THE NOMINATION OF ANSON JONES FOR PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS
Katherine Louise Willingham Woerner, Ph.D.
January 11, 1997
Anson Jones (1798-1858)
This essay hits the high points of the life of Dr. Anson Jones, fourth and last President of the Republic of Texas, as he wanted to be remembered. While searching for information on my ancestor, Capt. Archibald Willingham, who was in the Republic of Texas, I found the book Memoranda and Official Correspondence Relating To The Republic Of Texas, Its History And Annexation 1836 to 1846 by Anson Jones where Jones told the story of his life through chosen personal letters and documents of the Republic of Texas. The finding of my ancestor’s name in that book sparked interest in Jones.
Anson Jones arrived late in Texas with respect to the Mexican Land Grants awarded through Stephen F. Austin. By the time Jones arrived in Texas in 1833, the towns of Brazoria, Columbia, Lagrange, Bolivar, Richmond, San Felipe de Austin, Washington, and Montgomery had already been established. Not that these towns were very large or comfortable; Jones commented upon reaching Brazoria, "I was so much dissatisfied with the town that I forthwith engaged my passage back to New Orleans on the return trip of the vessel." (3, p.8, 9) He was not to leave Texas, however; Anson Jones died in the Old Capitol Hotel in Houston, Texas on January 9,1859 after spending twenty-six years in Texas, thirteen of those years in service to The Republic of Texas and afterwards living on his farm "Carrington" near Washington on the Brazos.
Anson Jones was the son of Solomon and Sarah Strong Jones and was born January 20, 1798 in Berkshire County, Massachusetts; he had seven sisters and two brothers. He engaged in various occupations during the time he worked to complete his medical training. In 1820 he completed his medical studies and was licensed to practice medicine by the Oneida Medical Society. He struggled to become successful in his chosen profession, but it was not to be. After many financial difficulties, in 1824 he sailed for Venezuela, South America, and remained there until June 1826 when he returned to Philadelphia. Having saved some money, he finished his professional studies and in March 1827, Jones received the degree of Doctor of Medicine from Jefferson Medical College. Again he found himself in financial difficulties and in October 1832, he sailed from New York on the ship "Alabama" for New Orleans. At this time, he was not on his way to Texas. After being in New Orleans for a while, he was convinced by Captain Brown, who commanded the ship "Sabine" of the need for doctors in Texas and Jones sailed with Brown 1 October, 1833, for Brazoria, Texas.
Jones attended as an observer the "Consultation" at San Felipe on November 3, 1835 where the Provisional Government of Texas was established. (3,p.13, 14) Stephen F. Austin had recently returned to Texas from his long detention in Mexico City where he had gone to work for establishment of Texas as a state separate from the state of Coahuila. The citizens of Texas supported the federal constitution of 1824 that established States. As the Mexican Revolution was drawing to a close, the politicians in Mexico City were intent on destroying the federal constitution of 1824 and establishing a central or consolidated Government where the states would be converted into provinces; this the Texans opposed. The acting President of Mexico, General Barragan, had on October 3, 1835, issued a decree abolishing the legislative powers of the several states and established a Central Republic.
Jones called and chaired the "Columbia" meeting in December 1835. (3,p.13, 14) When a fight with Mexico was certain, he enlisted March, 1836, as a volunteer soldier and served as a private soldier in Capt. Calder's Company, 2nd Regiment Infantry, as surgeon to the 2nd Regiment, and participated in the Battle of San Jacinto April 21, 1836. (3,p.14, 17) Dr. Anson Jones is credited with finding the diary of Santa Anna in San Jacinto. (2, p. 404) After that battle, Jones was appointed Assistant Surgeon-General and Medical Purveyor to the army May 10, 1836, and held that position until the end of that year. (3,p. 17). He was then seated as congressman from Brazoria at the 2nd Congress, September 1837. (3, p. 18) Anson Jones was Minister to the United States under President Sam Houston for nearly one year beginning about July 1836, he was then Senator from Brazoria County for two years in the 4th & 5th Congress where chaired the Senate when President Lamar obtained a leave of absence for medical reasons and Vice President Burnet vacated the chair of the Senate to assume the executive function. (3, p. 21, 22)
Dr. Anson Jones was Secretary of State under Sam Houston during Houston's second term as President being persuaded to this office by Houston, Kenneth G. Anderson who was to later serve as Vice President under President Jones, and others. Concerning this office Jones said, "I then entered upon this new field of duty, with a determination to snatch the country from the verge of destruction upon which she was tottering, and to save her if possible, not withstanding the almost insurmountable difficulties with which she was surrounded." (3, p. 23, 24)
Politics was never in the heart of Anson Jones; many times he returned to his private medical practice determined to stay there only to be coaxed again into public service. In response to a statement concerning Jones' disinterest in the office of President made by Hon. M.P. Norton in his letter to Jones dated April 6, 1844, Jones responded, "If I have written that I care nothing about holding office, I have written just as I felt. Office should neither be sought nor declined." Jones did not decline office when two different citizens groups nominated him for President of the Republic of Texas.
