The Republic of Texas: A History of Independence, Annexation and beyond

The Texas Journey: From Republic to State

Texas was called "The Republic of Texas" because it was an independent country for 10 years, from 1836 to 1845, after breaking away from Mexico. During this time, Texas operated as a sovereign nation with its own government, military, and foreign relations, before eventually joining the United States as the 28th state.

The history of the Republic of Texas is a fascinating and complex chapter in the annals of American Expansion. Arising from a desire for independence from Mexico, the Lone Star State's journey towards statehood was filled with political intrigue, military conflict, and international diplomacy. From the early beginnings of Texas rebellion in the 1820s to annexation by the United States on December 29, 1845, the Republic of Texas established a unique place for itself on the geopolitical landscape of the 19th century American frontier.

This image showing the surrender of Mexican General Santa Anna to Texan forces after the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836.

Image Credit:, Surrender of Mexican General Santa Anna

The Republic of Texas was a short-lived independent country in North America from 1836 to 1846, situated between Mexico and the United States. Texas declared its independence from Mexico during the Texas Revolution, which concluded in 1836. However, Mexico did not accept Texas's claims of independence and continued to view it as part of Mexico. In 1837, the United States acknowledged Texas as a separate country but did not incorporate it into the U.S. until 1845.

When Texas joined the United States in 1845, it brought along disagreements about its borders with Mexico. The main dispute centered on which river— the Rio Grande or the Nueces— should be recognized as the border. These border disputes became a problem that the United States had to address after Texas officially became a state on February 19, 1846. This issue resulted in conflicts with Mexico, eventually leading to the Mexican-American War, which spanned from 1846 to 1848.

Exploring the captivating history of the Republic of Texas reveals the story of Spanish Texas, the emergence of the Republic of Texas from Mexican rule, its fight for independence, and its eventual integration into the United States. This history remains relevant today, illustrating how various forces have shaped American identity over the past two centuries.

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The Decline of Spanish Rule and Rise of Texian Settlement:

During the Spanish Colonial Era (1690-1820), Spain attempted to assert control over Texas, facing significant challenges from the dominant American Indian tribes. Despite numerous missions established to convert and settle local tribes, these efforts largely failed due to the lack of local support and insufficient resources from the Spanish authorities. By the 1790s, Spain began abandoning its mission system.

In the early 1800s, the Comanches, Apaches, and Caddos (Native American tribes) had more control over Texas than the Spanish. The Mexican War for Independence further weakened Spanish presence, and by 1820, Spanish leadership considered abandoning Texas altogether. This was the period when Moses Austin (one of the earliest American settlers of Texas) proposed to bring American settlers to Texas.

In the early 1820s, Moses Austin planned a new opportunity in the unsettled lands of Tejas (Tejas and Texas are two different spellings/pronunciations of the same name), seeking permission from the Spanish governor to bring 300 families into the region. However, Moses Austin passed away in 1821 before seeing his plans come to fruition. His son, Stephen F. Austin, inherited the land grant and proceeded to settle families near the Brazos and Colorado rivers by 1824. This marked the beginning of Austin's Colony, a pivotal development in the history of Texas settlement.

By 1824, Mexico had unified Coahuila and Texas, establishing a New Mexican state, "Coahuila y Tejas." Under the Coahuila-Texas colonization law, Mexico actively encouraged foreign settlers to purchase land in the territory. The law offered favorable terms, requiring only a $30 down payment and exempting settlers from taxes for ten years. This initiative aimed to populate the region and enhance its economic viability.

As more settlers arrived, primarily from the American South, tensions arose over cultural identity and practices such as slavery. Many newcomers identified more with their Texian heritage than with Mexican nationality, despite Mexico's prohibition on slavery. By 1830, Mexican authorities, concerned on maintaining control, banned further immigration from the United States. They promoted migration from Mexico and Europe instead, imposed stricter slavery regulations, and bolstered military presence in Texas. These actions exacerbated discontent among Texans (inhabitant of Texas), fueling their aspirations for statehood and autonomy within the Mexican federation.

