Between 1803 and 1854 the United States expanded its continental boundaries to include virtually all the old Spanish Borderlands, an area comprising the Floridas, Southern Louisiana, Texas and the Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, California and parts of Nevada, Utah and Colorado). Louisiana was acquired in 1803, followed by Florida in 1819, Texas in 1845, the Southwest in 1848, and the Gadsden Strip in 1854. Spain and Mexico were the unwilling donors of most of its territory and nursed bitter resentment toward the United States over their losses for the remainder of the nineteenth century.
Mexico transferred much of her resentment to her citizens residing in the territory she ceded to the United States. Their rights were supposed to have been protected by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War. In addition to guaranteeing their personal and property rights the treaty assured Mexico that belligerent Indians along the border would be restrained. Unfortunately, the framers of the treaty did not foresee the magnitude of the problems these assurances would generate, nor other unmentioned difficulties that would develop later. These included shifting boundaries due to the Rio Grande's tendency to change channels, apportionment and utilization of water from boundary rivers, land grant problems, filibuster activity and the overall Indian problem--considerably larger than just restraint.
In the Introduction the author gives a general overview of the subject and how it will be handled. Chapter I discusses the development of Spain's borderlands empire, its loss, and American acquisition of Louisiana and Florida. Chapter II reviews Mexican independence and her subsequent loss of Texas and the Southwest to the United States, accompanied by growing resentment towards this country over the questionable manner in which the area was lost. Chapter III follows the survey of the international boundary, the problems of cut-offs and bancos created by the shifting nature of the Rio Grande, and the issue of fair water apportionment from border rivers. It notes that many of these problems were solved by treaty in 1970. Chapter IV focuses on the land controversy revolving around Spanish and Mexican land grants and laws, and the shady practices of newcomers to New Mexico. Chapter V serves as the Conclusion, discussing the treatment of Mexicans and Indians in the Southwest. Although they did not receive fair treatment in the nineteenth century, their rights are now being better protected because of recent civil rights activities. The chapter concludes that the land controversy could have been dramatically eased by more enthusiastic pursuance in the courts. The question now is whether equitable solutions can be reached which will be fair to both present landholders and former owners. Only the courts, adhering closely to strict interpretations of the law, can decide that. Finally, relations between the United States and Spanish-speaking people can only improve with the observance of true friendship and sympathetic understanding of each other's problems.
Level of Degree
First Committee Member (Chair)
Donald Colgett Cutter
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Richard Nathaniel Ellis
Rowley, Ralph A.. "United States Acquisition of the Spanish Borderlands: Problems and Legacy." (1975). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/hist_etds/272