The Lone Star Republic became the 28th state in America when, 175 years ago on December 29, 1845, U.S. President James K. Polk signed the resolution admitting Texas into the union.
“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the State of Texas shall be one, and is hereby declared to be one, of the United States of America, and admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever,” stated the resolution.
The road to the annexation of the Lone Star Republic was fraught with political turmoil, especially in the U.S. Congress where the question of slavery was brewing ahead of the Civil War that would begin in 1861.
After Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, Texans supported annexation to the United States, but U.S. President Martin Van Buren opposed the move.
In 1838, Texas’ efforts to become a part of the United States came to a temporary halt, as Texas President Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar opposed annexation during his administration.
The possibility of annexation was renewed in the early 1840s under U.S. President John Tyler and Texas President Sam Houston, who both supported the measure, but their efforts were met with opposition largely from northern, anti-slavery Whig Party members in Congress.
Added to the tensions over slavery, hostility was still high between Texas and Mexico and some Americans wanted to avoid sparking a war with annexation.
But Tyler’s administration conducted negotiations with the young republic toward the goal of annexing Texas as a U.S. territory.
On April 12, 1844, Tyler signed the Tyler-Texas treaty, but it failed ratification in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 16 to 35.
The Senate’s rejection of the treaty set the stage for the annexation of Texas to be one of the central themes in the elections of 1844.
The Whig Party, which a few years earlier expelled Tyler, nominated Henry Clay for the White House, while the pro-annexation James K. Polk emerged as a dark horse candidate in the Democratic Party and was nominated instead of Van Buren.
After Polk’s nomination, Tyler dropped out of the race and endorsed him.
Polk won the election of 1844, and in the meantime, Tyler continued to pressure Congress into accepting annexation and told them in his final State of the Union Address that the election results indicated that, “It is the will of both the people and the States that Texas shall be annexed to the Union promptly and immediately.”
In the address, Tyler implored Congress to adopt his treaty with Texas through a joint resolution, which needed a simple majority in both chambers instead of a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
With a joint resolution put forward in the House, Whigs and Democrats in Congress negotiated the annexation with several amendments, but in late February, just before the end of Tyler’s administration, both chambers settled on an agreement and sent the bill to the White House.
Tyler signed the resolution on March 1 and the day before Polk was inaugurated, he dispatched a courier to Texas urging them to accept the new arrangement.
In Texas, President Anson Jones brought the issue before the Texas Congress and elected members of a convention.
Jones proposed a choice to both bodies: gaining recognition from Mexico of their independence or accepting annexation into the United States.
Both bodies overwhelmingly approved the latter and in October 1845, citizens of Texas voted the same.
The resolution was brought back to the U.S. for final approval and was signed into law on December 29, 1845.
Though the date marks the beginning of statehood for Texas, the president of the Republic formally gave the authority to the new state governor, James Pinckney Henderson, in February 1846.
At the ceremony, Anson gave his final farewell to the Texas Republic:
“The Lone Star of Texas, which ten years since arose amid clouds, over fields of carnage, and obscurely shone for a while, has culminated, and, following an inscrutable destiny, has passed on and become fixed forever in that glorious constellation, which all freemen and lovers of freedom in the world, must reverence and adore — the American Union.”
“Blending its rays with its sister stars, long may it continue to shine, and may a gracious Heaven smile upon this consummation of the wishes of the two Republics, now joined together in one.
“‘May the union be perpetual, and may it be the means of conferring benefits and blessings upon the people of all the States,’ is my ardent prayer.”