In 1844, the central issue in American politics was Texas.
For several decades, the area of Texas (then a part of Mexico) had been steadily settled by immigrants from America—some of them legally, some not. By 1836, most of the population was American, and in an armed rebellion, the “Republic of Texas” declared its independence from Mexico and asked the United States to annex it as a state. But the Mexican Government continued to assert its claim to Texas, and the US, unwilling to provoke what might turn into a war and also entangled in a bitter sectarian argument over the admission of another slave state into the Union, declined to annex the territory. Mexico, meanwhile, was too weak to reconquer its rebellious province. The “Texas Republic” hung in limbo for ten years.