The Capitol Dome

2017 Dome 54.1

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37 Fig. 1. (left) This photograph of Samuel Houston, taken in 1856 or 1857 by an unknown photographer, was unpublished before 2005. Houston was a senator when it was taken. THE CAPITOL DOME T exas is a unique state for many reasons, but one of the most significant is that for nine years, from 1836 to 1845, it was an independent republic. During that period Texas maintained a diplomatic legation in Washington, D.C., where its representatives pursued the fledgling nation's international objectives, which included obtaining recognition of Texan independence, and ultimately, annexation as a state of the United States. The efforts of Texas diplomats in Washington helped write a significant chapter in the history of the United States. The annexation of Texas in 1845 was the main factor that led to war with Mexico in 1846, which was followed by the acquisition of all the territory between New Mexico and California in 1848, which in turn led to the sectional crisis that resulted in the Civil War in 1861. And yet, for more than 160 years after the Texas legation closed its doors in Washington, its story could not be fully told. One intriguingly elusive part of the picture was missing. The legation's papers were initially stored in the Office of the U.S. Adjutant General in Washington, D.C. In 1846 the newly-elected U.S. sena- tor from Texas, Sam Houston (fig. 1), was directed to take control of all the documents and convey them to the Texas secretary of state in Austin. For some reason, Houston instead took them to his home. Most were ulti- mately turned over to the state, but a single box contain- ing over 250 documents was not, and over the ensuing years it passed through the family of Houston's son, Andrew Jackson Houston, and eventually to other peo- ple. Along the way, its contents were exposed to heat, humidity, and Hurricane Carla in 1961 (when the house in which they were kept was wrecked and then dam- aged further by fire). Following the hurricane, the docu- ments' odyssey continued; for a brief time, they were even stored in the trunk of a car, until they found rest in a bank vault. Only in 2006 did they come into the cus- tody of a repository able to safeguard them from further ravages of nature, neglect, and possible oblivion. 1 Texas diplomacy actually began even before Texas for- mally declared its independence from Mexico on 2 March 1836. In December 1835, the provisional government com- missioned Stephen F. Austin, Dr. Branch T. Archer, and William H. Wharton as agents to the United States. Their mission was to raise funds, encourage public support in the United States, and secure the recognition of Texas by Fig. 2. Texas gave this marble statue (by Elisabet Ney) of Stephen Austin to the Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection in 1905. SEE NOTES FOR IMAGE CREDIT S.

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