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GALLEGOS, José Manuel

GALLEGOS, José Manuel
Image courtesy of the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives


José M. Gallegos, a prominent former priest and legislator, navigated the New Mexico Territory’s chaotic political scene to become the first Hispanic of Mexican descent elected as a Territorial Delegate to Congress. The intense nationalism that accompanied his country’s independence from Spain bound Gallegos and many of his constituents to the Mexican cultural and political institutions that the U.S. supplanted after the war with Mexico. Marred by multiple contested elections and complicated by his limited English, Gallegos’s House service symbolized the challenges and contradictions inherent in the process of incorporating new lands and peoples into the growing nation.

José Manuel Gallegos was born in Abiquiú, New Mexico, on October 30, 1815, to Pedro Ignacio, the alcalde (mayor) and chief magistrate of the town, and Ana María Gavaldon. He attended a parochial school in Taos, New Mexico, where he became interested in theology, and may also have attended a private school in Abiquiú. From 1836 to 1839, he studied at the College of Durango, Mexico, to prepare for the Catholic priesthood.1 Gallegos most likely graduated and was ordained by 1840. His mentors, including Padre Antonio José Martínez, studied in Durango during the Mexican Revolution, immersing themselves in secular politics as much as in sacred texts. Having committed to Mexican nationalism in their youth, they imparted that cultural identity to a young generation of seminarians like Gallegos, imbuing them with a deep sense of loyalty to the nascent Mexican state.2

Gallegos’s independent nature made him a frequent source of concern for political and religious authorities. In 1840 he ran afoul of Governor Manuel Armijo, who accused Gallegos of having an affair with the wife of a corporal in the Mexican Army. Gallegos was sentenced to a three-year exile from Santa Fe, but his superior, a vicar, interceded and sent Gallegos to the parish of San Juan to avoid further controversy.3 Gallegos served in San Juan from 1840 to 1845 and in the parish of Albuquerque from October 1845 to September 1852, becoming pastor of the latter parish in December 1847.

In July 1850, almost two years after the United States acquired New Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Catholic Church placed the territory under the ecclesiastical control of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy. Pope Pius IX chose a young French missionary, John Baptiste Lamy, to manage the effort. Lamy was consecrated as a bishop in November 1850 and named J. Projectus Machebeuf as his deputy. Bishop Lamy and Machebeuf arrived in Santa Fe in August 1851, but the Vatican failed to inform the incumbent bishop, Antonio Zubiría y Escalante, about the administrative change. Local priests, including Gallegos, refused to recognize Lamy’s authority until a formal transfer of power occurred. By January 1852, although Lamy had made the 1,500-mile trek to Durango to finalize the transfer of power, and had secured Zubiría’s assent, many local priests still considered him illegitimate. Thus, Lamy began to replace the Mexican clergy with transplanted priests and nuns and to monitor recalcitrant priests like Gallegos.4 For the remainder of the 1850s, these two factions of the Catholic Church fought for religious and political control of the territory. Lamy’s faction grew as Anglo clergy came to New Mexico after the U.S. assumed control. Gallegos’s faction consisted of priests of Mexican descent with a long history of service in the region.5

Because of his record, Gallegos proved an easy mark for Lamy, who questioned his competence, loyalty, and integrity and eventually suspended him from the priesthood in 1853.6 Two reasons are cited for Gallegos’s punishment. First, Gallegos left his parish to travel to Mexico without official permission and, upon his return, tried to rally support among his parishioners against Machebeuf, whom Lamy had handpicked to succeed him.7 Second, based principally on rumor and innuendo, Gallegos was charged with violating his vow of celibacy.8

Stinging from Lamy’s suspension and “deprived of [his] living … by the new French bishop, to make way for the imported French priests of his own selection,” Gallegos became a professional politician.9 For much of the 1840s, Gallegos had been moonlighting as a legislator, and by the time of his dismissal as a priest, he had compiled a noteworthy political career. Although his run to serve as a deputy (a voting member) in the Mexican National Congress in 1843 was unsuccessful, he had gained valuable campaign experience. Before he turned 30, Gallegos had served as one of 19 electors who voted for a deputy and an alternate to the National Congress. The electors also chose seven vocals (representatives) to serve a four-year term in the Departmental Assembly. Among its duties, the assembly selected nominees for the office of governor by forwarding the list to the Mexican general government. It also responded to citizen protests about political affairs. Gallegos served in the First and Second Departmental Assemblies of New Mexico from 1843 to 1846, presiding for a single session of the First Assembly by filling in for a sick colleague.10 In 1850, after the transfer of power to the United States, he campaigned for Democrat Richard H. Weightman, who won election as New Mexico’s first Territorial Delegate to the U.S. Congress. In 1851 Gallegos was elected to the territorial council (upper house) of the First Legislative Assembly of the Territory of New Mexico as a representative of Bernalillo County.11

