Saturday, April 17, 2021

Ebenezer Allen and Texas Annexation

Allen H. Mesch

© Allen H. Mesch Used with Permission.

After the defeat of the Mexican Army in 1836, the newly established Republic of Texas hoped the United States would recognize Texas independence and quickly add Texas to the Union. Most of the Republic’s citizens considered themselves to be Americans and believed the “United States was waiting to embrace them with open arms.” In September 1836, Texas voted overwhelmingly in favor of entering the Union. However, Texas President Sam Houston believed the admission faced many obstacles. Despite the support for annexation, Houston thought it was premature to consider admittance when the United States and President Andrew Jackson refused to acknowledge the country's existence. The two governments were unable to negotiate an agreement for the next nine years.

Houston (1841-1844) was re-elected to the presidency after Mirabeau Lamar’s term (1838-1847). Houston chose Anson Jones as his secretary of state. Houston and Jones worked to obtain an annexation offer from the United States and recognition of Texas’ independence from Mexico. They wanted to receive both proposals simultaneously which would allow the Texas government to decide which alternative to accept. However, by the fall of 1844, the annexation of Texas appeared to be dead.

In November 1844, President Houston selected Clarksville attorney Ebenezer Allen to fill the opening created when Houston appointed Attorney General George Whitfield Terrell[1] as chargé d'affaires to Europe.[2] Allen and his family came to Texas from Maine in 1840. In September 1844, Texans elected Dr. Anson Jones (1844-1846) president. Jones’ election created a temporary vacancy in Houston’s cabinet and in December 1844 Houston asked Allen to serve additionally as secretary of state ad interim.[3]

After Dr. Jones’s election, he consulted with friends and other politicians to select officers for his cabinet. For the position of Attorney General, Jones selected a lawyer from Red River County - Ebenezer Allen.

Several years later, President Jones described his prior knowledge of Mr. Allen. Jones wrote, “... when I called him to that station I was almost a stranger to him personally, having never seen him but once or twice, and knew nothing of his opinions on this [annexation] or scarcely any other subject. I approved him because he had the character of possessing great ability and honesty.”[4]

 After Jones organized his cabinet, France and England demanded Texas send “highly appreciated” Secretary of State Ashbel Smith to represent the Republic of Texas at their courts. Jones knew he would need a person who was comparable to Smith, with “the utmost firmness and caution,” to successfully manage affairs in Smith’s absence. Jones’ cabinet recommended Ebenezer Allen to replace Smith. Allen was regarded as “a man of excellent sense, high character, and of the best disposition in this matter.”[5] In addition to his position as attorney general, Allen was “charged with the duties of secretary of state ad interim.”[6]

While Jones was non-committal about annexation, Secretary Allen was strongly in favor of independence. Two months before his appointment, he wrote to William Kennedy, the British consul at Galveston, about his position:

 You are well aware of the fact that I have from the beginning been decidedly opposed to the Annexation of Texas to the United States. It is my first object to defeat, if possible, the consummation of this most obnoxious measure, so decidedly hostile, as I conceive it to be, and fraught with such evil consequences to the ultimate prosperity and high destiny of this Country. If I am successful in the accomplishment of this great result, I shall consider it the proudest period of my life.[7]

U.S. President John Tyler reopened annexation talks. Tyler appointed Andrew Jackson Donelson[8] to represent the United States in the Republic of Texas.[9] In December 1844, chargé d'affaires Donelson was worried about annexation. The actions by the U.S. government had shifted Texas public opinion from annexation to independence and favorable commercial terms with the English.[10]

 During the U.S. Congressional debates, Secretary Allen warned Donelson that Texas officials and citizens would be disappointed with a “vague” treaty lacking a “definite, tangible, and eligible process” to achieve annexation. The Republic “would feel compelled to consider their connexion [sic] with the measure dissolved.”[11]

The U.S. Congress finally agreed to ratify a joint resolution to annex Texas. The new American President James Polk sent chargé d'affaires Donelson to Texas to persuade Texas to accept the joint resolution “without qualifications.”[12]

On March 31, 1845, Donelson presented the United States proposal to the Jones administration. President Jones received him cordially and listened carefully to his remarks. Jones preferred to hold a public election on annexation. If the voters approved annexation, Jones would call a convention to make the changes necessary for Texas’ admission to the Union. Jones said, “the gravity of the subject required him not to act in haste: and that, although he had a decided opinion, he would dwell awhile on it, until he was aided by the advice of his cabinet.”

