G is for Gadsden Purchase

James Gadsden was a lieutenant from South Carolina who wanted to expand slavery westward into California, perhaps by splitting the state into two, one slave, one free.

I swear I went to bed one night, wondering, “What should I write about for the letter G?” Then I woke up in the morning thinking about the Gadsden Purchase.

Say what?

You can see from the map above that the western expansion of the United States had already been achieved by the time the US purchased this relatively small section of the country, shown in orange. After the Revolutionary War, the US territory reached the Mississippi River. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 from France nearly doubled the landmass. Florida was acquired in 1819 from Florida.

Getting Texas, the Oregon Territory from the British, and fighting the Mexican War, all in the 1840s, achieved what many at the time called the United States’ Manifest Destiny, expounded by, among others, John Quincy Adams:
“The whole continent of North America appears to be destined by Divine Providence to be peopled by one nation, speaking one language, professing one general system of religious and political principles, and accustomed to one general tenor of social usages and customs. For the common happiness of them all, for their peace and prosperity, I believe it is indispensable that they should be associated in one federal Union.”

If the US ran “from sea to shining sea,” then why the acquisition of the Gadsden Purchase? “It was largely for the purpose that the US might construct a transcontinental railroad along a deep southern route [which was not built]. It also aimed to reconcile outstanding border issues between the US and Mexico following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican–American War of 1846–48 … [it was] thought the topography of the southern portion of the Mexican Cession was too mountainous [to build a railroad]…”

Franklin Pierce was President when the treaty was signed on December 30, 1853, and ratified, with changes, by the U.S. Senate on April 25, 1854. A huge supporter of the agreement was his Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who later became President of the Confederacy.

James Gadsden, BTW, was an army officer from South Carolina, a railroad official, and eventually the American ambassador to Mexico, who wanted to expand slavery westward into California, perhaps by splitting the state into two, perhaps at 36°30′ north, one slave, one free. “Gadsden considered slavery ‘a social blessing’ and abolitionists ‘the greatest curse of the nation.'” The politics surrounding the acquisition, which some parties wanted to include much more of present-day Mexico, is a largely unknown precursor to the American Civil War.

The Gadsden Purchase was the final piece of what became the first 48 states of the Union, with only Alaska (1867) and Hawaii (1898) to follow.

ABC Wednesday – Round 13

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