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CHAPTER XX

ANNEXATION

tiation with Texas

WHEN Tyler succeeded to the presidency he privately announced his determination to annex Texas. His secretary

of state, Webster, however, was unenthusiastic, Tyler's nego

and no action was taken till 1843. Then

Webster resigned. Tyler was at this time unconnected with either political party; he had nothing to lose by a disturbance of political conditions, and he decided to press the matter. He was still delayed, however, by the death of Webster's successor, Hugh S. Legaré, after six weeks' service; but the next secretary, Abel P. Upshur, took the negotiation seriously in hand. It was conducted in secrecy, with the ostensible purpose of preventing speculation in Texan securities. The Texan administration, with Houston at the head, was slow to take the bait. It feared that the treaty might be rejected by, our Senate, and Texas thus be left in an embarrassing position, an objection that Upshur met by arguments which appear to have been more satisfying to Texas than they could have been to his own conscience. The treaty drawn up, there remained the question as to the status of Texas between the signing of the treaty and its acceptance by the Senate. This would be Mexico's last chance, her amnesty with Texas would be at an end, Great Britain would no longer stand in the way of hostile action, and the probability was that she would at least reek her anger on the frontier, if not her vengeance on the nation. At this point Upshur was killed.

In seeking to replace him, Tyler's primary object was to obtain political strength, for the diplomatic task was almost 1 Reeves, American Diplomacy under Tyler and Polk.

secre

finished. Unfortunately for him, however, he was brought by the intervention of friends to offer the position to John C. Calhoun, probably of all his genera- Calhoun betion the man most capable of diplomatic great- comes

tary of state ness, but one whose name alone was sufficient to defeat the treaty, and who did not leave his name to work alone. Calhoun, having obtained by inquiry the opinion that both the Texas and the Oregon question could be settled, accepted the office.

On April 11, 1844, he answered the question as to the protection of Texas during the discussion of the treaty, by the following note: “During the pendency of the

Treaty of antreaty of annexation, the president would deem neration con

cluded it his duty to use all the means placed within his power by the constitution to protect Texas from all foreign invasion." An enumeration of these powers might have been less impressive than the general statement of them; but the latter proved sufficient for its purpose, and on April 12 the treaty was signed.

Calhoun came into office with a firm conviction of a purposeful policy of aggrandizement on the part of Great Britain. He wrote to Francis Wharton, May 28, 1844:

Calhoun's “As to myself, I am of the impression, if we views of Great

Britain shall have the folly or wickedness to permit Great Britain to plant the lever of her power between the U. States and Mexico, on the Northern shore of the Gulph of Mexico, we give her a place to stand on, from which she can [brave?] at pleasure the American Continent and control its destiny. There is not a vacant spot left on the Globe, not excepting Cuba, to be seized by her, so well calculated to further the boundless schemes of her ambition and cupidity. If we should permit her to seize on it, we shall deserve the execration of posterity. Reject the treaty, and refuse to annex Texas, and she will certainly seize on it. A treaty of alliance commercial and political will be forthwith proposed by Texas to her, and I doubt not accepted. This

for yourself.” On April 29, 1844, he had received a letter from a Texan friend announcing: “We are all prepared if we are spurned again from the Union to enter into a commercial free trade treaty with G. B. and France on a guaranty of our Independence which we can now have and the advantages it promises us in the cotton trade renders it very desirable." With free trade the United States would lose its market for manufactured goods in Texas. The Texan planters, supplied with low-priced British goods, could produce more cheaply than those of the United States. Texas would therefore draw away from us population and wealth, and, backed by the British navy, become our political as well as economic rival.1