Dr. Jones commented on his position in a memorandum written on February 19, 1850: “A party in the country have accused me of being opposed to annexation, basing the charge upon the assumed fact that the members of my Cabinet, and the other officers of the Government were opposed to it, and reflected my sentiments.” He believed Ebenezer Allen was the only cabinet member who “preferred independence over annexation.” Despite his opinion, Jones thought Allen was “perfectly ready and willing to do all” in his power to carry “out the will of the people.”[13]

While the Jones administration considered how to proceed with the U.S. proposal, the president learned about the “successful progress of the preliminary treaty with Mexico.”[14]

Donelson pressured Jones to accept the joint agreement. He sent unsolicited “suggestions” via Allen to President Jones on the approval process. Although the chargé d'affaires later apologized for interfering in the process, the chargé d'affaires continued trying to manipulate the Republic's decisions.

The public thought the Jones administration was too cautious and too slow in response to the American government. Public support for annexation grew and the animosity of Jones increased. He was burned in effigy, and threats were made to overthrow his government.[15] Texans favored the terms offered by the United States and demanded quick action by Congress or a convention of elected representatives to ratify the U.S. joint resolution and form a state government. Secretary Allen advised Jones on the state’s political situation and recommended calling a convention:

    There can be no doubt that a convention, framed upon a plan recommended by the Executive, would be as legal, satisfactory, and efficient as one formed upon a plan proposed by Congress.

    If you think the measure a safe one, and not premature, I should be glad to see your proclamation issued recommending a convention to be assembled at as early a day as practicable, and presenting a basis whereby to regulate the election of deligates [sic].[16]

Allen urged “most forcibly” that “the call of a convention, to be assembled under the advisory proclamation of the Executive, would not only neutralize and render harmless all the elements of [the] opposition, and defeat the machinations of your enemies, but would even place you in such a position that they themselves, however loath, would be bound to sustain you, and to support your course and administration.”[17] Jones did not need Allen’s warnings because the president was aware of “the storm” and felt “its blasts all around me.”[18] On May 8, 1845, President Jones instructed Allen to issue a proclamation in which Jones recommended that the citizens of Texas elect delegates for a convention to take “prompt and decisive action” on the United States Annexation proposal.[19]

The representatives to the convention met on July 4, 1845, to consider the U.S. Congress joint annexation resolution. By a vote of fifty-five to one, the delegates approved the offer of annexation. Next, the convention prepared the Constitution of 1845 for the new state.[20] Jones informed Polk “that the Deputies of the People of Texas” at their Convention accepted the United States government’s proposal for annexing “Texas to the American Union.”[21]

Jones ordered the Texas Congress to meet on June 16, 1845. He asked congress to choose between annexation or independence. Congress rejected the treaty with Mexico, approved the joint resolution of annexation, and passed motions censuring Jones.[22]

Allen sent Donelson a copy of the joint resolution adopted by both houses of the Texas Congress on June 21 and approved by the President on June 23.

Declaring the consent of the existing government of this Republic to the terms of the proposition for annexation… the people of this country have thus evinced by most decided manifestations their strong but natural preference for the advantages of voluntary incorporation into the American union, and their strong attachment to the free institutions of that great and glorious Republic.[23]

Texas voters ratified the new state constitution in October 1845. The U. S. Congress accepted the document on December 29, 1845, which became the date of Texas's legal entry into the Union.[24]


This article is based on Ebenezer Allen – Statesman, Entrepreneur, and Spy by Allen Mesch. Mr. Mesch is available for virtual book signings, podcasts, and presentations. You can order the book at Mercari (check for latest price), Amazon Books (book), and Amazon (Kindle E-book).