French Texas History: Exploration, Trade, and Colonization

French involvement in Texas was relatively brief but significant. In the late 17th century, France aimed to expand its influence in North America, leading to the establishment of Fort Saint Louis in 1685 by the explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. Located on the Texas coast near Matagorda Bay, this settlement was intended to be a base for further French exploration and trade.

However, the French presence faced numerous challenges. The colony struggled with harsh conditions, conflicts with local Native American tribes, and internal disputes. By 1688, Fort Saint Louis had fallen into disrepair, and its residents were either killed or assimilated into local tribes. The Spanish, viewing the French presence as a threat, destroyed the remnants of the fort in 1689 and intensified their own efforts to colonize Texas.

The Battle of San Jacinto, where Texan forces led by Samuel Houston defeated the Mexican army on April 21, 1836.

Image Credit:, Battle of San Jacinto

On February 14, 1840, France signed a trade treaty with the Republic of Texas, sparking increased French interest. Although a plan to send 8,000 soldiers failed, Henri Castro successfully founded Castroville in 1844, bringing over 2,000 immigrants and establishing several towns. In the 1850s, Victor Prosper Considerant started a socialist colony near Dallas called La Réunion, but it ultimately failed.

The Complicated History of Texas Borders:

France continuously claimed the Texas region, but after being defeated by Britain in the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), France ceded all the territory of colonial Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, along with New Orleans, to Spain in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, signed November 3, 1762. France transferred Louisiana and New Orleans to Spain to thank Spain for its support during the war, to secure peace with Britain, and to prevent the loss of key territories in North America to Great Britain through strategic concessions. Notably, in a secret agreement on October 1, 1800, Spain agreed to exchange Louisiana for territories in Tuscany (presently a region in central Italy), confirmed later by the Treaty of Aranjuez in March 1801.

In 1803, Napoleon sold the Louisiana territory, which included a disputed claim to Texas, to the United States. The U.S. argued that the purchase covered all the land France had claimed, including Texas.

The dispute was finally resolved with the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, where Spain ceded Florida to the United States. In return, the United States gave up its claim on Texas.

Gutiérrez-Magee and James Long: Pioneering Efforts for Texas Independence

The Gutiérrez-Magee Expedition (1812–1813) was an early attempt to take Spanish Texas from Spanish control. The expedition took place after the growing revolt in Mexico against Spanish rule led by Juan Bautista de las Casas in San Antonio, later, who was captured and executed in March, 1811. In December 1811, José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara went to the United States to seek support and was introduced to William Shaler (a consular officer at New Orleans, seeking to enter New Spain as an observer for President James Madison,  the fourth president of the United States), who became a key adviser. With help from U.S. soldiers and adventurers, Gutiérrez and Augustus W. Magee crossed into Texas and captured Nacogdoches and La Bahía in 1812.

Magee died in 1813, and Samuel Kemper took command, winning the battle of Rosillo and capturing San Antonio. However, internal conflicts and brutal executions of Spanish prisoners by Gutiérrez led to many Americans abandoning the cause. The expedition's leadership changed several times, and new commanders like Reuben Ross and Henry Perry faced challenges from Spanish forces led by Ignacio Elizondo and Joaquín de Arredondo.

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Many Americans, especially the filibusters, were angry about the Adams-Onís Treaty, seeing it as surrender to Spain and a restriction on their freedom. In this context, the term "filibusters" refers to unauthorized military adventurers or mercenaries who organized private expeditions to invade and try to conquer foreign territories, often for personal gain or to expand the influence of their home country. 

Citizens (Natchez, Mississippi) planned a filibustering expedition to conquer Texas, led by James Long, a doctor and merchant. About 300 men joined, paying for the promise of land in the new "Republic of Texas." 

However, the expedition suffered from internal conflicts, lack of provisions, and betrayal by Jean Lafitte, a Spanish spy. Spanish troops arrived, and Long's forces were defeated.  Long was captured, taken to Mexico City, and later shot by a guard, marking the end of the unauthorized military invasion.

These early expeditions, though unsuccessful, played a role in shaping the discontent and desire for that would eventually lead to the Texas Revolution and the establishment of the Republic of Texas in 1836.

