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

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

20 thoughts on “G is for Gadsden Purchase”

  1. I should read more about the history of the USA!! Fortunately you tell me about your country from time to time. Thanks for your comment on the green ants. Of course they are cute, but their bites aren’t inspite of their colour!
    Wil, ABCW Team

  2. Well at least the 3:10 from Yuma had a track:-) Arizona must have some of the most recognised town names in the US (from this side of the pond).

  3. You are just a wealth of knowledge and to think you woke up thinking about such an obscure (to many of us) part of history.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. All these bits of history lie hidden away until they come to someone in the night, and as it was you we can all be Grateful that we now know about the Gadsden Purchase. Before I only knew about the Louisiana Purchase and vaguely about New York being purchased by the British from the Dutch. I think….

  5. So, you woke up one morning thinking about the Gadsden Purchase. You are a remarkable person, Roger, without a doubt.
    Very interesting story, although your John Q. was wrong in supposing the whole continent would be one country, speaking one language.
    —Kay (Canada)

  6. I’m blind as a bat when it comes to colors; can’t find orange. Slavery a social blessing – glad minds have changed with the times.

  7. I’m sure I must have learned all about this at one point or another. However, it seems to be another of those things I have forgotten. A very informative and interesting post.

  8. Didn’t remember either, forgot entirely, or never knew about the Gadsden Purchase. I even lived in Phoenix for a short time. Thanks for the info.

  9. I had forgotten about the Gadsden Purchase. History was one of my favorite subjects in school, but that was a long time ago!
    Happy ABC Wednesday!
    Lea
    Lea’s Menagerie

  10. Thanks for posting a little known/remembered piece of US history. It is a real shame more history isn’t taught in depth as it once was in public schools. You sir rock the knowledge!

  11. I must have been absent that day in US History because I don’t recall ever learning this! Thanks for the info!

  12. Back in elementary school I learned about this funny little acquisition in the corner of this maps, and was told that Mexico agreed to sell the land for $10 million because they considered it worthless and the railroads needed it.

    Actually, the Gadsden Purchase was part of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, the terms of which were dictated by the US since Mexico lost the 1846 – 1848 war decisively and their government was in turmoil. The treaty wasn’t ratified in Congress until 1854, thus the date of the “purchase.” Santa Anna’s government was glad to get some much need cash offered by the victors who could have simply taken the land at will, and was in no position to raise serious objections. So really, the Gadsden Purchase is just another part of the 1848 wholesale conquest that brought us Texas, California and a large chunk of the West.

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