Legislative Interests

Committee Assignments

Like their counterparts in other territories, the Hispanic-American Delegates lacked fundamental legislative tools. For much of the 19th century, Territorial Delegates were barred from serving on standing committees of the House. Particularly in the two decades before a standing committee system was formed in the 1810s, Delegates appointed by the Speaker might serve on select committees, and in rare instances, even chair those panels. Inconclusive evidence suggests that Delegates were seldom allowed to vote on committees, and the few occasions when they did were exceptions to the 1817 law that defined their power.96

The law that designated the District of Columbia a territory in 1871 entitled its Delegate in the House to sit on the Committee on the District of Columbia. Additionally, one of the 10 Delegates at the time was seated on the Committee on Territories, marking the first time Delegates were allowed to serve on standing House committees. When the House abolished the seat of the Delegate from the District of Columbia several years later, the remaining Delegates retained the right to serve on committees, but they still could not vote in committee.97 Sparring over the 1871 resolution reserving two committee seats for Delegates, Representatives pointed out that Delegates would have the same status in committee as they did on the House Floor; one Representative said Territorial Delegates should act as “advisory members.”98 In 1876 the House approved with little debate a rule that expanded the scope of the standing committees on which Delegates could be seated to include Indian Affairs, Mines and Mining, and Public Lands but noted that “the said Delegates, in their respective committees, shall have the same privileges only as in the House,” giving the Delegates the right to debate but not to vote.99 Though there were challenges and possibly exceptions to that restriction, it remained intact until the 1970s.

Since all but one of the 10 Hispanic-American Members profiled during this era were Delegates, only four served on standing House committees. Representative Romualdo Pacheco of California was the first Hispanic Member to hold a standing committee assignment: a seat on the Public Lands Committee in the 45th Congress (1877–1879). He also served on the Private Land Claims and Public Expenditures Committees. Pacheco’s committee assignments ranked roughly among the top third in terms of attractiveness to Members. He eventually chaired the Private Land Claims panel, making him the first Hispanic American to hold a leadership position in Congress. The committee, which existed for more than a century until its abolishment in 1911, reported general and special legislation to settle individual claims on public land. It was a significant panel for Members from Western states and territories, of which large swaths were owned by the federal government. Likewise, the Public Lands Committee, which managed all federal land, was a key assignment because it had jurisdiction over irrigation and reclamation, conservation, national parks, and mineral and water rights. After the Committee on Private Land Claims folded, its responsibilities were merged with those of the Public Lands Committee.100

A further expansion of the committees that were available to Delegates, due to a revision of House Rule XII in 1880, opened a seat on the House Coinage, Weights, and Measures Committee that appears to have been reserved by the Speaker for the New Mexican Delegate.101Mariano Otero, Tranquilino Luna, and Francisco Manzanares served on the Coinage, Weights, and Measures Committee, beginning with Otero during the 46th Congress (1879–1881). Created in 1864, Coinage, Weights and Measures was a decidedly middling assignment with little appeal for most Members. Its jurisdiction included standards of value for coinage (including gold and silver), legislation related to mints and assay offices, and national standards for weights and measurements.

In this circumscribed legislative landscape, Territorial Delegates often relied on other members of their cohort to advance their proposals. Future Speaker of the House Samuel Randall of Pennsylvania described the Delegates as “a quasi committee … they meet together both socially and in a legislative sense, and they will seek through one of their number to instruct and enlighten” pertinent committees on key territorial questions. The New YorkTimes reported that once the House agreed to grant one Delegate a seat on the Territories Committee, the group organized “into a self-appointed committee,” calling itself the “Territorial Syndicate,” akin to a modern special-interest caucus. Its purpose was to arrange for individual Delegates serving on various committees to act as conduits for the other Delegates’ legislative interests and concerns. “They will also consult with and aid each other in the preparation and passage of measures through both houses,” the article said.102 Clearly, this occurred in other cases, too, particularly when Delegates could ally themselves with Representatives from nearby states. For instance, Representative Pacheco worked closely with Delegate Mariano Otero of New Mexico, helping him look after territorial interests. In Otero’s absence and at his request, Pacheco attempted to allocate more money to complete the construction of a jail and courthouse in Santa Fe.103 He also presented a letter from territorial governor Lionel Sheldon, requesting that Congress approve the election of the New Mexico Legislative Assembly before the start of its next session.104

Infrastructure Improvements and Land Grants

Print, Across the Continent/tiles/non-collection/p/part1_30_train_print_lc.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress This 1868 print, Across the Continent: Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, shows the importance of railroads for U.S. settlement in the western territories.
Like many of their congressional colleagues, Hispanic Members in the latter 19th century were keenly interested in procuring federal dollars for infrastructure development and capital projects. This goal was particularly important for the Delegates, for whose territories basic public works improvements such as postal roads, railway lines, and federal buildings augured momentum toward statehood. However, disputed rights to land conferred previously by Spanish and Mexican authorities often complicated economic development, especially in the New Mexico Territory.105

