Diplomatic Relations of the Republic of Texas

By: Joseph Schmitz

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: July 6, 2019

The diplomatic history of Texas began late in 1835 with the appointment of Stephen F. Austin, Branch T. Archer, and William H. Wharton as commissioners to the United States to get help to carry on the Texas Revolution. After the battle of San Jacinto and the establishment of constitutional government, the people of Texas voted by a large majority to seek annexation to the United States of America. President Sam Houston chose Wharton to take charge of negotiations. Recognition of independence and annexation to the United States were dealt with separately, because in the light of experience it was apparent that if recognition was gained as a preliminary step, membership in the Union might follow more easily. Meeting with congressmen, holding conferences with John Forsyth, secretary of state, and calling on President Andrew Jackson, Wharton finally secured the recognition of Texas independence. On March 3, 1837, Jackson appointed Alcée La Branche as chargé d'affaires to the Republic of Texas. Recognition attained, Wharton withdrew, leaving Memucan Hunt to carry on. On August 4, 1837, the subject of annexation was formally presented to the United States. A considerable public opinion, expressed in memorials and petitions, favored annexation by the time Congress convened in December. Politicians declined to take action for months, however, and when the matter did come up, John Quincy Adams carried on an effective delaying action by speaking against it every day for three weeks. The session closed in the summer of 1838 without action. Houston instructed Anson Jones, who had replaced Hunt, to withdraw the Texas offer. This was done on October 2, 1838; the Texas Senate approved of the withdrawal on January 23, 1839. While the prospects for annexation were discouraging in the spring of 1837, the Texas authorities, convinced that they might have to carry on as an independent nation, decided to establish commercial relations with European powers and so strengthen their position. Accordingly, James Pinckney Henderson, secretary of state, was sent to London early in October 1837 to open negotiations with Lord Palmerston. The British were fearful that recognition would jeopardize their friendly standing with Mexico and declined to enter into formal relations; they did consent, however, to admit Texas commerce to British ports on their own terms. In France Henderson fared better. Dealing first with Count Mole, and later with his successor Marshal Soult, the Texas agent arranged a treaty by which France recognized the independence of Texas and admitted her commerce on a most favored nation basis. The treaty was signed on September 25, 1839, and Dubois de Saligny was appointed chargé d'affaires to the republic.

When Mirabeau B. Lamar became president, annexation was no longer agitated, and he was free to direct his efforts toward developing the republic into a strong, independent nation. It had become evident that European countries were not eager to enter into diplomatic or commercial relations with Texas while Mexico still asserted legal claims to the region; therefore Lamar's foreign policy centered about making peace with Mexico. In February 1839, seeing a favorable opportunity as a result of the French intervention in Mexico, Lamar instructed Barnard E. Bee to proceed to Mexico to arrange a formal peace. Bee was authorized, moreover, to spend up to five million dollars in getting the boundary of Texas established at the Rio Grande. He did not even get an official interview, however, and returned empty handed. Lamar tried again; he sent James Treat, a man of broad acquaintances in Mexico, as confidential agent. Treat worked long, gave promise of success, but accomplished nothing definite. Shortly before the failure of Treat, England promised assistance, and Lamar decided to make a third effort. He sent James Webb. Faring no better than his predecessors, Webb on his return urged the hostilities Lamar was considering. A military convention with the revolting Mexican state of Yucatan was then made, but this diplomatic threat was ineffective as Yucatan soon renewed its allegiance to Mexico. At the end of Lamar's administration, Texas-Mexican relations were actually more unfriendly than they had been at the beginning.

Financial needs often shaped foreign policies. Of all the agents employed to secure loans, none served with greater distinction than James Hamilton. Originally commissioned along with several others during the Houston administration to negotiate a $5,000,000 loan, Hamilton was retained by Lamar and spent the greater part of three years trying to place the loan in Europe. At times Hamilton's work was entirely diplomatic, as he was well aware that recognition by foreign powers would facilitate his financial work in those nations. Given broad diplomatic powers, he negotiated with the governments of England, Netherlands, and Belgium, and his loan activities brought him in contact with influential men of many countries. His first success was in Holland, where on September 15, 1840, a treaty of commerce was signed. In London he drew up three treaties: one of commerce and navigation, a second providing for British mediation in the Texas-Mexico difficulties concerning peace, and a third calling for the suppression of slave trade. These were signed in November 1840, but because of various delays ratifications were not exchanged until July 28, 1842. A great deal of Hamilton's time was spent trying to conclude a treaty with the Belgians; he was unsuccessful, however, as were his successors. While Hamilton enjoyed some success in his diplomatic endeavors, he found it impossible to negotiate the loan; and when Houston reassumed the presidency and reversed most of Lamar's policies, especially the financial ones, Hamilton's services were terminated. Ashbel Smith was appointed and held conversations with Spanish officials relative to a treaty of commerce, by which Texas hoped to develop trade with Cuba, but no conclusion was reached. Smith's regular work as Texan envoy to London and Paris occupied so much of his time that he could not well extend the interests of Texas elsewhere. Houston commissioned William Henry Daingerfield as chargé d'affaires to the Netherlands and authorized him to negotiate treaty agreements with other continental powers. With Vincent Rumpff, representing the Hanse Towns of Hamburg, Lubeck, and Bremen, Daingerfield drew up a convention of amity, commerce, and navigation. Hamburg refused to ratify, and the Senate of Lubeck also declined, but Bremen approved and in anticipation of ratification, appointed a collector of customs for Galveston. When the treaty reached Texas, annexation was the all-engrossing topic and no action was taken, ratifications in fact were never exchanged. Meanwhile Daingerfield conferred with representatives of Prussia and other European powers but learned that they were not inclined to enter into any formal agreements, since the continued existence of Texas was doubtful in the face of renewed conversations on annexation.

Houston favored annexation although his actions did not always indicate it. In June 1843 he agreed to an armistice with Mexico. Charles Elliot, British chargé d'affaires to Texas, and Richard Pakenham, the British minister to Mexico, were in favor of the armistice and hoped it would mark the beginning of stronger British influence in Texas. Aware of the disadvantages that would result from a British foothold in Texas, President John Tyler authorized his secretary of state, Abel Upshur, to reopen the annexation question with Isaac Van Zandt, the Texas chargé. Houston agreed and sent James Pinckney Henderson to assist in the negotiations. A treaty proposing to admit Texas as a territory was drawn up but rejected by the United States Senate on June 8, 1844. The motives were varied, but undoubtedly most of the senators wanted to postpone the issue until after the national elections in November. The election of James K. Polk on an annexation platform was interpreted as a demand for immediate action and induced Tyler to renew his efforts. In December 1844 he submitted a proposition for the annexation of Texas by joint resolution. Passed late in February 1845 the joint resolution provided for the admission of Texas as a state instead of a territory, gave it the privilege of keeping its own public lands, thus providing a source of revenue with which to pay its debts, and extended the right to divide itself into as many as four additional states. Andrew J. Donelson brought the proposition to Texas and urged its immediate acceptance. The United States government had good reason to be solicitous, for both England and France, in the hope that Texas might be induced to reject annexation and remain independent, had been urging Mexico to agree to a treaty of peace. Anson Jones, president of Texas, consented to the preliminaries of a treaty with Mexico by which that country consented to recognize the independence of Texas on condition that Texas would not become annexed to the United States. Jones presented both propositions, annexation or Mexican recognition, to the Congress of the republic and to the people of Texas, who, by the Convention of 1845, accepted the terms of annexation. This action ended all diplomatic activity of the republic, although some time passed before the various foreign representatives of Texas returned.

Nancy Nichols Barker, trans. and ed., The French Legation in Texas, Vol. 1: Recognition, Rupture, and Reconciliation (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1971); Vol. 2: Mission Miscarried (1973). Nancy Nichols Barker, "The Republic of Texas: A French View," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (October 1967). Alma Howell Brown, "The Consular Service of the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 33 (January, April 1930). Mary Katherine Chase, Négociations de la République du Texas en Europe, 1837–1845 (Paris: Champion, 1932). Correspondence Relating to a Treaty of Peace between Mexico and Texas (Washington: National Register Printing, 1845). Robert Emmet Cunningham, James Treat and His Mission to Mexico (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1950). Diplomatic Correspondence of the Republic of Texas, ed. George Pierce Garrison (3 parts, Washington: GPO, 1908–11). Herbert Rook Edwards, "Diplomatic Relations between France and the Republic of Texas, 1836–1845," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 20 (January 1917). Herbert Gambrell, Anson Jones: The Last President of Texas (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1948). Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Anson Jones, Memoranda and Official Correspondence Relating to the Republic of Texas (New York: Appleton, 1859; rpt. 1966). Julia Luker, Diplomatic Relations between Texas and Mexico, 1836–1842 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1920). Charles Louis Ternay Neu, The Foreign Relations of the Republic of Texas, 1836–1846 (thesis, University of California, 1925). Joseph William Schmitz, Texan Statecraft, 1836–1845 (San Antonio: Naylor, 1941). Stanley Siegel, A Political History of the Texas Republic (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1956). Harriet Smither, The Diplomatic Service of Ashbel Smith to the Republic of Texas, 1842–1845 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1922). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970). J. L. Worley, "The Diplomatic Relations of England and the Republic of Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 9 (July 1905).

  • Peoples
  • English
  • Politics and Government
  • French
  • Military
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Joseph Schmitz, “Diplomatic Relations of the Republic of Texas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/diplomatic-relations-of-the-republic-of-texas.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 6, 2019

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