The rebels fighting for Texan independence chose Sam Houston, a military leader, to be their president. He is partially famed for being a giant man who wore leopard-skin vests. Houston then retreated east to pick up recruits to fight on their side. Once reinforced, Houston turned and surprised the Mexican army at San Jacinto, just east of what is presently known as the city of Houston. Shouting “Remember the Alamo,” Houston’s army of eight hundred demolished a great deal of that of the México and killed nearly half of Santa Anna’s men in fifteen minutes.
They also took Santa Anna himself prisoner. Houston then forced Santa Anna to sign a treaty recognizing the independence of Texas. However, the treaty was never ratified by the Mexican government. John Tyler: President Harrison died after only one month in office. His successor, Vice President John Tyler assumed the presidency in 1840.
He was formerly a Democrat, but had broken away from Jackson over nullification. However, he favored the Democratic philosophy of states’ rights. As president, he repeatedly vetoed Whig proposals, including a bill to create a new national bank. Tyler altered Whig tariff policy, prohibiting reduction.
Tyler’s mounting vetoes infuriated Whig leadership, and some began to speak of impeachment. Finally, in August, needing more money to run the government, Tyler signed a new bill that maintained some tariffs above 20 percent but abandoned distribution to the states. Tyler’s erratic course disrupted the members of his party. By keeping some tariffs above 20 percent, the tariff of 1842 satisfied northern manufacturers, but by abandoning distribution, it failed to please many southerners and westerners. Although disowned by his party, Tyler desired a second term as president. Tyler realized that if he could arrange for the annexation of Texas, he would build a national following.
John C. Calhoun: Calhoun, who became Tyler’s secretary of state early in 1844, had theories of British plans to use abolition as a way to destroy rice, sugar, and cotton production in the United States and gain for itself a monopoly on all three staples. In 1844, Calhoun and Tyler submitted a treaty that would annex Texas to the United States. Among the supporting documents accompanying the treaty was a letter from Calhoun to the British minister in Washington, defending slavery as beneficial to blacks, the only way to protect them from “vice and pauperism.” Abolitionists now had evidence that the annexation of Texas was linked to a conspiracy to extend slavery.
Henry Clay: Henry Clay, the most powerful Whig, came out against immediate annexation of Texas because he believed that it would provoke sectional conflict, and the treaty went down to crushing defeat in the Senate. During the Presidential campaign of 1844, he had a secure grip on the Whig nomination. In contrast to the Democrats however, whose position was clear, Clay kept going back on his word. First he told his followers he had nothing against annexation as long as it would not disrupt sectional harmony.
In September 1844, he came out against annexation. Clay’s shifts on annexation alienated his southern supporters and prompted a small but influential body of northern antislavery Whigs to desert to the Liberty party, which had been organized in 1840. Clay infuriated Catholic immigrant voters by having Theodore Frelinghuysen be his running mate. Frelinghuysen was a supporter of temperance and other Protestant causes, which confirmed the image of the Whigs as the orthodox Protestant party and roused the largely Catholic foreign-born voters to turn out in large numbers for the Democrats. The election of 1844 demonstrated that the annexation of Texas had more national support than Clay had realized. The popular sentiment for expansion that elected Polk rather than Clay as President reflected a growing passion for expansion.
James K. Polk: At the Democratic convention, Van Buren and Cass effectively blocked each other’s nomination. The resulting deadlock was broken by the nomination of James K. Polk of Tennessee, the first “dark-horse” presidential nominee in American history and a supporter of immediate annexation. The immigrant vote helped tip the election of 1844 to Polk a supporter of westward expansion.
During President James K. Polk’s administration, the US increased its area of land by 50 percent. Polk was little known outside the South, and he had lost successive elections for the governorship of Tennessee. Yet Polk persuaded many northerners that annexation of Texas would benefit them. Polk and his supporters argued that if Britain succeeded in abolishing slavery in Texas, slavery would not be able to move westward, racial tensions in existing slave states would intensify, and the chances of a race war, which might spill over into the North, would increase.
Polk’s presidency is most known for his endeavors in expanding US territory. He had threatened Britain with war, and in so doing he was able to secure the Oregon territory.John L. O’Sullivan and Manifest Destiny: In 1845, John L.
O’Sullivan, a New York Democratic journalist, supplied Americans with the phrase “manifest destiny” to capture the spirit of westward expansion. He had written, “our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.” Whigs normally dismissed manifest destiny because they thought it was an evil democratic method of spreading slavery. Many advocates conveyed that Americans were given the right to expand their population by God. This mindset inspired them to pursue multiple other territories such as Oregon, California, New Mexico, and Texas. Many expansionists equated cities and factories with class strife.
After a tour of New England mill towns in 1842, John L. O’Sullivan warned Americans that if they failed to build the economy with alternatives to factories, the United States would sink to the level of Britain, a nation that James Gordon Bennett, an ardent Democratic expansionist, described as a land of “bloated wealth” and “terrible misery.”John C. Fremont and the Bear Flag Republic: In 1850, John C. Fremont became one of the first US senators of California. In 1856, he was the Republican Party’s first-ever presidential candidate, but lost the election to Democrat James Buchanan. Fremont later was the territorial governor of Arizona.
In San Francisco amidst the Bear Flag Revolt, Fremont took control of the “Bear Flaggers” side of the battle. Their ultimate goal was to make California a part of the United States, so when America declared war on México and raised their flag over the future state, they saw little use of their own established government. Three weeks after it had been proclaimed, the California Republic quietly faded away.