Transportation projects were crucial to developing economies in the territories and far Western states, and from the 1850s through the 1880s, Congress actively promoted the growth of railroads in the United States.106 Roadways and rails were ongoing concerns for Hispanic Members of Congress throughout this era. Delegate Joseph Hernández of Florida advocated for the construction of a 380-mile road along the Gulf of Mexico in the extreme western panhandle of the territory between Pensacola and St. Augustine, on the Atlantic coast. Hernández believed such an east–west route would boost economic development, facilitate the location and construction of a capital city, and make Florida an attractive candidate for statehood.107 New Mexico Delegates followed the same pattern. Though hamstrung by the language barrier and all-consuming contested elections cases, Gallegos introduced a bill to construct a postal road between Albuquerque and California. His successor, Miguel Otero, Sr., courted powerful Southern Senators and Representatives in a bid to secure a major rail route through the New Mexico Territory. Romualdo Pacheco knew reliable transportation routes were crucial to the survival of the relatively remote economic outposts in the American Southwest and along the Pacific coast. Attuned to the needs of the shipping industry, he sought federal funds to dredge the harbor and improve the facilities in the Wilmington section of Los Angeles. He also sought congressional support to make the Los Angeles area the terminus for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Congressional control over land grant issues was also an important aspect of territorial development, and Representative Pacheco had a prime perch from which to tend to the multitude of land claims and land grant issues that were central to politics in new territories and states. His assignments on the Public Lands Committee and his eventual chairmanship of the Private Land Claims Committee suited his interest in protecting the property rights of Western landowners. Several New Mexico Delegates who associated with the Santa Fe Ring, including Miguel Otero, Sr., and José Francisco Chaves, repeatedly brought before the House thorny land grant issues requiring the alteration or confirmation of long-standing Spanish or Mexican grants. Land grants formed one corner of a 19th-century golden triangle: By conferring rights to large tracts of land, Congress opened the way for territorial development by railroads and land speculators; territorial development, in turn, encouraged population growth and the possibility of statehood, and Santa Fe Ring members gambled on the prospect that statehood, once achieved, would boost property values.108

Indian Relations

One legacy of the United States’ acquisition of lands ceded by Mexico was the inauguration of a new era in the federal government’s policies toward American Indians. The Constitution prescribed powers to Congress (Article I, Section 8) “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” From the beginning, Congress played a key role in negotiating treaties with various tribes. Reflecting their growing workload, the Senate and the House created standing committees on Indian affairs in 1820 and 1821, respectively. Congress approved the Indian Removal Act of 1830, initiated by the Andrew Jackson administration and premised on the idea that Eastern Indians could be relocated to the expanses of land west of the Mississippi River, freeing land for agriculture. It was during the implementation of Jackson’s removal policies that Florida’s Joseph Marion Hernández played a key role in the subjugation of the Seminoles during the 1830s. The mammoth land grabs of the 1840s, including the settlement of the Oregon Territory dispute and the acquisition of vast acreage with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, brought more than a quarter-million people under U.S. control and into conflict with Anglo settlers heading west. In 1851 Congress created Indian superintendencies under the newly established Interior Department to manage tribal relations, and authorized Indian agents in New Mexico and Utah. At the request of many of these federal officials, the reservation system, whereby Indian tribes were relocated to lands under the stewardship of the U.S. government, emerged during the 1850s and accelerated during the Civil War.109

Andrew Jackson of Tennessee/tiles/non-collection/p/part1_31_jackson_andrew_lc.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Before implementing Indian removal in the southeastern United States in the 1830s as President, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee garnered national attention for victories in Indian pacification campaigns after the War of 1812.

New Mexico’s Bosque Redondo (“round grove of trees”) was one such reservation that existed during the Civil War and its immediate aftermath. Sprawled across a million acres along the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico, with Fort Sumner at its center, the Bosque Redondo was part of a two pronged Indian pacification effort conceived by General James H. Carleton, the territory’s military commander. Carleton aimed to subdue Apache and Navajo in the western reaches of the territory, who for centuries had fought against encroachment by Spanish and now Anglo settlers. “Carleton’s Indian program was harsh and simple: to kill or capture the Indians until they agreed to surrender and live on a single reservation, where they could be taught Christianity and agriculture,” notes historian Howard Lamar. At first the plan was ruthlessly efficient and widely praised by Anglo and Hispano New Mexicans. Forces initially mustered to turn back a Confederate advance rounded up thousands of Mescalero Apache and Navajos in 1863 and 1864, led by the First New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry under Colonel Kit Carson. By late 1864, more than 8,000 Indians (nearly three-quarters of the Navajo tribe) had been forced on a “Long Walk” eastward across barren stretches of the territory to the Bosque Redondo. Scores died on the journey. Moreover, their destination was ill-suited to hosting so large and diverse a group. Apache and Navajo were crowded together; longtime rivalries festered, and the prospect of violence grew. Despair set in when crops failed, federal supplies ran low, and many faced starvation. Once trumpeted as a winning strategy, the Bosque Redondo “now began to seem a fiasco,” Lamar notes. In 1865 the Apaches left the reservation en masse; by 1868 the U.S. government had renegotiated a treaty with the Navajo, who were permitted to return to their native lands.110

