Unlike most of his fellow Libertarians, Colbert had supported the Rocky Mountain War. After the signing of the Hague Treaty in 1855, Colbert called for the return of the "lost provinces" of Mexico del Norte.
The 1869 elections were the first to be held after passage of a Constitutional amendment providing for direct election of the President. During the Libertarian national convention in July 1869, Senator Carlos Concepción of Chiapas, the leader of the radical wing of the party, argued that the amendment would allow a Mexicano to be elected president. However, Concepción had no support among the other party leaders, and after two days of behind-the-scenes maneuvering, the convention nominated Colbert.
Colbert was an expansionist who wanted to see the U.S.M. extend its control south to the nations of Guatemala and New Granada. In his acceptance speech, he spoke of "the fulfilment of our territorial destiny."
Colbert's Continentalist Party opponent, Senator Omar Kinkaid of California, enjoyed the financial support of the two wealthiest businessmen in Mexico, Bernard Kramer of Kramer Associates, and Monte Benedict of Petroleum of Mexico. As a result, during the two weeks between the party convetions and the election, the Continentalists were able to put up hundreds of thousands of Kinkaid posters all over the U.S.M., and field a small army of speakers to stump for him. Colbert had to content himself with advertisements in leading newspapers and campaigning by Libertarian volunteers. Despite this disparity in rescources, Colbert managed to win 46% of the votes, as well as majorities in every state except California and Jefferson.
Six years later, at the 1875 Libertarian convention, Colbert hoped to gain the nomination again. He still spoke of "regaining the lost regions of Mexico del Norte," and criticized Kinkaid for his cautious foreign policy. He also called for political control of Guatemala, and strong actions against the Russians, who he claimed "even now are threatening the borders of California." By then, the Libertarians were more interested in internal reforms than foreign adventures, and Colbert's attempt to gain the nomination was unsuccessful.
In 1879, it was discovered that Colbert's attempt to gain the Libertarian presidential nomination was being bankrolled by Monte Benedict. Sobel states that there is reason to believe that Colbert was unaware of Benedict's funding.
Sobel's sources for the political career of Henry Colbert are Ferdinand Marcos' Henry Colbert (New York, 1956); and Thomas Mason's The Jefferson-California Axis of 1866-1876 (London, 1968).