Rumblings of Annexation

Martin Van Buren.

President Andrew Jackson had a predisposition toward annexing Texas and making it American territory. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 670.

President Jackson, with the background of a soldier, was “concerned with the strategic security of the Southwest” and he “wanted the border pushed far beyond the Sabine” River. See id. citing Andrew Jackson to James Monroe, June 20, 1820, ms. in Monroe Papers, New York Public Library.

Martin Van Buren, then President Jackson’s Vice President, “knew that northerners regarded Texas as an outpost of slavery,” and he knew that it would complicate the Election of 1836 considerably. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 670.

Finally, on the last day of President Jackson’s second term in office, on March 3, 1837, he recognized the legitimacy of the Texan government, led by Sam Houston. See id. Van Buren, who became president after the Election of 1836, took a much different approach, backing down from annexation. See id. at 670-71. He was prone to avoiding conflict, and instead chose to have a cordial relation with Texas. Id. at 671.

President Van Buren took this policy approach despite knowing that the South would vigorously seek annexation, as it would add a significant piece of land to the slave states. Id. However, while southerners could extract concessions from President Van Buren, annexation of Texas was not one of them. See id.

While Texas would not become a state for several more years, the discussions of annexation during the presidencies of Jackson and Van Buren illustrate how sectionalism was increasingly becoming a lens through which policy decisions were made. Rather than simply agree that annexation of a territory was a positive for the country as a whole, the North and the South each had their own perspectives that would need to be sorted out before any decision could be made. While President Van Buren was a shrewd politician that could nimbly navigate these issues, future presidents would have to grapple with balancing sectionalism and making policy decisions.

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