A year later, when Weightman declined to seek renomination as Delegate to the 33rd Congress (1853–1855), Gallegos ran for the vacant seat as a Democrat against William Carr Lane, New Mexico’s territorial governor. While Gallegos won Weightman’s endorsement and the support of the nuevomexicano clergy, Lane lined up the former priest’s religious rivals, Lamy and Machebeuf, and his mentor, Antonio José Martínez. During the campaign, Gallegos’s opponents worked hard to discredit him among his base of Hispanic Catholic voters by bringing up his alleged improprieties.12 Political lines blurred in a campaign with such overt religious appeal. The Santa Fe Weekly Gazette, a Democratic organ, abandoned the party nominee and declared its support for Lane immediately after it printed the announcement of Gallegos’s candidacy. The editors, who never challenged the propriety of a cleric’s running for political office, wrote, “If they had selected a priest of good standing, the people would have no cause for complaint … but to select a priest, who is suspended for the grossness of his immorality, is to our conception, insulting to the voters of the Territory, as it is disrespectful to the Bishop and the Church.” The editors also questioned Gallegos’s citizenship and disparaged his English. “If he knew the English language he could give vent to such insignificant ideas as may be supposed to arise in heads as small as his,” they wrote. “But as he does not know the language … he cannot have the poor privilege of [s]peaking nonsense.”13 Nevertheless, Gallegos prevailed in the September 1853 elections, defeating Lane by 445 votes.14 The editors of the Santa Fe Weekly Gazette attributed the animus behind the race to cultural “strife” between Mexicans and Americans. “Padre Gallegos was supported by the Mexican population simply because he was a native Mexican,” they proclaimed, “and the christening that he received by the [nominating] convention … was a mere cover and device to enable him and his friends to succeed more effectually in the contest they were about to wage against the Americans.”15

Displeased with the outcome of the vote, Lane challenged the results before the largely unsympathetic House Committee on Elections, which was controlled by the Democratic majority. The committee threw out Lane’s initial allegation that Gallegos did not meet citizenship requirements at the time of his election “for the reason that he had not been seven years a resident of the United States” because the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed U.S. citizenship to all who chose to remain in New Mexico after the transfer of control.16 Lane then alleged voter fraud and ballot miscounts in certain counties. Many of Gallegos’s votes, he claimed, were cast by “Mexican citizens” and should be disqualified. He also charged that votes cast by Pueblo Indians (not considered U.S. citizens at the time) inflated Gallegos’s vote counts. Here Lane’s appeals met with more success. The Elections Committee rejected ballots from a “precinct where all the votes were cast by Indians and the election was organized by the Indians and held by their chiefs without authority of law.”17 Territory-wide, the panel disqualified almost 4,000 votes—nearly half the total cast—reporting to the House that it discovered “many irregularities in the election and returns.” Yet the House concluded that “these irregularities did not affect the substance of the election.” Gallegos also had a powerful, if unlikely, ally in Thomas Hart Benton, the longtime Missouri Senator-turned-Representative. A political rival of Lane’s, Benton apparently encouraged Missouri Democrats in New Mexico to oppose Lane and perhaps even worked in the capital city to help squelch Lane’s election challenge.18 In the final count, Gallegos prevailed, with 2,806 votes to Lane’s 2,264.19 Thus, Gallegos presented his credentials and was sworn in on December 19, 1853.20

Gallegos spent much of his first term familiarizing himself with an alien culture and legislative process. Unable to speak, read, or write English, he was reliant on bilingual New Mexican officials and Members of Congress to help him draft resolutions and legislative statements. Early in his first term, he sought to secure an interpreter by convincing key committee chairmen to make his case before the House. At first, he sought “per diem [money] out of the [House] contingent fund” to pay an interpreter. But the House refused even to debate that resolution.21 Seven weeks later, based on the argument that Gallegos could not fully represent his constituents without using an interpreter, the chairman of the Committee on Territories, before which most of Gallegos’s business pended, asked that the House permit a Spanish-speaking interpreter on the floor, implying that Gallegos would pay the costs. Two-thirds of the Members present voted against suspending the rules to consider the request, and it too died.22 Despite this difficulty, Gallegos introduced three pieces of legislation: to pay for a wagon requisitioned by the U.S. Army in New Mexico; to request that the Committee on Military Affairs pay civilian officers in New Mexico Territory under military jurisdiction; and to establish a post road between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and California.23