The Republic of Texas flag, with its distinctive lone star emblem, symbolizes the independent spirit and pride of the Lone Star State.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Flag of the Republic of Texas

Texas in Trouble: After Mexico's Independence from Spain

After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, Moses Austin secured permission to settle 300 families in Tejas. Upon his death, his son Stephen F. Austin took over, establishing the colony near the Brazos and Colorado rivers by 1824. 

That same year, Mexico encouraged foreign settlement by offering land with a $30 down payment and no taxes for ten years. However, by 1828, tensions arose as settlers, who referred to themselves as "Texians," resisted adopting a Mexican identity and brought enslaved African Americans, despite Mexican laws prohibiting slavery. In 1830, Mexico banned U.S. immigration to prevent losing control of Texas, prompting anger and demands for statehood from Texans. 

In 1833, General Santa Anna became the President of Mexico. At first, the Texans were okay with this because Santa Anna supported the Constitution of 1824, which was similar to the U.S. Constitution. However, Santa Anna later changed the constitution and created a more centralized government, reducing the self-rule of Texas.

In 1833-1834, the Texans responded to these changes by the Mexican government. A group of 56 Texas delegates met and drafted a resolution requesting that Mexico roll back the changes made in 1830. They wanted Mexico to allow more immigration from the U.S., provide more protection from native peoples, exempt Texans from anti-slavery laws, improve the mail service, and separate Texas from the state of Coahuila.

Stephen F. Austin and Dr. James B. Miller presented these proposals to Santa Anna. But when they did this, Austin was imprisoned in Mexico City, as the Mexican government suspected he was trying to cause an uprising. Eventually, the Mexican government did cancel the Law of 1830, but still would not grant statehood to Texas. During this conflict, thousands of Americans continued to immigrate to Texas.

The Birth of the Republic of Texas: A Historical Turning Point

Tension grew between Texas and Mexico due to the influx of American settlers, considering the situation, the Mexican government had stationed soldiers in the town of Gonzales, Texas and they had brought small cannon with them. The Mexican authorities told the Texan settlers that they could not have the cannon, as they didn't want the settlers to use it against the Mexican government.

However, the Texan settlers refused to hand over the cannon. On October 2, 1835, Colonel John H. Moore's group of Texans brought out the cannon and raised a flag with the defiant message "Come and Take It". This was seen as an act of resistance against the Mexican authorities, and it sparked the beginning of the Texas Revolution.

The Texans were asserting their desire for independence and self-rule, and their refusal to surrender the cannon to the Mexican forces was a pivotal moment that directly led to the outbreak of the Texas Revolution against Mexican control. This event is considered a key starting point of the conflict.

On March 1, 1836, fifty-nine delegates convened at Washington-on-the-Brazos and drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence. And finally the Spanish colonized Texas declared its independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836. They also drafted the Texas Constitution, establishing the new Republic. This occurred just a month after Santa Anna's (then the President of Mexico) 6,000-strong army entered Texas, having a greater number than the Texas rebels. Declaring independence was only the beginning.

From March 16 to October 22, 1836, Texas had an Interim Government. The Convention of 1836 declared independence from Mexico and wrote a new Constitution. However, the Mexican army's advance made it impossible to approve the Constitution and set up the new government right away. The Convention chose an Interim Government with David G. Burnet as President and Lorenzo de Zavala as Vice President, along with other key officials. 

This Interim Government had no legislative or judicial branches and had to move several times due to the war, operating from places like Washington-on-the-Brazos, Harrisburg, and Galveston Island. Despite challenges like low supplies and morale, it managed the revolutionary army and signed the two treaties of Velasco. The Interim Government ended on October 22, 1836, when Samuel Houston became President.

The Republic of Texas was led by several presidents during its decade of independence, the most famous being Samuel Houston, who served two non-consecutive terms as president from 1836-1838 and 1841-1844. Samuel Houston had also played a pivotal role in leading the Texian forces to victory against Mexico, securing Texas' independence in 1836.

On March 6, 1836, Santa Anna attacked the Alamo. Led by William B. Travis and James Bowie, Texas rebels fought fiercely but were ultimately defeated. The defenders, including David Crockett, were killed or executed. 

