Though Willam Walker has made the transition from the hottest news personality in America during the years preceding the Civil War, to a virtual unknown, he still remains a controversial figure. Perhaps, due to his tremulous ambitions arrl irrational behavior which set American Latin American relations back decades, the majority of his biographers have not been able to confine themselves to writing the history of a man's life and the impact it made. Their works have many times been polemics, assigning attributes to Walker, ranging from a cold, calculating, paradoxical tyrant whose religion was chivalry, to a political phenomenon personifying the ideals of Manifest Destiny.
These perceptions of walker may all contain a piece of the man, but they pass over the fundamental reality that Walker was indeed a man; a driven, compulsive, angry little man. With a brief glance at Walker's life, it becomes easy to understand why he was angry. He was intelligent, capable, and had a talent for convincing otherwise intelligent, rational men to follow him to the gates of hell and back. Yet, despite all this, his life was a series of unfulfilled ambitions and thwarted dreams.
One aspect of Walker's life that is especially ignored is his first filibustering expedition to Mexico. Perhaps this is because the whole fiasco was such a dismal failure and does not fit well into the rest of Walker's life story. All of his other ventures reached their zenith before crumbling He was a physician, attorney, and newspaper editor by the time he was twenty-six, and when none of those professions satisfied him, he turned to filibustering. He was quite successful in Nicaragua, in later years, but his adventures in lower California were a comic opera from start to finish.
Through compilation of contemporary newspaper accounts, eyewitness reports, memoirs and diaries, numerous secondary sources, and Walker's own remarkably unbiased account, I have attempted to piece together the story of this pathetic farce that had such a tremendous impact on Mexican American relations and Walker's later career as a filibuster. The conclusions reached are three-fold. First, Walker's actions have been difficult for many historians to understand simply because they were not those of a sane man. He was a manic-depressive personality who drove himself to accomplish incredible feats only to discover that whatever he did was not enough. Nothing ever satisfied him. Secondly, the conquest of Lower California and Sonora was seen by Walker an an end in itself, though in the end, it simply became a transition phase for him from law abiding citizen to soldier of fortune. When Walker embarked on this escapade, he had no knowledge of military tactics. His dismal failure was due simply to ignorance on his part. The expedition was an invaluable lesson for him that played no small part in his later success in Nicaragua.
Finally, it is significant that the expedition's specifics were rot as important as the deteriorating effect that they had on Mexican-American relations. Already hostile towards Americans because of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, the Mexicans saw Walker's exploits as an expression of American annexationist sentiments and for some time it became quite dangerous for Americans to travel in Lower California and Sonora.
Delmer G. Ross
Walter C. Mackett
Master of Arts (MA)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Walker, William, 1824-1860; Baja California -- History.
Subject - Local
Loma Linda University. History program -- Theses.
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Braun, James E., "William Walker and the Republic of Lower California" (1982). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 551.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives