As you will recall, the Declaration of Independence was signed by the representatives of the 13 British colonies in North America, so consequently, at the time of its birth the US consisted of 13 states. That number has gone up to 50 today. Clearly there has been a huge territorial expansion. How did the self-proclaimed United States become so much larger? During the first 45 years of its independence, the US added 11 states by carving some out from others (Maine from Massachusetts and Missouri from Louisiana) and by sending settlers to live in what were still unclaimed areas. But very soon all the “blank spots” on the maps had been filled in, and from then on the US had to extend its borders in quite a different manner.
Here one must note one important detail about the way the US government is structured. Each new territory becomes part of the nation in the form of a state, through an act of Congress, at the end of a complex and lengthy procedure. But here’s what’s interesting: once a state has been admitted … that state may not unilaterally decide to secede from the nation at some future date. Such was the ruling of the US Supreme Court in 1869.
Just outside the borders of the United States were vast territories occupied by Spanish colonies. In order to get its hands on them, the US had to first help nudge the Spanish colonists and the kingdom of Spain toward a “divorce.” The revolutionaries who were fighting to part ways with the Spanish crown might not have realized whose interests they were serving. The Spanish colonies on the American continent began their wars to win sovereignty from Spain at the very beginning of the 19th century, but those conflicts failed to produce either the single, unified, and free state envisioned by Simón Bolívar or even a handful of strong states. Instead, the result was a large number of weak countries, with the US appropriating for itself part of that “liberated” territory and making “puppets” of the rest of those small nations.
Here’s an incongruous historical twist: after regaining Florida from the British thanks to the rebellion by the North American colonists, by 1819 Spain had ceded it to the US as part of the Adams-Onís Treaty, in compensation for the alleged damage that was being inflicted against American citizens by antagonists located in that region.
From a current political perspective, the seizure of Texas from Mexico is a very illustrative and curious episode. During the era of Spanish rule, the territory of what is now the modern state of Texas belonged to the Spanish colony of New Spain. Later, when Mexico became an independent state, Texas became part of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. In 1824, Mexico passed the National Colonization Law, which allowed all heads of families to claim land in Mexico, which included settlers from the United States.
Slavery was abolished in Mexico in 1829. This decision proved just as fateful for Mexico’s territorial integrity as the decision of Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada in February 2014 to abolish official status of the Russian language in the “new Ukraine”, which first led to unrest and then to the formation of a prototype militia in the Donbass. The fact was, immigrants from the southern US states who had settled in Texas commonly used slave labor, and these kinds of changes were not to their liking. Mexican Americans began petitioning for the preservation of slavery, as well as for special powers and rights, and for the resumption of emigration from the US, which the Mexican authorities had begun to restrict. As a result, the US used Mexico’s abolition of slavery as an official pretext for its land grab there. The success of Washington’s plan was facilitated by the merry-go-round of power in that country: in Mexico’s first 32 years after winning its “freedom” from Spain, its presidency changed hands 45 (!) different times.
The history books show us that the new “People’s Republic of Texas” first proclaimed its independence in the small town of Goliad on March 2, 1836, right at the height of Mexico’s “anti-terrorist operation,” which was led by Antonio López de Santa Anna, who seized power in Mexico eleven times, serving as his country’s 9th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 25th, 27th, 35th, 37th, and 45th president.
Once again, please note that this proclamation of a new state was in no way different than what happened in Donetsk and Luhansk: a particular group of citizens announced the birth of a new state.
And once again the inhabitants of the Donbass look like champions of the law in comparison to the Yankees. Those North Americans went to another state, refused to live by its laws and obey its authorities, created illegal armed divisions, and eventually announced the secession of Texas from Mexico. The inhabitants of the Donbass, who have lived on their own land for centuries, were outraged by the coup d’etat in Kiev, and by the murders, arson attacks, and usurpation of power. Fearing for their lives and freedom, they created a militia and held referendums on secession from Ukraine. Who had the greater right to take the actions they did?
In continuation of the parallels with the crisis in Ukraine, it is worth remembering that the army of the independent Republic of Texas saw a massive influx of volunteers from the United States immediately after the Mexican capture of the Alamo – which was in its own way a sort of Texan Odessa in its effect on the consciousness of the protest movement. It is also interesting that the US government still stubbornly refused to admit that it had had any hand in this domestic Mexican conflict. Mexico was forced to effectively recognize the independence of Texas after being trounced by the Texas army.
Despite its unclear legal position (no one in the world other than the United States recognized the young republic), Texas soon had its own constitution, which enshrined one right its colonists viewed as non-negotiable: the right to own slaves. The first president of the “People’s Republic of Texas” was the commander of the “separatist/terrorist” army, Sam Houston. No one found it awkward that before becoming the military leader of the Texas insurgents and then the president of the republic, Sam Houston had been a US citizen and even served two years as the governor of Tennessee …
Meanwhile, things had to some extent reached an impasse. The Mexican army was conducting raids across the border into Texas, de jure rejecting the independence of that region, but de facto not controlling the territory. In August 1837, Texas’s ambassador in Washington DC asked President Martin Van Buren to allow the republic to join the United States. But Washington rejected this proposal. Not until eight years later, on Dec. 29, 1845, did Texas officially become the 28th US state . Texas initially won its independence from the Mexican government, and then, as a sovereign republic, it was allowed to join the US .
 Texas’s first admission into the US was short-lived: because of the Civil War, Texas held a public, statewide referendum and voted to officially secede from the US on February 23, 1861. The slave states announced their withdrawal from one nation and the establishment of another – the Confederacy. This is what Texas joined. Once that war ended, Texas had its “second act” – in 1870, the US Congress readmitted the state into the union.
 Interestingly, the reunification of Russia and Crimea, despite the different underlying historical roots, followed the same legal chronology: after a referendum Crimea became an independent state, and only then did it join the Russian Federation. The only difference was that Crimea had been independent for a few days, while Texas was autonomous for several years, but that is a mere historical detail.
The presented text was taken from the book by the Russian historian, writer and political activist Nikolay Starikov “Proxy Wars“, St.Petersburg, 2017. Adapted and translated by ORIENTAL REVIEW.
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