Apache Scouts/tiles/non-collection/p/part1_32_apache_scouts_lc.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Apache scouts were photographed at Apache Lake, Sierra Blanca range, Arizona Territory, in 1873.
The Bosque Redondo quickly became a political lightning rod. Pro- and anti-Carleton forces emerged, dominating the 1865 election for Territorial Delegate. The contest between nominal Republicans José Francisco Chaves and Francisco Perea focused largely on the controversy surrounding the reservation. Perea, the incumbent Delegate, supported Carleton’s policy of using the military to round up Indians and relocate them to reservations. He considered his “imperative duty” the advocation of such a course of action and the procurement of the federal dollars necessary “to put these pests out of our way and reinstate our people in their rightful control” of “the destinies and prosperity of the beloved country for which our gallant forefathers endured and suffered so much in redeeming it from savage hands and reducing it to civilizing influences of our pure Christianity.”111 Chaves, an accomplished Indian fighter, criticized the resettlement because of his widely shared opposition to Carleton’s authoritarian methods, as well as the economic ramifications, which involved the seizure of valuable grazing land along the Pecos River to host the tribes; the loss of a potential labor pool when captured Indians were “civilized” rather than pressed into servitude; and the federal government’s repeated failures to supply the reservation with adequate supplies, leading to unrest.112 On this last point, Delegate Chaves chastised the House during debate about a $50,000 appropriation to supply the Bosque Redondo. “I have noticed as a general thing members eulogize the enterprise, skill, and success of the Anglo-Saxon race,” Chaves declared. “Although I am not of that race, still I can feel as proud as any of the glory of this great country. But I must be permitted also to say that great as we are, yet the United States has failed entirely and utterly in the attempt to solve the problem as to the best manner in which these Indians are to be treated so as to result in their civilization.” Chaves pointed to Spanish and Mexican officials’ relations with the Pueblo Indians as a model that was worthy of emulation.113


The nature of New Mexico’s forms of forced servitude—Indian slavery and peonage—did not fit neatly into the long and bitter debate about chattel slavery in the South, nor did it conform to prevailing conceptions of whiteness and blackness.114  

Territorial politics helped obfuscate Indian slavery since it was never legally sanctioned, and thus New Mexico’s brands of servitude went largely unnoticed in the national debate during the antebellum era. The practice of Indian slavery, which began in the 16th century, involved enslaving Indians captured during warfare, and their offspring, to work for planters and mine owners. Occasionally, Indian tribes captured and sold members of rival tribes to the Spaniards and later to the Mexicans; less frequently, Indians enslaved Spaniards and Mexicans. By one estimate, on the eve of the Civil War, as many as 3,000 American Indians were held as slaves in the New Mexico Territory.115 In addition to Indian slavery, wealthy Hispano landowners practiced peonage using nuevomexicano laborers. Unlike chattel slavery, which was practiced primarily in the antebellum South, peonage was used mainly in territories that were formerly controlled by the Spanish.116 Peons (derived from the Spanish peón, an unskilled laborer) became indebted to landowners for such things as rent, farming implements, and seeds and were paid a pittance to work off their debt. Most sank deeper into arrears, hence perpetuating their servitude. In some instances, a peon who had spent a lifetime in servitude would be “forced through continued and increased indebtedness to bind out his children.”117 In one such case the debt was reputed to be $5. Peonage was more visible than Indian slavery, both to conquering soldiers and to U.S. politicians. Northern abolitionists denounced it. In the wake of the war with Mexico, Representative George Perkins Marsh, a Vermont Whig, decried the practice as “that barbarous relic of ancient Roman law, peonage, of the servitude of an insolvent debtor to his creditor.”118

Political Cartoon, Wilmont Proviso/tiles/non-collection/p/part1_33_wilmot_provisio_scales_cartoon_lc.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress In this cartoon, President Zachary Taylor balances Northern and Southern interests by using the Wilmot Proviso and “Southern Rights.” John Bull, an observer who symbolizes Great Britain, comments on the situation.

Several Hispanic Delegates to Congress from this era drew on both the Spanish and Anglo-American models of slavery, and thus owed part of their higher economic status to their activities as slave masters and slave traders. By one estimate, Joseph Marion Hernández owned as many as 150 African-American slaves in a profitable but labor-intensive system of sugar and cotton production on his three Florida plantations. Among other tasks, Hernández’s slaves performed the backbreaking work of draining and reclaiming swamplands for prime agricultural fields.119

Given the pervasiveness of Indian slavery and peonage among the Hispano elites in New Mexico, many of the New Mexican Delegates probably came from families that engaged in or profited directly from some form of forced servitude. However, since much of the practice was cultural and not codified in law, it is difficult to know which Delegates owned slaves or engaged in peonage. Based on census reports, court records, and newspaper accounts, Gallegos and several members of the extended Otero and Chaves families likely benefited directly from slavery.120 Census records from 1860 indicate that Gallegos listed 21 servants in his household, including a Utah Indian named Josefa Gallegos; a seven-year-old Apache boy named Miguel Gallegos also is listed as a member of the household, although his status is ambiguous.121 Tranquilino Luna, who was 11 years old at the time of the 1860 Census, lived in a home with 11 servants, one of whom was an Indian. Fifteen-year-old Mariano Otero lived in a household with two Indian servants, Dolores and Guadalupe. José Francisco Chaves and Francisco Perea, both independent adults in 1860, reported the presence of one and three female Indian servants, respectively, in their households.122

Controversy over territorial slavery stirred in Congress from the very beginning of U.S. involvement in New Mexico. In 1846, during the 29th Congress (1845–1847), as debate swirled about the potential westward expansion of slavery following the war with Mexico, Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania introduced an amendment to an appropriations request from the President. Later known as the Wilmot Proviso, the amendment echoed the language Thomas Jefferson first drafted to prohibit the expansion of slavery into the Northwest Territory in the 1780s. “That, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico … neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted,” Wilmot declared. The House adopted the proviso, but it never came to a vote in the Senate in the 29th Congress. Several versions of the proviso were passed by the House in the 30th Congress (1847–1849), but again it died in the Senate which was dominated by Southern Members.123

