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Spanish military tribunal convicts cartographer

November
29
1811

On this day in 1811, a Spanish military tribunal convicted Juan Pedro Walker on a charge of supporting Mexican independence. Walker, born in 1781 in New Orleans, was the son of an English merchant. He was the official surveyor of the Concordia district in Louisiana by 1803. In August of that year, he learned of the Louisiana Purchase and, as a lifelong subject of the Spanish crown, applied for permission to move to New Spain. Walker proceeded to Coahuila, where Governor Manuel Antonio Cordero y Bustamante recruited him for the Spanish service. In 1807 Walker served as the interpreter for Lt. Zebulon M. Pike's party during their involuntary sojourn in Chihuahua. Walker's career collapsed in 1811, however, when he was jailed on charges of supporting Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's insurrection. After his conviction Walker was stripped of military employment and condemned to perpetual exile from America, but before he could be sent to Spain Joaquín de Arredondo commissioned him to map the area that included Texas. During 1815 and 1816 Walker engaged in extensive fieldwork along the Rio Grande, as far north as San Antonio, and along the coast of Nuevo Santander. Meanwhile, officials discovered an error in Walker's case which could be redressed only by the highest authorities in Spain, where Walker was shipped early in 1817. Lacking sufficient evidence either to convict or to exonerate him, the crown ordered him to remain in Spain, but granted him a small stipend. He settled in Valladolid and died around 1828.

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