United States-Latin American Relations, 1850-1903: Establishing a Relationship


During the second half of the 19th century several forces in the United States, Latin America, and Europe converged to set the stage for the establishment of a more permanent relationship between the United States and Latin America. The key factors?security, economics, and modernization?created both commonalities and conflicts between and among regions. In this volume, scholars examine not only the domestic but also the geopolitical forces that encouraged and guided development ...

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United States-Latin American Relations, 1850-1903: Establishing a Relationship

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During the second half of the 19th century several forces in the United States, Latin America, and Europe converged to set the stage for the establishment of a more permanent relationship between the United States and Latin America. The key factors—security, economics, and modernization—created both commonalities and conflicts between and among regions. In this volume, scholars examine not only the domestic but also the geopolitical forces that encouraged and guided development of diplomatic relations in this rapidly changing period.

As the contributors note, by the end of the century, economic interests dominated the relationship that eventually developed. This period saw the building of a string of U.S. naval bases in Latin America and the Caribbean, the rapid industrialization of the United States and the development of a substantial export market, the entrance of many U.S. entrepreneurs into Latin American countries, and the first two inter-American conferences. By the century's end, the United States appeared as the dominant partner in the relationship, a perception that earned it the "imperialist" label.

This volume untangles this complex relationship by examining U.S. relations with Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Central America, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay from the perspective of both the United States and the individual Latin American countries.

A companion volume to United States-Latin American Relations, 1800-1850: The Formative Generations, edited by T. Ray Shurbutt, this book establishes a historical perspective crucial to understanding contemporary diplomatic relations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The successor to United States-Latin American Relations, 1800–1850: The Formative Generations, edited by T. Ray Shurbutt (1991), this new collection of essays examines hemispheric relations during a period in which both the United States and the nations of Latin America had to establish themselves within a more economically-integrated world order.”
—The Americas

“Éste es un libro fascinador, rico en detalles.” [This is a fascinating book, rich in detail.]
“One virtue of this collection is that it balances the emphasis on resistance to Washington that completely dominates so many works (e.g. Peter Smith, Talons of the Eagle [1996]) by examining Latin American strategies of collaboration to manipulate Washington in pursuit of specific geopolitical goals.”
—The Business History Review

"A very useful addition to the literature on 19th-century U.S.-Latin American relations."
—Ralph Lee Woodward, Tulane University

"Taken together, these case studies provide a judicious and balanced critique of hemispheric relations. The authors carefully consider the merits and liabilities of U.S. policy as well as the internal dynamics of the Latin American nations themselves."
—Allen Wells, Bowdoin College

Provides an in-depth analysis of the developing relationship between the Americas during the critical period from the Mexican War to the Panama Canal treaty. Examines domestic and geopolitical factors that encouraged and guided development of diplomatic relations in this rapidly changing period, looking at US relations with Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Central America, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay from the perspective of both the US and the individual Latin American countries. The editor is a professor of international studies at the University of North Florida. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817309374
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1999
  • Edition description: First Edition, 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 392
  • Lexile: 1470L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Leonard is Professor of International Studies at the University of North Florida.

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Read an Excerpt

United Statesâ"Latin American Relations, 1850â"1903

Establishing a Relationship

By Thomas M. Leonard

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 1999 the University of Alabama Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8843-0



Conflicting Self-Interests

Don M. Coerver

Although the United States and Mexico emerged from the Mexican-American War in much different conditions, they would follow similar paths in domestic affairs during the 1850s: growing domestic discord leading to civil war. The war had been a great success for U.S. expansionism but would greatly complicate future efforts at expansion. The United States was now a Pacific power in need of improved transportation and communication to link its different regions. This interest in new transit routes drew U.S. attention to both northern Mexico and the isthmus of Tehuantepec as possible locations for U.S.-owned railroads. Any effort at expansion was immediately drawn into the larger national controversy over extending the area of slavery. Supporters of expansionism believed that the Compromise of 1850 and its doctrine of popular sovereignty would break the linkage between territorial extension and the spread of slavery, permitting continued expansion into the 1850s. This optimistic assessment soon unraveled in the face of growing national disunity during the decade, much of it sparked by disagreement over continued expansion.

