy accomplishment they who had before spurned Texas might now well fear that the next refusal would come from this side of the Sabine, and the refusal would be final. Texas would no longer be used as a makeweight in United States party contests. There was no time to lose.  The whole enginery of political maneuvering was employed with extraordinary activity. To the initiated in Texas, and to the discontented, most urgent appeals in letters were addressed, the country was deluged with United States partisan newspapers charging in express terms the government of Texas, embracing General Houston with President Jones and gentlemen holding office under him, with most odious crimes. Specific crimes were alleged against these gentlemen, which if true would have consigned them to infamy. Treason, that vague reproach of which we have heard a disgusting surfeit these latter years, were bandied without stint.

One example is enough. The subsidized New Orleans Picayune charged General Houston with "treason, bribery, and corruption." And in connection with this topic to state what has been already adverted to, that President Jones together with the minister of Texas to Great Britain was charged with being in a plot to sell Texas to Great Britain for gold. And "British gold" was mouthed as briskly as if they who did so had seen it counted out. The British cabinet was charged with deep and damning villainy in schemes against Texas, unparalleled since the conspiracy of Spain against the Venetian republic. If Americans have had one passion more ingrained than any other, it has been jealousy of England. The people of Texas inherited it. That I may not injustice to our own people, neither to their intelligence nor patriotism, I beg to recall to your recollection the nefarious schemes and plots of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society of England, which I have already mentioned. These wretched fanatics prosecuted their plans with remorseless energy. They did not scruple to allow it to go forth that they were at least countenanced by their own government. They surely were not countenanced by the party then in power. Lord Aberdeen regarded these individuals with ill-concealed disgust. Still many honest minded intelligent gentlemen in America could not resist the suspicion that they were secretly viewed with favor by the British government. I entertained a similar apprehension until disabused by careful observation. The British minister to Texas, who it was said owed his appointment to the great political influence of the Elliots in England, being an avowed abolitionist was a fact calculated to give credit to suspicions of this character.

In Texas at that day when the masses of the people were as intelligent, as high toned, as zealous, as patriotic as gentlemen of the class commonly considered leaders of public opinion, it was a matter of course that the falsehoods and suspicions adverted to should tell on the masses of our people. They did so. But this was not all. Major Donelson, the regular accredited minister, and other official agents sent to Texas by the administration of President Polk, were most lavish of their averments of what the federal government would do for Texas so soon as the consummation of annexation would enable them to execute their promises. Among the most distinguished of these official agents were Ex-Governor Yell of Arkansas, General Wickliff of Kentucky, Commodore Stockton of the United States navy. The promises were among others to clear out our rivers for navigation, to deepen the entrances of our harbors, to build light houses on our coast for commerce, to erect military works, fortifications for the defense of the coast, to execute important works of internal improvement, and to do various and sundry other good things for Texas which were beyond our means, or which they could do for us better than we of ourselves could. Under the fostering protection of the United States it was gloriously prophesied, with spread eagle magniloquence, that capital would flow into Texas in ocean streams to develop and utilize our incalculable natural resources. Employment, wealth, prosperity would reign in this land. Here in the west lay the inexhaustible Orient. It would afford the administration at Washington its chiefest pleasure to do in one word all goodly things for us. I can vouch for these facts. They are known to me of personal knowledge. Major Donelson and Gov. Yell expatiated on these promises in my hearing. I know, that both these gentlemen were accredited from Washington city.

I have the authority of the late Honorable Ebenezer Allen, successively attorney general and secretary of state under President Anson Jones, for the fact that General Wickliff and Commodore Stockton were employed on the same mission of scattering promises broadcast throughout the land. Public opinion was rapidly manufactured. Public meetings were called by active partisans and at the instigation often of the gentlemen just named; the magnificent promises were unfolded; suspicions were aroused and practiced on; the people were inflamed. It should perhaps be stated in this connection, with more directness than in the allusion I made a moment since, that the administration agents just mentioned were unstinted in promises, addressed directly to active politicians who were deemed approachable, and indirectly to gentlemen whom it would not have been discreet to approach in such style, of appointment to office by the federal administration as soon as Texas should be a state and themselves citizens of the United States.

Under such influences, relying on the promises made by the federal officials, and animated by affection for the country of their birth, the strongest after all of the motives governing their actions, the people of Texas with overwhelming unanimity rejected the overtures of peace from Mexico, sacrificed as on an altar their independent autonomy, voted for annexation and became a state of the American union.