New Mexicans overwhelmingly approved the proposed constitution of 1850, which provided that New Mexico should enter the Union as a free state (prohibiting chattel slavery). But the Compromise of 1850, which conferred territorial status rather than statehood, was silent on the issue of slavery. In the 1850s, responding to both national impulses and local contingencies, New Mexicans shifted from an antislavery position to a pro-slavery position.124 In 1857 the territorial legislature adopted a law that imposed severe restrictions on free blacks, mainly a 30-day moratorium on their presence in the territory; offenders could be fined, jailed, or sentenced to “hard labor.”125 The territory’s slave code, engineered largely at Miguel Otero’s insistence and passed in February 1859, established the federal Fugitive Slave Act in New Mexico, codified the sale of unclaimed slaves, dictated the relationship between masters and slaves, and limited the movements of slaves and free African Americans.126

These 1857 and 1859 laws were enacted as much for their message to key constituencies outside the territory as for the few who were directly affected by them. In practice, these codes applied only to a miniscule portion of New Mexico’s population, probably the handful of slaves who had likely been brought into the territory as the personal servants of U.S. Army officers from the South. The 1850 Census, which listed nearly 58,000 non-Indians in the territory, recorded fewer than two dozen African Americans in all of New Mexico, which then spanned the bulk of present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By the next census, there were still only 64 blacks recorded in New Mexico.

Clearly, territorial disputes revolving “around slavery and the rights of free blacks were mostly about symbolic politics,” in part because of “an understandable preoccupation with Euro-Americans as an audience,” argues one historian.127 This symbolism resonated with the key Southern Members of Congress, whose favor Otero curried to gain federal dollars for infrastructure improvements and a favorable ear for pro-statehood arguments. Throughout the 1850s, another study concludes, “national issues of free soil, slavery, and the tariff were discussed and debated by politicians and newspaper editors in New Mexico with great ferocity, but this was more for consumption in Missouri and Washington than it was for the local citizens.”128  

The slave code also revealed the powerful hand of Hispano elites, who were concerned with codifying and protecting the centuries-old practices of Indian slavery and peonage. Indeed, the Anglo officials who were drafting the bill seemed intent on appeasing affluent Hispanos, although references to peonage and Indian slavery were avoided.129 Scholar Estévan Rael-Gálvez argues that Anglo-American officials through “lobbying efforts encouraged Mexicans to understand how regulating slavery and the protection of property in slaves, if not in name certainly in theory, [would] protect their own system, now being identified as peonage.”130

The slave code’s cruel and exacting provisions, including its prohibitions against interracial marriage and miscegenation, suggest that Hispanos sought to separate themselves from blacks. As Laura Gómez explains, the codes “reflected the preoccupation with pushing Mexican Americans up the racial hierarchy” while pushing blacks to the bottom.131 Thus, the code balanced the concerns of several New Mexico factions by legalizing the territory’s version of the “peculiar institution” of slavery by placing New Mexico in the pro-slavery column—an important step in Otero’s mind toward statehood and toward receiving appropriations from powerful Southern politicians in a Democratic led Congress—and by reaffirming the place of Hispanos relative to the place of blacks in the social order of the antebellum era.132

Horace Greeley of New York/tiles/non-collection/p/part1_34_greely_horace_lc.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress The publisher of the New York Tribune and an intense partisan, Horace Greeley developed a national reputation as a provocateur. He served for one term as a Representative in the 30th Congress (1847–1849).
Weeks before Miguel Otero’s tenure as Delegate expired at the end of the 36th Congress (1859–1861), Horace Greeley, the mercurial editor of the New York Tribune and a notorious Republican partisan, published a scathing editorial blasting New Mexico for the “signal atrocity and inhumanity” of its slave code and its long-standing peonage system. Greeley briefly criticized the Democratic administrations of Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan for what he described as their schemes to move New Mexico into the slave state column, but much of his bile was reserved for the mixed racial heritage of the territory. “The mass of the people are Mexicans—a hybrid of Spanish and Indian origin,” he said. “They are ignorant and degraded, demoralized, and priest-ridden.” The political system, he continued, was dominated by a handful of “able and unscrupulous men.… The masses are their blind, facile tools. There is no Press of any account; no Public Opinion; of course, no Republican party. Slavery rules all.” Needless to say, Greeley flatly opposed the extension of statehood to the territory.133

Otero characterized Greeley’s “unscrupulous exaggerations” as “utterly, maliciously, and basely false.” But he did more than dutifully defend his constituents. Otero’s lengthy refutation of racial mixing showed that his principal concern was drawing a distinct racial line. He emphasized the separateness of Hispanos like himself, who claimed descent from Spanish conquistadores, from those who were American Indians. “At the close of the seventeenth century … to the present day the Indians within the settlements have occupied pueblos or towns exclusively set apart for them, and they have scrupulously refrained from intercourse with the Spanish population excepting so far as became necessary for the ordinary transaction of business,” Otero explained. Further, he noted the lack of intermarriage between the groups: The “two races have never amalgamated; and although the Spanish blood has sometimes manifested itself on the aboriginal race, and the Indian blood less frequently on the Spanish race, those instances are of rare occurrence—so rare as to render the sweeping allegation that the mass of the people of New Mexico are a hybrid race … grossly defamatory and shamefully mendacious.”134

Stephen Elkins of West Virginia/tiles/non-collection/p/part1_35_elkins_stephen_lc.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Stephen Elkins served as a Union Army captain in the Civil War. A prominent politician in the New Mexico Territory, Elkins moved to West Virginia and served as a U.S. Senator from 1895 until his death in 1911.

