William H. Wharton to Thomas Jefferson Rusk, February 1837




William H. Wharton


American Historical Association






William H. Wharton


Thomas Jefferson Rusk

Item Type


Book Title

Diplomatic Correspondence of the Republic of Texas




Washington, DC





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As I stated in my former despatches, President Jackson and Santa Anna had a free conversation (not in my presence, but I was after-wards informed of it by both of them) in relation to the extension of the United States boundary, so as to include Texas, by treaty with Mexico. Genl. Santa Anna informed me, a few days before he left this place, that he had requested the Secretary of State to furnish him, with the amount of claims held against Mexico by citizens of this Government, .and that after ascertaining the amount, he would promptly state to this Government the additional sum of money, which Mexico would ask for a quit claim to Texas. He said he was not empowered to make a treaty here, but by having an understanding with this Government, he would at [the] proper time on reaching Mexico propose and carry into effect a treaty in regard to the cession of Texas. I asked him to state to me the highest offer ever made by this Government to Mexico for Texas, if it was no secret. He answered that it was no secret, and that the United States had once offered thirteen millions for Texas. He said that he could not think of asking now anything like that amount, and the main reason why he would ask any thing after the people of Texas had declared their independence, and deprived the Mexicans of the possession of that country was not so much on account of the money that Mexico was to receive for Texas, but it was to satisfy his people with the treaty, and make them consent to cease a further prosecution of the war against Texas. He said he was satisfied, that it was for the interest of Mexico and Texas, that there should be an immediate peace between them;-that he knew from his own observation, that Mexico never could conquer Texas, and that if she succeeded in temporarily overrunning the country, she could not hold it without standing garrisons of 20,000 soldiers, which Mexico could not raise, nor support, if raised;-that this threatened invasion was all a humbug and would end in smoke, and that he would immediately on reaching Mexico, issue his orders and put a stop to it;-that he would show the world that what be promised in his captivity in Texas, he would religiously fulfil in the Capitol of his Nation. He further said, that granting, he was the perfidious and ungrateful monster, he was so often represented, granting he would do nothing on account of gratitude or love for the Texians, yet that his own and his country's interest palpably dictated his intended course of future action, as already understood between him and us, which was the strongest guarantee for the faithful performance that could be given us. He concluded, by jocularly saying, that the United States had an overflowing treasury, about which, there was much debate and squabbling. and he hoped that I as the Minister of Texas would not oppose any obstacles to his obtaining a few millions from this Govt for a quit, claim to Texas, which would be the means of enabling him to make a treaty, satisfactory to his nation, and at the same time, securing at
once and forever, the independence of Texas, or her annexation to these United States. He spoke with a great deal of feeling and apparent candour throughout. When he had finished, I replied that he was well aware, that our declaration of independence was a denial in toto of the right of Mexico to sell Texas or to make any Treaty or arrangement, that could, in any manner, or in the slightest degree, bind Texas, without her assent. He said, that he was well aware of this. I continued, that I could not for a moment believe, that this Government was ignorant of the correctness of this position on the part of the people of Texas, and that I knew that it would not be guilty of the injustice, the folly, the madness of attempting to bind Texas by any treaty with Mexico, without the free and full assent of Texas. I further continued that although the people of Texas denied the right of Mexico to dispose of any portion of their territory and claimed their existence as an Independent Nation, yet that it was too well known to be attempted to be disguised, that they desired to be annexed to the United States and that provided the terms and conditions, on which they were willing to be annexed, were previously secured and guaranteed beyond the power of doubt or cavil, they cared not if the United States gave to Mexico, for a quit claim, one million or a hundred millions, but that it was necessary to have the independence of Texas recognized by the United States, before any treaty was made by Mexico and the United States in relation to Texas. The reason of this I stated was obvious, for by the recognition, Texas would be made a competent contracting party and could in such case, stipulate for and secure the terms and conditions on which she was willing to be annexed, which she could not do if unrecognized. In short, I told him that the previous recognition of the Independence of Texas, would be demanded by me as an indispensable prerequisite, before I would give a shadow of assent to any treaty between Mexico and the United States in any way binding Texas. He admitted the force of this and said that no one desired the immediate recognition of Texas more than he did, that he had hoped it would have taken place, before he reached Washington. His reasons he said were these. The recognition of our Independence would greatly disembarrass him and enable him to make a much more favourable treaty for the United States;-that it would enable him to take a much smaller sum for a quit claim to Texas and the smaller the sum, the more certain the ratification of the treaty by this Government. After recognition, he could take a smaller sum, for he could say to his people, that Texas had been recognized by the United States; that by that recognition, she was virtually lost to Mexico, for it would give her what men and money she wanted, and that he, seeing this, had made the best of a bad bargain and had got something for nothing. I thought he took a sound view of the matter, at least, it corresponded with my own. How far, he was candid and sincere, you are as well able to judge as myself.