Gallegos also sent home observations of Washington, D.C., and the Northern United States. He noted that Catholicism was openly practiced in several Northern states he had visited, though the congregations were comparatively small and located in poorer sections of cities. He wrote Governor David Meriwether that upon his arrival in December 1853, he had “visited the President and several Ministers of the Cabinet, [and] was received by all of them with deference and appreciation, as well as by many friends in the [House] Chamber.” Gallegos also noted distinctions between the Anglo settlers eagerly streaming into the New Mexico Territory and the citizens in the nation’s capital. “I have noticed the difference in the moral and political conduct displayed … by our countrymen to the conduct that some Americans exhibit in our Territory,” he wrote Lane, “and I am surprised to find an extraordinary difference.… hopefully in time we will enjoy the benefits that come with a peaceful and intelligent society.”24

In 1855 Gallegos faced stiff opposition for re-election from an unabashedly pro-American faction within his own party.25 His opponent was Miguel Otero, a prominent Democratic politician and a former personal secretary of Lane’s. According to a biographer, Otero, who had attended St. Louis University and was bilingual, could “neutralize [Gallegos’s] ‘native son’” advantage as a viable alternative to nuevomexicano voters.26 Otero allies rehashed the smear tactics of earlier campaigns, advertising Gallegos’s dismissal from the Catholic Church. Bishop Lamy endorsed Otero and commanded clergy to support him. The initial count of the election results had Gallegos prevailing, with a razor-thin margin of 99 votes out of almost 14,000 cast.

Predictably, Otero contested Gallegos’s election. Though he expanded on Lane’s earlier challenge, lodging 11 individual complaints, he essentially repeated the core charge that Mexican citizens, who were not eligible to vote in the election, cast votes for the incumbent.27 When Otero’s side presented a list of names of disqualified voters, the House Committee on Elections accepted the testimony, and Gallegos complained that he had not been given sufficient notice or a list of disputed voters. The committee then made Gallegos responsible for ascertaining the citizenship of disputed voters. After reviewing the case for more than a year—more than half the congressional term—the committee reported to the full House that it had found Otero to be the victor.28

On July 23, 1856, when the House considered the contested election dispute, both men were permitted to make floor statements. A clerk read Gallegos’s lengthy statement. Gallegos argued for his effectiveness as a “true” representative of New Mexico despite his inability to speak English. He noted, “The sneers and jests with which certain honorable members of this body have permitted themselves to treat the proposition that I should be heard by counsel … have produced no other effect upon me than that of painful disappointment at these exceptions to the generous spirit which I had been encouraged to expect from all the representatives of a free and magnanimous people.” Gallegos then described the distinctive position that New Mexico and its people—like other territories acquired during the Mexican-American War—held in the newly expanded United States. His constituents were, he noted, “in their origin, alien to your institutions, your laws, your customs, your glorious history, and even strangers to your language.” “I am not ashamed of whatsoever is common to them and to me,” he added. He argued that as a Delegate, House Rules prohibited him from participating fully in floor debate and that what mattered more than giving speeches was “to be a true agent of his people, acquainted with their condition and their wants, and faithful and industrious in making them known.” He dismissed Otero as one of those “inexperienced youths who have been educated out of their native Territory, so as to be more familiar with the language and condition and wants of others than those of whom they aspire to represent.”29

Gallegos used the bulk of his speech to rebut Otero’s case point by point. He denied allegations that the Roman Catholic Church helped secure his election. Just the opposite was true, he argued. “This foreign bishop [Lamy] did … intermeddle, by himself and his priests, not to support, but to crush me, and to secure the election of my opponent.”30 Gallegos also challenged the results of the election report that threw out more than 130 “Mexican votes” for him, dismissed testimony from key elected officials, and presented signed testimonies on his behalf from disputed polling places. He reiterated the provisions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which extended citizenship to Mexicans after one year, and submitted additional testimony from the secretary of the territory that contradicted some of Otero’s key claims. By his count, he had prevailed with close to 600 votes.31

Granted permission to speak on the floor, Otero rejected the argument that cultural familiarity with the populace trumped the English proficiency required to represent them on the floor of the House. “I protest against the assumption the personal deficiencies or errors of the gentleman are to be imputed by representation to the people of our territory,” he said. Gallegos, he noted, broke his campaign promise that he would master English and would be “capable of representing the people here by his acquaintance with your language.” Otero also defended Bishop Lamy, insisting that he was not “guilty of any interference whatever unless that could be called an interference which sought … to restrain the priesthood from the scandal of an active and zealous participation in the canvass” on Gallegos’s behalf.32 In the end, his forceful presentation, with carefully crafted allusions to his loyalty to the “American party” and Anglo political institutions, won the day. Even Pennsylvania’s John Cadwalader, who studied the case and claimed to have “as strong an impression in favor of the sitting Delegate, as any member on this floor,” was persuaded by Otero’s case. The House overwhelmingly accepted the Election Committee’s recommendation, granting Otero a seat by a 128 to 22 vote.33

Gallegos returned to New Mexico and eventually rebuilt a political career in the territory. In 1857 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the territorial assembly. Meanwhile, Otero’s “American Party” aligned itself with Southern efforts to preserve and extend slavery into the territories. Dubbed the “National Democrats,” the party swept its loyalists into power at the level of the territorial legislature, ensuring Otero a sympathetic base at home.34 In 1859 Gallegos challenged Otero for the Delegate’s seat to the 36th Congress (1859–1861). Having many of the same alliances still in place, Otero won. Again Gallegos turned his sights toward the territorial legislature, winning election handily in 1860. Re-elected three times, he served as speaker of the house for the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth New Mexico Legislative Assemblies.35

During the Civil War, New Mexico became a pivotal battleground in the Western theater of operations. Many New Mexican U.S. military officers resigned their commissions to join the Confederate Army. Southern sympathizers lobbied for the separation of the New Mexico Territory into two territories, a pro-Confederate Arizona Territory and occupied New Mexico. In March 1862, the Confederate Army of the West, under the command of Henry L. Sibley, occupied Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The New Mexican government fled to Las Vegas, 50 miles east of Santa Fe. Gallegos, an ardent Union supporter, was imprisoned for his pro-Union sympathies and his position as speaker of the legislative assembly. During his incarceration, Gallegos met with a Union spy and supplied information to federal forces.36 At the battles of Glorieta Pass and Valverde in 1863, the Union Army definitively repulsed the Confederate offensive and regained control of the territory.37

In 1863 Gallegos ran as a Democrat for the Delegate’s seat against Francisco Perea, a well-regarded local politician and a Civil War veteran. Perea collected endorsements from a familiar ensemble of Gallegos’s enemies: Bishop Lamy; James L. Collins, the editor of the Santa Fe Weekly Gazette; and Kirby Benedict, chief justice of the New Mexico supreme court. Benedict had considered running, but yielded when Gallegos won unanimous support at the nominating convention in June 1863. Perea, however, had the support of the Gazette; furthermore, his supporters neutralized the influence of the pro-Gallegos editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican by buying the paper. Perea’s supporters employed tactics taken from the Lane and Otero campaigns, reminding voters of Gallegos’s suspension from the priesthood. Gallegos’s romantic relationship with a widow, Candelaria Montoya, begun after his suspension, was also the subject of salacious news reports.38 More substantially, Gallegos was forced to jettison his longtime advocacy of gradual statehood for New Mexico and embrace immediate statehood to co-opt the position from Perea.39 The initial results showed that Perea won the election. However, because of a variety of irregularities in various counties, the governor “had the vote reconstructed from the tallies kept by election officials in the precincts, and these were tabulated in place of the actual ballots.” According to the recount, Perea had won the majority of the votes.40 Gallegos and his supporters contested the results, arguing that the governor had exceeded his authority. The case came before the House Committee on Elections and seemed to hinge on the inability of the Gallegos camp to take testimony from witnesses, as it had been instructed to, “either before the chief justice of the Territory or a probate judge.” Gallegos complained that he needed more time to assemble a case and that his options were limited given that one of the two available judges “resided in an inaccessible part of the Territory” and the other, Benedict, “was a violent political opponent.” One of Gallegos’s supporters, Secretary of the Territory William F. M. Arny, traveled to Washington to advocate for Gallegos; the contestant himself did not undertake the journey. Unconvinced, the Committee on Elections did not grant Gallegos an extension and awarded the seat to Perea.41

After the election, Gallegos participated in a number of business dealings and repositioned himself as a Constitutional Union loyalist.42 He served as the territorial treasurer (1865–1866) and as quartermaster general of New Mexico (1868). In between, he served another term as speaker of the territorial house. Then, based on a recommendation from Delegate Charles Clever, whom he had campaigned for the previous year, Gallegos was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs by President Andrew Johnson until a suitable military replacement was found in November 1868. In this position, Gallegos managed the transfer of American Indians to reservations and oversaw affairs among Indians, Anglos, and nuevomexicano settlers.43

After serving briefly as Santa Fe County treasurer, Gallegos ran for the Delegate’s seat in the summer of 1871. His opponent was Republican nominee José Francisco Chaves, the three-term incumbent and a cousin of Gallegos’s 1863 rival, Francisco Perea. Gallegos believed Chaves had played an instrumental role in foiling his 1863 campaign. José D. Sena, another Republican, split from the party and ran for the seat as an Independent. The election was accompanied by violence. On August 27, 1871, Gallegos was scheduled to speak at a rally in Mesilla, New Mexico, but the Republicans staged a counter-rally. Whether Gallegos was present after the speeches is unclear, but the two groups met in the town plaza. Tensions flared, a shot was fired, and a riot commenced, leaving nine dead and 40 wounded. The Republican split virtually guaranteed Gallegos’s victory; he prevailed with 50 percent of the vote versus 34 percent and 16 percent for Chaves and Sena, respectively. Unlike the results of Gallegos’s previous elections, this win was so convincing, it was not contested.44

Gallegos claimed his seat at the opening of the 42nd Congress (1871–1873) as a more savvy and seasoned national legislator. One scholar notes that Gallegos was “a much more effective politician … in 1871 than he had been in 1853” because of his “effective functioning in the bicultural political reality of New Mexico.” Gallegos’s two decades as a territorial legislator and federal appointee provided a wealth of experience. He also understood a Territorial Delegate’s power to pressure federal appointees in Santa Fe because of his access to and influence on their bosses in Washington.45 During his term, Gallegos submitted petitions for constituents as well as bills to build military roads throughout the New Mexico Territory and organize a public school system. He took a special interest in supporting Pueblo Indians because of his experience as Superintendent of Indian Affairs. According to one scholar, Gallegos advocated a conciliatory approach toward American Indians, especially the Pueblos, because he had been the pastor of a number of Pueblo villages throughout New Mexico. Although Gallegos was a Democrat, he supported his Republican colleagues by advocating for Republican territorial appointees to the Ulysses S. Grant administration.46

Gallegos ran for re-election in 1873. Unlike in the 1871 race, in which the Republican vote was split between Chaves and Sena, in 1873 the Republicans fielded one candidate, Stephen B. Elkins. A Missouri native who came to New Mexico during the war, he eventually led the Santa Fe Ring, a notorious political machine that dominated New Mexico politics in the last decades of the 19th century. Elkins unseated the incumbent by a comfortable margin, 62 to 38 percent. After the 1873 race, Gallegos retired from politics and returned to the territory. He died of a stroke on April 21, 1875, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.47


1Gerald Arthur Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875): The First Mexican American in the United States Congress,” (Ph.D. diss., University of New Mexico, 1985): 6–7, 12; Fray Angelico Chavez, Très Macho–He Said: Padre Gallegos of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s First Congressman (Santa Fe, NM: William Gannon, 1985): 3–4, 12.

2Chavez, Très Macho–He Said: 9; Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 12. Chavez notes that although Gallegos’s 1875 obituary lists his graduation date as 1835, “this is clearly a mistake, since at age twenty he was much too young to be ordained. The year 1840 … appears to be the correct date, since at age twenty-five he was of the right canonical age for ordination. It is also in this same year that he first appears as an ordained priest in the local church records.” Theisen asserts that Gallegos graduated in November 1839.

3Chavez, Très Macho–He Said: 10–11.

4Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 74–81. For biographical information about Lamy, see Elizabeth Zoe Vicary, “Lamy, John Baptiste,” American National Biography, 13 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999): 96–97; Paul Horgan, Lamy of Santa Fe (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003; reprint of 1975 edition). The most recent biography about Machebeuf is Lynn Bridgers, Death’s Deceiver: The Life of Joseph P. Machebeuf (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007).

5“Jose Manuel Gallegos” in Maurilio Vigil, Los Patrones: Profiles of Hispanic Political Leaders in New Mexico History (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1980): 40; Ralph Emerson Twitchell, The Leading Facts of New Mexican History, Vol. 2 (Cedar Rapids, IA: Torch Press, 1912): 309.

6Biographers conclude that Gallegos was suspended rather than excommunicated. See, for example, the treatment of Gallegos’s status in The American Catholic Historical Researches, 21 (Philadelphia, PA: Martin I. J. Griffin, 1904): 110–113.

7Chavez, Très Macho–He Said: 16, Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 85–88. According to Theisen, Gallegos rallied parishioners to his defense multiple times. In one attempt, “950 citizens of Albuquerque petitioned the bishop” on Gallegos’s behalf. Gallegos also “moved into the rectory and tried to preach.” Gallegos tried again courting a couple dozen of the most powerful people in the city. After Machebeuf stood his ground, “850 parishioners brought signed formal complaints against the management of the parish by the French vicar.” Gallegos received support from other nuevomexicano priests such as Antonio José Martínez, who appealed to Rome to criticize Bishop Lamy’s actions. Gallegos himself sent a letter to Pope Pius IX that criticized Lamy’s and Machebeuf ’s efforts to assert control and remove nuevomexicano priests. The actions of Gallegos and his allies sound similar to “la junta de ignación” (a mass meeting of indignation). According to Phillip B. Gonzales, nuevomexicanos used these forms of protest “to publicly voice their objection to Anglo prejudice and provided key forums for developing a protest-oriented ‘Hispano’ identity.” See Phillip B. Gonzales, “La Junta de Ignación: Hispanic Repertoire of Collective Protest in New Mexico, 1884–1933,” Western Historical Quarterly 31, no. 2 (Summer 2000): 161–86, especially pp. 161–167.

8“Jose Manuel Gallegos,” in Vigil, Los Patrones: 40–44; Chavez, Très Macho–He Said: 45–47. Although Vigil blames Bishop Lamy for Gallegos’s demotion, Chavez blames Machebeuf. One scholar alleges that Lamy punished Gallegos “as part of a campaign to replace Mexican clerics with outside priests.” See, for example, Alvin R. Sunseri, Seeds of Discord: New Mexico in the Aftermath of the American Conquest, 1846–1861 (Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall, 1979): 133. According to Marc Simmons, various sources allege that Gallegos’s “personal conduct … was licentious in the extreme. Among his closest cronies were … rich stockmen … at whose ebullient house parties he danced, drank, and gambled. He knew all the politicians and leading merchants and had business dealings with many of them. On the side, he ran a string of freight wagons … and operated a general store in Albuquerque.… A store owned by a man of the cloth was bad enough, but Gallegos added insult to injury by keeping it open on Sundays and by having his mistress help out at the counter.” Marc Simmons, Albuquerque, a Narrative History (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982): 146–149. This version of events is corroborated by Samuel Ellison, a New Mexican transplant who arrived with Kearny’s army in 1846. Ellison noted that Gallegos was “suspended by Archbishop Lamy for concubinage.” See J. Manuel Espinosa, ed., “Memoir of a Kentuckian in New Mexico, 1848–1884,” in New Mexico Historical Review 8, no. 1 (January 1938): 8. Gerald Theisen cites an 1840 case investigated by the U.S. Consul in Santa Fe in which 25-year-old Gallegos was caught having an affair with a woman. Theisen notes that “granting [that] this ‘great scandal’ did indeed happen, perhaps such behavior among the New Mexican clergy was not so commonplace, or it would not have been so described.” See Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 23.

9Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 88–89. The quotation comes from Congressional Globe, House, 34th Cong., 1st sess. (23 July 1856): 1730.

10Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 28–29; Lansing B. Bloom, “New Mexico under Mexican Administration-VI; Part III-New Mexico as a Department, 1837–1846,” Old Santa Fe Vol. 2, no. 2 (October 1914): 158–159, 164–165.

11W. G. Ritch, The Legislative Blue-Book of the Territory of New Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1968; reprint of 1882 edition): 101; Robert W. Larson, New Mexico’s Quest for Statehood, 1846–1912 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1968): 29–30, 36–40, 69–74; Howard R. Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: A Territorial History, rev. ed. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000): 88–89. Lamar and Larson describe the political split between the New Mexicans who wanted immediate statehood and those who preferred a territorial government. Pro-statehood advocates formed a faction under Richard Weightman, New Mexico’s first Territorial Delegate, and pro-territory advocates united under Judge Joab Houghton. The Weightman faction made an effort to promote nuevomexicanos like Gallegos for political office. The Houghton faction promoted primarily Anglo candidates. Larson writes that “the Spanish-speaking majority … was hurt more than any other group by the political divisions and feuds” as one faction “scornfully exploited the Hispanos, and the other patronizingly sought their votes.” The Weightman and Houghton factions fought for control of New Mexican politics through elections for Territorial Delegates and patronage appointments for the remainder of the 1850s. For more information about Weightman, see Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, “Richard Hanson Weightman,”

12Opponents tried to tie Gallegos to another suspended priest, Benigno Cárdenas, as a sign of his moral corruption. See “The Letter of Cardenas to Gallegos,” 3 September 1853, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 2.

13“Padre Gallegos nominated for Congress,” 13 August 1853, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 2. For another editorial critical of Gallegos, see “Defense of Padre Gallegos,” 27 August 1853, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 2. For concerns about Gallegos’s serving as a Delegate and issues of the separation of church and state, see “The True State of the Case,” 27 August 1853, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 2–3.

14Twitchell, The Leading Facts of New Mexican History: 309; Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 88–93; José Manuel Gallegos certificate of election (endorsed 1 October 1853), Committee on Elections (HR33A-J1), 33rd Congress, Records of the U.S House of Representatives, Record Group 233, National Archives, Washington, D.C. (NA). Gallegos won with 4,971 votes; Lane earned 4,526 votes.

15“Padre Gallegos’ Democracy and Our Position,” 10 September 1853, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 2.

16Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 100.

17Chester H. Rowell, A Historical and Legal Digest of All the Election Cases in the House of Representatives of the United States from the First to the Fifty-Sixth Congress, 1789–1901 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976; reprint of 1901 edition): 140.

18Sunseri, Seeds of Discord: 133; Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: 90. For more information about Benton, see Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, “Thomas Hart Benton,”

19Twitchell, The Leading Facts of New Mexican History: 309; Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 101–104; Rowell, A Historical and Legal Digest of All the Election Cases in the House of Representatives of the United States from the First to the Fifty-Sixth Congress, 1789–1901: 140; José Manuel Gallegos certificate of election; 33rd Congress; RG 233, NA.

20Congressional Globe, House, 33rd Cong., 1st sess. (19 December 1853): 62–63. Gallegos was sworn in on December 19, 1853, and the House formalized the decision on February 24, 1854. See Congressional Globe, House, 33rd Cong., 1st sess. (24 February 1854): 475.

21Congressional Globe, House, 33rd Cong., 1st sess. (5 January 1854): 128.

22Congressional Globe, House, 33rd Cong., 1st sess. (28 February 1854): 492.

23Congressional Globe, House, 33rd Cong., 1st sess. (27 February 1854): 490; F. G. Franklin, “Foreigner Held Seat,” Washington Post (6 January 1902): 4. Theisen asserts, “Throughout his first term of office, Gallegos was able to introduce pre-translated statements, but his constituents literally were denied his voice in the House of Representatives.” See Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 106–107, 114–116; “A Survey of Public Lands in New Mexico–a Bill before Congress for That Purpose,” 3 June 1854, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 2 records that Senator James Shields of Illinois submitted S. 220 on Gallegos’s behalf. The bill passed the Senate but did not come to a final vote in the House. See House Journal, 33rd Cong., 1st sess.: 1426, and Senate Journal, 33rd Cong., 1st sess.: 734; J. Manuel Espinosa, ed., “Memoir of a Kentuckian in New Mexico, 1848–1884,” in New Mexico Historical Review, 13, no. 1 (January 1938): 8. Samuel Ellison, a New Mexican transplant who arrived with Kearny’s army in 1846, notes that Gallegos “procured the first appropriation of $20,000 & $50,000 for a capital [sic] & penitentiary.”

24Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 114–116; “He visitado al señor Presidente y a los varios Ministros del Gabinete, todos ellos me recivieron [sic] con concideracion [sic] y apracio [sic], así mismo me reconocen muchos amigos de la cámara a que correspondo.… He observado el contraste de la conducta moral y política que guardan nuestros compatriotas en estos mundos respecto a la que observan algunos americanos en nuestro Territorio, y con sorpresa distingo … ojalá que con el tiempo [illegible] los goces que brinda una sociedad pacífica é inteligente.” José Manuel Gallegos, “Carta Interesante del Sr. Gallegos,” Santa Fe Weekly Gazette, 11 March 1854: 3. Translated as “An Interesting Letter from Mr. Gallegos” by Translations International, Inc. (December 2009)

25Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: 90.

26Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 107, 151 (footnote 10). Theisen explains, “It was not inconsistent to be a National Democrat within the territory and a Democrat nationally.… In 1853, Gallegos was not nationally affiliated with a party. Even though he was nominated by a convention … which said it was that of the Democratic party.… However, the editor of the Santa Fe Weekly Gazette … went to great lengths to explain how [Gallegos] had not ‘endorsed the democratic platform laid down by the Baltimore convention.’”

27Ibid., 107–110.

28Ibid., 107–114; Rowell, A Historical and Legal Digest of All the Contested Election Cases in the House of Representatives of the United States from the First to the Fifty-Sixth Congress, 1789–1901: 144–145.

29Congressional Globe, House, 34th Cong., 1st sess. (23 July 1856): 1730.


31Ibid., 1730–1732.

32Ibid., 1733–1736.

33Ibid., 1736; Vigil, Los Patrones: 40–41; for an alternative account of the Gallegos-Otero contest, see Horgan, Lamy of Santa Fe: 230–236.

34Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 120–124.

35Ibid., 125–127; “The Result,” 24 September 1859, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 2–3. Although the results of the election are illegible in the English section of the newspaper, the Spanish section states that Otero won by a 1,169-vote margin (“Cuando nuestros lectores sepan que el Hon. M. A. Otero ha sido re-electo por la mayoría larga de 1169 votos.”). The National Archives’ Center for Legislative Archives was unable to locate Otero’s 1859 election certificate, nor were the certified election results preserved in the Department of State Territorial Papers, New Mexico, 1851–1872 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T17, Roll 2); General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD (NACP). Therefore, the Santa Fe Weekly Gazette articles may be the only existing primary source for the results of the 1859 elections for Territorial Delegate for New Mexico.

36Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 130–132. After the occupation, Gallegos served as foreman for a grand jury in a U.S. District Court that indicted two dozen New Mexicans for collaborating with the Confederacy. Although Gallegos’s former opponent Miguel Otero was suspected of collaboration, he was not indicted. Otero and his family moved to Missouri in 1862 in anticipation of a possible indictment. After the Civil War ended, all the cases were dismissed.

37Ibid., 130. For more information about New Mexico during the Civil War, see Lamar, The Far Southwest, 1846–1912: 97–121; Ray C. Colton, Civil War in the Western Territories: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1959); Donald S. Frazier, Blood and Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1995).

38During the campaign, an infamous poem titled, “El Padrecillo” (The Father), was published in the Santa Fe Weekly Gazette. The poem reiterated many of the charges of corruption and salaciousness that dogged Gallegos for much of his political career. The poem describes examples of Gallegos partisans that fleeced the voters while Gallegos remained conspicuously oblivious to their crimes. See “El Padrecillo,” 11 July 1863, Santa Fe Weekly Gazette: 4. In December 1868, Gallegos married Candelaria Montoya in an Episcopal ceremony. He was 51 and she was in her mid-30s. Candelaria had two daughters, Josefa and Felipita, and a son, Pantaleon, from a previous marriage. Gallegos adopted them all. Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 166, 170; Chavez, Très Macho–He Said: 99–102.

39Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 137.

40Ibid., 132–143. Theisen notes an example in which the votes for one county were not counted because the poll books were burned.

41Rowell, A Historical and Legal Digest of All the Contested Election Cases in the House of Representatives of the United States from the First to the Fifty-Sixth Congress, 1789–1901: 188; Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 143–146.

42Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 146–149.

43See Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 171–177; U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Office Copy of the Laws, Regulations, etc., of the Indian Bureau, 1850 (Washington, D.C.; Government Printing Office, 1874): 49–50. For a detailed study of the Office of Indian Affairs, see Laurence F. Schmeckebier, The Office of Indian Affairs: Its History, Activities, and Organization (New York: AMS Press, 1972; reprint of 1927 edition).

44Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 177–179.

45Ibid., 178–179.

46Congressional Globe, Index, 42nd Cong., 2nd sess.: 201; Congressional Globe, Index, 42nd Cong., 3rd sess.: 227; Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 172–174, 179–182. According to Theisen, Gallegos “introduced a total of nine bills and one joint resolution” during his term.

47Theisen, “Jose Manuel Gallegos (1815–1875)”: 182–184; “José Manuel Gallegos” in Vigil, Los Patrones: 42–43; “The Death of Gallegos,” 23 April 1875, Daily New Mexican (Santa Fe): 1; Ritch, The Legislative Blue-Book of the Territory of New Mexico: 93. Elkins earned 10,643 votes to Gallegos’s 6,582. For an alternative account of the 1871 election for Delegate, see Oscar Lambert, Stephen Benton Elkins (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1955): 39–40.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

New Mexico State Records Center and Archives
Archives and Historical Services Division

Santa Fe, NM
Papers: In the Manuel Alvarez papers, 1825-1856, 2 linear feet. Gallegos included among correspondents.
Papers: In the Benjamin M. Read collection, 1704-1926, 7 linear feet. Subjects include Gallegos.
Papers: Material related to Gallegos present in several additional collections.

Archives of the Archdiocese of Durango

Durango, Mexico
Papers: 1836-1839, 1 file. Seminary file.

Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe

Santa Fe, NM
Papers: No date, amount unknown.

The Huntington Library

San Marino, CA
Papers: In the William G. Ritch collection, 1862, 1 broadside. An address, signed by Gallegos and others, urging resistance by people of the New Mexico territory to the Confederate force advancing from Texas.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Chavez, Angelico. Tres Macho--He Said: Padre Gallegos of Albuquerque, New Mexico's First Congressman. Santa Fe, N.M.: William Gannon, 1985.

"José Manuel Gallegos" in Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-2012. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of the Historian and the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2013.

Theisen, Gerald Arthur."José Manuel Gallegos (1815-75): The First Mexican American in the United States Congress." Ph. D. diss., University of New Mexico, 1985.

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