« PreviousContinue »
the papers; but an attempt by a Washington correspondent, published in the Register for April 13, to state the conditions of the treaty, shows how little reliable information had been given to the public. When, however, it had been laid before the Senate and had been printed with the accompanying documents for use by that body alone, a copy found its way, through the agency of Senator Tappan of Ohio, to a New York newspaper. Tappan apologized to the Senate, but was severely censured.1 The injunction of secrecy was then removed, and twenty thousand copies of the treaty and documents transmitted therewith were ordered to be printed for the use of the Senate.'
The vote was taken June 8, 1844. In the mean time Clay and Van Buren had come out against annexation; the Whig and Democratic conventions had been held; Clay had been nominated for the presidency by the Whigs and Polk by the Democrats; and the annexation of Texas had been made a plank of the Democratic platform. The policy of annexation thereby became a party question, and previous calculations as to the probable vote were entirely upset. The Senate was composed of twenty-three Democrats and twenty-nine Whigs. Of the Whigs, all but Henderson of Mississippi stood by Clay, and thus insured the rejection of
1 Senate Exec. Journals, VI., 268-273.
'They were printed in Senate Docs., 28 Cong., 1 Sess., V., No.
the treaty. Henderson's affirmative vote is the only one that by any sort of logic could be charged to the influence of slavery. The Democrats were not united; and it was thought necessary to give to the press a letter from Jackson condemning the senator who should vote against the treaty as a traitor to the best interests of his country.' Nevertheless, there was soreness over the leaving-out of Van Buren by the convention at Baltimore, and for this or other reasons eight of the Democrats broke ranks when the vote occurred. One, Hannegan of Indiana, declined to vote, and absented himself when the vote was taken; it stood, therefore, 16 ayes to 35 noes; of those voting aye five were from free states, and of those voting no fifteen were from slave states.
It is interesting to speculate on what the result would have been if the treaty had been ratified in the form in which it was signed. The policy of compromise which so characterized the history of the United States up to the Civil War would doubtless have secured the admission of Texas as a slave state; but it is not easy to say what the price of admission would have been. The anti-slavery element would have had a much better chance in the compromise of 1850, and might have driven a better bargain. The treaty would also have taken from Texas her public lands, whose value was not then understood, but which have played a most 1 Niles' Register, LXVI., 241. 2 Ibid.
important part in the development of the state. On the whole, Texas has reason to be thankful, in the light of subsequent events, that the treaty was not ratified.
THE ELECTION OF 1844
'HE question of the annexation of Texas was
now before the people. Whig success in the approaching election would certainly postpone it, with what further effect on the movement none could say; while a victory for the Democrats would insure renewed agitation of the subject and very likely the consummation of the policy. As the politicians turned their faces to the future and began to forecast resu ts, they were evidently much in the dark; local sentiment in Massachusetts or in South Carolina they could judge with sufficient assurance, but what the composite verdict would be they could not tell. In 1840 the Whigs had swept the field; but the disorganization that came in the quarrel with Tyler made their triumph little better than defeat. The congressional elections of 1842 changed their majority of about forty in the lower House to one of more than seventy for the Democrats.1 The signs of the times then pointed strongly to a Democratic victory in 1844 as complete as that
1 1 Niles' Register, LXV., 213.
of the Whigs in 1840. But the issue of annexation, thrust into the campaign against the wishes of those who preferred a simple contest for the offices, made the confusion and uncertainty fairly bewildering. To the trimmers it proved a most distressful and disastrous season.
It had, in fact, begun to appear, as the time for the conventions of 1844 approached, that the Texas question was going to be an issue, whether the politicians would or no. The treaty of annexation was before the Senate while the conventions were in session, and the agitation of the subject became so warm that those aspiring to bc president could no longer avoid some kind of declaration concerning it. Clay and Van Buren had conferred together, it is said, and both declared themselves in opposition to the policy of immediate annexation. It is charged that the simultaneous publication of their letters1 to that effect was a scheme agreed upon to damage Tyler by joining in resistance to the movement and keeping it, as far as possible, out of the canvass.2 If there was such a plan, the Whigs carried it to the extent of refusing the subject a place in their platform; but the Democrats could not take that ground. Jackson seems to have recognized from the first the danger of precipitating this question. The election of Van Buren, whom the "factious Sen
1 Republished in Niles' Register, LXVI., 152-157. Tyler, Tylers, II., 308; cf. Schurz, Clay, II., 243; per contra, Schouler, United States, IV., 465 n. 'See p. 90, above.