Tag Archives: James Polk

Today in Texas History – January 4

The Texas Underground: Samuel Hamilton Walker

From the Annals of Weaponry –  In 1846, Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers procured an order of 1,000 revolvers for gunmaker Samuel Colt.  Colt had previously produced the Paterson Revolver which proved to be useful but too fragile for rough conditions and ready use.  As a result, Colt’s business had gone bankrupt.  His friend, Walker, pointed out the problems with the Paterson and suggested improvements to the trigger and the need for a pistol that did not require removal of the barrel for reloading. Colt was eager to restart his business and agreed with Walker’s suggestions and made some additional improvements on his own.

The result was the most powerful handgun yet made.  The six-shot “Walker” Colt had a 9 inch barrel, a longer cylinder than the five-shot Paterson and was manufactured in .44 caliber rather than .36, and was easily reloaded.  The big gun weighed a hefty 5 pounds, but the longer barrel and weight improved its accuracy.

Colt needed a buyer and Walker went to straight to President Polk to whom he was known from his army and Texas Ranger exploits.   The celebrated Texas Ranger explained the benefits and need for Colt’s new revolver.  Polk immediately ordered his Secretary of War to purchase 1,000 of the revolvers for twenty-five dollars each.  Colt contracted with Eli Whitney to manufacture the weapons.  The power and accuracy of the new weapon completely changed the ability of mounted fighters to conduct operations from the saddle.

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Today in Texas History – October 13

From the Annals of Statehood –  In 1845, Texas voters approved annexation of Texas as a new member of the United States.  Voters also approved a new state constitution and the annexation ordinance. 

The annexation of Texas was part of a much larger political game between the free and slave states and between the pro-slavery Democrats and the anti-slavery Whigs.  In 1843, U.S. President John Tyler decided to pursue the annexation of Texas as part of his political platform for another four years in office.  Tyler claimed that he was attempting to  outmaneuver the British government’s alleged plans to recognize Texas as an independent state in exchange for emancipation of slaves.  Tyler believed this would undermine slavery in the US.  Through secret negotiations with Sam Houston’s administration, Tyler secured a treaty of annexation in April 1844.   Now in the public eye, the terms of annexation and Texas’ admission to the Union took center stage in the election of 1844. Pro-Texas-annexation southern Democratic delegates denied their anti-annexation leader Martin Van Buren of New York the nomination at their party’s convention in May 1844.  Instead, the Democrats nominated James K. Polk who ran on a pro-Texas Manifest Destiny platform.

In June 1844, the Senate, with its Whig majority rejected the Texas Annexation Treaty.  But Polk narrowly defeated anti-annexation Whig Henry Clay in the fall.   This opened the door for lame-duck Tyler to ask Congress to revisit Texas annexation which it did.  The last major act of the Tyler administration was to sign the Texas Annexation bill.