Although having to his hand such nationalistic arguments, based on a sincere conviction, which would have Lord Aber

been absorbed by most of our population on deen's note

suspicion, Calhoun chose to rest his case on totally different grounds. He found among Upshur's papers a letter of Pakenham, the British minister at Washington, enclosing a note from Aberdeen written in answer to a request from Edward Everett, our minister at London, by direction of Upshur, for an explanation of Aberdeen's statement in the House of Lords concerning his interest in the question of Texan slavery. Aberdeen, admitting an interest in Texas, denied that Great Britain had any “occult design ... even with reference to slavery in Texas." He said, however, that it was well known that Great Britain wished to see slavery abolished "throughout the world. But,” he added, "the means which she has adopted and will continue to adopt, for this human and virtuous purpose, are open and undisguised. ... The Governments of the slaveholding states may be assured that, although we shall not desist from those open and honest efforts which we have constantly made for procuring the abolition of slavery

Calhoun, Correspondence, ed. J. F. Jameson, Amer. Hist. Assoc., Rep. 1899, vol. ii.

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we shall neither openly nor secretly resort to any measures which can tend to disturb their internal tranquillity, or thereby to affect the prosperity of the American Union.”

This note, though cleverly guarded in its language at essential points, was substantially untrue, for it was intended to appear to deny the rumor that Great Britain was urging Mexico to insist upon abolition in Texas as a condition of recognizing her independence. It was also discourteous in its reference to our established domestic institutions. The disclaimer of any intention to disturb our “internal tranquillity” could certainly not be accepted by our government on its face value: we could scarcely allow Great Britain to be a judge of what would create such a disturbance. When a nation deliberately asserts a policy of meddling with the rest of the world, other nations have a right to demand, not general assurances as to her methods, but explicit itemization.

Lord Aberdeen's note came to Calhoun both as a confirmation of suspicion and as an instrument of action. He at once. engaged Pakenham in a correspondence grow- Calhoun

Pakenham ing out of it, which afterwards formed his case

correspondbefore the Senate for the support of the treaty. He stated that upon hearing of the avowed determination of Great Britain to attempt the abolition of slavery throughout the world, the United States had to consider her own safety; since, therefore, the abolition of slavery in Texas would imperil the internal tranquillity of the nation, a treaty of annexation had been arranged as the only means of preventing such a misfortune. To Aberdeen's expressed hope for abolition in the United States he replied by an argument designed to show that emancipation would prove a national calamity. He did not even refrain from making use of the hackneyed comparison between the American slaves and the British laboring classes.

Calhoun's statement that Aberdeen's note had caused the making of the treaty was, of course, untrue. Essentially,

· Calhoun, Works, vols. iv.-v.

ence

however, it represented the truth, for the note put into definite public form rumors that had been coming to his ears, Critique of particularly from the London letters of his conCalhoun's case

fidant, Duff Green, who quoted the assertion of the Texan representative, Ashabel Smith, that England would guarantee a loan to Texas to pay the expenses of emancipation. To Calhoun, though not to the President, the main motive for action lay in the danger to slavery. His defence of slavery as an institution has been criticised, and perhaps in form is open to criticism; but Aberdeen's remarks on the subject demanded some answer. There is no doubt that Calhoun believed in the case as he presented it. He wrote to James H. Hammond, May 17, 1844: “There is not a doubt in my mind, that if Texas should not now be annexed, she is lost to our Union. The Senate has been furnished with evidence to that effect, perfectly conclusive."

The defect in Calhoun's argument was that his reasoning was logical rather than political, and that his logic did not Failure of Cal- reach to his conclusion. His basis was that of houn's case his slave-trade resolutions,-the obligation of the national government to protect any institutions of any state. His second step, that it was the duty of the national government to protect the internal tranquillity of the state, was just as sound; it had been used by Dana in 1809 in reference to the South when he was discussing trade with the negro state of Hayti. His slip came in asserting that the one method of performing these duties was the annexation of Texas. The national government has discretion as to methods, and annexation was not the only one possible. The fact is, Calhoun was so anxious to fix the doctrine of national protection upon the country that his eagerness blinded him to this weakness in his logic. He sacrificed Texas to political theory.

The unpopularity of Tyler and the fear of the slavery issue brought to the front by Calhoun combined to defeat the treaty. Annexation, however, could no longer be held off.

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