Filibuster As Part of American Expansion, Not Legislative Tactics


Americans Filibustered Numerous Times in the 19th Century at Central America's Expense

On this Date In History: American William Walker was a doctor, lawyer, newspaperman and hypnotist in the middle of the 19th Century. But he became better known as a filibuster.   That does not mean that he was a member of Congress.  Today, we think of a filibuster as an interesting idiosyncrasy of the United States Senate that can hold up the entire process of debating and passing legislation.  However, in mid 19th century America, the word “filibuster” had an entirely different meaning for most Americans than the political procedure known to most people today.   

Instead, the word “filibuster”  is derived from the Dutch word Vrijbuiter that means freebooter or soldier of fortune.   He was a little guy as he weighed all of about 120 pounds but he had big ambitions.  Initially, the object of his quest was Baja California and Sonora in Mexico.  He wanted to create an independent nation there with the ultimate objective being annexation of that region to the United States that would be a slave state. When that failed, he turned his sites elsewhere.   On This Date in 1856, at the age of 31 he became the only American born citizen to become President of another country….supposedly. At least that is what my source claims. I would suggest that Sam Houston as President of the Republic of Texas was first. Anyway, this guy convinced the head of the Democrat party in Nicaragua to invite him and some “settlers” to come to Nicaragua. In reality, they were a bunch of mercenaries hired to help that party win a civil war that was going on. The ruse of being settlers was set up to avoid entanglement in US neutrality laws. So, he and his band of merry men helped defeat the opposition and he set up a phony election that made him president. He only served two years because he irked the wrong guy.

Walker leading the way at Lake Nicaragua

Walker leading the way at Lake Nicaragua

One of the things he was doing was trying to conquer neighboring countries by hiring more mercenaries and also get support from the slave holding South in the United States by rescinding Nicaragua’s long standing Emancipation order. Well, none of that sat well with Americans in the North and particularly Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt who had a company that ferried freight and passengers across that part of Central America before the canal was built. He even had designs of building a canal across Nicaragua and Walker was in the way. So, he got together a bunch of guys in neighboring Costa Rica and even got help from the British and American Navies. That was the end of Walker who lost a key battle on April 11, 1857 and surrendered on May 1st of that year. He was sent back to the United States where he wrote a book about his adventures. He tried to return and when he did, he was captured again in Honduras by the British Navy who turned him over to local Hondurans who promptly had Walker executed by firing squad at the age of 36 on September 12, 1860.

Walker's Effort Created A Costa Rican National Hero

While we don’t think about William Walker much, his defeat and failure marked a turn around in Central America as it was seen as a pseudo war of independence. His name is one hated as it is held up as a symbol of “Yankee imperialism.” In Costa Rica, there is a national holiday commemorating Walker’s defeat on April 11.   However, Walker’s defeat is not the focus but instead the holiday is set aside to commemorate the exploits of Juan Santamaria, who is said to have done heroic things while barefoot in the battle against Walker.  So, for all his trouble…he got a day in Costa Rica for his failure and they named it for a 19 year-old barefooted soldier: Juan Santamaria Day.   Costa Rica also sports the Juan Santamaria International Airport.  Seems that Walker’s biggest contribution for the Central American country was to place Juan Santamaria in the annals of Costa Rican history.  Take a lesson from this. Don’t try to take over a country. Leave that to the professionals.

Weather Bottom Line:  Rain chances will be elevated for Monday and Tuesday as a shortwave comes out of the Southern Plains.  But, you will note that the chance of rain listed in most forecasts are less than originally posted.  Last night I saw a local broadcast claim a 70% chance of rain today.  I then looked at the data and found that it indicated that the shortwave was not following the track that would give rise to such chances, which means someone didn’t do their homework.  It’s not that there is no chance, but just not as aggressive as had been advertised.  It’s all because of a cold front that is approaching slowly.  So, scattered activity will be in the area for Monday and Tuesday.  The front doesn’t get very far south of us before it slides back north as a warm front and our temperatures and humidity jump for a day or so before another cold front comes down at the end of the week and rain chances go up again.

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