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The Nation Expands

Gadsden Purchase, 1853

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had described the U.S.-Mexico boundary vaguely, and following the Mexican-American War, the United States and Mexico continued to dispute the border between the two countries. The addition of new American territories granted by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was driving western development, and there were rival plans to build railroads to the west coast. One plan called for routing a rail line through disputed Mexican territory south of the Gila River.

In 1853 President Franklin Pierce sent James Gadsden to negotiate with Mexico. Gadsden was president of the South Carolina Railroad and a former military officer who had been involved in the forcible removal of Seminole Indians in Florida. The Mexican government was in desperate need of money, and it agreed to sell a small strip of land along the U.S.-Mexico border to the United States for $10 million. The railroad project was delayed by the Civil War, but eventually the Southern Pacific Railroad built a line to California that crossed the territory. The Gadsden Purchase included land in present-day Arizona and New Mexico.

Map of land acquired in the Gadsden Purchase
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