While the United States dealt with the problems of absorbing its newly acquired territory, an even more desperate situation confronted Mexico. Mexico had paid dearly for its defeat, but its substantial sacrifice had not relieved it of any of its fundamental problems; militarism, political factionalism, financial instability, and the risk of further foreign intervention and territorial loss. Regional revolts and separatist movements threatened further national disintegration. The U.S. payment of $15 million brought only brief relief to the endemic crisis in public finances, as the fundamental fiscal problems of the Mexican government remained uncorrected. Mexico would be given little time to adjust to the loss of half of its national territory before confronting new expansionist pressures.

Continued U.S. Expansion: The Gadsden Purchase and Filibusters

The most immediate problem in U.S.-Mexican relations was the implementation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in particular the determination of the new boundary line between the two countries. Article V of the treaty required that each nation appoint a boundary commission headed by a commissioner and a surveyor to establish jointly the boundary, with the results being considered part of the treaty. The commissions were to meet at San Diego, California, no later than 30 May 1849 and mark the boundary through its course to the mouth of the Rio Grande.

The boundary commissions encountered difficulties from the beginning. The U.S. commissioner, Ambrose B. Sevier, died before the survey team left for California. The team took the Panama route to California, only to be delayed by the hordes of gold seekers rushing to the coast. The Mexican boundary commission was encountering similar difficulties. Its commissioner, General Pedro Garcia Conde, was involved in a coach accident on his way to the Pacific Coast; the Mexican team also had trouble getting transportation because of competition from the forty-niners. The net result of these misadventures was that the survey was not begun by the treaty deadline of 30 May 1849.

The two commissions initiated their work on 6 July 1849, with a major dispute over the starting point on the Pacific, south of San Diego. As the survey proceeded eastward, disagreements developed within the U.S. commission and between the two survey teams. A joint survey of the boundary between the two Californias was completed despite various distractions, including the shooting of the new U.S. commissioner, John B. Weller, by his chief surveyor, Andrew Gray. The two commissions then agreed to interrupt their work and renew the survey by working west from El Paso. When the two commissions reconvened, there was a new U.S. commissioner, John Russell Bartlett, and there was also an unanticipated problem: El Paso had been misplaced. The treaty provided that the boundary would run westward from a point on the Rio Grande eight miles above El Paso; the map that provided the basis for the treaty, however, placed El Paso 34 miles north and 100 miles east of its actual location. Bartlett and García Conde agreed on a compromise starting point that corrected the eastward mistake but recognized the incorrect—more northerly—location on the Rio Grande, some 42 miles above El Paso. The compromise boundary that resulted provoked criticism in Washington and the removal of Bartlett as boundary commissioner.

The dispute over the boundary west of El Paso was one of several factors influencing new efforts at expansion by the United States. The territory "lost" by the United States in the boundary compromise, the Mesilla Valley, was considered an essential part of a projected route for a transcontinental railroad; U.S. settlers were also moving into the area, provoking conflicting claims by local officials to jurisdiction in the region. The new administration of Democrat Franklin Pierce, who took office in March 1853, was determined to rekindle expansionism despite the growing sectional crisis. The continuing financial instability of Mexico and the return of Santa Anna to power in 1853 spurred U.S. hopes for another transfer of territory.

President Pierce appointed as his minister to Mexico James Gadsden, a southerner and a railroad executive. Gadsden received detailed instructions regarding various proposals to purchase Mexican territory. The minimum U.S. demand was for the Mesilla Valley and sufficient land south of the Gila River to permit construction of a transcontinental railroad; for this minimum area the United States was willing to pay $15 million. The maximum U.S. offer was $50 million to acquire what the Pierce administration described as the "most natural boundary" between the two countries; this would involve the transfer of Baja California as well as major portions of all of the Mexican border states. When negotiations began with Santa Anna's government in late November 1853, Gadsden presented the maximum U.S. position but quickly retreated to the minimum area necessary for construction of a transcontinental railroad. The treaty signed by Gadsden on 30 December 1853 encountered major opposition when it was presented to the U.S. Senate, which reduced the amount of territory involved as well as the payment from $15 million $10 million. Pierce accepted this minimal version, fearing that a further delay in settling the boundary might lead to war. Santa Anna was disappointed in the modified treaty but quickly approved it because he needed the funds to suppress the growing opposition to his government. The treaty provided that the Mexican government would be paid $7 million upon the exchange of ratifications, which took place in Washington on 30 June 1854; the remaining $3 million would not be paid until the boundary had been "surveyed, marked, and fixed."