On the same day Genl. Jackson sent for me and told me, that he wished to speak to me in the strictest confidence! That no one should know of what passed between us. He then proceeded to state that a conversation had taken place between Santa Anna and himself in regard to a treaty for the cession of Texas to the United States by Mexico. That it was necessary for him to read again the terms and conditions on which Texas was willing to be annexed to the United States, for, upon the practicability of granting those terms, and the amount of the public debt of Texas, which the United States would have to pay, would depend the treaty with Mexico. His idea was, that the amount of the debts of Texas would regulate the amount, which this Government could in reason pay to Mexico for a quit claim. I replied that I surely need not remind him, that we protested against and totally denied the right of Mexico to dispose of or in any way bind Texas, since alike in the field and the cabinet, we had vindicated and established a paramount and exclusive claim to all the territory of Texas. He replied that he admitted this and would perish before he would be guilty of any injustice to Texas, or attempt to bind her against her consent. I replied that it was truly humiliating to us to consent to be even nominally sold, after we had won the country by privations, sufferings, dangers and triumphs, unexampled, or at least unsurpassed in the history of man. He replied that this was true, but that the wound to our pride was only in name, in sound, not in substance, and that this Govt would not treat with Mexico for Texas, until after it had fully inspected the terms and conditions on which Texas was willing to be annexed, and determined to grant them. I replied to this, that we ardently desired to be annexed, and provided our own terms were secured to us, we would not, through false pride object to any sum, which this Govt for National character sake might be disposed to give Mexico as hush money for a quit claim to Texas, it being perfectly understood that, by such purchase or treaty. they obtained no claim or shadow of jurisdiction over Texas without her full and free assent. I continued, that the sum, in this case, paid Mexico by this Government was a matter for its consideration not ours, that for our part, so confident were we of the justice of our claim to the exclusive sovereignty of Texas and our physical ability to maintain it, that we would give Mexico nothing but lead. But I continued that the recognition of our Independence by this Govt must be a condition precedent and take place, prior to any treaty in relation to Texas between this Govt and Mexico. For by being recognized, we would be made competent contracting parties and could secure, beyond doubt or cavil, the terms on which we were willing to be annexed. But that if a treaty for Texas was made by Mexico and this Government, before we were recognized and before we had secured our terms of annexation, then, and in that case, we would have to depend wholly on the justice and the will of this Govt to grant us our terms of annexation, which we were not at all disposed to do, and against which I solemnly protested. Moreover, I continued, that this treaty between Mexico and the United States might be rejected by the Senate of one or both countries and then Texas would be both unrecognized and unannexed, and that, therefore, I claimed as a matter of right, that the question of Independence should be acted on immediately, unconnected and unembarrassed with any other, and that it be decided on the broad and naked grounds of our being an organized de facto Government, with ample physical ability to maintain our national existence. I contended, that in accordance with former usage, these were the only facts necessary to be enquired into by this Govt in order to determine whether it would recognize our Independence or not. I further told him, that it mortified me to the soul to find that this Govt admitted the truth of these facts and yet forbore to extend to us the sheer justice of a recognition. I told him moreover, that if we were not recognized during this session, the people of Texas would view it as evidencing a coldness and illiberality, not to say injustice, on the part of this Govt which would excite one universal feeling of horror and amazement. In answer to this, Genl. Jackson hinted rather than asserted, that a recognition of the Independence of Texas by this Govt would prevent any treaty with Mexico by this Govt in regard to Texas, for it would be an open declaration that Mexico had no longer any jurisdiction over Texas or right to sell or bind her. I replied, that I did not conceive that such recognition could embarrass the contemplated treaty with Mexico at all. The recognition of the Independence of Texas by this Govt did not vary the relations between Texas and Mexico, did not in any way impair or diminish the right of Mexico to prosecute a war ad infinitum against Texas. The recognition of the independence of Texas then by this Govt did not furnish to Mexico any rational cause of complaint or war, but the annexation of Texas to these United States would be a just and serious cause of complaint or war on the part of Mexico, for it would transfer the war from between Mexico and Texas to Mexico and the United States, and would consequently render the resubjugation of Texas by Mexico totally hopeless and impracticable. The treaty, therefore, between Mexico and this Govt might recite, that the United States, being desirous to annex Texas and to restore the blessings of peace, gave to Mexico a specified sum for her consent and her relinquishment of her right to promote further the war against Texas. This would be a valid consideration. I concluded by reiterating, that the recognition of the Independence of Texas must
be a condition precedent, and that then the treaty should be tripartite between Texas, Mexico and the United States. With this, we parted.
In order to make myself perfectly understood, I addressed to Mr. Forsyth Sec'y of State the following protest. He seemed unwilling to receive it in writing, but I stated to him the contents and he replied that I might rest satisfied that this Govt would not be guilty of the injustice of attempting in any way to bind Texas or to compromit her honour or interests against her assent by treaty with Mexico.

24th. Jan'y 1837.
Secretary of State.
Although my unbounded confidence, in the justice of this Govt will not permit me to indulge the belief for a moment, that it would intentionally injure or compromit the honour or interests of Texas, yet I should fail in discharging my duty, were I not to protest formally and solemnly, as I now do, against any sale or disposition of all or any portion of Texas by Mexico to this Govt or against any attempt to bind Texas, in any way, by treaty or otherwise between Mexico and this Govt, without the full and free assent of the Govt of the Republic of Texas.
It may be proper to add that this assent I am empowered to give on the part of my Govt provided the terms and conditions, on which the people of Texas are willing to be annexed as laid down in my instructions, are definitely arranged and guaranteed by this Govt beyond the power of doubt and cavil. Being fully persuaded, moreover, that the people of Texas cannot be considered a competent contracting party to secure these terms and conditions, until after their Independence is formally recognized, I hereby claim that recognition as a condition precedent and prior to any treaty between Mexico and this Government, intended in any way to bind or compromit the Republic of Texas.
I have the honor to be with high consideration
Yours etc.

Want of time to [have] the above copied has prevented my sending it on sooner. It will be recollected that no instructions have been given me in regard to any treaty, which was expected to take place between GenI. Santa Anna and myself, on his arrival in this City. (The only instructions I have ever received on this subject, are those relating to an Exchange of Prisoners, which reached me near a fortnight after his departure for Mexico). While he was here and after the refusal of his Charge d'affaires at Philadelphia to obey his orders, I advised with my friends in regard to the course that I ought to pursue. I asked them, if it would be best for me to undertake to bring Santa Anna under the obligation of a written treaty. All said no. President Jackson was quite explicit in giving his opinion. He said that Genl. Santa Anna had no power, without the concurrence of his Charge d'affaires to make a treaty that would be binding on Mexico. That his honor was all, at last, that we had to rely upon, and that he, Santa Anna, would feel himself more bound in honor without, than with a written treaty. He said moreover, that what Santa Anna had promised us was contained in his (Santa Anna's) letter to him, (President Jackson), and also in his public and secret treaties with our Govt ad Interim, during the last summer. President Jackson added, that Santa Anna's open assertions in presence of him and his Cabinet, that Mexico could not reconquer Texas and that he was determined to bring about peace on the basis of the Independence or Annexation of Texas to these United States, was all sufficient.
We are unfortunately still unrecognized. The disposition of some of Mr. Van Buren's friends to postpone the matters, combined with a multiplicity of unfinished business before both Houses produces the delay. I am now satisfied that the Committee on foreign affairs of the lower House will make a favourable report for us in a few days and that recognition will follow. Nothing but want of time can possibly prevent it. For fear that my Despatches in which I tendered my resignation of my present appointment may not reach you, I here repeat it, I wish to resign and return home after the rising of Congress. GenI. Hunt is willing to remain in discharge of his duties, and one Minister will in God's name be all sufficient especially in the recess of Congress. By my resignation, the Govt of Texas will be freed from the expense of a Minister's salary during the Summer, and, if deemed necessary, which I much doubt, another can be sent on next winter. When I return home, I will leave it with the Govt. to determine the amount to be paid me, and rest perfectly satisfied with its decision.
I have the honor to be with great regard
Yours etc.

P. S. Geni. Jackson says that Texas must claim the Californias on the Pacific in order to paralyze the opposition of the North and East to Annexation. That the fishing interest of the North and East wish a harbour on the Pacific; that this claim of the Californias will give it to them and will diminish their opposition to annexation. He is very earnest and anxious on this point of claiming the Californias and says we must not consent to less. This in strict confidence.
Glory to God in the highest.

P. S. While I was writing the above the Committe[e] on Foreign affairs of the lower House, reported a resolution recommending the immediate recognition of the Independence of Texas, also an appropriation for a Minister to Texas. The report will certainly be concurred in, if there is time to act upon it, and if not, it is almost tantamount in the character and credit it will give to a complete and formal recognition.
It being important to know who are friends and for us, I communicate for your information that Mr Forsyth was opposed to the report of the Committee.

Original Format




William H. Wharton, “William H. Wharton to Thomas Jefferson Rusk, February 1837,” Familiar Strangers, accessed January 28, 2022, http://www.davidmckenzie.info/projects/items/show/4.


Item Relations

This Item Is related to the person Item: Almonte, Juan Nepomuceno
This Item Is related to the person Item: López de Santa Anna, Antonio

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