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1888 and 1890 filibustering attempts in Baja California (Mexico)

Baja California

Last modified: 2019-12-14 by juan manuel gabino villascán
Keywords: mexico | baja california | california | los angeles | smith (walter g.) | san diego | san diego sun | us | mulkey (j. k.) | filibustering | golden field (order of the) | northern mexico (republic) | coin | hager (anna marie) | s |
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Proposed Republic of North [Northern] Mexico (1888, 1890)

"Two aborted filibustering schemes hatched in Southern California in the late nineteenth century illustrate the role of the U.S. press in exposing and stopping such activities. An important factor that precipitated international adventurism at this time was the termination of the Southern California land boom and the wishes of some European Americans to extend the bonanza beyond the border. Interest in Baja California among restless elements hoping to acquire land increased when the International Company, a U.S. concern with considerable holdings in Mexico, regularly advertised available tracts on the peninsula. In 1888 Los Angeles resident Col. J. K. Mulkey organized the Order of the Golden Field, a secret society with branches in Texas and Arizona. The group intended to plant U.S. filibusters in Baja California posing as ordinary workers, farmers, and miners who in time would foment insurrection and proclaim the peninsula the ‘Republic of Northern Mexico’. Mulkey unwisely talked about the plan with a reporter form the San Francisco Chronicle who pretended to be a potential member of the society. Armed with documents form U.S. and Mexican officials who purportedly favored the scheme, Mulkey asserted that twenty thousand troops would be available for service. ‘When time comes,’, he boasted, ‘the order will be so powerful that there can be no successful opposition. It will simply be the story of Texas over again’. But Mulkey never got the opportunity to initiate antoher Texas-style movement, for the information he revealed doomed the enterprise. To protect himself the colonel later claimed he had purposely given flase account because he distrusted the reporter, but suspicions about the order’s true intentions remained."

    Flag of the Order of the Golden Field
    Flag of the Order of the Golden Field
    image from Anne Marie Hager [The Filibusters of 1890, 1968],
    Reported by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 30 October, 2019.

From: Oscar J. Martí, Troublesome Border [Revised Ediiton], The Univesity of Arizona Press, 2006. Jeff Smith, Let’s Invade Mexico! Outbreaks of Filibuster Fever: The Flamingo Filibuster Part two of two, in San Diego Reader, Dec. 7, 2016. Robert L. Scheina, Latin America’s Wars : The Age of the Caudillo 1791-1899, Vol. 1, Potomac Books, Inc., 2003.
Reported by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 30 October, 2019.

In May I visited numismatic exhibition in State Hermitage, St.Petersburg, and I saw interesting coin of "North Mexico" with depiction of a yellow-field flag with saltire and a star. What is it?, US New Mexico?
Victor Lomantsov, 21 June 2017

Photo taken by Victor Lomantsov, 21 June 2017

According Roberto Calleja P.D. via Luis Hayas, the coin on bronze of 2 cents dated 1890, is a sporious coin created withouth decree neither any law supporting it. In the anverse the inscription is in English and in reverse say "In God We Trust 2 cents 1890". In his opinion, the coin was created by a pro-american political group, but the Republic of North Mexico was no probably a real existence even if he has not too much information about opposition to Porfitio Díaz government in the period 1886-1890. (published in Flag Report #12, 1 october 1999)
Jaume Ollé, 21 June 2017

Flag of the seccesionist Republic of North Mexico    Flag of the seccesionist Republic of North Mexico
images by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 30 October 2019.

"At the same time, Arnulfo Herrera, who works together with the vexilogist and heraldist Enrique Florescano in the National Council for the Culture and the Arts, took steps to investigate what concerns to an unidentified flag of Lower California, which is presumed to correspond to a secessionist attempt - typical - encouraged by the Americans (gringos in Mexican terminology)."

By Jaume Ollé in Flag Report 13.

1890 Walter G. Smith proposed invasion to Baja California

Flag of the Republic of Lower California
image from Anne Marie Hager [The Filibusters of 1890, 1968],
Reported by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 30 October, 2019.

[1890 Seccesionist flag of Baja California - Dave variant] Reconstruction based upon written sources only
by David B. Martucci, 8 January 2019

This flag of Baja California dates from 1888.
Don Healy, 05 Jul 1996

A conspiracy in 1890 to take Baja California from Mexico is not specifically referenced in the page at mx-bc.html. A variant of the filibuster flag is shown but it is inaccurately attributed to the year 1888 and appears to have been submitted by Don Healey in 1996. He does not give any source.

A news account exposing a conspiracy to seize Baja California from Mexico and declare a Republic that would then seek annexation to the United States was published in a rather long expose appearing on page 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle on 21 May 1890. The conspirators were prominent "capitalists" with interests in several corporations doing business in Baja California and in Southern California. The new government was to be headed by "Governor-General" Walter G. Smith, who was the publisher of the San Diego Sun. These men wanted to create the State of Lower California, with its capital at Los Angeles, to counter what they saw as domination of the State of California by major interests in San Francisco.

The plan grew out of a secret order established in 1888 by Captain J.E. Mulkey, the Order of the Golden Field, whose flag was gold with a red saltire surmounted by a large white star in the center.

Smith and others, including Mulkey, made their preparations gathering arms, writing a declaration of independence and a constitution and the designing of a flag, oddly described in the Chronicle article as "a red field in the center, and at the end next to the pole … a small white square field, in the center … a single blue star. From this small white field and extending lengthwise … across the red field, … an orange stripe."(I have condensed it slightly from the overly wordy original to be easier to understand.)

The Filibusters of 1890--The Captain John F. Janes and Lower California Newspaper Reports and the Walter G. Smith Manuscript by Anna Marie Hager, published 1968 by Dawson’s Bookshop, Los Angeles, CA, illustrated the flag as having a rather large white "square" (slight rectangle, actually) and a very narrow orange stripe. This book also illustrates the Order of the Golden Field flag, with an orange field rather than the prescribed gold color.

I would interpret this description differently. In my opinion, the Chronicle article may have inadvertently changed the description by the misuse of a comma. I think it more naturally should have read "a red field, in the center and at the end next to the pole … a small white square field, in the center … a single blue star. From this small white field and extending lengthwise … across the red field, … an orange stripe." Since the hoist square is described as "small", I think it would have been no bigger than a third of the hoist. That orange (probably should be gold) stripe, also a third of the hoist. This strongly resembles some variants of the old Spanish flag with a star for independence.

David B. Martucci, 8 January 2019

Further information can be found at:

  • Andrew F. Rolle, Futile Filibustering in Baja California, 1888-1890 in Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 20, No. 2 (May, 1951), pp. 159-166
  • Plot to Annex Baja California
  • Republic of North Mexico 1890
  • Rafael González Bartrina, Los Filibusteros de 1890 : La Compañía Inglesa en complot para anexar la península a USA, in, 15 june 2017.
  • Robert E. May Manifest Destiny’s Underworld : Filibustering in Antebellum America, The university of North Carolina Press, 2002

Reported by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 30 October, 2019.

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