Gadsden Purchase

views updated May 14 2018


The Gadsden Purchase of 1853 was the last territory acquired by the United States within the boundaries of the lower 48 states. In 1853, President Franklin Pierce (18531857) instructed James Gadsden, his minister to Mexico, to buy as much of the northern Mexico territory as possible, with the idea of using it as a southern route for a transcontinental railroad. Gadsden, a former railroad administrator from South Carolina who had long supported a southern railroad linking the Gulf Coast with California, was given instructions to offer Mexican leader Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (17941876) up to $50 million for some 250,000 square milesincluding the Gila River basin in modern Arizona, parts of Baja California, and the bits of northern Mexico that had not been annexed in the Mexican War (18461848).

The purchase was part of Pierce's plan to unite a divided country by expanding American interests aggressively into foreign territories, a plan known as "Young America." The Gadsden Purchase was opposed by Northern antislavery senators, who suspected Pierce's long-range plan was to obtain land for the expansion of slaveryan explosive political issue in the early 1850s. It was also opposed by some southern senators who wanted even more land. Unable to stop the deal, these senators managed to limit Pierce's purchase to 55,000 square miles for $15 million.

The Gadsden Purchase added to U.S. territory, but it also emphasized the gulf that separated North and South. Some northern senators who opposed the Purchase were under pressure to do so from northern railroad interests. By December 1853, a rail route that ran through the Gadsden Purchase had already been completed, and the northern interests were campaigning hard for territory north of the Missouri Compromise line to be organized. This led to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which broke the Compromise and allowed expansion of slavery into areas from which it had legally been excluded 34 years earlier. The northern railroad was finally established in the Pacific Railway Act (1862), which set aside public land for the building of the first transcontinental railroad, completed in 1869.

See also: Transcontinental Railroad


Cochran, Thomas Childs. Frontiers of Change: Early Industrialism in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Garber, Paul Neff. The Gadsden Treaty. Philadelphia: Press of the University of Pennsylvania, 1923.

Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union. New York: Collier Books, 1992.

Potter, David Morris. The Impending Crisis 1848 1861. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Taylor, George Rogers. The Transportation Revolution, 18151860. New York: Rinehart, 1951.

Civil War Era, 1988">

the only expansionist achievement of the pierce administration was the gadsden purchase. and even that came to less than southerners had hoped.

james m. mcpherson, battle cry of freedom: the civil war era, 1988

Gadsden Purchase

views updated Jun 27 2018


GADSDEN PURCHASE. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848)ended the Mexican-American War but it did not settle the so-called Mexican question. The United States was soon charged with not enforcing Article XI, which promised Mexico protection from inroads of American Indians. A boundary-line dispute also arose involving territory held necessary by some Americans for a southern railroad route to the Pacific Ocean. The activities of American speculators in Mexico increased diplomatic tension. In 1849 P. A. Hargous of New York City purchased the Garay grant, made in 1842 by the Mexican government to open a transit concession across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Mexico nullified this concession in 1851, but in 1853 A. G. Sloo was given an almost identical

grant. Both Hargous and Sloo demanded American protection for their concessions.

In July 1853 President Franklin Pierce instructed James Gadsden, minister to Mexico, to make a treaty not only settling the issues involved but also securing enough territory for the proposed southern railroad route. Financial needs of the administration of Antonio López de Santa Anna aided negotiation of a treaty whereby territory in northern Mexico was sold to the United States. The Gadsden Treaty, as it became known, abrogated Article XI of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but the United States was to aid in suppressing Indian depredations. For these concessions the United States would pay Mexico $15 million and assume all claims of its citizens against Mexico, including the Hargous claim. The United States promised to cooperate in suppressing filibustering expeditions.

The treaty met strong opposition in the Senate, where antislavery senators condemned further acquisition of slave territory. Lobbying by speculators worsened the treaty's reputation. Some senators objected to furnishing Santa Anna financial assistance. The Senate, by a narrow margin, ratified the treaty on 25 April 1854, but only after reducing the territory to be acquired to that considered essential for the railroad route. The Senate also deleted all mention of private claims and filibustering expeditions. The payment to Mexico was lowered to $10 million, and the Senate inserted an article promising American protection to the Sloo grantees. A combination of the advocates of the southern railroad route and the friends of the Sloo grant made ratification possible.

By the Gadsden Treaty the United States secured 45,535 square miles of territory. This tract became known as the Gadsden Purchase and today encompasses the southern part of Arizona and New Mexico.


Fehrenbacher, Don E. The Era of Expansion: 1800–1848. New York: Wiley, 1969.

Garber, Paul Neff. The Gadsden Treaty. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1959.

Potter, David Morris. The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Paul NeffGarber/a. g.

