United States of whatever
The United States has a long, though little-known, history of dubious attempts at expansion as a result of the efforts of half-mad private citizens. In 1853, a Tennessee-born California resident named William Walker, along with 48 hired guns, ventured into Mexico and captured Baja California and Sonora. Before Mexican troops chased him north across the border, he declared them to be American states. In the U.S., he was put on trial but quickly acquitted, due in no small part to his popular advocacy of Latin American slave colonies run by Englishspeaking white men.
Three years later, Walker led a successful invasion of Nicaragua and appointed himself president. There was a name for men of Walker’s ilk: filibusters. Today that word is best known as a stall tactic in the U.S. Senate, but originally filibusters were mid-19thcentury American imperialist explorers who sought to expand the American empire on a freelance basis. Their tactics seem madcap, bloodthirsty and, above all, imperial, but they were completely in line with the times. As historian Michael J. Trinklein writes in his coffee-table book Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania and Other States That Never Made It, “Remember: Texas was an independent nation that had become a state. Why not Sonora?” Trinklein, a former history teacher and PBS documentary producer, recently saw the republication (by Quirk Books) of his Lost States, a lushly illustrated grab bag of American geography that maps out the “unrealized dreams” of dozens of proposed states, such as Hazard (a Presbyterianonly homeland to be established west of the Appalachians and east of the