Anson Jones

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Anson Jones
Anson jones.png
4th President of the Republic of Texas
In office
9 December 1844 – 19 February 1846
Preceded by Sam Houston
Succeeded by Office abolished
James Pinckney Henderson (First Governor of Texas)
Personal details
Born (1798-01-20)January 20, 1798
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Died 9 January 1858(1858-01-09) (aged 59)
Houston, Texas
Nationality American
Profession Physician

Anson Jones (January 20, 1798 – January 9, 1858) was a doctor, businessman, congressman, and the fourth and last President of the Republic of Texas, sometimes called the "Architect of Annexation".

Early life[edit]

Jones was born on January 20, 1798, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. There is no information between his birth and 1820. In 1820, Jones was licensed as a doctor by the Oneida, New York, Medical Society, and began medical practice in 1822. However, his practice did not prosper, and he moved several more times before finally being arrested in Philadelphia by a creditor. He stayed in Philadelphia for a few more years, teaching and practicing medicine, until in 1824 he decided to go to Venezuela.

Later, Jones returned to Philadelphia, earned an M.D., and reopened his practice. He never had much success as a doctor, and in 1832 he renounced medicine and headed for New Orleans, where he entered the mercantile trade. Once again, though, Jones's dreams were thwarted. Though he safely weathered two plagues, his business efforts never met with any success and within a year he had no money.

He was a member and Past Master of the Masonic Harmony Lodge #52 of Philadelphia. He was a Past Grand of Independent Order of Odd Fellows Washington Lodge no.2 and Philadelphia Lodge no.13 in Pennsylvania and a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.[1]

Life in Texas[edit]

Anson Jones House, now in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas

In 1833, Jones headed west to Texas, settling eventually in Brazoria. Here, at last, he met with success, establishing a medical practice that prospered quickly. In 1835, he began to speak out about the growing tensions between Texas and Mexico, and that year he attended the Consultation, a meeting held at Columbia, by Texas patriots to discuss the fight with Mexico (the meeting's leadership did not want to call the meeting a "convention", for fear the Mexican government would view it as an independence forum). Jones himself presented a resolution at the Consultation calling for a convention to be held to declare independence, but he himself refused to be nominated to the convention.

During the Texas Revolution, Jones served as a judge advocate and surgeon to the Texas Army, though he insisted on holding the rank of private throughout the conflict. After the war, Jones returned to Brazoria and resumed his medical practice.

Upon his return to Brazoria, Jones found that James Collinsworth, a fellow Texas patriot and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Brazoria, had set up a law practice in Jones's office. Jones evicted Collinsworth and challenged him to a duel (though the duel never occurred).

On March 1, 1835, Jones met with four other Masons at Brazoria and petitioned the Grand Master of Louisiana for a dispensation and a charter to form the first Masonic lodge in Texas. In December, when the lodge was set to labor, Jones was elected its first Master. The charter for Holland Lodge No. 36 arrived in April 1836, and Jones carried it in his saddlebags during the Battle of San Jacinto. At the formation of the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas in December 1837, he was elected its first Grand Master. He also became the first Grand Master of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Texas.[2]

On May 17, 1840, he married Mary Smith Jones. Together, they had four children.[3]

Move to politics[edit]

Jones and Collinsworth would spar again. Collinsworth was instrumental in starting the Texas Railroad, Navigation, and Banking Company, to which Jones was vehemently opposed. Jones was elected to the Second Texas Congress as an opponent of the Company; however, his most significant act in Congress was to call for the withdrawal of the Texas proposal for annexation by the United States. He also helped draw up legislation to regulate medical practice, and called for the establishment of an endowment for a university.

Jones expected to return to his practice at Brazoria after his term in Congress, but Texas President Sam Houston instead appointed him Minister to the United States, where Jones was to formally withdraw the annexation proposal.

During this time, while many Texans hoped to encourage eventual annexation by the United States, some supported waiting for annexation or even remaining independent. The United States, in the late 1830s, was hesitant to annex Texas for fear of provoking a war with Mexico. Jones and others felt it was important that Texas gain recognition from European states and begin to set up trade relations with them, to make annexation of Texas more attractive to the United States or, failing that, to give Texas the strength to remain independent.

Jones was recalled to Texas by new president Mirabeau Lamar in 1839. Back at home, he found himself elected to a partial term in the Senate, where he quickly became a critic of Lamar's administration. He retired from the Senate in 1841, declining the opportunity to serve as Vice President in favor of returning to his medical practice. Late in 1841, though, he was named Texas Secretary of State by president Houston, who had been recently been elected president again by opponents of Lamar.

Jones served as Secretary of State until 1844. During his term, the main goal of Texas foreign policy was to get either an offer of annexation from the United States, or a recognition of Texas independence from Mexico, or, preferably, both at the same time.

President[edit]

Texas Historical Marker at the grave site of Anson Jones in Glenwood Cemetery (Houston, Texas) dedicated to the memory of Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas, in 2009

On December 9, 1844, Jones was elected president of the Republic of Texas, despite running a virtually silent campaign. That November, James K. Polk was elected President of the United States on a promise of Texas annexation. However, Jones held his silence on the subject, preferring to wait for the ideal outcome of simultaneous annexation and independence offers. This proved unpopular. Late in 1844, the Texas Congress declared for joining the United States, and popular sentiment in the republic for annexation grew. As the months went on with no word from Jones, his citizens burned him in effigy and threatened to overthrow his government. Through this Jones continued to wait.

Finally, in June 1845, Jones's emissary to Mexico returned with a treaty recognizing the republic's independence. At last he put the question before the people — accept the offer of annexation from the United States, or sign the independence treaty from Mexico and remain an independent state. The Congress and the people went for annexation.

Preparations began for annexation, and Jones's role as president was greatly diminished. On February 19, 1846, a formal ceremony was held in Austin to bring Texas into the United States. Jones delivered a speech that he concluded by declaring, "The final act in this great drama is now performed. The Republic of Texas is no more." In his final official act as president, Jones lowered the Texas flag from its pole; Sam Houston, with tears in his eyes, stepped from the crowd to gather the flag in his arms. Upon Texas statehood, Jones retired to Brazoria.

Political[edit]

Jones hoped that the new Texas state legislature would send him to the United States Senate. He was not chosen, and as time went on he became increasingly bitter about this slight. Although Jones prospered as a planter and eventually amassed an enormous estate, he was never able to get past the fact that Sam Houston and Thomas Jefferson Rusk were chosen over him to represent Texas in Washington, D.C.

After the suicide of Thomas Jefferson Rusk in 1857, Jones became convinced that the legislature would finally send him to the Senate, but he received no votes.

Death[edit]

For four days he had lodged at Houston's old Capitol Hotel, the former seat of government of the Republic of Texas, when he fatally shot himself in his room after dinner on January 9, 1858. He was 59 years old. Jones was buried at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.[4]

Legacy[edit]

Statue of Anson Jones at Jones County Courthouse in Anson, Texas

Jones County, and its county seat, Anson, were both named for Anson Jones. Anson Jones Elementary School in Bryan, Texas, is named for him along with Anson Jones Middle School In San Antonio, Texas.[5] His plantation home, known as Barrington, is preserved at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Park.

Notes[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Sam Houston
(second term)
President of the Republic of Texas
1844 –1846
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Governor of Texas under the United States