Description

    Senator Rusk is satisfied to conclude the disputed land controversy with New Mexico, "a useless territory"

    Thomas J. Rusk Autograph Letter Thrice Signed "Tho J Rusk" as U.S. Senator from Texas, (one signature as a free frank) concerning the important Texas Boundary Bill. Three pages, 8" x 10", September 9, 1850, Washington [D.C.] to Texas State Senator "Hon Isaac W. Brashear/ Houston, Texas." Senator Rusk is understandably happy that the Texas Boundary Bill has "received the sanction of the President" and that by its passage, Texas has helped in "restoring peace and preserving the Union." The slave holder also explains to the state senator that the bill does not transfer "slave territory to free soil."

    Rusk's letter reads in full: "The Texas Boundary Bill has received the sanction of the President and is now on its way, by Express, to the city of Austin. It is just the best Bill that could now or at any future time have received the approval of Congress, which would not have been bestowed at the present time had it not been for the influence of the Secretary of State, Mr. Webster, who has proved himself throughout the whole affair to be a true friend to Texas. Texas by this adjustment will receive in money ten times as much (for, to her, a useless territory) as she ever could have attained for the land ceded, and, beside, has obtained a large share of the credit of restoring peace and preserving the Union. I should not deem it necessary to say so much to you, but that I am confident efforts will be made from here by those who wish the Union dissolved to induce Texas to reject the propositions. Such a suicidal policy on her part, would lose her sympathy of the large mass of patriotic men, north and South. It will be, doubtless, said that Texas has transferred slave territory to free soil, this is false, on the contrary, the Bill removes the restrictions against slavery, imposed by the resolutions of annexation, from the territory north of 36° 30', as well as from all west of the Rio Grande, included within the limits of New Mexico, and so the Supreme Court will decide. Texas has yet many important matters dependent upon the actions of this Government, such as her frontier defence & the improvement of her coasts and rivers, and a manly acceptance of the terms proposed to her, which are alike advantageous and honorable to her, will have a most beneficial influence upon the future action of Congress in regard to her interests. You are at liberty to shew [sic] this to such members of the Legislature as you may desire, so that it does not get into the newspapers. Congress will adjourn on the 30th instant. Accept, this[?], my warmest acknowledgements for your friendly course towards me."

    Senator Rusk included the following postscript: "P.S. I feel it due to the Hon. Mr. Howard to say that on the last day's proceedings of the House of Representatives on the Texas Bill, when he saw that the fate of the Bill depended upon his vote he immediately with a moral courage that cannot be too highly commended, voted for it and thus secured its passage/ Tho J Rusk." Below Brashear's address is written (likely after the bill was accepted by Texas in November 1850), "The Texas boundary bill has passed But be/ It so/ Free [?]." Isaac Brashear was the third Texas State Senator from District 12. When he received this letter, he was serving in the Third Texas Legislature's session.

    Following Texas' annexation into the United States, the state continued to claim the Rio Grande as its western border, a controversial claim guaranteed to cause problems in the U.S. Congress since most of New Mexico was included. (An earlier attempt by Texas to secure the disputed lands came to an embarrassing conclusion in the Santa Fe Expedition.) Texas also had huge debts at the time, but raising taxes to pay those debts was very unpopular among Texans. Luckily, the state had large amounts of land, including the disputed New Mexico lands.

    In a bill that was part of the Compromise of 1850, a complicated group of bills which only delayed the answer to the slavery question, the U.S. Government offered Texas $10,000,000, the Texas Panhandle, and El Paso for the disputed territory. The bill, introduced by Senator James A. Pierce of Maryland, had the support of Daniel Webster, Rusk's "true friend to Texas," as well as the support of Texas' Senators Rusk and Sam Houston, other moderate congressmen, and President Millard Fillmore. The bill passed in the summer of 1850; from there, it went to the Texas State Legislature for ratification. The Boundary Bill was not well-received by some Texans who were opposed to relinquishing so much territory, but those holding Texas bonds were supportive because the bill promised payment for their bonds. Probably influenced by Sam Houston's argument that Texas had plenty of land, but not enough money, the Texas Legislature, including State Senator Brashear, ratified the act, which then went Texas Governor Peter Bell, who officially accepted the new act on November 25, 1850. The letter is on toned paper with minor separation at fold intersections. Ink burn along top and bottom edges has resulted in slight paper loss. Light soiling on address page. Near fine condition.


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