From 1519 until 1836, parts of Texas were under Spanish, French and Mexican rule. Mexico itself was under Spanish rule until 1821, but after independence, it governed Mexican Texas until 1836, when the Texas Rebellion separated it from Mexico. In 1830, Mexico had ordered all slaves to be freed, but many Texas colonists ran around this law by making their slaves indentured servants for life. By the time it became a Republic in 1836, there were 5,000 slaves in Texas.
The annexation of Texas into the U.S. was thus controversial for those who did not want to bring a slave state into the union (it became a state in 1848).
A new document has just been acquired by Special Collections. It is a “memorial” (petition) to the Senate by the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery protesting the annexation of Texas into the Union and setting forth its reasons, including the creation of a new market for slaves and promoting the trafficking of slaves. This they surmised from similar circumstances in Louisiana and Florida. The document is an unsigned draft, though on the verso is the signature of Edith Stackhouse. Among the society’s members were several Quakers and, as the writer notes, such lights as Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush. It is inferred that the writer is Stackhouse’s husband, Powell Stackhouse (1785-1863). They were both received into Philadelphia Monthly Meeting in 1843, and he served as an overseer of this Quaker meeting, though he did not appear on lists of members of any committees, including those relating to African Americans.
In 1842, James Buchanan (1791-1868), 15th president of the United States, was serving as a Democratic senator from Pennsylvania and he presented this petition. At the conclusion of his presentation, the document was ordered to be printed (see: The Weekly Herald, April 9, 1842). One would expect that the petitioners would have presented their senator with a finished copy to read, rather than a draft, and that the document had been printed as ordered, but an exhaustive search through such resources as the U.S. Congressional Serial Set and the Making of America website provided no such evidence.
With this knowledge in hand, this seemingly rare document was acquired for our Quaker Collection.