Early Statehood, 1845–1861

Texas became the 28th state of the United States of America in December 1845. As early as 1836, Texan voters had chosen overwhelmingly to support annexation; opposition in the U.S. was strong, and the annexation came only after years of debate. The issue of slavery was a big concern. If Texas joined the U.S., it would join as a slave state; as slavery was widespread in the Republic of Texas.

The United States was concerned that the annexation of Texas would spur trouble with Mexico, which the US sought to avoid. James Polk became President in 1844, and the United States decided the benefit of adding Texas outweighed the concerns.

After the annexation, Texans formed a new state government and a new state constitution. It was modeled after the constitution of the United States. It restricted suffrage to white males over the age of 21, limiting the power of women and minorities.

The vast majority of Tejanos, Mexicans, Native Americans and African-Americans living in Texas did not benefit from annexation. As settlement expanded, the U.S. government forced Native Americans off their lands and onto reservations. Early statehood also saw a rapid expansion of the African-American population in Texas. The vast majority continued to live as slaves.

Annexation inflamed tensions with Mexico. In 1846, the Mexican-American War erupted, as the nations battled over the location of their border and over territories far to the west. After a year and a half of fighting, Mexico conceded defeat.

The issue of slavery in the newly annexed territories added to the concerns of many Americans. The solution was the Compromise of 1850, which allowed California to be admitted as a free state, gave power to the other western territories to decide the question of slavery, and created the western border of Texas where it is today, which ended a dispute between Texas and present-day New Mexico.

The agreement did not end the controversy over slavery. The majority of Texas voters believed that the United States government should not interfere with their ability to keep slaves. Texas joined other slave-holding states and seceded from the Union following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. By joining the Confederate States of America, the young state of Texas helped to set the stage for an American civil war.

Source: Early Statehood, 1845–1861
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