The first nomination that Anson Jones received was from a group of citizens of Independence, Texas. Independence is located not far from the quarter league of land near Washington that Jones had purchased in 1842 from M. Austin Bryan. The Independence group was led by Dr. Moses Johnson who wrote to Jones from Independence, October 6, 1843, informing him that the group proposed to hold a meeting and that Johnson wanted to see him before the nomination. Jones met with Johnson and the Committee of Citizens of Independence met at Independence October 28, 1843 and resolved, "That we, having the highest confidence in the integrity, ability, and patriotism of the Hon. Anson Jones, of the county of Brazoria, do most cheerfully concur in the nomination made by the citizens of San Augustine, and do hereby recommend him as the most suitable person for the next Presidency of the Republic of Texas." (3) Hon. Kenneth L. Anderson, of San Augustine County, was nominated for the Vice-Presidency of said Republic. The Committee of Citizens of Independence contained Hon. John P. Coles, E.W. Taylor, Dr. Moses Johnson, J.M. Norris, Esq., J.D. Giddings, Hon. John Stamps, Archibald Willingham (great great grandfather of this writer), and Moses Park.
Concerning this nomination from Independence, Anson Jones said, ‘‘the first nomination I received for the Presidency. The nomination was first made at San Augustine; but this was the first of which I had notice." (3) The Committee of Citizens of San Augustine contained O.M. Roberts, SA Sweet, W. Edwards, H. Griffith, and A. Clark who signed the Committee letter to Anson Jones dated November 18, 1843.
In 1845 Anson Jones wrote, "My nomination and election to the Presidency was the spontaneous act of the people of Texas, and without any agency on my part. ..." (3) Jones was elected President of the Republic of Texas September 2, 1844 and took office December 9, 1844. During his Presidency he worked for a strong independence and also worked for annexation, and would have accepted whichever came first. Jones stated, "In my own career as Secretary of State and President, I sought both at the same time, and made each subservient to 3 the acquisition of the other, by which means both were finally presented to the choice of the country." (3, p. 73) Dr. Anson Jones guided Texas diplomats in Washington, USA and in Europe in an attempt to find the best course for Texas and, finally accepted annexation. On October 13, 1845 about six thousand voters (half the number who voted in 1844) went to the polls and voted for annexation by the United States. Anson Jones was involved with the establishment and existence of the Republic of Texas until her end on February 19, 1846. On that day he concluded his Valedictory Address given as President of the Republic of Texas surrendering the power and the authority of the Republic of Texas to the leaders of the State of Texas, USA, with the statement, ''The final act in this great drama is now performed, The Republic of Texas is no more." (3)
(1) Gambrell, Herbert. Anson Jones, The Last President of Texas. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, N.Y. 1948. Pp. 1-440.
(2) Johnson, Frank W. A History of Texas and Texans. The American Historical Society, Chicago and New York. 1914. Pp. 1-312.
(3) Jones, Anson. Memoranda and Official Correspondence Relating To The Republic Of Texas, Its History And Annexation 1836 to 1846. The Rio Grande Press Inc., Chicago, Illinois, 1859 & 1966, Pp. 1-648.