Gadsden Purchase Settles Border Dispute

U.S. #1028 includes a map of the area of the Gadsden Purchase.

On December 30, 1853, the Gadsden Purchase was completed, adding over 29,000 square miles of land to the United States.

The Gadsden Purchase was the last major territorial acquisition in the contiguous United States.  It was also at the center of the growing slavery debate, the transcontinental railroad system controversy, and outstanding border issues left over following the Mexican-American War of 1846-48.

U.S. #4627 – The majority of the land gained by the purchase was in Arizona.

The controversy began in 1845, when a transcontinental railroad was proposed to the U.S. Congress.  When they took no action, a convention was held in Memphis.  James Gadsden of South Carolina recommended a deep southern route for the railroad, one that crossed Mexican territory to reach the Pacific Coast without crossing treacherous mountain ranges.  A few years later, a similar convention was held in St. Louis, where attendees recommended a northern route.  With war looming, the North and South were each concerned with the tactical advantage gained by controlling the nation’s railways.

U.S. #1191 – The new land was initially added to the New Mexico Territory, until the U.S. split it to form the Arizona Territory during the Civil War.

Shortly after the conclusion of the Mexican-American War in 1848, the exact boundary between the United States and Mexico came into dispute.  Secretary of War Jefferson Davis urged President Franklin Pierce to buy the land in northern Mexico for the railroad.  Gadsden, who had been appointed ambassador to Mexico, negotiated the purchase.  After heated debate in both countries, the U.S. acquired the territory for $10 million.  However, the Civil War interfered before the railroad could be built.

U.S. #819 – President Pierce signed the Gadsden Purchase in the spring of 1854.

The purchased area consisted of 29,640 square miles of land in present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.  Gadsden negotiated the purchase with Antonio López de Santa Anna, the Mexican President.  The treaty of sale for the Gadsden Purchase was signed December 30, 1853, and the two countries exchanged ratifications of this treaty on June 30, 1854.

Mexican opposition to the sale was one of the contributing factors in Santa Anna’s banishment in 1855.

Click here to read last year’s discussion about This Day in History.

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  1. Interesting. I’m watching “Hell on Wheels” TV series, based around this time and events in history.
    Thank Mystic & Happy New Year everyone.

  2. Some view the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 as least a partial apology to Mexico for the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848. That treaty which ended the Mexican-American War provided for a payment of $18 million for the transfer of New Mexico, Arizona, California, and parts of Colorado and Utah to the U.S. In exchange for the much smaller slice of territory in Southern New Mexico and Arizona, a payment of $10 million was agreed to.

  3. After reading the comments on last years post and many of the other comments in posts on various subjects from earlier this year I have become convinced that some people see this as a chance to blast someone, usually the United States, instead of just appreciating these very interesting snippets of stamp related history. May the new year bring appreciation for the good things that are presented instead of all the negative remarks. We get it, some of you hate the U.S. and I’ve been sucked into some of the discussions myself but if you want to criticize everything said here maybe you should pick someplace else that deals with more in-depth discussions.I for one am choosing to appreciate these simple glimpses into our past.
    Thanks Mystic for these daily doses of history.
    Happy New Year to all and God Bless the USA.

    1. Great Idea Dave Bruce. I also enjoy the history lessons behind the stamps. So hopefully 2017 will be the start of “STAMP HISTORY COMMENTS” and all the other crap will go away.

    2. Oh, come on Dave, being honest about our history and attempting to tell the whole story, doesn’t mean that the writers “hate the U.S.” As a matter of fact, it means just the opposite. One of the great things about our country is that we do try to be honest about our past. The U.S. has accomplished many,many great things, but the whole story wouldn’t be complete without an open and honest discussion of such negative aspects as slavery, mistreatment of the Native Americans, exploitation of workers, etc. The stamps aren’t just “simple glimpses into our past.” They provide a good place to have that discussion.

      1. Thank You Conrad!
        I happen to Love this country but as they say you have to take the good with the bad as all of this history has brought us to where we art today. To ignore the negative does great disservice to those who fought to make the changes that makes this country great.

      2. You really want the truth. The U.S. defeated Mexico. It could have kept and
        annexed ALL of Mexico into the U.S. as a territory. Instead the U.S. allowed Mexico
        to keep everything South of the Rio Grande and the area South of Arizona and California.
        we then gave Santa Ana $18 million which we really did NOT have to give them . We
        didn’t owe them one red cent. Look at Mexico now and how many billions the Illegals
        have earned and sent back to Mexico. I think we have paid them plenty over time.

        1. We started the war with Mexico. Southerners wanted to annex Texas to expand slavery. So we started a war. President Grant said it was the most unjust war ever fought. That is the truth.

  4. Right on Dave:
    Tired of these collectors using this site as a soap box. Although, I must admit, your penetrating articles are really making people think of the history that was taught all these years and how things really happened; thus sparking a lot of controversy.
    We collect stamps not politicians
    Thanks Mystic: this is the best!.

    1. If we could only “collect politicians” and put them away in a box deep in an attic and then forget about them, imagine how much happier everyone would be while we explore history through stamps and enjoy the hobby to its fullest.

  5. Dave, I wish I had said that. I absolutely enjoy the differences of opinion but detest the constant drone of negativity.

    1. I don’t think that being honest is being negative, it’s, well, being honest. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

      1. As usual Conrad you are a few days late and missed the point. We all enjoy the history, some, including myself enjoy, as stated, the difference of opinions, and some just write to bitch. Do I have to call it a “Debbie downer” to explain the difference? Bring the heat.

        1. I think I get the point, Ed, maybe you missed it. History isn’t all sweet and roses. It is, as the old movie title says, the “good, the bad and the ugly.”

  6. Enjoyed reading the comments of others from 2016 and 2017. One of the things for me that makes America great is that I can openly express my opinion, and not be afraid someone will come to my door in the middle of the night, take me away, and I am never heard from again

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