I was looking at one thing, and ended up on another, again…
I’m not even really sure where I started from. Something to do with clams and rivers, then railroads expansion, and Texas… I also took a detour through canals and the ones proposed for Mexico and Nicaragua. I landed on The Gadsden Purchase.
(That link is the ‘duckduckgo’ search on that term. Having used it for a while, I’m quite happy with it. They provide much more interesting links, not dominated by the Wiki links always floating on top like ‘some other, lesser, more prying spying search engines with political connections on the board’ ;-)
http://gadsdenpurchase.com/ claims to be ‘the official site’.
The Gadsden Purchase is that little wedge at the bottom of the South West under Arizona and New Mexico.
Most of us learn that it happened. That it was after the Mexican / American War (where we got land from California to Texas and up through Colorado to near Canada – those light blue and pink parts. The Oregon part had been claimed by Mexico prior to that war also, so while marked as not a Mexican land on this map, that’s because it glosses over that step.)
At the end of that war, the continental USA was mostly “done” (other than some dividing into States and voting them in). Everyone loves to go through the war and what it meant. Then there’s a footnote that a few years later we bought the Gadsden Purchase. Who? Why? Any background? Those we don’t care about. I never heard them in school.
But those bits are rather very significant. But for them, and their tie to slavery politics (this was before “The War Between The States” – there was little “Civil” about it…) the USA would have been much larger.
The “why” was that some rail road Robber Barons wanted to build a coast to coast railroad. The Mexican succession gave us more mountainous lands than the Rail Roaders wanted. They coveted the broad flat desert to the south. So off went a negotiator to cut a deal with Santa Anna. He was in need of a boat load of cash for some adventures of his own and, frankly, at that time Northern Mexico was basically an empty desert with little productive potential for farms or animals (the major wealth of the time). So they had come crappy desert and we had cash.
The first deal proposed is the one that caught my eye. Not the little minimal wedge. No, it was for more money, but not a whole lot more, and would have included ALL of Baja California and almost all of the set of Northern Mexican States. So look at a map of Mexico, pick out the northern states, and draw a line across their bottom to straighten them out. I’ve not found exactly what was proposed, but it likely would have run along a parallel of latitude (they liked to do that then). Then imagine a USA that reached down to that point and had all of Baja as a state too. Roughly from the tip of Texas over to the Gulf of California.
Would be a rather different place…
Marcy and Pierce responded with new instructions. Gadsden was authorized to purchase any of six parcels of land with a price fixed for each. The price would include the settlement of all Indian damages and relieve the United States from any further obligation to protect Mexicans. $50 million ($1.4 billion today) would have bought the Baja California Peninsula and a large portion of its northwestern Mexican states while $15 million ($419,040,000 today) bought the 38,000 square miles (98,000 km2) of desert necessary for the railroad plans.
Santa Anna was put off by “Gadsden’s antagonistic manner.” Gadsden had advised Santa Anna that “the spirit of the age” would soon lead the northern states to secede so he might as well sell them now. The Mexican President felt threatened by William Walker’s attempt to capture Baja California with 50 troops and annex Sonora. Gadsden disavowed any government backing of Walker, who was expelled by the US and placed on trial as a criminal. Santa Anna worried that the US would allow further aggression against Mexican territory. Santa Anna needed to get as much money for as little territory as possible. When Great Britain rejected Mexican requests to assist in the negotiations, Santa Anna opted for the $15 million package.
Makes it sound like Santa Anna was choosing how much to sell. The truth is a bit more complicated.
But notice the remark about 50 guys trying to capture Baja. Gives you an idea how empty it was of Mexicans. Mostly the local Indians were living in small bands, and occasionally fighting with the Mexicans who did try to take over (or later the Gringos who tried too). That Walker thread leads to an interesting history of someone in California trying to form a Socialist State in Baja about 1910. Another odd thread is that there is a relatively flat and narrow place in the middle of Mexico that has had the canal and / or railroad rights “sold” a few times now. Part of the “deal” included some of those rights.
This link has a much more detailed write up:
Isthmus of Tehuantepec
During negotiations of the treaty, Americans had failed to secure the right of transit across the 125 mile wide Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The idea of building a railroad here had been considered for a long time. In 1842 Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna sold the rights to build a railroad or canal across the isthmus. The deal included land grants 300 miles wide along the right of way for future colonization and development. In 1847 these rights were acquired by a British bank, a development that could lead, Americans feared, to British colonization in violation of the precepts of the Monroe Doctrine. American interest was further piqued with the 1848 discovery of gold in California.
So one other odd footnote to history is that we could have ended up with a 300 mile wide British Colony across the middle of Mexico… coulda woulda shoulda…
The Memphis commercial convention of 1849 recommended that the United States pursue this trans-isthmus route since it appeared unlikely that a transcontinental railroad would be built anytime soon. Interests in Louisiana were especially adamant about this option, believing that any transcontinental railroad would divert commercial traffic away from the Mississippi and New Orleans. Also showing interest was Peter A. Hargous of New York who ran an import-export business between New York and Vera Cruz. Hargous purchased the rights to the route for $25,000, but realized that the grant had little value unless it was supported by the Mexican and American governments.