After the abolition of chattel slavery, federal officials viewed the practice of peonage in the New Mexico Territory more harshly. President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation in June 1865 requiring all federal employees to discontinue peonage and to work to end the practice. Even after the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865 and the Civil Rights Bill of 1866, Congress felt compelled to address directly New Mexico’s forms of servitude. In the closing days of the 39th Congress (1865–1867), Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson introduced S. 543, a bill “to abolish and forever prohibit the system of peonage in the Territory of New Mexico and other parts of the United States.” Its three main provisions were to prohibit peonage and invalidate all supporting legislation; to impose penalties of up to $5,000 and five years in prison for all violations; and to obligate civil servants and soldiers to enforce the law. Radicals in both chambers backed the legislation—as did Santa Fe Ring leader Stephen Elkins, who was motivated as much by a desire to weaken Hispano elites as by altruism.135 The bill passed the House with little debate on March 2, 1867, and was signed into law shortly thereafter.136 Chaves, then a Territorial Delegate, did not address the House about the bill at any time during the 39th Congress.


Compromise of 1850/tiles/non-collection/p/part1_36_1850_comp_lc.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress In this 1855 painting, Henry Clay of Kentucky speaks to Senate colleagues about the Compromise of 1850. The other members of the Great Triumvirate—Senators Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina—are seated nearby.
Perhaps the most complicated issue faced by the Territorial Delegates was statehood, both because of opposition in the national capital and because so many New Mexicans (both Anglos and Hispanos) were deeply ambivalent about it for so long.137 From 1848 through 1898, the push for statehood grew in fits and starts. In the brief period leading up to the Compromise of 1850, statehood was promoted as a necessity to stave off Texan encroachment on the eastern section of the territory. In the 1870s, the ever-ambitious Santa Fe Ring championed statehood, in no small measure because many Ring members viewed themselves as natural administrators for a future state. And by the late 1880s, the movement gained renewed life as Anglos moved to the territory and became demographically equal to the nuevomexicanos.138

Among the Delegates of this era, Chaves was the most eloquent advocate for statehood, noting that until New Mexico was a full member of the Union, its laws and officials would be imposed by Congress and recalled at will. In an open letter to constituents, Chaves savaged the territorial appointment process: “Your governor … and your judges … are now elected by people who have never set foot on your soil, who are ignorant of the nature of your country and the needs of its people and who have no special interest in your well being.” While “some of the servants sent from Washington … have been capable, honorable, and trustworthy,” Chaves acknowledged, “the preponderance have been the reverse.” Chaves told his constituents they were “tormented by the insertion of politicians who … finished their careers in the states and … hope to find in your midst a new field for their political adventures.” “Under a state government … your laws would be your own laws, to be modified, amended, and repealed solely by your own will,” he added.139

Partisanship and prejudice created obstacles at the federal level. New Mexico’s solid Republicanism in the latter 19th century worked to its detriment in Democratically controlled Congresses in the post-Reconstruction Era, particularly in those that were closely divided between the parties. But even more invidious was the portrayal—in the press and in speeches on the House and Senate Floors—of nuevomexicanos as indolent, ignorant, and irredeemably papist.140 The pervasiveness of this sentiment during a debate on statehood at the end of the 50th Congress (1887–1889) caused Representative William McAdoo of New Jersey to complain that prejudice seemed to have trumped even political considerations. He described the Senate’s stripping New Mexico from a House-passed omnibus statehood bill for the Dakotas, Montana, and Washington state as “a gross act of injustice to the people of New Mexico.” The debate, he noted, had been colored by an “insidious calumniation and narrow-minded misrepresentation” of native New Mexicans. The territory’s contributions to the Union side in the Civil War were proof of the patriotism and loyalty of New Mexicans, McAdoo insisted. “These Spanish-Americans of New Mexico are Americans by birth, sympathy, and education, and have so testified on the field of battle.”141

William McAdoo of New Jersey/tiles/non-collection/p/part1_37_mcadoo_william_lc.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress William McAdoo emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1865. He served in the New Jersey state assembly before winning election to Congress for four terms. McAdoo chaired the House Committee on the Militia during the 50th Congress (1887–1889).

Although strong elements in the Eastern press and key politicians in Washington, D.C., were against New Mexican statehood, this opposition was not the main reason New Mexico remained a territory for more than 60 years. Indeed, many New Mexicans, if not most, seemed content to defer statehood. Of the Hispano Delegates from 19th-century New Mexico, only Miguel Otero, Francisco Perea, and Chaves ardently advocated statehood. Gallegos strenuously opposed it. Most Territorial Delegates were ambivalent or did not serve long enough in the national capital to record an opinion, reflecting most nuevomexicanos’ perceptions of statehood as a threat to their economic and political status, and as the means by which their culture would be diluted. Anglo-Americans, particularly in the southern portions of the territory, thought statehood would only lead to tyranny imposed by a nuevomexicano majority until more Anglo settlers arrived. In fact, only small, vocal groups consistently championed the idea. Stephen Elkins, the Santa Fe Ring boss, saw statehood as a vehicle for the dominant Santa Fe class of politicians to cement their control of the state; a minority of Hispano elites considered statehood a means to achieve home rule and minimize Anglo usurpations.142

Next Section


96For more on this complex issue, see Palmer, “Delegates to the U.S. Congress: History and Current Status”: 1–12; see especially pp. 7–10.

