Boundary secret sparks a presidential spat

Texas History

By Bartee Haile

By Bartee Haile

 

A career diplomat told President Andrew Jackson on Dec. 17, 1829 the inside story of how the Sabine River became the dividing line between Louisiana and Spanish territory -- a political bombshell Old Hickory waited 15 years to drop.

 

The 1803 treaty that closed the sweetest land deal in American history -- the Louisiana Purchase -- failed to set hard and fast boundaries. Negotiations with Spain remained at an impasse until 1819, when an obliging secretary of state gave up a longstanding claim to Texas in exchange for Florida. To the surprise and delight of the Spaniards, John Quincy Adams additionally agreed U.S. sovereignty ended at the Sabine River.

 

When none of the four candidates in the presidential free-for-all of 1824 obtained an electoral college majority, the House of Representatives picked the winner. Although Andrew Jackson led the popular and electoral college votes, he lost to Adams after fourth-place Henry Clay endorsed the runnerup. The Tennessean’s supporters accused the pair of striking a “corrupt bargain,” a charge which the appointment of Clay to a cabinet post appeared to sustain.

 

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