nicaraguan history

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May 3rd 1855: Walker departs for Nicaragua

On this day in 1855 the American adventurer William Walker, with an entourage of around sixty men, left to conquer Nicaragua. Walker is well known for these ‘filibustering’ missions where private armies tried to claim Latin American countries for themselves and establish colonies. To attract supporters, Walker expounded the principles of Manifest Destiny - that American has a divine duty to expand across the continent - and appealed to those keen on the expansion of slavery. The Tennessean’s first mission to Mexico was ultimately unsuccessful and when he returned was put on trial for his illegal war but the sympathetic Southern jury took just eight minutes to acquit him. Spurred by this, Walker set his sights on Nicaragua, which was in the midst of a civil war; the Democratic government gave Walker permission to come support them. Upon arrival, the Walker group joined with local and foreign groups, boosting their numbers and allowing them to defeat the other side. Walker then took personal control of Nicaragua, declaring himself President in 1856. He then began enacting his vision of a colony, reinstating slavery, making English the official language and reorganising Nicaragua’s entire financial system. He faced military challenges from surrounding countries, including Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, which feared conquest and succeeded in forcing Walker to flee. Walker died soon after, in 1860, when he was executed by Honduran authorities.