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165 5 Oh for a Man Who Is a Man DEBATING SLAVERY’S EXPANSION When the fractious Twenty-seventh Congress came to a close, the antislavery lobby in the House (Adams, Slade, Giddings, and ten others) promulgated an address to the ‘‘people of the free states’’ on the subject of Texas annexation . The project of annexing Texas may have been on the political backburner during the 1841–43 session, they warned, but it was ‘‘by no means abandoned.’’ Rather, proslavery forces were steadily mounting an annexation campaign by which the ‘‘undue ascendancy of the Slave-holding power in the Government [would] be secured and riveted beyond all redemption.’’ As proof, John Quincy Adams and his allies quoted from speeches and letters by Henry Wise, Thomas W. Gilmer, and others in which they professed that annexation was constitutional and was the perfect means to extend slavery. Sounding an alarm in tones conspicuously similar to proslavery appeals for vigilance against abolitionist encroachments, the antislavery lobby implored Northerners not to be lulled into a ‘‘false and dangerous security.’’ Unless Northerners united, without distinction of party, the ‘‘nefarious project’’ of annexation would succeed; this would not only ‘‘result in a dissolution of the union,’’ the authors of the address proclaimed, ‘‘but fully . . . justify it.’’ The address found favor among moderates as well as hardcore abolitionists. Horace Greeley’s antislavery Whig newspaper, the New York Tribune (which 166 Δ 1837–1850 boasted a daily circulation of approximately ten thousand, making it the most popular newspaper in the country), commended the antislavery lobby for having exposed the ‘‘incessant plotting’’ of pro-annexation forces.∞ The apprehensions of anti-annexationists were fully warranted. In the two years between March 1843, when antislavery Whigs issued this warning , and March 1845, when President Tyler signed the House and Senate’s joint resolution of annexation, pro-annexation forces not only perfected their behind-the-scenes plotting, they also forcefully articulated and energetically publicized a new rationale for admitting Texas to the Union. Turning the disunion rhetoric of Adams and the other antislavery men against them, annexationists claimed that the admission of Texas would both promote domestic harmony between North and South, and safeguard the Union from threats from foreign powers, especially the empire-building nation-states of Europe. The annexation debates reveal that in the 1840s Americans’ anxieties over internal sources of disunion were still closely linked to their anxieties over external threats. President Tyler cherished annexation as a measure that could redeem his administration and enable him to build a loyal political constituency in the South. The presence of anti-annexationist Daniel Webster as secretary of state had hampered him. But once Webster, who had become disillusioned by Tyler’s incessant overtures to the Democratic Party, quit the job in May 1843, Tyler was free to maneuver. He seized the opportunity to appoint a fellow annexationist, Secretary of the Navy Abel P. Upshur (the very man John Minor Botts had accused of advocating disunion) in Webster’s place. Upshur belonged to the ‘‘annexation junto’’—a cadre of ardent expansionists that included New York Herald editor James Gordon Bennett, editor John B. Jones of the administration organ the Daily Madisonian, and seasoned Maryland politico Du√ Green. In 1841 Tyler had dispatched Green as an emissary to London, to move stealthily in diplomatic circles in search of ‘‘proof’’ that England had designs on Texas. This was the essence of the Tyler annexation strategy: to argue that Britain would promote abolition in Texas (by o√ering Texas loans and migrants and help in negotiating peace with Mexico) in order to undermine the South’s cotton-producing capacity and establish the commercial supremacy of Britain’s own cotton manufacturers in the East Indies. ‘‘Texas would be the decisive battleground’’ between the United States and Britain, the junto argued. If Britain succeeded in persuading Texans to abol- Debating Slavery’s Expansion Δ 167 ish slavery and to reject U.S. annexation, Texas would become a haven for freed and fugitive slaves who would pose a constant threat to slavery in the rest of the South. Britain’s ultimate goal was to exploit existing sectional tensions and promote enough discord in American politics that the Union itself would crumble. The only remedy was the ‘‘immediate annexation of Texas as a slave state.’’ The president of the Lone Star Republic, Sam Houston , cagily manipulated these anxieties. He ‘‘allowed Americans to conclude that he was willing to negotiate slavery out of existence’’ in the hope that this would spur the...


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