James Gadsden






































































































































































































































































































33 cents an acre. Now that's a good deal!

The Gadsden Purchase was one of the most curious real estate deals in which Uncle Sam has ever taken part. James Gadsden (1788-1858), whose name the purchase bears, was a grandson of Christopher Gadsden (1724-1805), a South Carolina Revolutionary soldier and statesman who was captured by the British at Charleston and confined as a prisoner for ten months at St. Augustine. James Gadsden soldiered for several years under General Andrew Jackson and it was he who seized the papers that led to the trial and execution of Robert C. Ambister and Alexander Arbuthnot in Florida in 1818, an incident that strained British-American diplomatic relations almost to the breaking point. Gadsden was appointed by President Monroe as the commissioner in charge of placing the Seminole Indians on reservations.


While living as a painter in Florida, he championed nullification and lost the patronage of President Jackson. He had long been interested in promoting railroads and upon his return to South Carolina in 1839 was chosen president of the South Carolina Railroad Company. His pet dream was to knit all Southern railroads into one system and then to connect it with a Southern transcontinental railroad to the Pacific, to make the West commercially dependent on the South instead of the North. After engineers advised Gadsden that the most direct and practicable route for the Southern transcontinental railroad would be south of the United States boundary, he made plans to have the Federal Government acquire title to the necessary territory from Mexico.



 President Franklin Pierce


Through his friend and fellow empire dreamer, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. Gadsden was appointed U.S. Minister to Mexico by President Franklin Pierce with instructions of his own design to buy from Mexico enough territory for a railroad to the Gulf of California. It was a perfect setup. By the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, signed February 2, 1848, at the close of the Mexican War, the Republic of Mexico was compelled to abandon its claim to Texas and to cede to the United States the territory now comprising most of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. The territory ceded to the United States by Mexico constituted about 200,000 square miles or two-fifths of all her territory. In return for this vast territory, the United States gave $15,000,000 and assumed responsibility for paying $3,000,000 in claims of American citizens against the Mexican Government. A large body of public opinion in the United States had opposed the war against Mexico and felt that the Southern republic had been treated badly. The territory desired by Gadsden and his group was then a sort of no man's land, experiencing frequent Indian raids. The United States wanted to make certain "boundary adjustments"; Mexico needed money and wanted a settlement of her Indian claims against the United States; and Gadsden and his friends wanted a route for their railroad. In 1852 Gadsden agreed to pay Santa Anna $10,000,000 for a strip of territory south of the Gila River and lying in what is now southwestern New Mexico and southern Arizona. Many Americans were not especially proud of the Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty and considered the price of the Gadsden Purchase as "conscience money." The Gadsden Purchase has an area of 45,535 square miles and is almost as large as Pennsylvania.


This tract of nearly 30,000,000 acres cost Uncle Sam about thirty-three cents an acre.


The deal was so unpopular in Mexico that Santa Anna was unseated as dictator and banished. Gadsden was recalled as Minister to Mexico for mixing in Mexican politics and domestic affairs and did not live to see the Southern Pacific Railroad built through his purchase. When the inhabitants of Arizona asked Congress for a Territorial government in 1854, one of the names suggested for the new Territory was Gadsonia, a Latin adaptation of the surname of James Gadsden.




How different would the US be today without the Gadsden Purchase?  The largest city in the area, Tucson, Arizona would be a part of Mexico. That means the University of Arizona would not exist. Kentucky would have won the 1997 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship instead of Arizona.



James Gadsden


American soldier and diplomat, was born at Charleston, S.C., on the 15th of May 1788, the grandson of Christophei- Gadsden. He graduated at Yale in 1806, became a merchant in his native city, and in the war of 1812 served in the regular U.S. Army as a lieutenant of engineers. In 1818 he served against the Seminoles, with the rank of captain, as aide on the staff of Gen. Andrew Jackson. In October 1820 he became inspector-general of the Southern Division, with the rank of colonel, and as such assisted in the occupation and the establishment of posts in Florida after its acquisition. From August 1821 to March 1822 he was adjutant-general, but, his appointment not being confirmed by the Senate, he left the army and became a planter in Florida. He served in the Territorial legislature, and as Federal commissioner superintended in 1823 the removal of the Seminole Indians to South Florida.


In 1832 he negotiated with the Seminoles a treaty which provided for their removal within three years to lands in what is now the state of Oklahoma; but the Seminoles refused to move, hostilities again broke out, and in the second Seminole War Gadsden was quartermaster-general of the Florida Volunteers from February to April 1836. Returning to South Carolina he became a rice planter, and was president of the South Carolina railway.


