Architect of Annexation
In just eight years, Jones had gone from penniless immigrant to president of the Republic of Texas. In that time, he had educated himself, growing from mediocre country doctor to master of international diplomacy. He had pursued every angle open to Texas, from an alliance with Britain and France to annexation to complete independence. Now, on the eve of his greatest triumph, it was this pursuit of alternatives that was to prove his undoing.
Following popular sentiment, the Texas Congress declared for joining the Union. Jones counseled caution. Polk and pro-Texas sentiment had carried the day in the U.S. presidential election, but there was no guarantee that annexation would pass the U.S. Congress. If it failed, Jones wanted to be free to propose independence under a British and French alliance.
On February 27-28, the U.S. Congress approved Texas annexation. It would be almost a month before the word reached Texas. In the meantime, Jones had reached a deal with England and France to negotiate peace and recognition from Mexico. Jones warned the European ministers that Texans would not tolerate much further delay and gave them 90 days in which to conclude the negotiations. He also made it clear that Texas might choose annexation over the Mexican treaty even if negotiations were successful.
When the news of annexation reached Texas on March 20, a storm of protest broke upon Jones and his policies. The president was denounced as a sell-out to Britain. He was burned in effigy, and wild threats were made to overthrow the government. Through it all, Jones remained publicly silent. In his own mind, he had acted correctly, giving Texas the choice of peace with Mexico and independence, or U.S. annexation and almost certain war. But while Jones may have been a skilled diplomat, he was no politician. The people of Texas did not want choices and alternatives. They wanted annexation, and the sooner the better.
On June 4, 1845, Jones received word from the British minister that Mexico had agreed to a treaty guaranteeing peace and the permanent independence of Texas. Jones presented the treaty to the Texas Congress. A furious Congress rejected the treaty, approved annexation to the United States, and adopted resolutions censuring Jones. Later in the summer, Jones was stripped of most of his powers. Jones was stunned by the outcry against him.
For the remainder of his term of office, Jones spent most of his time at his plantation, Barrington, near Brazoria, with his wife and their three children. His final official act was to preside over the transfer of power on February 19, 1846. At the ceremony setting up the government of Texas as a state in the Union, Jones delivered a short and simple address, concluding, "The final act in this great drama is now performed. The Republic of Texas is no more." (See Texas Treasures for more on the valedictory address.) Then, with his own hands, he lowered the flag of the Republic of Texas for the last time.