Conditions in the U.S.-Mexican border region had encouraged filibustering activities since the early 1800s. Mexico's liberal immigration policy in regard to Texas basically preempted the need for filibustering in the 1820s. When Texas revolted and achieved independence in 1836, the Mexicans viewed it as the culmination of a slow-motion filibustering action that had lasted over a decade. The annexation of Texas in 1845 and the acquisition of the Mexican Cession in 1848 failed to dampen the enthusiasm for filibustering; instead, the 1850s were to be a "golden age" for U.S. filibusters, with Mexico again the principal target.

Filibusters from the United States made repeated incursions into northern Mexico in the 1850s. While Texas continued to be a popular launching point for filibustering, California also figured prominently in such activities. California offered a ready recruiting ground for filibusters where the gold-rush arrivals were typically young, male, eager for adventure, and interested in quick wealth. Expedition leaders often tried to disguise their activities as "colonization" schemes to deceive both U.S. and Mexican officials; the supposed riches of Baja California and Sonora soon attracted the attention of disappointed forty-niners. Several expeditions set out from California during the decade, the most famous incursions being led by William Walker, who would gain even greater notoriety for his filibustering in Central America.

Although filibustering expeditions such as Walker's were uniformly unsuccessful, they embittered and complicated U.S.-Mexican relations during the 1850s. Mexican authorities were convinced that U.S. officials were lax in enforcing the neutrality laws or were actively assisting the filibusters; either view could be correct depending on the individual operation involved. Indeed, U.S. neutrality legislation made it illegal to organize a military expedition on U.S. soil against any nation with which the United States was at peace. Enforcement of the restriction was always difficult and often unpopular. Typically there was strong support for expansionism in the areas where filibustering expeditions were organized. When U.S. officials adopted a hard line against filibustering, it was often because they believed that such unofficial efforts at expansion were interfering with official attempts to acquire additional territory.

Reforma Mexico and the United States

An important factor in Mexico's attraction as a target for filibusters was the chaotic political situation in the country during the 1850s. Santa Anna's willingness to part with national territory both reflected and contributed to the mounting liberal opposition to his government. The need for funds to suppress revolts was a major motive behind the sale whereas the alienation of additional territory added to the ranks of Santa Anna's opponents. Santa Anna's claim that he had sold a small piece of worthless territory to avoid the forced loss of a much larger area did not satisfy his critics. The liberal revolution of Ayutla began in March 1854 under the leadership of Juan Álvarez. The U.S. government had become increasingly disenchanted with Santa Anna over his efforts to develop closer ties with European countries and continuing disputes over provisions of the Gadsden Treaty. Minister Gadsden was an enthusiastic supporter of the liberal cause and was highly critical of Santa Anna's administration.

The overthrow of Santa Anna in August 1855 ushered in the "reform" period (La reforma) in Mexican history. The liberals were dedicated to introducing major reforms in Mexican society but were hindered by conservative opposition and divisions within their own ranks over the extent and pace of reform. The liberals had mixed emotions about the United States. Much of the liberal program drew its inspiration from the U.S. model, and many liberal leaders, such as Benito Juárez, had been in exile in the United States. The liberals, however, were concerned about continuing expansionist pressures by the United States and fears that the United States might be able to exploit Mexico's chronic internal disorder.

