On this day in 1845, Andrew Jackson passes away. The former President had lived long enough to see one last victory: He wanted Texas to join the Union! That goal was now within grasp.
Jackson had been working toward such an outcome for decades. He’d watched as Texas had been a Spanish, then a Mexican possession. None of this felt right. Most settlers in Texas were American, and it seemed to Jackson that the area really belonged with the States. By the time Jackson was elected President in 1828, he had an additional worry: What would happen if Spain or Great Britain tried to take advantage of the weak Mexican government, seizing the land for themselves?
Something had to be done.
Soon after his inauguration, Jackson appointed his friend, Anthony Butler, as chargé d’affaires in Mexico City. Could Jackson convince the Mexican government to adjust the border between the two countries? Ultimately, Jackson decided that he was willing to spend as much as $5 million to get the deal done.
But Butler’s negotiations stalled. The government in Mexico seemed to be constantly changing. No one stayed around long enough to cut a deal! Moreover, Butler and Jackson were at odds with each other in at least one area: Butler seemed ready to stoop to bribery. (Admittedly, Jackson impliedly endorsed such a proposal at one point.) But when Butler wrote Jackson an unciphered letter indicating that officials in Mexico could most likely be bribed, Jackson instantly squashed the proposal.
“We are deeply interested that this treaty of cession should be obtained without any just imputation of corruption on our part,” he wrote his errant emissary.
In the end, the Texas Revolution intervened. But did you know that Texas President Sam Houston sent the defeated Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna to Washington, D.C. after the war? Santa Anna met with Jackson in the White House. As the two conversed, Jackson mentioned that the United States might be willing to pay $3.5 million for California, along with a settlement of any dispute over Texas.
That’s not exactly what happened, of course.
The Texas question reared its head again during the 1844 presidential campaign. The pro-Texas annexation candidate was elected that year, which prompted outgoing President John Tyler to work on the issue himself. He recommended a joint resolution for annexing Texas, and Congress approved that resolution in February 1845.
Mere weeks before he passed away, Jackson wrote then-President James Polk, expressing his confidence that Texas would accept the congressional invitation. “Texas comes into the union with a united voice,” Jackson wrote, “and Genl Houston, as I knew, puts his shoulders to the wheels to roll it in spedily. I knew British gold could not buy Sam Houston.”
By then, Houston was traveling with his wife and young son to see the dying former President. Houston had served under Jackson during the War of 1812, and the two had remained friends and political allies ever since.
Unfortunately, Houston was just a little too late to say goodbye to Jackson, who had passed away at 6:00 that same evening. The former Texas President lifted up his small son so he could see the President.
“My son,” he said, “try to remember that you have looked on the face of Andrew Jackson.”
H.W. Brands, Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times (2005)
Jon Meacham, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (2008)
Letter from Andrew Jackson to Anthony Butler (Nov. 27, 1833)
Letter from Andrew Jackson to James Polk (May 26, 1845)
Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821 (1998)
Texas State Library & Archives Commission: Annexation Process: 1836-1845, A Summary Timeline
The Sam Houston Memorial Museum: Chronology of Sam Houston’s Life