Welcome to the MAKING OF A NATION –American history in VOA Special English. Texas won its independence from Mexicoduring the administration of President Andrew Jackson. Leaders of the territorythen wanted to become part of the United States. Jackson wanted to make Texas astate in the Union. But more important to him was the Union itself. Jacksonfelt that to give statehood to Texas would deepen the split between thenorthern and southern states. Texas would be a state where slavery waspermitted. For this reason, the anti-slavery leaders in the North stronglyopposed Texas statehood. Jackson told Texas minister William Wharton that therewas a way that statehood for Texas would bring the North and South together,instead of splitting them apart. Now, this week in our series, Doug Johnson andGwen Outen continue our story.
Jackson said Texas should claim California.The fishing interests of the North and East, said Jackson, wanted a port on thePacific coast. Offer it to them, the president said, and they will soon forgetthe spreading of slavery through Texas. Jackson and Wharton held thisdiscussion just three weeks before the end of the president's term. Whartonspent much time at the White House. He also worked with congressmen, urging thelawmakers to recognize Texas. He was able to get Congress to include in a billa statement permitting the United States to send a minister to Texas. Such aminister was to be sent whenever the president received satisfactory evidencethat Texas was an independent power. This bill was approved four days beforethe end of Jackson's term. Wharton went back to the White House. Again andagain he gave Jackson arguments for recognizing Texas. On the afternoon ofMarch third, eighteen thirty-seven, Jackson agreed to recognize the newrepublic led by his old friend, Sam Houston. He sent to Congress his nominationfor minister to Texas. One of the last acts of that Congress was to approve thenomination. The United States recognized Texas as an independent republic. Butnine years would pass before Texas became a state. The fourth of March,eighteen thirty-seven, was a bright, beautiful day. The sun warmed thethousands who watched the power of government pass from one man to another.
AndrewJackson left the White House with the man who would take his place, Martin VanBuren. They sat next to each other as the presidential carriage moved downPennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol building. Cheers stopped in the throatsof the thousands who stood along the street. In silence, they removed theirhats to show how much they loved this old man who was stepping down. "Foronce," wrote Senator Thomas Hart Benton, "the rising sun was eclipsedby the setting sun." The big crowd on the east side of the Capitol grewquiet when Jackson and Van Buren walked out onto the front steps of thebuilding. After Chief Justice Taney swore in President Van Buren, the newpresident gave his inaugural speech. Then Andrew Jackson started slowly downthe steps. A mighty cheer burst from the crowd. "It was a cry," wroteSenator Benton, "such as power never commanded, nor man in power received.It was love, gratitude and admiration. I felt a feeling that had never passedthrough me before." Why was this, men have asked? Why did the people love Jackson so?Senator Daniel Webster gave this reason: "General Jackson is an honest andupright man. He does what he thinks is right. And he does it with all hismight." Another senator put it this way: "He called himself 'the people'sfriend.' And he gave proofs of his sincerity. General Jackson understood thepeople of the United States better, perhaps, than any president beforehim."
Jackson was always willing to let thepeople judge his actions. He was ready to risk his political life for what hebelieved in. Jackson's opposition could not understand why the people did notdestroy him. They said he was lucky. "Jackson's luck" the oppositioncalled it. Jackson seemed always to win whatever struggle he began. And the menhe fought against were not weak opponents. They were political giants: HenryClay, John C. Calhoun, Nicholas Biddle. The old general fought these menseparately and, at times, all together. The day after Van Buren becamepresident, Jackson met with a few of his friends. Frank Blair, the editor ofJackson's newspaper, was one of them. Senator Benton was another. It was awarm, friendly meeting. They thought back over Jackson's years in the WhiteHouse and talked about what had been done. Jackson said he thought his bestpiece of work was getting rid of the Bank of the United States. He said he hadsaved the people from a monopoly of a few rich men. Someone asked about Texas.Jackson said he was not worried about Texas. That problem would solve itself,he said. Did the general have any regrets about anything? "Only two,"said Jackson. "I regret I was unable to shoot Henry Clay or to hang JohnC. Calhoun." The next morning, March sixth, Jackson left Washington toreturn to his home in Tennessee. President Van Buren protested that Jackson wasnot well enough to travel. The old man had been sick for the last few months ofhis presidency. He suffered from tuberculosis, and at times lost great amountsof blood from his lungs. When Jackson refused to listen to Van Buren'sprotests, the president sent the army's top doctor, Surgeon General ThomasLawson, to travel with Jackson. General Jackson was to leave the capital bytrain. Thousands of people lined the streets to the train station, waiting fora last look at their president. Jackson stood in the open air on the rearplatform of the train. His hat was off, and the wind blew through his longwhite hair.
Not a sound came from the people whocrowded around the back of the train. A bell rang. There was a hiss of steam.And the train began to move. General Jackson bowed. The crowd stood still. Thetrain moved around a curve and could no longer be seen. The crowd began tobreak up. One man who was there said it was as if a bright star had gone out ofthe sky. Jackson lived for eight more years. He died as he had lived, withdignity and honor. A few hours after his death, a tall man and a small childarrived at the Jackson home. They had traveled a long way -- all the way fromTexas. The big man was Sam Houston, the president of Texas. He had heard thathis friend was dying. Houston was too late to say goodbye. He stood beforeJackson's body, tears in his eyes. Then Houston dropped to his knees and buriedhis face on the chest of his friend and chief. He pulled the small boy close tohim. "My son," he said, "try to remember that you have looked onthe face of Andrew Jackson."
Andrew Jackson stepped down from the presidency in March, eighteen thirty-seven. Hispresidential powers were passed to his most trusted political assistant, MartinVan Buren of New York. Van Buren was elected president after campaign promisesto continue the policies of Jackson. He was opposed by several candidates, allof the new Whig Party. Van Buren won easily with the help of Andrew Jackson.Years before, Van Buren had done much himself to elect Jackson to the WhiteHouse. After the election of eighteen twenty-four had divided the opponents ofJohn Quincy Adams, Van Buren began to put together a political alliance for thefuture. We will continue our story on Van Buren next week.