[1] George Whitfield Terrell (?−1846) was district attorney of San Augustine County in 1840 and he later served as district judge. In December 1841 he was made attorney general of the Republic by Sam Houston. From 1842 to 1844 Terrell was Indian commissioner and negotiated the Indian treaty at Bird's Fort on September 29, 1843. He was appointed chargé d'affaires to France, Great Britain, and Spain in December 1844 and continued in that capacity under President Anson Jones. Upon his return to Texas in 1845 Terrell was again made Indian commissioner. He was an opponent of annexation. He died on May 13, 1846. Handbook of Texas Online, Melvin B. Jaschke, "Terrell, George Whitfield,"

[2] Moore, Francis, Jr. Telegraph and Texas Register (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 9, No. 47, Ed. 1, Wednesday, November 20, 1844, newspaper, November 20, 1844; Houston, Texas. (, University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

[3] Texas National Register. (Washington, Tex.), Vol. 1, No. 2, Ed. 1, Saturday, December 14, 1844, newspaper, December 14, 1844; Washington, Texas. (, University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

[4] Anson Jones, Republic of Texas, 74.

[5] Annie Middleton, "Donelson's Mission to Texas in Behalf of Annexation." The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 24, no. 4 (1921): 270.

[6] Ebenezer Allen Letter to Charles Elliott, Diplomatic Correspondence of the Republic of Texas (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1911), Volume II, Part II, 1169.

[7] Middleton, 258. 87

[8] Andrew Jackson Donelson (1799-1871 was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 25, 1799. He attended Cumberland College, Nashville, and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1820. He spent two years as aide-de-camp to his uncle, Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, before resigning his commission in order to study law. In 1829 President Jackson appointed Donelson his private secretary. Donelson remained in Washington in that capacity until the end of his uncle's second term on March 4, 1837. In 1844 President John Tyler appointed Donelson chargé d'affaires of the United States to the Republic of Texas. His duties were to present American propositions to President Anson Jones and to further the cause of annexation. Donelson performed both tasks with skill and diplomacy. In March 1845, Congress passed a joint resolution admitting Texas to the Union, provided that the state adopts a republican form of government before July 1846. He was subsequently minister to Prussia and in 1852 a candidate for the vice presidency of the United States. He died at Memphis, Tennessee, on June 26, 1871. Hugo Ellis, “Donelson, Andrew Jackson,” Handbook of Texas Online, by the Texas State Historical Association.

[9] President Tyler appointed Andrew Jackson Donelson in March 1845. Handbook of Texas Online, Joseph Milton Nance, "Republic of Texas,"

[10] Middleton, 255-256.

[11] Jones, Memoranda, Republic of Texas, 505.

[12] Middleton, 266.

[13] Jones, Memoranda, Republic of Texas, 74.

[14] Jones, Memoranda, Republic of Texas, 453.

[15] Handbook of Texas Online, Herbert Gambrell, "Jones, Anson,"

[16] Jones, Memoranda, Republic of Texas, 458.

[17] Jones, Memoranda, Republic of Texas, 459-461.

[18] Jones, Memoranda, Republic of Texas, 459-461.

[19] Hard Road to Texas, Texas Annexation 1836-1845, “Part 5: The Final Showdown,” National Register Extra - -- Extra, Texas State Library and Archives Commission,

[20] Handbook of Texas Online, Ralph W. Steen, "Convention of 1845,"

[21] “Jones to Polk,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1908 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1911), Vol. II, Part II, 386-387.

[22] Handbook of Texas Online, C. T. Neu, "Annexation,"

[23] Ebenezer Allen Letter to Andrew Jackson Donelson, June 23, 1845. Hard Road to Texas Annexation, United States Diplomatic Correspondence, Texas Secretary of State records, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, (page 1) and (page 2)

[24] Handbook of Texas Online, C. T. Neu, "Annexation,",

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