See alsoBryan-Chamorro Treaty ; Compromise of 1850 ; Confirmation by the Senate ; Indian Claims Commission ; Mexican-American War ; Soto, Hernando de, Explorations of .

Gadsden Purchase

views updated Jun 08 2018

Gadsden Purchase

In 1853, the United States purchased lands from Mexico that had been in dispute since the border settlement that followed the Mexican-American War (1946–48). In this transaction, known as the Gadsden Purchase, the United States added the last piece of territory that would create the present-day contiguous, or touching, forty-eight states.

Disputed Mesilla Valley

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which set the terms for peace after the Mexican-American War, provided that representatives from Mexico and the United States would set the boundary between the two nations. The two sides agreed on a line extending from the mouth of the Rio Grande in Texas westward to San Diego, California , except for one disputed area: the Mesilla Valley in the border regions between Chihuahua, Mexico, and the New Mexico and Arizona territories. Both sides laid claim to this vast area and armed confrontation between military personnel in Chihuahua and New Mexico became a real possibility.

In 1853, President Franklin Pierce (1804–1869; served 1853–57) instructed James Gadsden (1788–1858), his minister to Mexico, to buy as much of the disputed territory as possible. He was especially motivated to buy the land because it was considered the ideal setting for a southern route for a transcontinental (spanning the continent from coast to coast) railroad. (See Railroad Industry .)

A forceful transaction

Gadsden initially tried to purchase from Mexico an area that would have extended deep into what later became Mexico's northern states. Mexico was willing to give up some land, but made many demands on the United States. Gadsden refused to concede to any of Mexico's demands. Eventually, to pressure Mexico, he arranged for a show of U.S. military force.

Finally, Mexico's president, long-time U.S. foe Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794–1876), signed the Gadsden Treaty in 1854, allowing the United States to buy a smaller area surrounding the Mesilla Valley for $10 million. The treaty turned out to be a catastrophe for Santa Anna. Mexico had already lost vast amounts of land to the United States, and many Mexicans feared the Gadsden Purchase was a sign of more land loss to come. Opponents rose up in rebellion, driving Santa Anna from power in 1855.

The Gadsden Purchase accomplished little for the United States, which was bitterly divided in these years preceding the American Civil War (1861–65). Antislavery forces in the United States opposed the Gadsden Purchase because they feared the new territories would become slave states. Supporters of the southern route of a transcontinental railroad were disappointed because the new lands were too mountainous for their project.

Gadsden Purchase

views updated Jun 27 2018

Gadsden Purchase

In 1853, Mexico agreed to sell to the United States nearly 30 million acres (45,535 square miles) in present-day southern Arizona and New Mexico. The United States sought land in northern Mexico for a proposed southern transcontinental railroad route that would include a port on the Gulf of California. It also wanted to resolve a boundary controversy that had arisen from errors in John Disturnell's map, which according to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, was the basis for delineating the southern limits of New Mexico. Factional interests in both the United States and Mexico eventually limited the amount of land that changed hands. In the United States, sectional rivalries linked to the railroad and slavery led the Senate in 1854 to ratify an amended treaty that bought only the Mesilla Valley. James Gadsden, U.S. minister to Mexico, had been empowered to discuss, in addition, mutual claims, trade issues, and U.S. rights in Tehuantepec; yet only one of these issues figured in the final treaty. The United States wanted to be relieved of its obligation in Article XI of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to protect Mexico from Indian incursions originating north of the border. Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna succumbed to the fiscal exigencies of his beleaguered government as well as to the fear that an expansionist United States, which had done little to discourage filibustering expeditions to northern Mexico since the war, would take what it wanted by force. Mexico ceded the Mesilla territory and abrogated Article XI of the 1848 treaty in return for ten million dollars.

See alsoGuadalupe Hidalgo, Treaty of (1848)xml .


Paul N. Garber, The Gadsden Treaty (1959).

Josefina Z. Vázquez and Lorenzo Meyer, The United States and Mexico (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Rebert, Paula. La Gran Línea: Mapping the United States-Mexico Boundary, 1849–1857. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.

Vázquez, Josefina Zoraida. México al tiempo de su guerra con Estados Unidos, 1846–1848. México: Secretaría de Exteriores: El Colegio de México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1997.

Winders, Richard Bruce. Crisis in the Southwest: The United States, Mexico, and the Struggle over Texas. Wilmington: SR Books, 2002.

                                        Susan M. Deeds

Gadsden Purchase

views updated May 21 2018

Gadsden Purchase Land purchased by the USA from Mexico in 1853. It was a narrow strip, 77,000sq km (30,000sq mi) in area, now forming s Arizona and New Mexico. The deal was negotiated by James Gadsden.