- Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations: Extradition and Extraterritoriality in the Borderlands and Beyond, 1877–1898 by Daniel S. Margolies
Margolies’s book is an important contribution to the historiography of United States–Mexican relations. He does a very good job of examining the local, regional, national, and international contexts of U.S.-Mexican relations, employing an impressive array of primary sources. I think Margolies’s methodology, by examining the different layers of jurisdiction and conflict, is the best way to understand the changing nature of U.S.-Mexican relations with regard to their shared border. Margolies’s focus on the intersection of the judiciary and diplomacy proves to be an excellent lens by which to examine the changing dynamics of U.S.-Mexican relations in the late nineteenth century. During this critically important time in U.S.-Mexican relations, the United States was slowly but surely building its way upward toward what might be termed “superpowerdom.” Mexico, for its part, was still licking its wounds from its civil war of 1857 to 1867 and the French military invasion from 1861 to 1867. Margolies shows how the United States used its increasing power in a unilateralist way toward a nation it viewed as inferior in order to drive a harder bargain with Mexico with regard to cross-border legal conflicts.
One way to have improved the book would be to look at how people [End Page 1005] in the U.S.-Mexico borderland region viewed their own national capital. Margolies does a thorough job examining and explaining how Mexicans and U.S. citizens viewed their counterparts on the other side of the border. But, part of the history of the border is that Mexican residents in Northern Mexico often thought that policy coming out of Mexico City did not display understanding of their situation and problems—which they experienced on a daily basis. The same is true of their U.S. counterparts in the southwest with regard to policy coming out of Washington, D.C. Indeed, the U.S. and Mexican residents of the border region have a shared culture in some respects. However, Margolies’s book does not examine this side of border culture.
In addition, Margolies could have better placed his important, new work in the broader sweep of U.S. history. The increasingly more assertive U.S. policy toward Mexico with regard to conflicts in the border area fit squarely into the history of spread-eagle Manifest Destiny of the early nineteenth century. As the young United States added more and more territory out west, it justified already existing views among white Protestants in the United States that Indians and Mexicans were racially and culturally inferior. As such, these views of superiority toward nonwhite races help to explain why, at every turn, the United States claimed ever wider and more expansive jurisdictional powers with regard to cross-border conflicts with Mexico in the late nineteenth century. Margolies could have also discussed the twentieth-century legacy of his nineteenth-century analysis of U.S.-Mexican relations. At the end of the book, he tantalizingly notes that one of the most enduring legacies of the expansion of U.S. international juridical power in the late nineteenth century was the creation of “an archipelago of anomalous zones freed of jurisdictional constraints that continued to be systemically useful long after territorial empire became an albatross” (p. 334). One thing he could be referring to (although it grew out of a Mexican, not a United States, initiative) was the 1961 National Border Industrial Program, and the 1964 Maquiladora Program, Mexican efforts to stimulate the economic development of Northern Mexico. This latter program, in which factories along the northern border of Mexico could be 100 percent foreign owned, restricted where the factories could sell their products in order to protect nascent Mexican industries. The factories that sprung up along the northern border of Mexico were called maquiladora industries. These industries have had...