In Mexico, topographical officer George W. Hughes reported to Secretary of State John M. Clayton that a railroad across the isthmus was a “feasible and practical” idea. Clayton then instructed Robert P. Letcher, the minister to Mexico, to negotiate a treaty to protect Hargous’ rights. The United States’ proposal gave Mexicans a 20% discount on shipping, guaranteed Mexican rights in the zone, allowed the United States to send in military if necessary, and gave the United States most-favored-nation status for Mexican cargo fees.
The treaty was never finalized. The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty between the United States and Great Britain, which guaranteed the neutrality of any such canal, was finalized in April 1850. The Mexican negotiators, hurt by this agreement which eliminated the ability to play off the U. S. and Britain against each other, accepted the treaty but eliminated the right of the United States to unilaterally intervene militarily. The United States Senate approved the treaty in early 1851, but the Mexican Congress refused to accept the treaty.
But in the end, we decided to just buy a much smaller part, and at a much higher price per acre.
The wiki makes a brief mention of it:
This version of the treaty successfully passed the U.S. Senate April 25, 1854 by a vote of 33 to 12. The reduction in territory was an accommodation of northern senators who opposed the acquisition of additional slave territory. In the final vote, northerners split 12 to 12. Gadsden took the revised treaty back to Santa Anna, who accepted the changes. The treaty went into effect June 30, 1854.
While the land was available for construction of a southern railroad, the issue had become too strongly associated with the sectional debate over slavery to receive federal funding. Roberson wrote:
The unfortunate debates in 1854 left an indelible mark on the course of national politics and the Pacific railroad for the remainder of the antebellum period. It was becoming increasingly difficult, if not outright impossible, to consider any proposal that could not somehow be construed as relating to slavery and, therefore, sectional issues. Although few people fully realized it at the close of 1854, sectionalism had taken such a firm, unrelenting hold on the nation that completion of an antebellum Pacific railroad was prohibited. Money, interest, and enthusiasm were devoted to emotion-filled topics, not the Pacific railroad.
—Jere W. Roberson, The South and the Pacific Railroad, 1845-1855
The effect was such that railroad development, which accelerated in the North, stagnated in the South.
The original purchase was seen as adding too much land to “the south” and the ‘negotiations’ of the day were all about the line marking a balance of slave and non-slave states. Had the North been less fixated on slavery, they would have voted “yes” on the first deal that had far more land. In the end, only the smallest wedge possible was added. (Some long time later, after the Civil War, the railroad was eventually built, but even then it was on a line mostly north of the Gadsden Purchase).
The Missouri Compromise said that states below a line could be slave states (after the annexation of Texas it was extended further west).
The parallel 36°30′ north is a circle of latitude that is 36 and one-half degrees north of the Equator of the Earth. This parallel of latitude is particularly significant in the history of the United States as the line of the Missouri Compromise, which was used to divide the prospective slave and free states west of the Mississippi River, with the exception of Missouri, which is mostly north of this parallel.
The north simply could not accept adding that much land below the line. And, in truth, had that much expansion happened, and had the south developed just a bit faster – or the war begun just a decade earlier – the south might very well have won the war and all of subsequent history been much different. It was only the faster growth of northern industry and rail that put it in a position to win (and even then, it was close). The Compromise of 1850 was what put off the Civil War for a decade, gave the north time time needed to grow a lot, and gave the balance of power to the Union Forces. Had the Gadsden Purchase included the northern States of Mexico, it is much more likely that the 1850 compromise would have not happened, or been much less favorable to the north. It is also quite possible that a larger South would have been willing to go to war much sooner. With an earlier start and much more territory, things would have been much different.
Gadsden, BTW, was a slavery advocate. He wanted to found a plantation colony in California and divide the state at the Missouri Line. This was known, so it was not a hypothetical that a larger south would likely have been a slavery south. The guy trying to buy the land wanted it…
Later Gadsden served as the president of the South Carolina Railroad company from 1840 to 1850. In this role, Gadsden and his associates decided to promote the construction of a transcontinental railroad from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This railroad would hypothetically have been by way of the southern route from Georgia through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas to El Paso, Texas, and then through the newly-acquired American land that would decades later become New Mexico and Arizona. Finally, after crossing the Colorado River into California, it would have crossed the Mojave Desert and the mountains to the seaport city of San Diego, Calif.
After a lot of surveying work had been done in the Southwest, it was decided that a railroad across the land that later became central New Mexico and central Arizona would be infeasible. Also, much of the boundary between the United States and Mexico had been left unreasonably vague by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that had been signed and ratified by the United States and Mexico in 1848 (see the article on the Gadsden Purchase).
Gadsden had supported nullification in 1831. In 1850 he advocated secession by South Carolina when California was admitted to the Union as a free state. Gadsden considered slavery “a social blessing” and abolitionists “the greatest curse of the nation.”