Relations between the United States and reforma Mexico got off to an early and promising start when Gadsden recognized the government of provisional president Juan Álvarez on 10 October 1855. Álvarez had been in the presidency for less than a week at the time of recognition, and Gadsden defied the European representatives who had earlier supported a conservative replacement for Santa Anna. Gadsden's relations with the new liberal government declined immediately amid continuing problems with the treaty of 1853. The United States had already paid seven of the ten million dollars due Mexico under the treaty to the government of Santa Anna but was withholding the remaining three million until the boundary had been finalized. The resignation of Álvarez in December 1855 put Ignacio Comonfort in the presidency. Gadsden did not have a high opinion of Comonfort, and relations between the two deteriorated rapidly. In May 1856 Comonfort's government asked that Gadsden be recalled, a request granted by the State Department in June. Gadsden remained until October 1856 when his replacement, John Forsyth, arrived in Mexico City.

Although some of the difficulties in U.S.-Mexican relations were due to Gadsden's personality and personal agenda, more fundamental problems were also at work. The proceeds from the Gadsden Purchase had no long-term effect on Mexico's financial problems, and the liberals were unable to develop a fiscal system that would support their political and economic goals. The liberal reform program culminated in the promulgation of a new constitution in February 1857. The moderate Comonfort easily won election to the presidency in the first elections under the new constitution, but his short, stormy tenure would soon end in civil war.

At the same time the constitutional convention was meeting, the new U.S. ambassador, John Forsyth, arrived. Like Gadsden, Forsyth was a southerner with important political connections. He had served in Mexico during the war and spoke Spanish. The instructions given the new minister reflected the shopping list of problems affecting U.S.-Mexican relations. Priority should be given to allaying any Mexican fears about the United States having "sinister views" (territorial ambitions) in regard to Mexico. Forsyth should pursue tariff concessions and seek a settlement of the longstanding claims issue arising out of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. He should also impress on the Mexican government the continuing interest of the United States in the right of transit across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Forsyth's early contacts with the liberal government encouraged him to believe that it was giving serious thought to agreeing to a U.S. protectorate over the country in response to Mexico's worsening relations with Britain, France, and Spain. As Mexico's principal trading partner and creditor, Britain was increasingly disenchanted with the liberal government's inability to establish financial and political order. France was convinced that Comonfort was pursuing policies that were playing into the hands of U.S. expansionists while the Spanish government was threatening military intervention over Mexico's debt problems. Rumors of a U.S. protectorate had surfaced soon after the fall of Santa Anna; although liberal leaders were vigorous in their public denunciation of the idea, privately some cautious interest in the project was present.

Only three weeks after his arrival in Mexico City, Forsyth outlined his plan for a protectorate to Secretary of State Marcy. Forsyth saw the protectorate as being composed of an offensive-defensive military alliance, a claims settlement, a commercial treaty, a postal convention, and an extradition treaty. The United States would have to make a substantial loan to the liberal government to promote political and financial stability. There would also be a reorganization of the Mexican army, with Mexicans providing the enlisted personnel while U.S. officers filled the leadership positions. Consequently, U.S. immigrants would be needed to "develop the great natural resources of this superb country." Whereas Forsyth acknowledged that such a scheme might be "visionary speculation," he concluded his proposal with a provocative question: "If they could be transmuted into realities, should we not enjoy all the fruits of annexation without its responsibilities and evils"? Forsyth soon tried to translate his "visionary speculation" into reality. The U.S. minister presented his plan in a limited way to the Mexican minister of foreign relations, Ezequiel Montes, a supposed opponent of any protectorate arrangement. Forsyth, however, believed that Mexico's domestic and diplomatic problems were "gradually working to a general solution of all questions" between the United States and Mexico.


Excerpted from United Statesâ"Latin American Relations, 1850â"1903 by Thomas M. Leonard. Copyright © 1999 the University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Mexico: Conflicting Self-Interests 11
2 Cuba: Sugar and Independence 35
3 Colombia: Troubled Friendship 58
4 Central America: The Search for Economic Development 81
5 Venezuela: Wars, Claims, and the Cry for a Stronger Monroe Doctrine 107
6 Peru: Dominance of Private Businessmen 123
7 Argentina: Clash of Global Visions I 147
8 Chile: Clash of Global Visions II 169
9 Brazil: On the Periphery I 197
10 Paraguay and Uruguay: On the Periphery II 226
Notes 251
Select Bibliography 283
Contributors 289
Index 293
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