There is a movement afoot today in Pima County, a heartland of liberal-thinking Arizonans, to separate from the northern half of Arizona, considered too conservative these days by the separatists, and form a new state called Baja Arizona.
“We want to make this a serious effort, at least to send a message up to Phoenix - a message to the country - that we want moderation in our state,” said Paul Eckerstrom, former Democratic Party chairman for Pima County and co-chairman of a group calling itself Start Our State.
Controversial immigration bills, cuts to university funding and efforts to nullify federal laws also prompted the group to act, Eckerstrom said.
Proponents of two movements may have had totally different reasons, but it is not the first time there has been an effort to split the state nearly on the same line.
The first effort was 150 years ago this month.
For two years, Arizona became part of the Confederate States of America, beginning just before the Civil War broke out, dividing the United States.
At the time, of course, Arizona was part of a broad territory that also included the current New Mexico.
According to Al Bates for the Sharlot Hall Museum, Mexico lost Texas to insurgent Americans in 1836 and, in 1845, Texas joined the United States prompting the Mexican-American War. After the war, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and what would become Arizona added to the Union.
The Territory of Arizona was claimed by the Confederate States of America, between 1861 and 1865 and consisted of the portion of New Mexico Territory south of the 34th parallel. Mesilla, today swallowed up by Las Cruces, N.M., was for a time declared the territorial capital.
After the start of the Civil War, support for the Confederacy was strong in the southern part of the New Mexico Territory, because the area felt neglected by the United States.
A convention of settlers from the southern part of the territory was held in Tucson in July 1860. The convention drafted a constitution for a “Territory of Arizona” to be organized out of the New Mexico Territory south of 34° N.
On March 16, 1861, the citizens of Mesilla, N.M., called a secession convention to separate themselves from the United States and join the Confederacy.
The convention adopted a secession ordinance citing the region’s reasons for separation, its interests and geography with the Confederacy, the need of frontier protection, and the loss of postal service routes under the U.S. government.
The ordinance raised the question of secession to the western portions of the territory, and on March 28 a second convention in Tucson ratified the ordinance.
John Robert Baylor was a politician in Texas and a military officer of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War.
The son of a U.S. Army surgeon, Baylor moved to Texas at a young age and became a prominent citizen, state legislator and Indian agent.
In 1861 he organized a force to drive the Union forces from the Southwest and led his men into New Mexico Territory. Following his victory at the Battle of Mesilla and the surrender of federal forces in the area, he proclaimed himself the military governor of Arizona Territory – a region encompassing the southern half of the modern states of New Mexico and Arizona. His position was confirmed by the Confederate Congress.
The Confederate States continued to hold the area, troops continued to fight under the Arizona banner and be represented by the Confederate Congress and until the war’s end.
In July 1862, however, the government relocated to El Paso, Texas, where it remained until the end of the war.
In the only engagement ever fought in the Arizona area, reportedly, a small group of Confederate pickets held off Union cavalry northwest of Tucson in the skirmish known as the Battle of Picacho Pass. It is known as the westernmost battle of the Civil War.
The conventions subsequently established a provisional territorial government for the Confederate “Territory of Arizona.” William Morrison Robinson, in “A History of the Judicial System of the Confederate States of America” recounts that Lewis Owings was elected as provisional governor.
The Confederate Territory of Arizona became officially recognized when President Jefferson Davis signed the proclamation on Feb. 14, 1862. To commemorate this event, Feb. 14, 1912, the 50th anniversary, was selected as the official date of statehood for Arizona.“Passed by the People of Arizona in Convention Assembled at La Mesilla, Arizona Territory, March 16, 1861
WHEREAS, a sectional party of the North has disregarded the Constitution of the United States, violated the rights of the Southern States, and heaped wrongs and indignities upon their people; and WHEREAS, the Government of the United States has heretofore failed to give us adequate protection against the savages within our midst and has denied us an administration of the laws, and that security for life, liberty, and property which is due from all governments to the people; and WHEREAS, it is an inherent, inalienable right in all people to modify, alter, or abolish their form of government whenever it fails in the legitimate objects of its institution, or when it is subversive thereof; and WHEREAS, in a government of federated, sovereign States, each State has a right to withdraw from the confederacy whenever the treaty by which the league is formed, is broken; and WHEREAS, the Territories belonging to said league in common should be divided when the league is broken, and should be attached to the separating States according to their geographical position and political identity; and WHEREAS, Arizona naturally belongs to the Confederate States of America (who have rightfully and lawfully withdrawn from said league), both geographically and politically, by ties of a common interest and a common cause; and WHEREAS we, the citizens of that part of New Mexico called Arizona, in the present distracted state of political affairs between the North and the South, deem it our duty as citizens of the United States to make known our opinions and intentions; therefore be it...
RESOLVED, That our feelings and interests are with the Southern States , and that although we deplore the division of the Union, yet we cordially indorse the course pursued by the seceded Southern States.
RESOLVED, That geographically and naturally we are bound to the South, and to her we look for protection; and as the Southern States have formed a Confederacy, it is our earnest desire to be attached to that Confederacy as a Territory.
RESOLVED, That we do not desire to be attached as a Territory to any State seceding separately from the Union, but to and under the protection of a Confederacy of the Southern States.
RESOLVED, That the recent enactment of the Federal Congress, removing the mail service from the Atlantic to the Pacific States from the Southern to the Central or Northern route, is another powerful reason for us to ask the Southern Confederate States of America for a continuation of the postal service over the Butterfield or El Paso route, at the earliest period.
RESOLVED, That it shall be the duty of the President of this Convention to order an election for a delegate to the Congress of the Confederate States of America, when he is informed that the States composing said Confederacy have ordered an election for members of Congress.
RESOLVED, That we will not recognize the present Black Republican Administration, and that we will resist any officers appointed to this Territory by said Administration with whatever means in our power.
RESOLVED, That the citizens residing in the western portion of this Territory are invited to join us in this movement.
RESOLVED, That the proceedings of this Convention be published in the Mesilla Times, and that a copy thereof be forwarded to the President of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, with the request that the same be laid before Congress.”