97Certainly by 1884, when a proposal to grant Territorial Delegates the right to vote in committee died in the Rules Committee, it is clear that Delegates were not empowered to act as full members of standing committees. See Palmer, “Delegates to the U.S. Congress: History and Current Status”: 8.

98See the floor debate in the Congressional Globe, House, 42nd Cong., 2nd sess. (13 December 1871): 117–118; for more on precedent, see Hinds’ Precedents of the House of Representatives, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1907): 864–856.

99Congressional Record, House, 44th Cong., 1st sess. (29 March 1876): 2035.

100For a useful jurisdictional summary, see Charles E. Schamel, ed., et al., Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives: 1789–1989 Bicentennial Edition (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1989): 89; 181–185; published as House Document no. 100–245, 100th Cong., 2nd sess. Eventually, the panel’s responsibilities were transferred to the Banking and Currency Committee and the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee. For an analysis of committee attractiveness to Members, see Charles Stewart III, “Committee Hierarchies in the Modernizing House, 1875–1947,” American Journal of Political Science 36, no. 4 (November 1992): 835–856; see especially Stewart’s table on “Committee Attractiveness,” pp. 845–846.

101Schamel et al., Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives: 71–72.

102Congressional Globe, House, 42nd Cong., 2nd sess. (13 December 1871): 118; “The National Capital: Territorial Syndicate,” (14 December 1871) New York Times: 1. Gallegos had been returned to the House for a single term and likely would have interacted with the syndicate, although there is no definitive evidence of his membership.

103Congressional Record, House, 46th Cong., 3rd sess. (22 February 1881): 1955.

104Congressional Record, House, 47th Cong., 1st sess. (21 December 1881): 241.

105For more information about the competition for federal government resources between different sections of the United States in this era, see Richard F. Bensel, Sectionalism and American Political Development: 1880–1980 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984): 22–59, especially pp. 50–51. For a summary of a 19th-century Delegate’s powers and privileges, see Pomeroy, The Territories and the United States, 1861–1890: 80–89. For a brief explanation of the complications of settling land grants in New Mexico, see Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: A Territorial History: 123–128.

106For an overview of Congress and its efforts to promote railroad development and, later, regulation, see Wallace D. Farnham, “Railroads,” in The Encyclopedia of the U.S. Congress, vol. 3 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995): 1660–1666. For a technical analysis of congressional land grant policy for railroads, see Lloyd J. Mercer, Railroads and Land Grant Policy: A Study in Government Intervention (New York: Academic Press, 1982).

107Clarence Carter, ed., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Vol. XXII: The Territory of Florida, 1821–1824 (New York: AMS Press, 1972; reprint of 1934 edition): 642–643.

108See, for example, Larson, New Mexico’s Quest for Statehood: 144–145. For a detailed overview of the New Mexico land grant issue, see Malcolm Ebright, Land Grants and Lawsuits in Northern New Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994).

109For an overview of American Indians’ experiences during three centuries of Spanish rule in the lands eventually acquired by the United States in the Mexican cession, see Albert H. Schroeder, “Shifting for Survival in the Spanish Southwest,” in David J. Weber, New Spain’s Far Northern Frontier: Essays on Spain in the American West, 1540–1821 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1979): 237–255. For a survey of congressional Indian policy from 1789 forward, see Frederick E. Hoxie, “Indian Policy,” in The Encyclopedia of the U.S. Congress, vol. 2 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995): 1112–1119; and Robert Bee, The Politics of American Indian Policy (Cambridge, MA: Scheckman, 1982).

110See Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: A Territorial History: 106–111. For a description of the Bosque Redondo Reservation experience from the Navajos’ perspective, see Peter Iverson, Diné: A History of the Navajos (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002): 48–65. For more information on the Bosque Redondo, see “Bosque Redondo Memorial,” New Mexico State Monuments Web Page, maintained by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, http://www.nmmonuments.org/inst.php?inst=8 (accessed 15 April 2010).

111Francisco Perea, “To the People of New Mexico,” 13 June 1863, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 2.

112See Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: A Territorial History: 106–111; and Robert M. Utley, The Indian Frontier, 1846–1890, rev. ed. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2003): 82–86.

113Congressional Globe, House, 39th Cong., 2nd sess. (19 February 1867): 1344–1345.

114Gómez, Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race: 81–115; Estévan Rael-Gálvez, “Identifying Captivity and Capturing Identity: Narratives of American Indian Slavery in Colorado and New Mexico, 1776–1934,” Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 2002; and James F. Brooks, Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community on the Southwest Borderlands (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press/Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2002). One classic study is L. R. Bailey’s Indian Slave Trade in the Southwest: A Study of Slave-Taking and the Traffic in Indian Captives (Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1966).

115Alvin R. Sunseri, Seeds of Discord: New Mexico in the Aftermath of the American Conquest, 1846–1861 (Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall, 1979): 59–64. For a more conservative estimate, of roughly 600 individuals, in 1860, see Lawrence Murphy, “Reconstruction in New Mexico,” New Mexico Historical Review 43, no. 2 (April 1968): 100.

