“Manifest opportunity & the Gadsden Purchase”

“With the Gadsden Purchase, the outlines of the continental United States had been drawn and the first phase of the great imperialistic struggle for the West had been completed”

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153. [GADSDEN PURCHASE, or LA VENTA DE LA MESILLA]. MEXICO & UNITED STATES. TREATY. Printed announcement by Santa-Anna publishing the Treaty of Mesilla, dated July 20, 1854, by Manuel Díez de Bonilla. [Caption at top] Secretaría de Estado y del Despacho de Relaciones Exteriores [text begins] S.A.S. el General Presidente se ha servido dirigirme el decreto que sigue: Antonio López de Santa-Anna...á todos los que la presente vieren, sabed: Que habiéndose concluido y firmado en esta capital el dia 30 de Diciembre del año próximo pasado de 1853, un Tratado entre la República Mejicana y los Estado-Unidos de América.... [text of Treaty in nine articles, printed in double columns, in English and Spanish, commencing] En el Nombre de Dios Todopoderso: La República de Méjico y los Estados-Unidos de América, deseandro remover toda causa de descuerdo que pudiera influir en algun modo en contra de la mejor amistad y correspondencia entre ambos paises, y especialmente por los respectivo á los verdaderos límites que deben fijarse, cuando no obstante lo pactado en el tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo en el año de 1848.... [p. 7 dated December 30, 1853, and signed in print] Manuel Diez de Bonilla, J. Mariano Monterde, José Salazar Ilarregui, James Gadsden [lower half of p. 7 and top of p. 8, approbations in Spanish by Santa-Anna and Bonilla] [At end] Méjico, Julio 20 de 1854. El Secretaría de Estado y del Despacho de Relaciones Exteriores, Manuel Diez de Bonilla. [8] pp. Folio (32.3 x 21 cm). Washed and stabilized. Very rare (5 copies located).

     First edition of the treaty that cemented the Gadsden Purchase. Dublan, Legislación Mexicana 4292. Not in standard sources.

     The treaty for the Gadsden Purchase (which in Mexico is known as La Venta de la Mesilla), resolved the problems that arose in the tortured interpretation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the Mexican-American War (see [MAP: TREATY OF GUADALUPE HIDALGO SEQUENCE]. DISTURNELL. herein). The initial-point controversy was settled by the United States purchasing the Mesilla Valley (that later became part of Arizona and New Mexico) from Mexico for $10,000,000, thus providing the United States with enough land for a southern transcontinental route for a railway. The Gadsden Purchase also abrogated the impossible Article XI of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which made the United States responsible for Native American raids into Mexico. Finally, the Gadsden Purchase modified some articles of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and gave the U.S. rights of transit across Tehuantepec. “With the Gadsden Purchase, the outlines of the continental United States had been drawn and the first phase of the great imperialistic struggle for the West had been completed” (Goetzmann, Exploration and Empire, p. 263). The loss of Mexican territory, in both the Treaty of Guadalupe and La Venta de la Mesilla, was a consequence of the United States’ sense of “Manifest Destiny,” which Sonoran historian Juan Antonio Ruibal Corella described as “una verdadera conjunción de factores religiosos, filosóficos, bélicos y económicos, que hizo emerger una mística entre los pobladores de Norteamérica”.

     Despite some Mexican opposition, the deal was consummated by paying Mexico the promised $10,000,000 ($244,000,000 today), which was quickly squandered by the Mexican government and Santa-Anna himself. The deal was so unpopular in Mexico that Santa Anna was unseated as dictator and banished. One of the more ironic treaties in American history, the Gadsden Purchase was negotiated to secure for the United States the land necessary for the proposed southern railroad route to California (a line through Tucson was eventually built), and the right of transit across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (a clause never acted upon). In the United States the debate over the treaty became involved in the sectional dispute over slavery ending in the Civil War.

     Louis Bernard Schmidt, “Manifest Opportunity and the Gadsden Purchase” in Arizona and the West, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Autumn, 1961), pp. 245-264:

The purchase by the United States from the Republic of Mexico of the lands south of the Gila River in Arizona, and a small strip along the southern extremity of New Mexico, should not be viewed as a local or isolated incident in American history. It was rather the final step in a program of aggressive national expansion to which the Democratic Party had dedicated itself in the 1840s, and for which the phrase “manifest destiny” had been coined. The Gadsden Treaty of 1853 represented the culmination of the widespread and swelling popular conviction that it was the unmistakable, preordained mission of the American republic to expand over the whole continent. The Gadsden Purchase was directly a result of a major trend in the national psychology of the ante-bellum United States.... Manifest destiny was actually an expression of men’s hopes for manifest opportunity.... The Gadsden Purchase gave the United States more than a route for a southern railroad to the Pacific Coast. Its boundaries encompassed a region of great potential wealth in minerals, grass lands, and fertile intermountain valleys. Today it is a land of copper, cattle, and cotton, and of a climate pleasant and healthful the year round. It is a country of scenic beauty, an area rich in archaeological and historical heritage. It is withal the land of manifest opportunity which many Americans envisioned a century ago.

     The Gadsden Purchase was one of the most curious real estate deals in which the United States has ever taken part. The final price cost the United States about 33 cents an acre.


Auction 23 Abstracts

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