Anson Jones

 

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ANSON JONES, Physician, Statesman, President of the Republic of Texas; was born in Massachusetts in 1798. At the age of 22, he became a practicing physician. He is remembered as Texas's "Architect of Annexation".

In 1832 Jones gave up medicine and became a merchant in New Orleans.  He quickly went broke, and then moved to Texas.  Be once again became a doctor, practicing in Brazoria.  Jones would come to support the Texas Independence movement.   When war came, Jones served as judge advocate and surgeon in the San Jacinto Campaign.

As the Republic of Texas was formed, Jones became involved in politics. He was elected to the Republic of Texas Congress, where he became interested in the Annexation of Texas to the United States.  After the victory of San Jacinto, Texas formally proposed annexation to the United States, and many expected it to follow within a matter of months.

Dr. Anson Jones, President of the Republic of Texas

Sam Houston was a trusted friend of President Jackson, who was known to favor the annexation to secure and expand the western border of the United States. Business interests in the United States favored annexation, as did powerful senators from slave states, who saw the chance to extend the reach of slavery across a vast new space.

Opposition to annexation was wide spread as well.  Mexico opposed annexation, still considering Texas as part of Mexico. Some feared annexation would lead to a War with Mexico.  Anti-slavery northern states opposed annexation as well.  The opposition was strong enough that annexation could not pass at this point.

In 1838, Sam Houston appointed Jones as Texas minister to the United States, and authorized him to formally withdraw the offer of annexation. Instead of pursuing annexation, Jones would work to stimulate recognition and trade with Europe. Jones served as minister until the following year, when Mirabeau B. Lamar became president. Jones returned to Texas, was elected to the Senate, and became a vocal critic of Lamar's foreign policy.

Sam Houston won the presidency again in 1841. This time, he chose Anson Jones as his secretary of state.

Jones and Houston vacillated between two policies. Houston was genuinely torn between his desire for annexation to the United States,  and his dream of an independent Texas. Jones believed that the prospects for annexation were dim, and that independence as part a British-French alliance offered the best prospects for peace with Mexico and prosperity for Texas.

Neither the annexation proposal in Washington nor the peace negotiations in Mexico had been successful by 1844, a  presidential election year in the United States. President John Tyler was an unpopular figure searching for a popular platform on which to run. The country was hungry for new territory, and Tyler decided to tap into the sentiment by moving forward aggressively on the annexation question. Tyler entered into secret negotiations with Houston and Jones.

Tyler assured the Texans that he had the necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate to approve a treaty of annexation. Houston and Jones were dubious of Tyler's claim, and concerned about the continuing border raids and threats of all-out war from Mexico. Talk of Annexation would torpedo any hope of peace with Mexico.

Tyler was willing to go for broke. He sent the U.S. Navy to the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. Army to the Southwest to protect the Texas border. On April 12, 1844, the negotiations were completed and Texas signed an annexation treaty with the U.S. Ten days later, Tyler submitted the treaty to the Senate, along with hundreds of pages of supporting documents explaining the commercial and pro-slavery benefits of the move.

The proposal created a huge debate. Tyler had overplayed his hand, and  the treaty was rejected by a large margin. Predictably, northern senators voted against it. Worse, fifteen southern senators also voted the treaty down, calling the action an election year stunt.

Jones and Houston returned to their efforts to secure European protection. If all went well, Texas could end up as an independent nation, at peace with Mexico and poised to build a prosperous economy based on trade with Britain, France, and the United States.

Despite Tyler's inept handling of the issue, the appetite for annexation in the United States was far from dead. James Polk ran on a pro-Texas-annexation platform, and was elected President of the United States.

After the election, congress again took up the matter of annexing Texas. This time, advocates introduced not a treaty, which required a two-thirds vote in the Senate, but a joint resolution, which required a simple majority in both houses of Congress. The resolution passed the Senate by a narrow margin on February 27, 1845. The next day, it passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin.

For years, Jones had promised to lay before Texans a stark choice: annexation or independence, and could not turn away from the possibility. But his years in the diplomatic world had left him grossly out of touch with public sentiment among ordinary Texans. As President Polk's envoy Charles Wickliffe observed, news of Jones's negotiations with Mexico came upon Texas "like a peal of thunder in a clear sky."

Texans recognized that Jones's actions could derail the annexation, and few Texans had any faith in the goodwill of the European powers or the Mexican government. Jones became wildly unpopular, to the point of being burned in effigy and threatened with lynching. Jones's attempts to backpedaling only added to the scorn and contempt heaped upon him by the newspapers and ordinary Texans.

The last official act of Anson Jones as president was to attend the ceremony on February 19, 1846, in which the American flag was raised over the Texas Capitol. In Jones's words, "The Republic of Texas is no more."

As expected, Mexico considered the annexation as an act of war, and began preparations to invade Texas. The Mexican American War soon ensued.

He nursed an obsessive grudge against Sam Houston and a misguided belief that he would someday return to public office and be recognized for his contributions to Texas annexation. Anson Jones committed suicide in 1858.

 

 

 

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