116No single authoritative book exists on peonage in New Mexico in the latter half of the 19th century. A few works that address the practice are Sunseri, Seeds of Discord: 38–42; Clark S. Knowlton, “Patron-Peon Pattern among the Spanish Americans of New Mexico,” Social Forces 41, no. 1 (October 1962): 12–17; and David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846: The American Southwest under Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982): 211–213. Pete Daniel, The Shadow of Slavery: Peonage in the South, 1901–1969 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), describes many of the aspects of peonage as it was practiced in the postbellum South before the civil rights movement.

117Sunseri, Seeds of Discord: 40–41; Knowlton, “Patron-Peon Pattern among the Spanish Americans of New Mexico”: 12–17; Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846: 212. Knowlton identifies two predominant forms of the patron-peon relationship: large landowners and village patrons. In contrast to the perpetual condition of chattel slavery for African Americans in the U.S. South, Weber argues that a “peon was not legally a slave nor was peonage limited to one race. Peonage was viewed as a condition of class and bad fortune. A peon could … end his obligation by paying off his debt, and his condition was not hereditary.”

118“On Slavery in the Territories of Oregon, California, and New Mexico,” Congressional Globe, Appendix, 30th Cong., 1st sess. (3 August 1848): 1072–1076; quotation on p. 1072. Derived from Spain, peonage foreshadowed some aspects of the share-cropping system that evolved in the postbellum South, but peonage commenced when a worker was forcibly restrained at a task (e.g., mining, herding, working as a domestic servant) because of indebtedness. For the Southern planter in 1900 and the New Mexican rico in 1850, peonage conferred many of the economic benefits and few of the disadvantages of chattel slavery. Overseers profited handsomely from the work of their laborers without expending a large outlay of capital to purchase them or providing for them in their old age. See Pete Daniel, The Shadow of Slavery: 16, 23–24. A synthetic treatment of peonage as it was practiced in the New Mexico Territory from the 1840s through the 1860s has not been published.

119Linville, “Cultural Assimilation in Frontier Florida: The Life of Joseph M. Hernandez, 1788–1857”: 17–19.

120While some of the evidence is circumstantial, in its totality it is highly suggestive of complicity in slave-owning or trading. Unsurprisingly perhaps, it implicates the three Delegates who were the wealthiest Hispanos in Congress in that era. Miguel Otero’s father, according to court records, was engaged in Indian slave trading in Taos; see Rael-Gálvez, “Identifying Captivity and Capturing Identity: Narratives of American Indian Slavery in Colorado and New Mexico, 1776–1934”: 193, footnote 362. According to Lawrence Murphy, Chaves’s family “owned more peons and Indian slaves than anyone in the Territory”; see Murphy, “Reconstruction in New Mexico”: 101. Carlos Ramirez notes that Gallegos, according to 1860 Census records, listed 21 “servants” living in his household. See Ramirez, “The Hispanic Political Elite in Territorial New Mexico: A Study of Classical Colonialism”: 269.

121Eighth Census of the United States, 1860: Population Schedule, Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory, microfilm, Roll M653_714, pages 491–92, http://search.ancestrylibrary. com (accessed 6 May 2010). Ten years later, after the Civil War, records indicate that Gallegos declared that three female Indian servants, all illiterate, lived in his household. See Ninth Census of the United States, 1870: Population Schedule, Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory, microfilm, Roll M593_896, page 357A, http://search.ancestrylibrary.com (accessed 6 May 2010).

122For Tranquilino Luna, see Eighth Census of the United States, 1860: Population Schedule, Los Lunas, Valencia, New Mexico Territory, microfilm, Roll M653_716, page 661. For Mariano Otero, see Eighth Census of the United States, 1860: Population Schedule, Valencia, Valencia, New Mexico Territory, microfilm, Roll M653_716, page 747. For José Francisco Chaves, see Eighth Census of the United States, 1860: Population Schedule, Los Pinos, Bernalillo, New Mexico Territory, microfilm, Roll M653_712, page 160. For Francisco Perea, see Eighth Census of the United States, 1860: Population Schedule, Alameda, Bernalillo, New Mexico Territory, microfilm, Roll M653_712, page 93. In 1870 Perea listed two of the same women as members of his household; one of them lived under his roof until she was in her 80s. See Ninth Census of the United States, 1870: Population Schedule, Bernalillo East, Bernalillo, New Mexico Territory, microfilm, Roll M593_893, page 40A, http://search.ancestrylibrary. com (accessed 6 May 2010).

123For more on the Wilmot Proviso and the origins of the short-lived Free-Soil Party it spawned, see Eric Foner, “The Wilmot Proviso Revisited,” Journal of American History 56 (1969): 262–279. For the original introduction of the bill, see Congressional Globe, House, 29th Cong., 1st sess. (8 August 1846): 1214–1217.

124See Ganaway, New Mexico and the Sectional Controversy: 60–76, for a traditional interpretation that Anglo elites were responsible for the switch to a pro-slavery position. For an interpretation that places Hispano elites’ need to preserve slavery at the center of the discussion, see Gómez, Manifest Destinies: 99–101.

125Gómez, Manifest Destinies: 101–102.

126For the full text of the 1859 New Mexico slave code as well as the text of a territorial law protecting peonage, see “Slavery in the Territory of New Mexico,” House Rep. 508, 36th Cong., 1st sess. (10 May 1860): 1–8. This report from the House Judiciary Committee was to accompany H.R. 64, a bill “to disapprove and declare null and void all territorial acts and parts of acts heretofore passed by the Legislative Assembly of New Mexico which establish, protect, or legalize involuntary servitude or slavery.” A lengthy minority dissent was appended to the report; see pp. 8–39. The House narrowly passed H.R. 64 on a 97 to 90 vote; see Congressional Globe, House, 36th Cong., 1st sess. (10 May 1860): 2045–2046. However, the bill died in the Senate Committee on Territories near the end of the session; see Congressional Globe, Senate, 36th Cong., 1st sess. (8 June 1860): 2743–2744.

