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a desire to build a railroad redrew the map of the Southwest
The Gadsden Purchase came about primarily because of a desire to connect all Southern railroads into one system and then connect that system with a Southern transcontinental railroad to the Pacific. The chief architect of that desire was James Gadsden, a South Carolina railroad promoter. After engineers advised Gadsden that the most direct and practical route for such a railroad would be south of the then United States boundary, he made plans to have the Federal Government acquire title to the necessary territory from Mexico. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, a friend and fellow dreamer, got him appointed Minister to Mexico in 1853, and Gadsden set about negotiating a deal.
Although Mexico had already ceded a vast tract of her territory to the United States as a result of losing the Mexican-American War, the country needed money. Mexico also wanted a settlement of her Indian claims against the United States -- by the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, the United States was supposed to be preventing incursions of Indians from the United States into Mexico, and to restore all Mexican prisoners captured by those Indians, both of which provisions the United States had been consistently ignoring. The Mexican dictator, Santa Anna, was, therefore, more than willing to negotiate with Gadsden.
On December 30, 1853, Gadsden and Santa Anna signed an agreement whereby the United States agreed to pay $10,000,000 for a strip of territory south of the Gila River. The treaty was ratified by both nations on June 30, 1854, but only after the U.S. Senate had reduced the size of the purchase to satisfy just the railroad's needs. The Gadsden Purchase (as it is now called) encompassed 45,535 square miles in what is now southwestern New Mexico and southern Arizona. The specific boundaries of the Purchase, as specified in the Gadsden Treaty, are:
Beginning in the Gulf of Mexico, three leagues from land, opposite the mouth of the Rio Grande, as provided in the 5th article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; thence, as defined in the said article, up the middle of that river to the point where the parallel of 31° 47' north latitude crosses the same; thence due west one hundred miles; thence south to the parallel of 31° 20' north latitude; thence along the said parallel of 31° 20' to the 111th meridian of longitude west of Greenwich; thence in a straight line to a point on the Colorado River twenty English miles below the junction of the Gila and Colorado rivers; thence up the middle of the said river Colorado until it intersects the present line between the United States and Mexico.
The Gadsden Treaty proved so unpopular in Mexico that opposition to it led to the overthrow and banishment of Santa Anna.
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This page was last updated on December 30, 2018.