Texas Annexation


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Question

Q: Did the United States instigate the Texas Revolution?

A: Over the years, historians have examined the role of the United States in instigating the Texas Revolution. Undoubtedly, Americans had been talking about Texas as a desirable addition to United States territory ever since the Louisiana Purchase. The U.S. president at the time of the Texas Revolution, Andrew Jackson, had previously approached Mexico about buying Texas. Jackson was an ardent expansionist and a close friend, almost a father, to Sam Houston. Other Texas leaders had close ties with important figures in the United States government.

At the time, Mexicans, some Europeans, and Jackson's political opponents all alleged that Jackson's administration had fomented the revolution. Though the question remains controversial, primary sources provide little evidence to suggest any official involvement by the U.S. government. An examination of records of the U.S. State Department reveals no hint of any policy promoting revolution in Texas. Indeed, Stephen F. Austin and the other commissioners from revolutionary Texas found the doors of official Washington closed to them. In their official diplomatic correspondence, British observers in Mexico and the United States reported to London that no assistance from the United States government was offered to the Texas rebels, even in secret.

In truth, no official assistance was needed from Jackson or anyone else. Throughout the United States, especially in the South, support for Texas was warm and widespread. Men, money, and supplies poured voluntarily across the Texas border. It was this support from private individuals, rather than any scheming by Andrew Jackson or anyone else, that was critical to the success of the Texas Revolution.

In context, the Texas Revolution was hardly a unique event in Mexican history. For decades after winning independence from Spain, Mexico dealt with a continual string of serious rebellions in its northern provinces, including New Mexico and California. Mexico was burdened with huge disparities between races and classes, a backward economic system bequeathed them by centuries of Spanish exploitation, and a rugged and mountainous terrain that made travel and communication difficult and national unity almost impossible. These were not problems engineered by the United States, and they played a major role in the eventual loss by Mexico of its northern territories, including Texas.

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Page last modified: April 5, 2011