- When Was the Republic of Texas No More?: Revisiting the Annexation of Texas
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The scene has been described countless times in Texas history textbooks and classroom lectures. On February 19, 1846, a crowd assembled in front of a two-room dogtrot cabin in Austin, just a few steps from the south entrance of the present capitol building, to witness history as Texas’s first U.S. governor was inaugurated. The structure had been built for the Republic of Texas government after President Mirabeau Lamar convinced the Texas Congress to move the capital from the town named for his political rival, Sam Houston, to the budding community of Waterloo, soon renamed after Stephen F. Austin, on Texas’s western frontier. Just a few months before, members of the constitutional convention had met there to draft a new state constitution. The Republic of Texas would soon be annexed by the United States if the necessary requirements detailed in a joint congressional resolution could be completed by the end of 1845. Texas had met its obligations, and the U.S. Congress had approved the Texas constitution, leading the group to gather for the solemn occasion.
“The great measure of annexation, so earnestly desired by the people of Texas is happily consummated,” Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas told the assembled legislators of the new State of Texas, “and I am happy to greet you as their chosen representative, and tender to you my cordial congratulations on an event the most extraordinary in the annals of the world, and one which marks a bright triumph in the history of republican intuitions.” The hyperbole-laden speech was Jones’s valedictory speech before turning the reins of power over to the recently [End Page 31] elected, and now assembled, state government officials. “I, as President of the Republic, with my officers, am now present to surrender into the hands of those whom the people have chosen, the power and authority which we have some time held,” Jones stated. He spent a few moments giving an account of his administration and the steps that he and his cabinet took to make annexation a reality. Then his speech rose to a maudlin crescendo, “The Lone Star of Texas, which ten years since arose amid clouds, over fields of carnage, and obscurely shone for a while, has culminated, and, following an inscrutable destiny, has passed on and become fixed forever in that glorious constellation which all freemen and lovers of freedom in the world, must reverence and adore—the American Union.” Finally, Jones built to the dénouement that has reverberated through Texas history: “The final act in this great drama is now performed: the Republic of Texas is no more.”1 Jones then lowered the flag of the Republic and raised the flag of the United States, when—according to legend—the flagpole split. “During the whole time,” one observer noted, “tears crept unconsciously from the eye of many a weather-beaten Texian, who had toiled and suffered, and bled to establish an independent government.”2 Noah Smithwick, a blacksmith and memoirist, remembered: “Many a head was bowed, many a broad chest heaved, and many a manly cheek was wet with tears when that broad field of blue in the center of which, like a signal light, glowed the lone star, emblem of the sovereignty of Texas, was furled and laid away among the relics of the dead republic.” But, upon reflection, he stated, a happy note was struck, “we were most of us natives of the United States, and when the stars and stripes, the flag of our fathers, was run up and catching the breeze unrolled its heaven born colors to the light, cheer after cheer...