United States of what­ever

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words - Casey Sanchez The New Mex­i­can

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

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