After the Texans' defeat at the Alamo, the news spread to Gonzales. The Texan leader Samuel Houston then ordered the evacuation and burning of Gonzales, starting what became known as the "Runaway Scrape" - the mass exodus of Texan settlers fleeing the advancing Mexican army.

Meanwhile, in the town of Goliad, a Texan force led by Colonel James Fannin was also defeated by Santa Anna's troops. Fannin's forces were then executed by the Mexican army.

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Despite these setbacks for the Texan side, the Texan general Samuel Houston eventually led an attack on the Mexican army on April 21, 1836. This battle, known as the Battle of San Jacinto, resulted in a decisive victory for the Texans over Santa Anna's forces.

With shouts of "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!", Houston's forces launched a surprise attack, defeating Santa Anna's army in just 18 minutes. Nine Texans died, and 630 Mexicans were killed. Mexican president Santa Anna, who had been also captured during the battle, signed a treaty at Velasco, Texas recognizing Texas' independence in exchange for his release.

This satirical image criticizes the Democratic Party's efforts to annex Texas.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Matty meeting the Texas question

However, this treaty was later canceled, and tensions remained along the border between Texas and Mexico. In September 1836, the new Republic of Texas elected Samuel Houston as president and Mirabeau B. Lamar as vice president. Houston appointed Stephen F. Austin as Secretary of State. Austin died on December 27, 1836, at age 43. Under President Mirabeau B. Lamar, the capital was moved to Austin, and the Lone Star flag became the official flag of the Republic of Texas in January 1839.

The Annexation of Texas and the Mexican-American War:

Though the annexation of Texas by the United States was a topic of intense debate and controversy, the United States wanted the land of Texas because of the broader American Grand Strategy like Manifest Destiny or Westward Expansion policy. The region's soil and climate were ideal for growing cotton, and the land was abundant and offered on favorable terms. Additionally, the American settlers quickly outnumbered the Tejanos, the Mexican residents, making the area more appealing for incorporation into the U.S. However, concerns about the expansion of slavery and the potential for war with Mexico hindered immediate annexation.

Under President James K. Polk's administration from 1845 to 1848, the United States experienced significant territorial expansion through the annexation of Texas, the Oregon Treaty with Great Britain, and the Mexican-American War. Texas, originally an independent republic since 1836, was annexed by the United States in 1845 after earlier attempts failed due to Mexican opposition. This annexation strained relations with Mexico, which believed the border of Texas ended at the Nueces River, while Texans claimed it extended to the Rio Grande. Tensions escalated, leading to the Mexican-American War in 1846, initiated by President Polk's order for U.S. troops, commanded by General Zachary Taylor, to occupy disputed territories.

The war intensified after failed negotiations for territory purchase from Mexico. Following military victories, including the capture of Mexico City, peace negotiations led by Nicholas Trist culminated in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848. Mexico ceded a vast amount of territory, including present-day California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma, to the United States for $15 million. Despite opposition, the treaty was ratified, marking the end of the war and significantly expanding U.S. territory. The conflict also stirred debate over slavery expansion, foreshadowing tensions that would lead to the American Civil War.

After negotiations and a joint resolution passed by the U.S. Congress, Texas was incorporated to the Union on December 29, 1845, as the 28th state. 


The annexation of Texas in 1845 solidified the United States' territorial expansion, but it also had significant implications for issues such as slavery, manifest destiny, and U.S.-Mexican relations. In this context, Manifest Destiny was the belief widely held in 19th-century America that it was the nation's destiny and right to expand its territory from coast to coast, spreading democracy, civilization, and American values across the continent.  

The complex history of Spanish Texas, French Texas, Mexican Texas, the Texas Revolution, and the establishment of the independent Republic of Texas laid the foundations for Texas becoming an integral part of the United States. Understanding this historical narrative provides valuable insights into the ongoing debates surrounding the Lone Star State.

To understand more openly, Texas received the nickname "Lone Star State" because of its flag, which features a single star. The flag was adopted after Texas gained independence from Mexico in 1836. Texas spent ten years as an independent republic before joining the United States. The flag symbolizes the state's pride and independent spirit, which is still celebrated today.