William Walker's aggression to Baja California (History)


Richmond Palladium Daily — By Sidney Espey, 15 July 1914


One of the remote possibilities of the Mexican situation Is conceded to be the annexation of that nation or some part of it.


It has been suggested that we annex Mexico; that we annex the northern tier of states, Coahuila, Sonora and Chihuahua, and that we annex the peninsula of Lower California. This last consideration calls to mind the several previous attempts on the part of the United States to make this long finger of land a part of the Union.


Its mountains, fabulously rich in ores and precious stones and its waters teeming with pearls, Lower California has long been coveted by many nations, but it has been of the United States that Mexico has been most afraid. Mexico has long since adopted a vigilant attitude with a view to keeping the United States out of Lower California.


Jackson Offers $5,000,000

The first recorded attempt of the United States to annex Lower California is found in the correspondence between President Andrew Jackson, Forsythe, his secretary of state, and Butler, American charge d'affairs at Mexico City. It was understood that President Jackson offered Mexico $5,000,000 ($151,058,695.65 today) for Lower California and was refused.


In 1828 a small filibustering party led by Sylvester Pattie, of Kentucky, entered Lower California. Some records declare they were merely hunters and trappers. At any rate nothing ever came of this first American invasion of Lower California.


The first real American occupation of the peninsula was during the war with Mexico in 1847. Troops under Col. Stevenson occupied the territory around Todos Santos bay and Colonel Henry S. Burton landed with an American force to La Paz. President Polk, in a message to Congress, spoke of the annexation of Lower California as an assured fact and it was a surprise to nearly all concerned when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo restored Lower California.


Walker's Invasion

The most picturesque American military invasion of the peninsula of Lower California, however, was that led by Col. William Walker, the San Francisco filibustering editor. He led armed forces into the peninsula and seized it. He set up a government with himself as president and incidentally destroyed all the records of the peninsula at La Paz, by permitting his soldiers to use the paper on which they were printed to make cartridges. There was a deep intrigue back of the Walker expedition. Senator Jefferson Davis, afterwards head of the Confederacy and other senators from slave states gave Walker moral support, it was said.


It was at the time when every slave vote in Congress counted for much. The southern senators hoped Walker would make good his expedition, set up an independent state and then gracefully come into the union as a slave state. But Walker also hoped to take the Mexican state of Sonora and there he failed. His followers left him when he attempted to invade the deserts of Northern Mexico and he, with a small remnant of his force, finally surrendered to Col. Heinzelman and an American company near the border. Walker was tried and acquitted.


The next attempt of Americans to gain the rugged peninsula was in 1859 when President Buchanan sent Mr. McLane as an envoy to Mexico to negotiate for the purchase of Lower California and about the same time General John C. Fremont attempted to get the United States to annex the peninsula. Mexico was so jealous of these attentions of the United States to a Mexican province that she invited the Rothchilds to undertake a colonization scheme on the peninsula. It was attempted but did not succeed in any degree.

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