Gadsden Purchase: APUSH Topics to Study for Test Day

What was the Gadsden Purchase? Why did it cause so much controversy? You need to be ready to answer these Gadsden Purchase APUSH questions and more for the exam. Here are some things you should know to prepare to answer these questions.

What Was the Gadsden Purchase?

Americans negotiated the Gadsden Purchase (aka the Gadsden Treaty) with Mexico. In the treaty, Americans agreed to pay $10 million for about 29,670 square miles of land south of the Gila River. Thus, this land became the southern parts of Arizona and New Mexico.

Even though Americans needed the land to complete the Transcontinental Railroad. Also, they hoped that the treaty would improve relations with Mexico.

Unfortunately, the treaty caused major disagreements. However, the disagreement wasn’t between America and Mexico; it was between sectional rivalries in the U.S. Some believed that this was a stepping stone to taking over all of Mexico. Others worried that adding these states to the Union would increase the number of slave (or free) states in the country.


Negotiations started on September 25, 1853.
The Senate ratified the Gadsden Treaty on June 24, 1854.

Why Is It Important to Know?

The Gadsden Purchase created the southern border of the United States. It helped provide the route to the West Coast needed to build the southern Transcontinental Railroad. Also, it opened the northwest territory for settlement.


Gadsden Purchase APUSH

Portrait of James Gadsen

  • Franklin Pierce- As the 14th President of the United States, Franklin Pierce oversaw the Gadsden Purchase. He also passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which made him an unpopular president.
  • James Gadsden- Chosen to negotiate the treaty by Jefferson Davis, he met with the Mexican president to determine the terms.
  • Antonio de Santa Anna- Antonio de Santa Anna was the president of Mexico who negotiated the terms of the Gadsden Purchase.
  • Mexican-American War- The Mexican-American War occurred from 1846 to 1848. It ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This determined American territory, especially in Texas. Because of this war, the Mexican treasury was depleted, making the $10 million for this land irresistible.
  • California Gold Rush- After finding gold at Sutter’s Mill in California, thousands of people made their way to the west coast. The gold boosted the American economy, and it helped settle the western states.
  • Manifest Destiny- First mentioned by John L. O’Sullivan in 1845, Manifest Destiny was the belief that US expansion throughout the American continent was bound to happen but justified. With the acquisition of parts of Arizona and New Mexico, many people thought that this was coming to pass.

Gadsden Purchase APUSH Practice Question 1

The Gadsden Treaty helped the US acquire parts of which states?
a. Arizona and New Mexico
b. Arizona and California
c. Texas and New Mexico
d. California and Nevada

Answer: A. With the Gadsden Purchase, the southern parts of Arizona and New Mexico joined the United States. This helped shape the present-day southern border of America.

Gadsden Purchase APUSH Practice Question 2

The reason for the Gadsden Purchase was to:
a. prevent further Mexican raids on American settlers in Arizona.
b. help Pierce’s administration on their quest for Manifest Destiny.
c. construct the Transcontinental Railroad along the southern route.
d. guarantee that the United states gained control of California.

Answer: C. As more and more settlers headed west, Americans wanted a southern route for the Transcontinental Railroad. In order to build it, the U.S. needed to gain control of the southern parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Therefore, the Gadsden Purchase helped this come to pass.

Gadsden Purchase APUSH Practice Question 3

Why did sectional disagreements occur during negotiations for the Gadsden Treaty?
a. Southerners didn’t want another Transcontinental Railroad helping the economy in the North.
b. Northerners believed that $5 million was too much for such a small piece of land.
c. Many people worried that purchasing the land would lead to second Mexican-American War.
d. Northerners worried that these territories would tip the scales of free states and slave states in the Union.

Answer: D. Southerners wanted a Transcontinental Railroad to help their economy. However, Northerners worried that these states would become slave states. Thus, there would be more slave states than free states in the Union.

Gadsden Purchase APUSH Practice Question 4

How did the Gadsden Purchase reflect the belief in Manifest Destiny?
a. Americans believed that expanding America through the entire American continent was inevitable.
b. Settlers along the West Coast wanted to be more connected with Americans along the East Coast.
c. The U.S. strived to acquire more land and territories throughout the world.
d. The Pierce Administration wanted to remain neutral and strive for peace with other countries.

Answer: A. According to the Gadsden Purchase, many Americans held the belief that the U.S. would and should expand throughout the entire American continent. Americans thought that acquiring this land demonstrated this belief in Manifest Destiny.

Add information from this Gadsden Purchase APUSH review to your flashcards to help you remember what it was and why it’s important to American history. And as you prepare to take the APUSH exam, think about how the Gadsden Purchase impacted Western settlement.

Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

magoosh logo checks


  • Jamie Goodwin

    Jamie graduated from Brigham Young University- Idaho with a degree in English Education. She spent several years teaching and tutoring students at the elementary, high school, and college level. She currently works as a contract writer and curriculum developer for online education courses. In her free time, she enjoys running and spending time with her boys!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

No comments yet.

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will only approve comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! 😄 Due to the high volume of comments across all of our blogs, we cannot promise that all comments will receive responses from our instructors.

We highly encourage students to help each other out and respond to other students' comments if you can!

If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service from our instructors, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

Leave a Reply