James Gadsden was born May 15, 1788 in Charleston, South Carolina.
He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1806 before entering the U.S. Army.
James served under General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812.
Then in the 1820’s, James fought native Indians in the newly acquired Territory of Florida, establishing Fort Gadsden in the panhandle of Florida before helping George Mercer Brooke establish Fort Brooke in what is today Tampa.
When James left the Army, he became a planter in Florida and served in the Florida Territorial Legislature.
In 1823, James was appointed a commissioner to help with the expulsion of the Seminole Indian Tribe from their homes in Florida and Georgia and move them to land reservations in Oklahoma.
This later became known as the Trail of Tears forced march.
Then from 1840 to 1850, James Gadsden served as the president of the South Carolina Railroad.
James then began to promote a transcontinental railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
He began surveying a potential route for this railway and learned that the boundary between the United States and Mexico had been left unreasonably vague by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that had ended the Mexican-American War.
James considered slavery as “a social blessing” and abolitionist as “the greatest curse of the nation” and felt that slavery was required to fulfill his dream of a transcontinental railroad.
Then when California was admitted to the Union in 1850 as a free state, James advocated secession of his own state of South Carolina.
When the secession proposal failed, James attempted to divide California in two; with the southern half allowing slavery since that was the part of the state he intended to build his railroad.
Then in 1853, James Gadsden was appointed by the U.S. Government as the new American minister to Mexico, with instructions to purchase more land from Mexico for his prospective railroad route across southernmost New Mexico and Arizona, and to clear up the possibility of disputes over the location of the boundary between the two countries.
James successfully carried out this mission by negotiating with the Mexican government in Mexico City for the purchase of more land from Mexico located in New Mexico and Arizona, and by establishing a new boundary between the United States and Mexico as two long line segments between the Rio Grande at the westmost tip of Texas all the way to the Colorado River at the eastern boundary of California.
His Gadsden Purchase from Mexico covered some 30,000 square miles of land for $10,000,000 and was signed on December 30, 1853.
It was then ratified, with changes, by the US Senate on April 25, 1854 and signed by President Franklin Pierce, with final approval action taken by Mexico on June 8, 1854.
The purchase was the last major territorial acquisition in the contiguous United States, adding a large area to the United States.
Today this treaty is called the “Gadsden Treaty” and includes modern Arizona’s second largest city of Tucson and defined the status of the area that now includes the metropolitan area of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe.
However, as events unfolded over the following decades, James Gadsden’s dreamed-up railroad just to the north of the Mexican border was never built.
James Gadsden died December 26, 1858 in Charleston County, South Carolina and was buried in St. Philips Church Cemetery.
Years later Gadsden County, Florida, was named in his honor, and also the city of Gadsden, Alabama, and the town of Gadsden, Arizona.
Now WE know em