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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

The French colonists of Louisiana had been


Calhoun's

acceptance of the post is sometimes treated as an indication of the revival of his ambitions for a national career. It is suggested that he again saw a path open to him to the Presidency which he had certainly once coveted. But though his name was mentioned in 1844 as a possible Democratic candidate, it was mentioned only to be found wholly unacceptable, and indeed Calhoun's general conduct when Secretary was not such as to increase his chances of an office for which no one could hope who had not a large amount of Northern as well as Southern backing. It seems more likely that Calhoun consented to be Secretary of State as a means to a definite end closely connected with what was now the master-passion of his life, the defence of Southern interests. At any rate, the main practical fruit of his administration of affairs was the annexation of Texas.

Texas had originally been an outlying and sparsely peopled part of the Spanish province of Mexico, but even before the overthrow of Spanish rule a thin stream of immigration had begun to run into it from the South-Western States of America. The English-speaking element became, if not the larger part of the scant population, at least the politically dominant one. Soon after the successful assertion of Mexican independence against Spain, Texas, mainly under the leadership of her American settlers, declared her independence of Mexico. The occasion of this secession was the abolition of Slavery by the native

Mexican Government, the Americans who settled in Texas being mostly slave-owners drawn from the Slave States. Some fighting took place, and ultimately the independence of Texas seems to have been recognized by one of the many governments which military and popular revolutions and counter-revolutions rapidly set up and pulled down in Mexico proper. The desire of the Texans--or at least of that governing part of them that had engineered the original secession--was to enter the American Union, but there was a prolonged hesitation at Washington about admitting them, so that Texas remained for a long time the "Lone Star State," independent alike of Mexico and the United States. This hesitation is difficult at first sight to understand, for Texas was undoubtedly a valuable property and its inhabitants were far more willing to be incorporated than, say, the French colonists of Louisiana had been. The key is, no doubt, to be found in the internecine jealousies of the sections. The North--or at any rate New England--had been restive over the Louisiana purchase as tending to strengthen the Southern section at the expense of the Northern. If Texas were added to Louisiana the balance would lean still more heavily in favour of the South. But what was a cause of hesitation to the North and to politicians who looked for support to the North was a strong recommendation to Calhoun. He had, as he himself once remarked, a remarkable gift of foresight--an uncomfortable gift, for he always foresaw most clearly the things he desired least. He alone seems to have understood fully how much the South had sacrificed by the Missouri Compromise. He saw her hemmed in and stationary while the North added territory to territory and State to State. To annex Texas would be, to an extent at least, to cut the bonds which limited her expansion. When the population should have increased sufficiently it was calculated that at least four considerable States could be carved out of that vast expanse of country.


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