republic of texas

The Republic of Texas is No More

Later this year, way later this year, we’ll mark the 175th year of Texas statehood. That will be on December 29th. That’s the day in 1845 that Texas officially joined The United States of America, or, as the proudest of Texans say – the day the U.S. was allowed to join Texas.

Though the 29th was the day that President Polk signed the joint resolution that made Texas a state, there was some confusion as to the official moment that the Republic of Texas passed into history and statehood status began. Then President of Texas, Anson Jones, said that February 19th, 1846 was the actual day. He presided over a ceremony in Austin where the Republic of Texas flag was lowered for the last time and the U.S. flag was raised in its place.

As you might surmise, the almost two months difference in official transfer of power led to problems. For instance, who should you pay import duties to, Texas or the U.S.? Lawsuits followed. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually weighed in on the matter and the official date of statehood was established as December the 29th, 1845. Make your checks payable to the U.S. Treasury, please.

You might see the discrepancy in statehood as the difference in marriage dates between a couple marrying first at the courthouse and later in church. One is legal and official and the other is ceremonial and spiritual.

Texas couldn’t just let President Polk’s signing of a document 1500 miles away be all there was to the moment. They couldn’t allow the Republic so many had died for to pass into history without memorializing the moment in some proper way. So President Anson arranged a ceremony in front of the Texas Capitol, really just a house, that would turn out to both mourn the passing of the Republic and celebrate Texas as the newest state in the union.

What was needed here was what linguists call a speech act, a moment in time where something is made real by virtue of pronouncement. Speech acts are generally used by people of authority who have the power to make the words true by just saying them. “I pronounce you man and wife” or “I sentence you to twenty years in prison.” Anson Jones began with “I, as President of the Republic. . . am now present to surrender into the hands of those whom the people of chosen, the power and authority we have some time held.”

Here is what transpired in that brief ceremony. Noah Smithwick, a blacksmith in attendance, remembered the moment the Texas flag came down.

“Many a head was bowed, many a broad chest heaved, and many a manly cheek was wet with tears when that broad field of blue in the center of which, like a signal light, glowed the lone star, emblem of the sovereignty of Texas, was furled and laid away among the relics of the dead republic.”

The United States flag was raised and the mood changed dramatically. Noah wrote:

“We were most of us natives of the United States, and when the stars and stripes, the flag of our fathers, was run up and catching the breeze unrolled its heaven born colors to the light, cheer after cheer rent the air” — the people celebrated statehood.

I like that Noah tended already toward that creature still common in Texas—the exceptionally proud Texan. He said that he thought “the star in the lower left corner [of the U.S. flag] should have been especially dedicated to Texas.” It’s as if he wanted it framed and separated in some way. How Texan of him.

So the flag raising complete, President Anson Jones announced, “The Republic of Texas is no more”—making it politically true, but never absolute, because the residual influence of the Republic resides in the minds of many Texans today who still think of her as their country, their nation.

No doubt it was a bittersweet day, but 94% of Texans did vote for statehood, a level of agreement we haven’t enjoyed since. There was great happiness on the whole. Tyler, Texas, was founded that same year, in gratitude to U.S. President John Tyler, who started the movement for Texas annexation.

For a more in-depth look at this day, see:
When Was the Republic of Texas No More?: Revisiting the Annexation of Texas by Keith J. Volanto & Gene B. Preuss, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 123, Number 1, July 2019, pp. 30-59

Texas Standard: November 14, 2018

Fighting fire with…Texans. Crews from the Lone Star State travel west to help Californians battling historic blazes on several fronts. Also, some believe it could be both a watershed moment in the so-called drug war and a cultural moment – as the drug kingpin known as El Chapo heads to trial. Plus, are citizen militias really headed to the border to meet a migrant caravan? Politifact checks it out. And spoiler alert: it won’t be the Amarillo Jerky after all. The Panhandle city picks a name for its minor league ball club… and not everyone’s a fan. All that and more, today on the Texas Standard.

Texas: The Name Heard ‘Round The World

By W. F. Strong

I’ve spent a good deal of time over the last couple of years contemplating all things Texas inside of Texas. So I thought I would take a look at Texas OUTSIDE of Texas. There is a lot out there.

First, I suspect you’ve heard that in Norway the word “Texas” means something like “crazy.” More like wild and crazy. Let me use it in a sentence as the Norwegians would: “That party last night, after 1AM, turned Texas on us.” I am honored to have Texas utilized that way – describing something that is a bit out of control and rebellious.

In Barcelona, Spain, “Texans” is a common name for blue jeans. People in Barcelona often say, “Let me put on my Texans and I’ll go with you.” In other parts of Spain they refer to jeans as cowboys, but in Barcelona, they get right to the point by simply calling them Texans (Tejanos).

In London and Paris you can visit the sites of the Texas Embassies, which were located in those cities in the early 1840s, when Texas was an independent sovereign country. The legations were just rented spaces so no dedicated structures remain. However, you can still see commemorations of the first embassies (and last ones) for The Republic of Texas. When I first saw those words, “The Republic of Texas,” on an antique gold plaque in London, my heart swelled up bigger’n Dallas. Not that I want Texas to be a Republic again, but I love the fact that we once were. The other site has a carving on the facade of a hotel in Paris, the Hôtel de Vendôme.

Leaving Europe, let’s go way down under to Oz. In Australia, there is a town named Texas. It is in Queensland. Texas, Queensland. It’s true. When you see the road sign that says Texas 15, it is surreal. Not just because you are in Australia, but because the 15 is for kilometers and the sign is on the left side of the road, the side you are driving on. From the look of the landscape, you would swear you’re in west Texas, perhaps near Marfa. It is a good comparison because Texas, Queensland is just a bit smaller than Marfa – only about 1100 people live there. But Texas, Queensland has more water – a river runs through it.

So, how did it get its name? How did the folks there decide to name their town Texas? Well, first of all, there were no immigrants from Texas who gave it that name. That is a common way that such things happen, but not in this case.

They say that back in the 1840s there was a sustained dispute over the land between the McDougall Brothers, who had earlier laid claim to it, and the squatters who took it over in their absence. Seems that the McDougalls went off to look for gold. When they returned, goldless, they had the added insult of finding squatters on their land. The McDougalls were eventually successful at getting their land back, after a few years in the courts. They said it reminded them of the more famous and much longer struggle Texans had endured to secure Texas, which happened halfway around the world, but at roughly the same time. So in honor of their victory, the McDougalls named their little settlement “Texas.”

You already know that everything’s bigger in Texas. As you see from this quick trip around the world, Texas is pretty big outside of Texas, too.