Questions and Answers
Q: What was the real aim of Sam Houston during the annexation crisis?
A positive answer to this question cannot be given. Houston was a remarkably wily and secretive man. Any analysis of his management of the annexation negotiations can only consist of educated guesswork.
Houston’s plans and schemes changed constantly to fit the vagaries of the times, but several constants in his thinking can be identified. He was determined never to let Texas fall again under Mexican rule. Either annexation or independence was acceptable, depending on which course held more advantage for Texas. He was willing to go to almost any length to preserve and protect Texas, including putting Texas under a British protectorate and emancipating the slaves.
Immediately following the revolution, Houston did not think Texas was capable of an independent national existence. He supported joining the United States. Over the next years, his views changed. He came to think that independence would be preferable—if Texas could secure a peaceful environment in which to develop and thrive.
As Houston saw it, Texas would gain some significant advantages from a British alliance. If emancipation was required, Texas could bring in large numbers of European settlers to replace blacks as laborers. Europe would help promote Texas as a counterweight to U.S. strength and let Texas act as a neutral party in international conflicts. Commercially, Texas could admit British goods and then undercut their competition in the U.S. and Mexico, which had high duties. With British help, Texas might even eventually form a greater Union with California, the Southwest, and Oregon. Houston would go down as the founder of a great continental power.
Houston was a man used to playing for high stakes. In the annexation crisis, he was determined to find a solution that guaranteed the future of Texas. He was willing to risk the welfare of Texans; international relations with the United States, Mexico, England, and France; and his own political and personal interests to do so.
With an almost unerring sense of political timing, Houston jumped on the annexation bandwagon in April 1845. The overwhelming sentiment of the people was for annexation; to have waited longer would have been political suicide. With the question resolved at last, Houston refocused his enormous energies from the quest for an independent Texas to the United States Senate. On this larger stage, he could pursue new ambitions, including the presidency.