I need not stop here, gentlemen of the historical society, to say that neither the promises of office to individuals---we do not care enough for their disappointment to regret or be pleased nor the promises of generosity and munificence to Texas, have in ought or in any degree been fulfilled. I now recall as their only bestowal two incorrect and calumnious letters published by President Tyler after the close of his term of office. If Texas remains undivided, it is sufficient unto itself; and, its teeming, swelling population, already approaching two millions will tell in national councils and on the men who shall direct them. Annexation being tendered certain, President Jones sent your speaker to Europe to close up in a becoming manner our legations there. General Terrell, who had been sent to London where he still was, could do no official act as his nomination for minister had been rejected by the Texas senate. President Jones did .not think it necessary, on closing the old republic of Texas, to signalize his enthusiasm for annexation by throwing the friendly intercourse, the numerous good offices, the warm support that had been rendered to Texas by the European powers, and the peace they had obtained for us, back into their face without the cheap courtesy of saying good bye. There were, too, some minor forms and duties which could not be honorably or decently omitted. It would not be worth while to mention matters like this, were not this visit of the Texas minister denounced and the statement vouched for in newspapers and printed letters, that he was sent to invoke England and France to intervene with arms in Texas affairs and to receive for the two eminent patriots, whom the people of Texas had chosen to preside in its government, fabulous sums of money as the wages of treachery--sums, of money that existed only in the unsoundly moralized imaginations of those who vented the calumny. Bating its insolence, the ignorance of a leading New Orleans paper was ludicrous in its complaint that the Texas minister had passed through that city without informing the editor of his instructions, and where he was going and what he was after.

President Jones convened the Texas congress, called a convention of the people. The overtures of Mexico and those of the United States were submitted to them. The measures necessary to consummate annexation were passed. Present Jones bearing himself the while with careful judgment and great discretion, amid wild threats and wilder counsels--in homely phrase he waited for the wagon; and all was well accomplished.


A very few words concerning the opinions and course of leading men in Texas on the great measures I have been considering and I have done. That I may not trespass to long on your patience I forbear to speak as fully as I wish of the part borne during these times by Ex-President General Lamar, of Judge Burnet and other eminent patriots of Texas, men of great public services, of distinguished ability and wide influence. They were less conspicuous during the last acts of the drama, running through four years, because they held no office, opposition to annexation was proclaimed by General Lamar and the political party which acted with him as a leading policy of his administration. Of this party Vice President Burnet was a conspicuous member. At a later period, near the close of the republic, they and their party had become warm friends of annexation. I need not add that these two gentlemen did not participate in the wild excitement of inferior men. Long as I have detained you I must beg your patience for a few words concerning these gentlemen. The age of chivalry could never have shown a more knightly paladin, a more princely troubadour than Mirabeau B. Lamar. He knew not the emotion of personal fear, the stern simplicity of his love of justice was never marred by a selfish motive. David G. Burnet united the "perferfidum ingenium" of the Scotch character with the unbending sternness of principle of an old covenanter. Old John Knox would have hugged such a character with grim delight. It does not detract from the virtues of these gentlemen that neither of them possessed eminent administrative capacity, nor in a high degree that knowledge of human nature and tact in managing men which inferior men often acquire; nor that political wisdom and statesmanship accorded to but few, but still indispensable in molding forming institutions and in conducting public affairs during periods of transition and danger.

Was General Houston in favor of or opposed to annexation. This question has already and perhaps sufficiently been answered. I add another word. In my opinion his strong judgment preponderated in favor of separate independence. In 1836, he voted for annexation for a reason he stated to your speaker---he did not then think that the people of Texas were capable of sustaining an independent government. Time rolled on, he believed Texas capable of self-government. To his judgment it seemed a grave problem whether it was not better for Texas, better for the United States, better for the cause of liberty and republican institutions, that there should be two great self-governing peoples instead of a single one. But once again become a citizen of the United States, there was not within its broad borders a more sincere, devoted friend to the union than Sam Houston.

What was President Anson Jones opinion on this cardinal matter? I was clearly of the belief that he would have preferred independence to annexation. He subsequently declared himself the most decided friend arid promoter of annexation. In conducting affairs during this period, he never for a moment forgot that he was the representative of the people, not their ruler.

I have had in this address much to say of Sam Houston and of Anson Jones. I shall not now at least attempt sketches of their characters nor an eulogy of their services to Texas. May it not be permitted to an old Texian who served under them to apply to each of these gentlemen, in contemplation of their services, the inscription which I read on marble many years ago in Santa Croce, tanta, nomini, nullum par elogium?

The Hon. Ebenezer Allen, a gentleman of extraordinary legal acumen, President Jones's attorney general and last secretary of state, his most trusted adviser, was frankly and at all times, and by his writings in the official organ of the Texas government, an opponent of annexation. Judge OchiItree was decidedly friendly to annexation. Col. Wm. G. Cooke seemed to me never to trouble his head about the matter. These gentlemen, as you are aware, were members of President Jones's cabinet. The opinion or wishes of Ashbel Smith as an individual are of no moment. But as he was secretary of state or minister of Texas at London and at Paris, and familiar with all negotiations during all this period, it may be proper to state his opinion. He advised adversely to passing the diplomatic act when peace and independence were proffered by Mexico, his judgment was inclined to accept them. When the decision of the people was clear for annexation and its accomplishment a foregone conclusion, he squrely took ground in its favor and voted for it, on the avowed reason that in an irreversible act he would not in sentiment be separated from his own people. I must close. After all individuals do not control great events in the history of nations. These events take place when the time for them is ripe. So it was with annexation. The time for it had come. We are now a portion of the great American union. Its fortunes are our fortunes---its prosperity is our prosperity---its honor is our honor---its glory is our glory. May the union, it prosperity, its honor, its glory be eternal.

© 1997-2006,Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
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