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Researching Texas Annexation at the DRT Library

August 12, 2011

Today’s blog entry was written by Carter Richardson, a sophomore at Alamo Heights High School who volunteered at the DRT Library in July. Read on to learn about a research question Carter explored by using sources at the Library.


This 1844 political cartoon shows Andrew Jackson prodding Martin Van Buren towards Thomas Hart Benton and John C. Calhoun, who hold a Medusa-like figure symbolizing the Texas Question, as James Polk and George Mifflin Dallas look on.

This 1844 political cartoon shows Andrew Jackson prodding Martin Van Buren towards Thomas Hart Benton and John C. Calhoun, who hold a Medusa-like figure symbolizing the Texas Question, as James Polk and George Mifflin Dallas look on.

When I walked into the DRT Library, I thought I knew a lot about the annexation of Texas. I thought that James K. Polk, our eleventh president, annexed Texas. I found out in the Library that there is much more to the annexation of Texas than James K. Polk.

Looking for the exact date that Texas was annexed, I began my search by looking at a microfilm that included the Texas question discussed by prominent individuals of all parties. Two of the individuals were James K. Polk and Henry Clay. “I have no hesitation in declaring that I am in favor of the immediate re-annexation of Texas to the territory and government of the United States,” declared Polk in a letter dated April 23, 1844. Then I found that three days before John Tyler left office he signed a Joint Resolution annexing Texas into the United States. I was shocked and had to learn more about this. With the many sources that were available to me, I learned that even though Texas was annexed during the Polk administration, Tyler, the previous president, actually signed it in.

I thought that the question of annexation was only brought up onto a national level during the Polk administration and when I saw that Tyler signed it in I had to investigate the presidents before that. Andrew Jackson was next on my list because I knew he was an especially controversial president. It turns out that I was right. During my search I located a biography of Sam Houston entitled The Raven. In this work, author Marquis James reveals that Andrew Jackson offered the Mexican government $5,000,000 for Texas in 1829. The offer was rejected. However, when Texas tried to break away from Mexico in 1835-1836, Jackson refused to annex Texas because he didn’t want to risk a war with Mexico. President Martin Van Buren, who served one term from 1837 to 1841, was against annexation because he was anti-slavery and Texas would have become a slave state if it was annexed. The issue wasn’t addressed during William Henry Harrison’s thirty days in office.

The DRT Library taught me that to understand anything you can’t just look at the surface, you have to dig into its history.


Marquis James, The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston

“Annexation of Texas: Opinions of Messrs. Clay, Polk, Benton, and VanBuren on the Immediate Annexation of Texas,” Texas as Province and Republic, 1795-1845 (Woodbridge, Connecticut: Research Publications, 1981), microfilm, reel 33, no. 1487.


For Further Reading

A search of the DRT Library’s catalog for the Library of Congress Subject Heading “Texas–Annexation to the United States” reveals 350 unique sources in the Library’s collections. Many of these items are original and microfilm copies of primary sources, specifically government documents. Two unique volumes in the Library’s collection were created by Maury Maverick, Sr. and contain government documents for and against the independence and annexation of Texas.

For additional information about the political cartoon above, see the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.

For additional information and primary sources about the annexation of Texas, see the Texas State Library and Archives online exhibit “Hard Road to Texas: Texas Annexation, 1836-1845.”

Click here for a full citation of the documents and images included in this entry.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2011 5:49 pm

    Nice job, Carter! Glad to see you’re researching and maintaining your interest in history. Keep it up!
    All the best,
    Jim Boylston

  2. Amanda Ross permalink
    August 15, 2011 11:12 am

    Great job, Carter! And great idea to post, Caitlin Donnelly. I love reading from users about their research experiences.

  3. Caitlin Donnelly permalink
    August 17, 2011 6:40 pm

    Thanks for the shout out, Amanda, but credit for having Carter describe his research process should go to Leslie Stapleton, DRT Library Director.

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