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Territory of New Mexico


Territory of New Mexico

Territory of New Mexico
Organized incorporated territory of the United States







Capital Santa Fe
Government Organized incorporated territory
 -  1851-1852 James S. Calhoun
 -  1910-1912 William J. Mills
Legislature New Mexico Territorial Legislature
 -  Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo May 30, 1848
 -  Organic Act September 9, 1850
 -  Gadsden Purchase June 24, 1853
 -  Colorado Territory established, removing those lands from New Mexico Territory February 28, 1861
 -  Arizona Territory split off February 24, 1863
 -  Statehood January 6, 1912

The Territory of New Mexico was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed (with varying boundaries) from September 9, 1850, until January 6, 1912, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of New Mexico.

Before the Territory was organized

In 1846, during the Mexican-American War, the U.S. provisional government of New Mexico was established. Territorial boundaries were somewhat ambiguous. After Mexico formally ceded the region to the USA in 1848, this temporary wartime government persisted until September 9, 1850.

Earlier in the year 1850, a bid for New Mexico statehood was underway under a proposed state constitution outlawing slavery. The request was approved at the same time the northern Utah Territory was created. The proposed state boundaries were to extend as far east as the 100th parallel and as far north as the Arkansas River, thus encompassing the present-day Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and parts of present-day Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, as well as most of present-day New Mexico. Substantial opposition to this plan came from Texas, which claimed much of the same territory, although not actually controlling those lands.

Compromise of 1850 and disputes over slavery

The Congressional Compromise of 1850, taking effect on September 9 of that year, halted the 1850 bid for New Mexico statehood. At the same time, other provisions of the Compromise of 1850 established the organized New Mexico Territory and the neighboring Utah Territory and firmly established the boundaries of the state of Texas that persist to this dayy.

The status of slavery during the territorial period provoked considerable debate. The granting of statehood was up to a Congress sharply divided on the slavery issue. Some (including Stephen A. Douglas) maintained that the territory could not restrict slavery, as under the earlier Missouri Compromise, while others (including Abraham Lincoln) insisted that older Mexican legal traditions, which forbade slavery, took precedence. Regardless of its official status, slavery was rare in antebellum New Mexico. Black slaves never numbered more than about a dozen.[1]

As one of the final attempts at compromise to avoid the Civil War, House Republicans offered to admit New Mexico as a slave state immediately. Although the measure was approved by committee on December 29, 1860, the South did not take up this offer. [2]

On February 24, 1863, during the American Civil War, Congress established the new Arizona Territory by splitting off the western portion of the New Mexico Territory - lands that would ultimately become the state of Arizona and the southernmost part of Nevada. The act of establishment, known as the Arizona Organic Act, abolished slavery in the Arizona Territory.

Territorial evolution

The boundaries of the New Mexico Territory at the time of establishment (September 9, 1850) contained most of present-day New Mexico, more than half of present-day Arizona, and portions of present-day Colorado and southern Nevada. Although this area was smaller than what had been included in the failed statehood proposal of early 1850, the boundary disputes with Texas had been dispelled by the Compromise of 1850.

The Gadsden Purchase was acquired by the USA (from Mexico) in 1853. This added today's southern Arizona and a smaller area in today's southwestern New Mexico to the New Mexico Territory, bringing its land area to the maximum size of its history as an organized territory.[4]

Colorado Territory was established by the Colorado Organic Act on February 28, 1861, with the same boundaries that would ultimately constitute the state of Colorado. This Act removed the Colorado lands from New Mexico Territory.

The creation of Arizona Territory on February 24, 1863 by the Arizona Organic Act removed all the lands west of the 109th meridian from New Mexico Territory, i.e. the entire future state of Arizona plus the land that would eventually become southern Nevada. This Act left New Mexico Territory with boundaries identical to the eventual state of New Mexico.[5]

Civil War

As the route to California, New Mexico Territory was disputed territory during the American Civil War. Settlers in the southern part of the Territory willingly joined the Confederate States in 1861 as the Confederate Arizona Territory. This territory consisted of the southern half of New Mexico Territory, in contrast to the Arizona Territory established by the Union in 1863, which was the western half. The Confederate Arizona Territory was the first American territorial entity called Arizona.

The Battle of Glorieta Pass placed the area under the control of the Union. [6] However, the government of the Confederate Arizona Territory persisted until the end of the Civil War, in exile in El Paso, Texas.

See also

New Mexico portal
Colorado portal
Arizona portal
Nevada portal
History portal


External links

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