(Mexico, the United States and War – continued)

home | 18-19th centuries index


previous | next

The Gadsden Purchase: Mexico Sells Land to the United States

United States troops were out of Mexico by mid June 1848. Gold had been discovered in California on February 2, and at mid-year the discovery became common knowledge, beginning a "gold rush." President Polk was ill and exhausted and declined to run in 1848 for another term as president. Zachary Taylor, seen by many in the United States as a hero of the Mexican War, won the election with 47. 4 percent of the vote – against a Democrat, Lewis Cass, who won 42.5 percent and former president, Martin Van Buren, who ran on a third-party ticket, the Free Soil Party, and won 10.1 percent.

A peaceful transition of power in Mexico had brought a return of the moderate conservative José Joaquín de Herrera to the presidency. But Mexico remained in turmoil, suffering from raids by fortune seeking ruffians from US soil, attacks by Indians from around the US border, racial warfare in the Yucatán, economic deprivation, banditry, more rebellious generals and threats of secession.

Among many Mexicans, Santa Anna remained a hero. Conservatives called for Santa Anna to return and restore order. In 1853 Santa Anna became President of Mexico for the eleventh time, with both liberals and conservatives in his cabinet.

A mapping error had resulted in a dispute over where the border was between New Mexico and Old Mexico, and Santa Anna sold the Mesilla Valley, in what is now southern Arizona and New Mexico, to the United States for 10 million dollars – the Gadsden Purchase – and he used much of the money for political ends. He censored the press and extended his powers, including the right to stay in power indefinitely and to name his successor. Liberals turned against him, and in 1855 he was deposed and banished again from Mexico.


The United States and Mexico at War, Donald F S Frazier, editor, MacMillan Reference, 1998

Santa Anna: A Curse upon Mexico, by Robert L Scheina, 2002

Mexicans at Arms: Puro Federalists and the Politics of War, 1845-1848, by Pedro Santoni, 1996

The Oxford History of the American People, Chapter 35, by Samuel Eliot Morison, 1965

Bear Flag Rising: the Conquest of California, 1846, by Dale L Walker, 1999

Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.