127Gómez, Manifest Destinies: 99; for a suggestion that these African-American slaves belonged to U.S. Army officers, see Brooks, Captives & Cousins: 309–310.

128Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: A Territorial History: 88.

129Gómez, Manifest Destinies: 100. The territorial legislature subsequently passed bills protecting peonage slaves and Indian slaves as property. The territorial governor vetoed the latter measure.

130See Rael-Gálvez, “Identifying Captivity and Capturing Identity: Narratives of American Indian Slavery in Colorado and New Mexico, 1776–1934”: 197–198. Italics in original.

131Gómez, Manifest Destinies: 103.

132Ganaway, “Otero and the New Mexico Slave Code of 1859”: 69–76; Sunseri, Seeds of Discord: 117–119. The code did not survive for long. An effort to repeal it was initiated during the same session in which it was enacted. With the start of the Civil War in 1861, the territorial assembly repealed the slave code. In Washington, John Bingham of Ohio introduced a bill on February 16, 1860, declaring the slave code null and void; a further provision of the bill sought to nullify the peonage law. It passed the House on a strict party-line vote but died in the Senate Committee on Territories. For a detailed discussion of nuevomexicano elites and American Indian slavery in New Mexico, see Gómez, Manifest Destinies: 105–112.

133Horace Greeley, “New Mexico,” 18 February 1861, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 2. The article was originally published December 3, 1860, in the New York Tribune.

134Miguel Otero (Sr.), “To the Editor of the Constitution,” 18 February 1861, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 2.

135Gómez argues that Anglo advocacy against Indian slavery derived from just such an impetus: a political effort to undermine the hegemony of nuevomexicano elites in New Mexico. See Gómez, Manifest Destinies: 108–109.

136Congressional Globe, House, 39th Cong., 2nd sess. (2 March 1867): 1770; for a rudimentary overview of action by Radical Republicans in Congress, see Murphy, “Reconstruction in New Mexico”: 99–115.

137Two comprehensive sources on the statehood movement during the territorial decades are Larson, New Mexico’s Quest for Statehood, 1846–1912; and Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: A Territorial History.

138Charles F. Coan, A History of New Mexico, vol. 1 (Chicago and New York: The American Historical Society, 1925): 387–388, 410–411; Congressional Globe, 41st Cong., 2nd sess. (24 January 1870): 709; Congressional Globe, Appendix, 41st Cong., 3rd sess. (3 March 1871): 244–247. Coan lists three attempts at achieving statehood in the 1860s and 1870s by the legislative assembly. As for efforts in Congress, José Francisco Chaves submitted a bill for statehood in 1870 (H.R. 954) and an enabling act for statehood in 1871, but neither one passed. Coan also notes that Delegate Stephen Elkins submitted bills in the 43rd and 44th Congresses (1873–1877) that failed to pass.

139“Vuestro Gobernador … y vuestros jueces … son ahora elijidos [sic] por personas que jamás han pisado vuestro suelo, que ignoran el carácter de vuestro país, las necesidades del pueblo, y que carecen de ningún interés especial en vuestro bien estar … no obstante que varios de los empleados que han sido mandados de Washington para que os sirvan, han sido capaces, honrados y fieles, la preponderancia ha sido al contrario … Bajo un gobierno de Estado.… Vuestras leyes serían nuestras propias leyes, sujetas á ser modificadas, enmendadas y abrogadas unicamente por vuestra propia voluntad … atormentados por la introducción de politícos, quienes tal vez ya habrían acabado su carrera en los estados y quienes esperan halla un campo Nuevo y propio en aventuras politicos.” [sic] J. Francisco Chavez (Chaves), “A los ciudadanos de Nuevo Méjico,” 4 May 1866, Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM): 4. Translated as “To the Citizens of New Mexico,” by Translations International, Inc. (August 2010); Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: A Territorial History: 10–11. Lamar confirms Chaves’s assertions, “More often than not, territorial appointees after 1865 were political hacks, defeated congressmen, or jobless relatives of congressmen and cabinet members. These appointees owed their loyalty neither to the territory nor to the branch of government they represented.…”

140Larson, New Mexico’s Quest for Statehood, 1846–1912: 123–125. For an example of such a portrayal, see Richard Melzer, “New Mexico in Caricature: Images of the Territory on the Eve of Statehood,” New Mexico Historical Review 65 (October 1987): 335–360.

141Congressional Record, House, 50th Cong., 2nd sess. (14 February 1889): 1910. Representative Francis Spinola of New York concurred: “I do not agree that it is good statesmanship to oppose the admission of New Mexico on account of the religious opinions of a large majority of its inhabitants.” See p. 1906 of the same debate.

142For discussions of distinct statehood impulses and public ambivalence, see Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: A Territorial History: 64–70, 143–145, 161–169. Lamar notes that both “Spanish-Americans” and “Anglo-Americans” feared that statehood would entail the control of the government by the other group. See also Coan, A History of New Mexico, vol. 1: 410. Coan notes the even splits between the parties that sent New Mexican Delegates to Washington: “The democrats were successful in six out of nine elections between 1878 and 1892, while the republicans won in seven out of eight elections between 1894 and 1908.”