Gadsden Purchase Settles Border Dispute

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

Gadsden Purchase Settles Border Dispute

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.

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19 responses to "Gadsden Purchase Settles Border Dispute"

19 thoughts on “Gadsden Purchase Settles Border Dispute”

  1. Send this message to mr trump it is not that the Mexicans are sent here, it is that we have taken territories from them in the name of manifest destiny. Just look at all the Spanish names of states and cities of the west and south west.

    Reply
    • “territories taken from Mexico” and the $10 million paid to Mexico do not match up. Either accept one or the other. Can’t have your cake and eat it too. While the whole affair smacks of imperialism, it’s not like anyone held a gun to Santa Anna’s head to sign the treaty. Use the head for more than taking such cheap and unfounded and cheap historical shots with false information as you put forth.
      BTW, there is a very big difference Mexico and Spain. Look it up!

      Reply
  2. Sorry, Vartkes, you need to learn American History. The U.S. paid millions to Mexico
    for the acquisition of the territories in the Southwest and California, they were never “stolen”.

    Reply
    • Ken
      As far as I know, the only purchase was this Gadsden area. The huge area including California, Colorado, northern Az & NM was annexed (read taken) by the USA following the victory in the Mexican American War at the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.
      The Aztlan Nationalist Movement wants to take it back because it was “stolen.”

      Reply
      • My bad- the Treaty of G-H paid $15M to Mexico in return for surrendering 525,000 square miles. That’s less than 4.5 cents per acre. Quite a ” steal.”

        Reply
        • Tim, you speak as if this has only ever taken place by the United States. Get real. World history has reflects the premise the victors reap the spoils. How about the Spanish seizing the land from the native Aztecs. Lord knows they were just a simple people who were living in peace with their neighbors, right? You’re naive. The Aztecs seized, brutalized, enslaved, and literally sacrificed those neighbors whose land they took over. As for native Americans, they too never went to war with other tribes, right? They never took captives who were either killed or were slaves until they integrated with the tribe. You have been too influenced by what revisionist historians and modern day Hollywood attempts to portray the so-called victims of the white man. The Egyptians, Persians, Mongols, Zulus, Chinese, etc…have all been victors and rulers of seized lands. Get off your liberal soap box and see history from something other than a miopic viewpoint.

          Reply
    • Agreed. Basically what I said to Mr. Vartkes, since the treaty was a legitimate purchase between the two countries. Good comment, thanks!

      Reply
    • Gentlemen, in all of world history is there any other country that has conquered territory from another in a war and then paid the defeated country for the land it won by victory?

      Reply
  3. I’ve read that Pierce ordered Gadsden to buy everything down to Hermosillo, including all of Baja California. Santa Ana wouldn’t hear of it and wanted a land bridge to Baja which is now the land south of Yuma containing the Colorado River. And he still was banished.
    Before the purchase, the Mexican northern boundary was the Gila River, which is only about 10 miles from Phoenix. And there is a major railroad connection through this area now, through Tucson, bringing cargo from Long Beach and San Pedro to points east.

    Reply
  4. Now I’ve learned to spell “Gadsden” correctly. In school I was never taught these details. I’ve always wondered why we didn’t purchase enough territory to have a Gulf of California port. I wonder how the few residents of that area at the time felt about becoming part of the USA. That would be a deeper look. Of course back then there were few residents.

    Reply
  5. The history of the Southwest from Texas to the Pacific coast is a little more complicated than Kenneth would lead you to believe. In the 1820s and 1830s, American pioneers began migrating to Texas, legally at first but later illegally (ironic, eh?). When Mexico changed its constitution, which it had a perfect right to do, the Texans revolted in 1836 and won their independence. In the 1840s, President Polk provoked a war with Mexico over a boundary dispute. The U.S. won the Mexican War and dictated the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Under the terms of the treaty, the U.S. annexed the southwest from the Rio Grande to California and paid Mexico $15 million. O.K. it wasn’t “stolen,” but it was a little more complicated than simply buying the land as was the case with the Gadsden Purchase.

    Reply
  6. If you want to reapportion the world according to who originally owned it, good luck. That is an impossibility. You start where you are and do the best with what you have. Texas fairly won its independence from Mexico, just as Mexico won its independence from Spain. Don’t forget Texas was an independent country before it voluntarily joined the USA.

    Reply
  7. Is dealing with corrupt governments “legal” or “moral”? It would seem that the US’s ability to buy parts of Mexico got more expensive since the huge amount of land acquired after the 1848 war. But it still remains that the US swindled away some more of Mexico’s land.

    Reply
  8. Texas is interesting. As William says, it voluntarily joined the U.S. in 1845, but “voluntarily” seceded from the U.S sixteen years later only to be brought back into the U.S. in 1865 with the defeat of the Confederacy.

    Reply

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