When the secession proposal failed, Gadsden, working with his cousin Isaac Edward Holmes, a lawyer in San Francisco since 1851, and the California state senator Thomas Jefferson Green, attempted to divide California in two. They proposed that the southern half would allow slavery. Gadsden planned to establish a slaveholding colony there based on rice, cotton, and sugar. He would use slave labor to build a railroad and highway, originating in either San Antonio or on the Red River, that would transport people to the California gold fields. Toward this end, on December 31, 1851, Gadsden asked Green to secure from the California state legislature a large land grant located between the 34th and 36th parallels; it would eventually serve as the dividing line for the two California states.
A few months after this, Gadsden and 1,200 potential settlers from South Carolina and Florida submitted a petition to the California legislature for permanent citizenship and permission to establish a rural district that would be farmed by “not less than Two Thousand of their African Domestics”. The petition stimulated some debate, but it finally died in committee.
But history is what it was. The desire to balance slave and non-slave states has left a legacy of a smaller, but perhaps freer USA.
Had Gadsden managed to buy the larger lands, and built his railroad coast to coast (and connecting much of the South on an East West line) and but for one committee, having a Southern California in the Slave States, the combination would have been a much different one, once The Confederacy was formed.
So here we have another of those hinge points of history. A place where, though largely a footnote on Western Expansion now, was in fact the place where fate was made. Where a larger USA was halted. Where a Mexico that would survive was made. Where what would likely have become an Anglo dominated central stripe of Mexico with a canal and rail was ended. And a place where the eventual Union win was given greater strength. One congressional vote to buy less, one California committee saying “no thanks”.
After the purchase, Santa Anna was run out of office and no further opportunity to buy Mexico would present itself. The time was past.
Though at least one person is still thinking along those lines:
However that good news continues to be tempered because the state-owned Mexican oil monopoly known as Pemex currently lacks the financial resources and expertise needed to exploit the newly-discovered deep water oil field in the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting capital shortage is further compounded by Mexican law, which still prohibits the foreign investment that Pemex desperately needs to extract the crude.
Last year, Mexican President Felipe Calderon made very modest strides in reversing Pemex’s monopoly but he faces an uphill battle to get any meaningful reforms. This is because most lawmakers believe a national monopoly is the only way to ensure that the majority of Mexico’s oil profits remain in the Mexican Treasury.
Mexico’s economy absolutely depends on oil exports; fully 60% of Pemex revenues are routinely siphoned off to fund 40% of Mexico’s federal budget. If Mexico’s golden goose is to be kept alive and kicking, and if America wants to avoid another potential gas crisis, it is imperative for both countries that Mexico’s nascent monster oil field reaches its full potential.
However, in light of Mexico’s reticence to foreign investment in its dying oil industry, one is left to wonder exactly how that country plans to raise the capital necessary to fully exploit the potential of its newest oil field.
Here’s a crazy suggestion: Why doesn’t Mexico sell Baja California to the United States?
The idea isn’t a new one. In the mid-nineteenth century the United States made two separate formal requests for Baja California’s eclectic array of arid desert, rugged coastline, and fertile farmland. The first came in 1848 during negotiations to end the Mexican-American War. Six years later, a second request was made to include Baja California as part of the Gadsden Purchase.
And, a bit further down, a reference to Reagan that probably needs a little ‘dig here’… was he looking to buy a bit of Mexico too?
But, in inflation adjusted dollars, the southwestern land buy known as the Gadsden Purchase was settled for roughly $30 per acre. In The Annexation of Mexico, John Ross writes that the Reagan administration wanted to buy Baja California for $105 billion. If Ross’s account is true, the US made an inflation-adjusted offer for Baja California in the neighborhood of $200 billion. That’s $5,580 per acre.
For $200 billion Mexico would receive a significant cash infusion equivalent to roughly 20% of its 2008 GDP. Assuming up to half of that will be needed over the next decade to sustain Mexico’s domestic oil production at current levels, that still leaves $100 billion to stimulate the Mexican economy via public works projects and other improvements to the Mexican infrastructure.
For the United States, a secondary effect of the sale would be the naturalization of up to three million new American citizens that are currently residing in Baja California — many of those poor and dependent on government support. But that’s a manageable issue; after all, we’ve been there and done that already. The INS estimates that the number of unauthorized Mexicans residing in the United States increased by almost that much between 1990 and 2000.
As we note at the bottom, the Mexicans want to come to America anyway, so why not? If we can just print paper and put $1 Trillion into boondoggles, why not just print up a bundle to buy Northern Mexico? It looks like it is priced well within the acceptable range. The “locals” are moving this side of the border in droves, so why not just move the border? And Mexico will be really needing a lot of gringo dollars soon if the assertions about rate of oil depletion and degree of dependency of their budget are accurate.
Yes, I can hear the same kind of political demographic arguments rising… how it would shift the balance of Republicans and Democrats, how it would shift the ethnic center to more Hispanic. But if we could get past such things… would not a larger and more integrated USA del Sur be better all around? Maybe we could even build that rail and canal system while we were at it… The South Shall Rise Again? But maybe speaking a bit more Spanish… Or perhaps, just like that canal and rail corridor, it’s one of those ideas that keeps coming around and never quite happens.