Colonized in the eighteenth century by the Spanish, the Republic of Texas declared its independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836. The Republic of Texas was not recognized by the United States until a year later in 1837.
The question of incorporating Texas into the United States was an issue that strained U.S. relations with Mexico during the 1840s. Although Texas was annexed by the United States in late December 1845, the formal transfer ceremony occurred on February 19, 1846, thus officially ending diplomatic relations between the Republic of Texas and the United States.
U.S. Recognition of Texan Independence, 1837.
The United States recognized Texan independence on March 3, 1837, when U.S. President Andrew Jackson nominated Alcée La Branche as Minister to Texas.
U.S. Consulate at Galveston
Prior to Texan independence, a consulate was established at Galveston, and Joseph Washington Eliot Wallace was confirmed as consul on March 29, 1830. Additional consulates existed at the following locations:
- Goliad: Earliest Date: January 9, 1835. No extant latest date.
- Matagorda: Earliest Date: June 26, 1838. No extant latest date.
- Sabine: Earliest Date: March 21, 1843. Latest date: December 29, 1845
- Velasco (Freeport) Earliest Date: October 12, 1837. No extant latest date.
Establishment of Diplomatic Relations and the U.S. Legation in Houston, 1837.
Diplomatic relations began when the U.S. Secretary of State accepted the credentials of William Harris Wharton, Texan Minister to the United States, on March 6, 1837. Alcée La Branche, the appointed Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Legation in Houston, then functioning as the seat of government, presented his credentials sometime between October 23 and 27, 1837.
Cessation of Relations, 1846.
Although Texas entered the United States as a state on December 29, 1845, relations formally ended during the transfer of Texan sovereignty to the United States on February 19, 1846. Despite this, Andrew J. Donelson, the last U.S. Chargé D’Affaires, left his post on or shortly after August 9, 1845.
Treaties and Agreements
Claims Convention, 1838.
On April 11, 1838, the U.S. concluded a Claims Convention with the Republic of Texas. This agreement was signed by Alcée La Branche, the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires near the Republic of Texas and R.A. Irion, the Secretary of State of the Republic of Texas, and served to set Texan indemnity to the United States for injuries suffered by U.S. Citizens by Texan authorities as well as indemnity to compensate U.S. merchants for the capture, seizure, and confiscation of two U.S. vessels.
Convention for Marking Boundary, 1838.
On April 25, 1838, the U.S. and the Republic of Texas signed a convention to mark the boundary between the two states.
Issues Relevant to U.S. Foreign Diplomacy
One of the issues at play in the interactions between the United States and the Republic of Texas was the eventual annexation of Texas by the U.S. There were two main difficulties with the issue of Texas joining the United States at the time: first, incorporating Texas into the Union might provoke Mexico; and second, Texas wished to join as a slave state.
Disrupting Relations With Mexico.
On August 23, 1843, Mexican Foreign Minister Bocanegra informed U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Mexico, Waddy Thompson, that U.S. annexation of Texas would be grounds for war. On March 1, 1845, U.S. President John Tyler signed a congressional joint resolution favoring the annexation of Texas. On March 4, 1845, U.S. President James Knox Polk noted his approval of the “reunion” of the Republic of Texas with the United States in his inaugural address. In response, the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs informed U.S. Minister to Mexico, Wilson Shannon, on March 28, 1845, that Mexico was severing diplomatic relations with the United States. In December 1845 Texas was admitted to the union as the twenty-eighth state. In April 1846, Mexican troops attacked what they perceived to be invading U.S. forces that had occupied territory claimed by both Mexico and the United States, and on May 13, the U.S. Congress declared war against Mexico.
Slavery and Cotton.
Another issue raised by the debate over Texan annexation was that of slavery. Since the early nineteenth century, Texas was a producer of cotton. It was also dependent upon slave labor to produce its cotton. The question of whether or not the United States should annex Texas came at a time of increased tensions between the Northern and Southern states of the Union over the legality and morality of slavery; thus the possibility of admitting Texas as another slave state proved to be contentious.
Additionally, there was another issue raised by the Texas-cotton nexus: that of the market for raw cotton. One of the largest export markets for North American raw cotton in the mid-nineteenth century was to Great Britain. As long as Texas remained an independent state, it could give Southern U.S. cotton plantation owners competition in terms of setting prices – to force them to be more competitive.
- Samuel Flagg Bemis, The American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy, (New York: Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1963), Volume V.
- George Pierce Garrison, ed. Diplomatic Correspondence of the Republic of Texas. Austin, 1908,
- Ethel Zivley Ratiler. “Recognition of the Republic of Texas by the United States,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 13:3, 155-256.
- Richard Bruce Winders. Crisis in the Southwest: The United States, Mexico, and the Struggle over Texas. Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 2002.