María Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s novel Who Would Have Thought It? (1872) illustrates how U.S. imperialism has all but rendered contractual relations between Mexicans and Anglo Americans an impossibility, thereby creating an untenable merger between a republic founded on consensual relations and an empire created through the abridgement of consent. This essay argues that Ruiz de Burton engages the postbellum discourses of gold, value, and race in order to address the deleterious consequences of racializing Mexicans for the purposes of plunder. The text illustrates how the nation’s imperialist practices were creating two systems of meaning—one contractual and the other imperial, which in turn has created a world of contradictions. To be both a republic and an empire means to be both white and Native American, businessman and plunderer, civilized and barbaric. These contradictions debase the value of whiteness and gold, values that only contractual relations can uphold.


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pp. 143-165
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