The Mesilla Valley, along the Rio Grande about 75 miles north of El Paso, was the most practical southern route for a railroad to the Pacific Ocean. U.S. President Franklin Pierce wished to secure this land to fulfill railroad expansion in the west. In order to do so, Pierce and the American minister to Mexico, James Gadsden, orchestrated the Gadsden Purchase.
Under the purchase, the United States paid $10 million for approximately 30,000 square miles that runs south of the Gila River, extends east to El Paso and west to California. The purchase -- which included the town of Tucson, in Arizona -- was a major step in resolving an outstanding Mexican American border issue. Prior to the purchase, the border between Mexico and the United States followed the main fork of the Gila River to its junction with the Colorado River. At the time the United States claimed the south fork and Mexico claimed the north fork as their main boundaries. This was the final boundary adjustment between the United States and Mexico.
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