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Anson Jones and the Admission of Texas to the Union
On March 1, 1845, the political leaders and people of the Republic of Texas achieved the goal most of them had held for the last nine years. President John Tyler, in his last days in office, signed the joint congressional resolution annexing Texas to the Union. This act, however, did not end the process of admission, because Texas' status was basically that of a territory; in fact, it was still technically a quasi-independent republic, governed by a President and Congress whose powers had now diminished considerably thanks to annexation. However, the current and last President of the Republic, Dr. Anson Jones, was to play an interesting role in the next few months leading to final admission. In the end, his actions would come to nothing, failing to influence the future of the dying Republic and costing him a future in the politics of the new state of Texas. He came a long distance in a lifetime of service to fall as far and as fast as he did.
Anson Jones was born January 20, 1798, in western Massachusetts,the youngest child of poor tenant farmers who moved frequently in order to locate the best opportunities. After his mother's death about 1817, he succumbed to family pressure to study medicine; he was licensed to practice in 1820. The next several years were hard oones. Jones moved frequently and built up debts which he tried, and failed, to flee. He took the unusual step of taking a ship to Caracas, Venezuela, where he supplied the area's need for a doctor and earned some success. Two years later, in 1826, Jones had saved enough money to move back to Philadelphia.
Once in Philadelphia Jones joined the Masons and Old Fellows, becoming a leader in both fraternal organizations; he also became a volunteer in various leadership positions. He soon became so cold indifferent to the feelings of others that he succeeded in setting everyone, including his patients, against him. In 1832, he quit the medical profession and tried to open a mercantile partnership in New Orleans. The business failed, though, when the city was struck 1with cholera and yellow fever epidemics, and then his partner stole their assets and fled.
Jones reopened his medical practice. His various setbacks left him depressed, and he developed drinking and gambling problems. Finally, in 1833, he met a sea captain and merchant from Texas, Jeremiah Brown, who persuaded him to make a new start in Texas. In October, he sailed to Texas, settling in Brazoria, which was also facing a cholera outbreak. After some hsitation, Jones stayed on, and soon had a successful medical practice. In 1840, following a two-year delay, he married a young widow, Mary McCrory, and they soon had a son they named Sam,
Meanwhile, Jones also became involved in politics, signing the petition in 1835 calling for the Consultation, Texas' provisional government during the rebellion against Mexican rule; he also led the movement in Columbia for a declaration of independence. Jones enlisted in the Texas army after the fall of the Alamo, helping to treat the sick and wounded, but he also actually fought in the Battle of San Jacinto that brought victory and independence for Texas. After the war ended, he became increasingly involved in public service in the new Republic, ultimately winning election to Congress, where he quickly won respect as an educated and hard-working legislator.
In June 1838, Jones went to Washington as Houston's newly appointed minister from Texas. He had already come to the conclusion that the U.S. government was not yet prepared to annex Texas. He had proposed withdrawing the annexation offer on the table, and as minister he formally did so. Instead, he and Houston decided to pursue diplomatic relations with Britain and France, and Jones personally courted the ministers of these nations while in Washington. In 1839, President Mirabeau Lamar dismissed him, and he returned from Texas and later won election to an unexpired term in the Senate. He became an outspoken opponent of the Lamar administration. He chaired two key committees and eventually became president pro tempore.
Sam Houston returned as President in 1841, and appointed Jones Secretary of State. For the next three years the two men pursued a dual policy of courting the annexationists in the U.S. government and pursuing peace negotiations with Mexico in the hopes of securing recognition; their strategy was to present the people of Texas with a clear and irreversible choice between the two. At the same time, they carried on trade negotiations with Britain and France, with Britain attempting to serve as mediator between Texas and Mexico. Both Jones and Houston worked so closely together on foreign policy that there is some debate over who deserves credit for creating it; both men claimed the honor. It is fairly certain, though, that they worked at cross purposes, with Jones increasingly believing Texas' best hopes lay with independence.
In 1844, Jones was elected to succeed Houston as President. During the campaign, and even in his inaugural address, he did not commit himself on the annexation issue. By this time, the U.S. Senate had rejected the annexation treaty, and the pro-annexation James K. Polk had been elected U.S. President; attention turned now towards a resolution for annexation, which was considered in the last weeks of the Tyler Administration. In Texas, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee enthusiastically endorsed annexation on behalf of the citizens of Texas. The Mexican government responded to the news by severing diplomatic ties with the U.S. and preparing for war. Texas, as usual, was caught in the middle of a tug-of-war, and now it was Anson Jones who had the job of managing the crisis. His actions in doing so cost him a political future in the new state.
At the time the U.S. Congress was passing the annexation resolution, the British and French ministers to Texas were proposing to go to Mexico to negotiate terms of recognition as an independent republic. They persuaded President Jones to delay the opening of the Texas Congress for 90 days in order to allow time for these peace treaty negotiations to take place. When word of the resolutions passage arrived later, it naturally seemed as if Jones had delayed the session in order to postpone action on annexation; Jones' popularity plummeted, and to top it off, Sam Houston abandoned him by announcing in April that he had always been in favor of annexation and had been using the British diplomatic efforts to help the process along.
In June, the Texas and Mexican governments signed a peace treaty in which Mexico finally recognized Texas independence. On June 16, Jones opened Congress and presented both the treaty and the annexation resolution. With the influence of American chargé Andrew Jackson Donelson figuring heavily Congress rejected the treaty and accepted the resolution, calling a constitutional convention for July 4; Congress also voted to censure President Jones.
Events moved quickly in the next several months. The special convention promptly voted to accept the U.S. offer to join the union and drafted a state constitution. In an election held on October 13, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved annexation. On December 16, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to admit Texas by a wide margin, and the U.S. Senate followed by a smaller margin on December 22. Finally, on December 29, 1845, President Polk signed the bill that made Texas the 28th state. On February 19, 1846, President Anson Jones, in his final act in office, took down the flag of the Republic of Texas and watched the U.S. flag as it was raised, proclaiming that "The Republic of Texas is no more." He then watched as James Pinckney Henderson was inaugurated as the first governor of the State of Texas.
Jones, unsuccessful in his efforts to become one of the first two Senators from Texas, settled down in Barrington, his home, where he became a wealthy and successful planter. But he never ceased to brood over his defeat, and nursed a hatred of Sam Houston that lasted till he died. In 1849, his left arm became disabled in an accident, and this caused led his mental state to become even more unstable. He had fantasies of staging a political comeback, but these obviously never materialized. Anson Jones received no votes from the state legislator in an effort to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1857, and committed suicide on January 9, 1858. The town of Anson, as well as Jones County where it is located, were named in his honor. A book he edited, Republic of Texas. which contains portions of his diary and letters, was published posthumously in 1859.