previous next
[158] which encouragement they have improved and flourished beyond example. The South has very peculiar interests to preserve, interests already violently assailed and boldly threatened.

Your Committee are fully persuaded that this protection to her best interests will be afforded by the Annexation of Texas; an equipoise of influence in the halls of Congress will be secured, which will furnish us a permanent guarantee of protection.

Mr. Henry A. Wise, of Virginia, of the same political school with Gilmer, in a speech in the House, January 26, 1842, said:

True, if Iowa be added on the one side, Florida will be added on the other. But there the equation must stop. Let one more Northern State be admitted, and the equilibrium is gone — gone forever. The balance of interests is gone — the safeguard of American property — of the American Constitution — of the American Union, vanished into thin air. This must be the inevitable result, unless, by a treaty with Mexico, the South can add more weight to her end of the lever. Let the South stop at the Sabine, while the North may spread unchecked beyond the Rocky Mountains, and the Southern scale must kick the beam.

The letter of Mr. Gilmer, when printed, was, by Mr. Aaron V. Brown, a Democratic member of Congress from Tennessee, inclosed in a letter to Gen. Jackson, asking the General's opinion thereon. That request promptly elicited the following response:

Hermitage, February 13, 1843.
May dear Sir:--Yours of the 23d ultimo has been received, and with it The Madisonian, containing Gov. Gilmer's letter on the subject of the annexation of Texas to the United States.

You are not mistaken in supposing that I have formed an opinion on this interesting subject. It occupied much of my time during my Presidency, and, I am sure, has lost none of its importance by what has since transpired.

Soon after my election in 1829, it was made known to me by Mr. Erwin, formerly our minister to the Court of Madrid, that, whilst at that Court, he had laid the foundation of a treaty with Spain for the cession of the Floridas and the settlement of the boundary of Louisiana, fixing the western limit of the latter at the Rio Grande, agreeably to the understanding of France; that he had written home to our Government for powers to complete and sign this negotiation; but that, instead of receiving such authority, the negotiation was taken out of his hands and transferred to Washington, and a new treaty was there concluded by which the Sabine, and not the Rio Grande, was recognized and established as the boundary of Louisiana.

Finding that these statements were true, and that our Government did really give up that important territory, when it was at its option to retain it, I was filled with astonishment. The right of the territory was obtained from France; Spain stood ready to acknowledge it to the Rio Grande; and yet the authority asked by our Minister to insert the true boundary was not only withheld, but, in lieu of it, a limit was adopted which stripped us of the whole of the vast country lying between the two rivers.

On such a subject, I thought, with the ancient Romans, that it was right never to cede any land or boundary of the republic, but always to add to it by honorable treaty, thus extending the area of freedom; and it was in accordance with this feeling that I gave our Minister to Mexico instructions to enter upon a negotiation for the retrocession of Texas to the United States.

This negotiation failed; and I shall ever regret it as a misfortune both to Mexico and the United States. Mr. Gilmer's letter presents many of the considerations which, in my judgment, rendered the step necessary to the peace and harmony of the two countries; but the point in it, at that time, which most strongly impelled me to the course I pursued, was the injustice done to us by the surrender of the territory, when it was obvious that it could have been retained, without increasing the consideration afterward given for the Floridas. I could not but feel that the surrender of so vast and important a territory was attributable to an erroneous estimate of the tendency of our institutions, in which there was mingled somewhat of jealousy as to the rising greatness of the South and West.

But I forbear to dwell on this part of the history of this question. It is past, and cannot now be undone. We can now only look at it as one of annexation, if Texas presents it to us; and, if she does, I do not hesitate to say that the welfare and happiness of our Union require that it should be accepted.

If, in a military point of view alone, the question be examined, it will be found to be most important to the United States to be in possession of the territory.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Thomas W. Gilmer (4)
Henry A. Wise (1)
Andrew Jackson (1)
Erwin (1)
Aaron V. Brown (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
February 13th, 1843 AD (1)
January 26th, 1842 AD (1)
1829 AD (1)
23rd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: