Struggle for Statehood
In no part of the United States has there ever been such a protracted struggle for self-government as in New Mexico. In no other case has statehood been so long withheld. Perhaps nowhere in history is there such a series of failures, in what at the time seemed almost certainty, through unlooked for and often insignificant causes.
Statehood was almost attained in 1850; it was lost by a handshake in 1875, by a sudden impetuous word in 1889, by a shiver of malaria and a miscalculation of time in 1894.
The struggle for statehood began almost as soon as the American occupation. In the speeches and proclamations of Governor Kearny language was used which aroused hope, if it did not give promise, of self-government. In the first address in front of the palace, on August 19, 1846, he announced the intention to "establish a civil government on a republican basis similar to those of our own States."
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was finally signed early in 1848, and proclaimed at Washington on July 4th, and some action regarding the newly acquired territory was anxiously awaited. The advice of the president was that the people should '' live peaceably and quietly under the existing government for a few months" until Congress could act deliberately and wisely.
Hon. Thomas H. Benton, then in the height of his influence and power as senator from Missouri, was greatly interested in the condition of the new domain, and especially of New Mexico. Under date of August 28, 1848, he addressed an open letter to the people of California and New Mexico, in which he advised them "to meet in convention, provide for a cheap and simple government, and take care of yourselves until Congress can provide for you.''
The advice of Senator Benton was quickly followed. New Mexico was without any legal government, since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had ended the regime of military occupation, and the continuance of the de facto military authority was b...