The United States and the Republic of Texas

Essential Question: How did Americans’ interactions with Texas evolve in the time from 1821 until after the Mexican-American War?

Common Core Standards: RH2, RH6


It is difficult to get a good, brief, online history of Texas in English in the period from 1821 until after the Mexican-American War. The following should be read with a critical eye for their overall positive treatment of all things Texas:

The Path to Revolution

The Battle of San Jacinto



Students will be able to analyze the Texas Declaration of Independence and discuss similarities to the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

Students will be able to explain who historical actors address different audiences by debating the goals of the section of James K. Polk’s inauguration speech that dealt with Texas.


Put this quote on the board, then lead a short class discussion about where and when this may have happened:

“The illegal immigrants had crossed the river in defiance of the law, then escaped capture by sneaking past armed patrols in the dark. They did not have the required paperwork and were ordered to leave, but the authorities suspected the immigrants would probably defy them.”

Then distribute or give them the details from the rest of the article

Learning Activities:

Stephen F. Austin’s 1825 Contract to Bring Settlers to Texas

Students will need some background information about why Mexico was hoping to attract settlers.

Have students read portions of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

How does the Declaration reflect the structure and argument of the American Declaration of Independence?  Do you think this was deliberate? Why?

How does the Declaration correspond to the 1825 contract to Stephen F. Austin?

James K. Polk’s Inaugural Address, 4 March 1845:

The Republic of Texas has made known her desire to come into our Union, to form a part of our Confederacy and enjoy with us the blessings of liberty secured and guaranteed by our Constitution. Texas was once a part of our country--was unwisely ceded away to a foreign power--is now independent, and possesses an undoubted right to dispose of a part or the whole of her territory and to merge her sovereignty as a separate and independent state in ours. I congratulate my country that by an act of the late Congress of the United States the assent of this Government has been given to the reunion, and it only remains for the two countries to agree upon the terms to consummate an object so important to both.

I regard the question of annexation as belonging exclusively to the United States and Texas. They are independent powers competent to contract, and foreign nations have no right to interfere with them or to take exceptions to their reunion. Foreign powers do not seem to appreciate the true character of our Government. Our Union is a confederation of independent States, whose policy is peace with each other and all the world. To enlarge its limits is to extend the dominions of peace over additional territories and increasing millions. The world has nothing to fear from military ambition in our Government. . . . Foreign powers should therefore look on the annexation of Texas to the United States not as the conquest of a nation seeking to extend her dominions by arms and violence, but as the peaceful acquisition of a territory once her own, by adding another member to our confederation, with the consent of that member, thereby diminishing the chances of war and opening to them new and ever-increasing markets for their products.

Who is President Polk “talking” to in this speech? Is it the people listening to him that day, all Americans, Texans, Mexicans? What is he hoping that each group will understand from this speech?

Students can be grouped into the various “audiences” that Polk was addressing.

Maps and the Mexican-American War

Teachers can listen to a wonderful 15 minute podcast from the University of Texas on using maps to help understand perspective on the Mexican-American War.

The link has the transcript of the podcast and links to the maps used. These resources can be used as a geography/history lesson.


Have students write the 3 W’s:

Whoa! – I didn’t get  ______________.

Wow – I learned ____________________.

What I’ll hang onto is ___________________.


Additional Primary Sources:

The Avalon Project (Yale Law School) - Texas From Independence to Annexation 1836-1846

Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)

Further Reading:

Ernesto Chavez, The U.S. War with Mexico, (NY: Bedford St. Martins, 2008).

Shelley Streeby, American Sesations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture 2002.

David Pletcher, The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War 1973.