Events Leading to the Election

Before the actual election, the United States were beginning to show signs of separation, mostly in part because of the argument on whether or not the U.S. should annex Texas. When thousands of Americans began occupying Texas, which was part of the Republic of Mexico at the time. The Mexican government was hopeful that this migration would lead to a better economy and an increase in tax revenue, but their plan actually backfired. The population of Texas grew enormously and soon after the American citizens began claiming it as their own. After realizing this, the Mexican government stopped all American immigration, but they just kept flowing in. By 1835, over 30,000 Americans had inhabited Texas.Eventually, a dictator by the name of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna rose to power and began imposing stricter, harsher laws due to the growing friction and revolts between Mexico and the citizens in Texas. In 1835, fighting began between these two powers and Santa Anna went to American garrisons in Texas, including the infamous Alamo, killing the majority of the forces there.
Battle at the Alamo
Battle at the Alamo

After the fighting began to subside in late 1836, General Sam Houston kidnapped Santa Anna and American troops killed many of the Mexican soldiers involved in the killings at the garrison in Goliad. Santa Anna, under great pressure from General Houston, signed a treaty that gave Texas it's independence. This event began the argument to annex Texas as part of the United States. The two sides--to annex or not--caused a separation, one that both Presidents Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison sought not to recognize.

The Election

During the Election of 1844, the annexation of Texas was the biggest issue that candidates faced. The two leading Democratic candidates, Henry Clay and Van Buren avoided taking sides, but Clay ended up winning the nomination. For the Southern Democrats, however, they were very supportive in the decision to annex Texas, and so they elected newcomer James K. Polk over Van Buren, due to his lack of committing to the issue. Polk was actually very unknown at the time, despite his previous fourteen years of experience as a representative for Tennessee in the House of Representatives.

Although Polk had been absent from the public eye for over three years, he did have a strategy in gaining support from both the North and South. When he addressed the issues of the annexation of Texas, Polk exclaimed, "...that the re-occupation of Oregon and the re-annexation of Texas at the earliest practicable period are great American measures." By including both Oregon and Texas, Polk easily gained support from the northerners (Oregon) and the southerners (Texas), especially when it came time to decide which would be a slave or free state. In 1844, after many months of disagreement vis-a-vis the annexation of Texas, James K. Polk won the presidential election with 170 electoral votes to Clay's 105, even though his popular vote was less than 40,000.

James K. Polk
James K. Polk
After Polk's win, he immediately began working on the annexation issue, and
actually had former President John Tyler accomplish the first of his goals for him.
Tyler won the congressional support and approval of annexing Texas in February
1845 and Texas officially became a state of the U.S.



-American History: A Survey, 12th Edition (written by Alan Brinkley)