Thursday, August 06, 2009

Jefferson Davis and Mexican Border

To my great frustration and disappointment, the debates in the United States Senate concerning the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo do not seem to be available. They were not published in the Congressional Globe (which is available). Votes are apparently available, but only in documents that I have not been able to find online. The ever-reliable David M. Potter explains why:
The secrecy provisions of the executive sessions in which the treaty was approved were promptly lifted, and though the debates were not published, the journal of proceedings, showing roll-call divisions, was printed as Senate Executive Documents, 30 Cong., 1 sess., No. 52 (Serial 509).

I mention this to explain why the following is not more precise.

In The United States and Mexico, 1821 – 1848 (1913), George Lockhart Rives describes an interesting historical footnote of which I was not aware of: during the debates concerning the treaty, Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis – yes, that Jefferson Davis – proposed an amendment that would have resulted in the United States taking an additional large chunk of northern Mexico. Rives describes Davis’s proposal as follows:

Jefferson Davis [proposed] to amend the definition of the boundary, so as to include in the cession to the United States the greater part of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, the whole of Coahuila and a large part of Chihuahua. This was decisively beaten by a vote of 44 to 11, most of the leaders of the Democratic party, [Thomas Hart] Benton [Missouri], [John C.] Calhoun, Herschel V. Johnson [Georgia], [Lewis] Cass [Michigan], [James M.] Mason of Virginia, and [Ambrose H.] Sevier [Arkansas], voting with the majority. In the minority were both of the senators from Texas, [Daniel S.] Dickinson, of New York, [Stephen A.] Douglas, of Illinois, [Edward A.] Hannegan, of Indiana, one each from Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, and one each from Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee.

The red line drawn on the 1847 map at the top of this post (click to enlarge) is a guess as to where Davis’s proposed border may have been using the imprecise description provided by Rives. Rives does not mention the Davis plan as taking an additional portion of the Mexican state of Sonora, so I have assumed that the proposed border would have turned north along the western border of Chihuahua, rather than proceeding due west to the Gulf of California. I have also assumed (based on no evidence) that the border would have turned west at a point somewhat south of the line negotiated by Nicholas Trist, encompassing the later Gadsden Purchase (and somewhat more) and approximating the line proposed by John Calhoun in his 1847 and 1848 speeches.

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