In 1853 President Franklin Pierce appointed him minister to Mexico, with which country he negotiated the so-called Gadsden treaty (signed the 30th of December 1853), which gave to the United States freedom of transit for mails, merchandise and troops across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and provided for a readjustment of the boundary established by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States acquiring 45,535 sq. m. of land, since known as the Gadsden Purchase, in what is now New Mexico and Arizona. In addition, Article XI. of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which bound the United States to prevent incursions of Indians from the United States into Mexico, and to restore Mexican prisoners captured by such Indians, was abrogated) and for these considerations the United States paid to Mexico the sum of $10,000,000. Ratifications of the treaty, slightly modified by the Senate, were exchanged on the 30th of June 1854; before this, however, Gadsden had retired from his post. The boundary line between Mexico and the Gadsden Purchase was marked by joint commissions appointed in 1855 and 1891, the second commission publishing its report in 1899. Gadsden died at Charleston, South Carolina, on the 25th of December 1858.



For more information on the Gadsden Purchase, check out these links:


The view from Tucson:

Arizona Daily Star

Tucson Citizen



The Actual Treaty


Gadsden Purchase Treaty : December 30, 1853




WHEREAS a treaty between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic was concluded and signed at the City of Mexico on the thirtieth day of December, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-three; which treaty, as amended by the Senate of the United States, and being in the English and Spanish languages, is word for word as follows:


The Republic of Mexico and the United States of America desiring to remove every cause of disagreement which might interfere in any manner with the better friendship and intercourse between the two countries, and especially in respect to the true limits which should be established, when, notwithstanding what was covenanted in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in the year 1848, opposite interpretations have been urged, which might give occasion to questions of serious moment: to avoid these, and to strengthen and more firmly maintain the peace which happily prevails between the two republics, the President of the United States has, for this purpose, appointed James Gadsden, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the same, near the Mexican government, and the President of Mexico has appointed as Plenipotentiary "ad hoc" his excellency Don Manuel Diez de Bonilla, cavalier grand cross of the national and distinguished order of Guadalupe, and Secretary of State, and of the office of Foreign Relations, and Don Jose Salazar Ylarregui and General Mariano Monterde as scientific commissioners, invested with full powers for this negotiation, who, having communicated their respective full powers, and finding them in due and proper form, have agreed upon the articles following:


The Mexican Republic agrees to designate the following as her true limits with the United States for the future: retaining the same dividing line between the two Californias as already defined and established, according to the 5th article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the limits between the two republics shall be as follows: 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.

For the performance of this portion of the treaty, each of the two governments shall nominate one commissioner, to the end that, by common consent the two thus nominated, having met in the city of Paso del Norte, three months after the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty, may proceed to survey and mark out upon the land the dividing line stipulated by this article, where it shall not have already been surveyed and established by the mixed commission, according to the treaty of Guadalupe, keeping a journal and making proper plans of their operations. For this purpose, if they should judge it necessary, the contracting parties shall be at liberty each to unite to its respective commissioner, scientific or other assistants, such as astronomers and surveyors, whose concurrence shall not be considered necessary for the settlement and of a true line of division between the two Republics; that line shall be alone established upon which the commissioners may fix, their consent in this particular being considered decisive and an integral part of this treaty, without necessity of ulterior ratification or approval, and without room for interpretation of any kind by either of the parties contracting.

The dividing line thus established shall, in all time, be faithfully respected by the two governments, without any variation therein, unless of the express and free consent of the two, given in conformity to the principles of the law of nations, and in accordance with the constitution of each country respectively.

In consequence, the stipulation in the 5th article of the treaty of Guadalupe upon the boundary line therein described is no longer of any force, wherein it may conflict with that here established, the said line being considered annulled and abolished wherever it may not coincide with the present, and in the same manner remaining in full force where in accordance with the same.


The government of Mexico hereby releases the United States from all liability on account of the obligations contained in the eleventh article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; and the said article and the thirty-third article of the treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation between the United States of America and the United Mexican States concluded at Mexico, on the fifth day of April, 1831, are hereby abrogated.


In consideration of the foregoing stipulations, the Government of the United States agrees to pay to the government of Mexico, in the city of New York, the sum of ten millions of dollars, of which seven millions shall be paid immediately upon the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty, and the remaining three millions as soon as the boundary line shall be surveyed, marked, and established.


The provisions of the 6th and 7th articles of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo having been rendered nugatory, for the most part, by the cession of territory granted in the first article of this treaty, the said articles are hereby abrogated and annulled, and the provisions as herein expressed substituted therefor. The vessels, and citizens of the United States shall, in all time, have free and uninterrupted passage through the Gulf of California, to and from their possessions situated north of the boundary line of the two countries. It being understood that this passage is to be by navigating the Gulf of California and the river Colorado, and not by land, without the express consent of the Mexican government; and precisely the same provisions, stipulations, and restrictions, in all respects, are hereby agreed upon and adopted, and shall be scrupulously observed and enforced by the two contracting governments in reference to the Rio Colorado, so far and for such distance as the middle of that river is made their common boundary line by the first article of this treaty.

The several provisions, stipulations, and restrictions contained in the 7th article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo shall remain in force only so far as regards the Rio Bravo del Forte, below the initial of the said boundary provided in the first article of this treaty; that is to say, below the intersection of the 31 47'30'/ parallel of latitude, with the boundary line established by the late treaty dividing said river from its mouth upwards, according to the fifth article of the treaty of Guadalupe.


