Partisan Politics and the Mexican Boundary
JOSEPH RICHARD WERNE*
SELDOM HAVE PARTISAN POLITICS BEEN SO DISRUPTIVE AS WITH THE
survey of the new international boundary between Mexico and the
United States following the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This
great enterprise involved endeavors that were at once scientific and po-
litical, diplomatic and commercial. It left in its wake damaged reputa-
tions and ruined careers. The survey produced diplomatic difficulties
between the two nations concerned; sectional strife within the United
States; controversy between civilian and military members of the United
States commission; and bitter partisan politics, all of which hindered
the progress of the survey. While historians have examined particular
aspects of the survey, the role of partisan politics, which is the focus of
this article, has never been explained.' At the center of the political in-
fighting was John B. Weller, a rising star in the Ohio Democracy, nearly
elected governor in 1848 and later the first United States boundary
commissioner. The fires of partisanship surrounding Weller were
fueled by the scheme for a southern rail route to the Pacific and by the
1848 election in Ohio, two factors which proved so disruptive as to sus-
pend the survey before its completion and bring forth the necessity of
negotiating an entirely new treaty.
*Joseph Richard Werne is associate professor of history at Southeast Missouri State Univer-
sity, and vice-president of the Midwest Association for Latin American Studies. He is author of
"Esteban Cants y la soberania mexicana en Baja California," Historia mexicana, XXX (July-
Sept., 1980), 1-32. For the past few years he has been involved in research on the United
States-Mexican boundary survey in Mexican and United States archives.
'J. Fred Rippy, The United States and Mexico (New York, 1931), lo6-lo9; William H. Goetz-
mann, Army Exploration in the American West, 18o3-z863 (New Haven, 1959), 153-2o8; Odie B.
Faulk, "The Controversial Boundary Survey and the Gadsden Treaty," Arizona and the West, IV
(Autumn, 1962), 201-226; Lewis B. Lesley, "The International Boundary Survey from San
Diego to the Gila River, 1849-1850," California Historical Society Quarterly, IX (Mar., 1930),
1-15; W[illiam] H. Goetzmann, "The United States-Mexican Boundary Survey, 1848-1853,"
Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LXII (Oct., 1958), 164-19o; Robert V. Hine, Bartlett's West:
Drawing the Mexican Boundary (New Haven, 1968); Odie B. Faulk, Too Far North, Too Far South
(Los Angeles, 1967).
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/. Accessed April 21, 2014.