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John Quincy Adams Denounces Texas Annexation
Digital History ID 386

Author:   John Quincy Adams


Texas had barely won its independence when it decided to become a part of the United States. A referendum held soon after the Battle of San Jacinto showed Texans favoring annexation by a vote of 3277 to 93.

The annexation question became one of the most controversial issues in American politics in the late 1830s and early 1840s. The issue was not Texas but slavery. The admission of Texas to the Union would upset the sectional balance of power in the U.S. Senate, just as the admission of Missouri had threatened to do 15 years earlier. In 1838, the elderly John Quincy Adams, now a member of the House of Representatives, staged a 22-day filibuster that blocked annexation.

At this point, proslavery Southerners began to popularize a conspiracy theory that would eventually bring Texas into the Union as a slave state. In 1841, John Tyler, an ardent defender of slavery, succeeded to the presidency on the death of William Henry Harrison. Tyler argued that Britain was scheming to annex Texas and make it a haven for runaway slaves. According to this theory, British slave emancipation in the West Indies had been a total economic disaster, and Britain hoped to undermine Southern slavery by turning Texas into a British satellite state. In fact, British abolitionists, greatly worried that Texas might revive and stimulate the slave trade, were working to convince Texas to outlaw slavery in exchange for British foreign aid.

In the following fragment from one of his speeches, John Quincy Adams denounces proposals to annex of Texas.


...Annexation, had been put off with a sort of Return Jonathan refusal. He had been told with Solemnity of face that there was a doubt of the Constitutional power of Congress and the President to accept the proposal and moreover that they could not think of it now because it would risk a war with Mexico, and violate the sacred Faith of Treaties. But Mr. Jefferson had shewn how a Constitutional Camel could be Swallowed for the sake of Louisiana by palates accustomed to strain at a gnat, and the Chairman of the late Committee of Foreign Affairs professed his readiness to swallow another for the sake of Texas. And as to the war with Mexico, one President had told Congress seven months before that it would be justifiable, and his successor, even while alleging this pretence of War and the Sacred Faith of Treaties, was about to tell Congress not only that he himself agreed with his Predecessor that War would have been justifiable the Winter before, but that...both Houses of Congress had been of the same opinion, and that it was now not only more justifiable but indispensable because the last magnanimous Appeal to the Justice and the fears of Mexico, heralded by a Courier from that Department of State, with the indulgence of one week for an answer, had totally failed.

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: John Quincy Adams, [Speech fragment on the proposed annexation of Texas]

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