All the provisions of the eighth and ninth, sixteenth and seventeenth articles of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, shall apply to the territory ceded by the Mexican Republic in the first article of the present treaty, and to all the rights of persons and property, both civil and ecclesiastical, within the same, as fully and as effectually as if the said articles were herein again recited and set forth.


No grants of land within the territory ceded by the first article of this treaty bearing date subsequent to the day-twenty-fifth of September-when the minister and subscriber to this treaty on the part of the United States, proposed to the Government of Mexico to terminate the question of boundary, will be considered valid or be recognized by the United States, or will any grants made previously be respected or be considered as obligatory which have not been located and duly recorded in the archives of Mexico.


Should there at any future period (which God forbid) occur any disagreement between the two nations which might lead to a rupture of their relations and reciprocal peace, they bind themselves in like manner to procure by every possible method the adjustment of every difference; and should they still in this manner not succeed, never will they proceed to a declaration of war, without having previously paid attention to what has been set forth in article twenty-one of the treaty of Guadalupe for similar cases; which article, as well as the twenty-second is here reaffirmed.


The Mexican Government having on the 5th of February, 1853, authorized the early construction of a plank and railroad across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and, to secure the stable benefits of said transit way to the persons and merchandise of the citizens of Mexico and the United States, it is stipulated that neither government will interpose any obstacle to the transit of persons and merchandise of both nations; and at no time shall higher charges be made on the transit of persons and property of citizens of the United States, than may be made on the persons and property of other foreign nations, nor shall any interest in said transit way, nor in the proceeds thereof, be transferred to any foreign government.

The United States, by its agents, shall have the right to transport across the isthmus, in closed bags, the mails of the United States not intended for distribution along the line of communication; also the effects of the United States government and its citizens, which may be intended for transit, and not for distribution on the isthmus, free of custom-house or other charges by the Mexican government. Neither passports nor letters of security will be required of persons crossing the isthmus and not remaining in the country.

When the construction of the railroad shall be completed, the Mexican government agrees to open a port of entry in addition to the port of Vera Cruz, at or near the terminus of said road on the Gulf of Mexico.

The two governments will enter into arrangements for the prompt transit of troops and munitions of the United States, which that government may have occasion to send from one part of its territory to another, lying on opposite sides of the continent.

The Mexican government having e agreed to protect with its whole power the prosecution, preservation, and security of the work, the United States may extend its protection as it shall judge wise to it when it may feel sanctioned and warranted by the public or international law.


This treaty shall be ratified, and the respective ratifications shall be exchanged at the city of Washington within the exact period of six months from the date of its signature, or sooner, if possible.

In testimony whereof, we, the plenipotentiaries of the contracting parties, have hereunto affixed our hands and seals at Mexico, the thirtieth (30th) day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-three, in the thirty-third year of the independence of the Mexican republic, and the seventy-eighth of that of the United States.


And whereas the said treaty, as amended, has been duly ratified on both parts, and the respective ratifications of the same have this day been exchanged at Washington, by WILLIAM L. MARCY, Secretary of State of the United States, and SENOR GENERAL DON JUAN N. ALMONTE, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Mexican Republic, on the part of their respective Governments:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, FRANKLIN PIERCE, President of the United States of America, have caused the said treaty to be made public, to the end that the same, and every clause and article thereof, may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United States and the citizens thereof

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this thirtieth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-four, and of the Independence of the United States the seventy-eighth.



W. L. MARCY, Secretary of State.




Famous residents and/or natives of the Gadsden Purchase area: 



These people of note were born, or live(d), in the area encompassing the Gadsden Purchase. 


Wyatt Earp - Doc Holliday - Sandra Day O'Conner - Linda Ronstadt - Gary Shandling - Paul and Linda McCartney - Tim McCoy - Alex Kellner - Ray Lindstrom - Travis Edmonson - Morris Udall - William Jennings Bryant - Joe Bonanno - Rose E. Bird - Kerri Strug - Rex Allen - Cochise - Geronimo - Dennis DeConcini - Pete Licavoli - Sean Elliott - Barbara Eden -

Will Rogers, Jr. - Ford Burkhart - Burt Schneider - Bonnie Henry

Geraldo Rivera - Sean Elliott - Kitty Kelly - Clyde (Skip) Battin

Frank Kalil - Kate Walsh - Dennis DeConcini - Gary Paxton 


For a complete list of famous people with a link to Tucson and the

Gadsden Purchase, visit www.tucsonconnected.com.

You'll be surprised at who you'll find!


For the best links to Tucson's history,

be sure to visit: www.tucsondays.com


For comments contact: Webmaster@gadsdenpurchase.com



Books featuring comprehensive looks at the Gadsden Purchase can be found by clicking on the links below to Amazon.com. The most recent and best is

Slavery, Scandal, and Steel Rails: The 1854 Gadsden Purchase and the Building of the Second Transcontinental Railroad Across Arizona and New Mexico Twenty-Five Years Later. by David Devine












To view newspapers from across the Nation and around the world Nov. 5, 2008 proclaiming Barack Obama as the new US President, click on the front page of the New York Post above.


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