|Reform War or First Mexican Civil War|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Benito Juarez |
Jesus Gonzalez Ortega
| Felix Zuloaga |
|Casualties and losses|
Part of a series on the
|History of Mexico|
The War of Reform (Spanish : Guerra de Reforma) in Mexico, during the Second Federal Republic of Mexico, was the three-year civil war (1857–1860) between members of the Liberal Party who had taken power in 1855 under the Plan of Ayutla, and members of the Conservative Party resisting the legitimacy of the government and its radical restructuring of Mexican laws, known as La Reforma. The Liberals wanted to eliminate the political, economic, and cultural power of the Catholic church as well as reduce the role of the Mexican Army. Both the Catholic Church and the Army were protected by corporate or institutional privileges (fueros) established in the colonial era. Liberals sought to create a modern nation-state founded on liberal principles. The Conservatives wanted a centralist government, some even a monarchy, with the Church and military keeping their traditional roles and powers, and with landed and merchant elites maintaining their dominance over the majority mixed-race and indigenous populations of Mexico.
This struggle erupted into a full-scale civil war when the Liberals, then in control of the government after ousting Antonio López de Santa Anna, began to implement a series of laws designed to strip the Church and military—but especially the Church—of its privileges and property. The liberals passed a series of separate laws implementing their vision of Mexico, and then promulgated the Constitution of 1857, which gave constitutional force to their program. Conservative resistance to this culminated in the Plan of Tacubaya, which ousted the government of President Ignacio Comonfort in a coup d'état and took control of Mexico City, forcing the Liberals to move their government to the city of Veracruz. The Conservatives controlled the capital and much of central Mexico, while the rest of the states had to choose whether to side with the Conservative government of Félix Zuloaga or Liberal government of Benito Juárez.
The Liberals lacked military experience and lost most of the early battles, but the tide turned when Conservatives twice failed to take the liberal stronghold of Veracruz. The government of U.S. President James Buchanan recognized the Juárez regime in April 1859 and the U.S. and the government of Juárez negotiated the McLane-Ocampo Treaty, which if ratified would have given the Liberal regime cash but also granted the U.S. transit rights through Mexican territory. Liberal victories accumulated thereafter until Conservative forces surrendered in December 1860. While the Conservative forces lost the war, guerrillas remained active in the countryside for years after, and Conservatives in Mexico would conspire with French forces to install Maximilian I as emperor during the following French Intervention in Mexico.
After the end of the Mexican War of Independence, the country was strongly divided as it tried to recover from more than a decade of fighting. From 1821-57, 50 different governments ruled the country. These included dictatorships, constitutional republican governments and a monarchy.
The political division was roughly divided into two groups, the Liberals and the Conservatives. The Liberal political movements had their beginnings in the secret meetings of the Freemasonry. The secret nature of the society allowed for discreet political discussion. Conservatives favored a strong centralized government, with many wanting a European-style monarchy.Conservatives favored protecting many of the institutions inherited from the colonial period, including tax and legal exemptions for the Catholic Church and the military. Liberals favored the establishment of a federalist republic based on ideas coming out of the European Enlightenment, and the limiting of the Church's and military's privileges. Until the end of the Reform period Mexico's history would be dominated by these two factions vying for control and fighting against foreign incursions at the same time. The Reform Era of Mexican history is generally defined from 1855-76.
The Liberals ousted Antonio López de Santa Anna under the Plan of Ayutla in 1855, bringing Juan Álvarez of the state of Guerrero to the presidency. Liberals exiled to the U.S. during the late Santa Anna regime, Melchor Ocampo and Benito Juárez returned to Mexico, and other Liberals came to national prominence, including Miguel Lerdo de Tejada and his younger brother, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada. This ascendancy came after the loss of about half of Mexico's national territory to the US in the Mexican–American War. Liberals believed that the entrenched power of the Roman Catholic Church and the military were the source of most of Mexico's problems.
The Liberals' challenge to the Catholic Church's hegemony in Mexico came about in stages even before the 1850s. State-level measures adopted since the 1820s and the reform measures of during the regime of Valentín Gómez Farías led conservatives to defend Mexico's Catholic identity, including integration of Church and State. This included Catholic newspapers such as La Cruz and conservative groups that strongly attacked Liberal policies and ideology. This ideology had roots in the European Enlightenment, which sought to reduce the role of the Catholic Church in society. The Reforms began in the 1830s and 1840s coalesced into the principal laws of the Reform era, which were passed in two phases, from 1855–57 and then from 1858–60. The 1857 Constitution of Mexico was promulgated near the end of the first phase. More Reform laws were passed from 1861–63 and after 1867 when the Liberals emerged victorious after two civil wars with Conservative opponents.
The success of the Plan of Ayutla brought rebel Juan Álvarez to the Mexican presidency. Alvarez was a "puro" and appointed other radical Liberals to important posts, including Benito Juárez as Minister of Justice, Miguel Lerdo de Tejada as Minister of Development and Melchor Ocampo as Minister of Foreign Affairs. The first of the Liberal Reform Laws were passed in 1855. The Juárez Law, named after Benito Juárez, restricted clerical privileges, specifically the authority of Church courts,by subordinating their authority to civil law. It was conceived of as a moderate measure, rather than abolishing church courts altogether. However, the move opened latent divisions in the country. Archbishop Lázaro de la Garza (es) in Mexico City condemned the Law as an attack on the Church itself, and clerics went into rebellion in the city of Puebla in 1855–56. Other laws attacked the privileges traditionally enjoyed by the military, which was significant since the military had been instrumental in putting and keeping Mexican governments in office since Emperor Agustín de Iturbide in the 1820s.
The next Reform Law was called the Lerdo law, after Miguel Lerdo de Tejada. Under this new law the government began to confiscate Church land.This proved to be considerably more controversial than the Juárez Law. The purpose of the law was to convert lands held by corporate entities such as the Church into private property, favoring those who already lived on it. It was thought that this would encourage development and the government could raise revenue by taxing the process. Lerdo de Tejada was the Minister of Finance and required that the Church sell much of its urban and rural land at reduced prices. If the Church did not comply, the government would hold public auctions. The Law also stated that the Church could not gain possession of properties in the future. However, the Lerdo law did not apply only to the Church. It stated that no corporate body could own land. Broadly defined, this would include ejidos, or communal land owned by Indian villages. Initially, these ejidos were exempt from the law, but eventually Indian communities suffered an extensive loss of land.
By 1857 additional anti-clerical legislation, such as the Iglesias law (named after José María Iglesias), regulated the collection of clerical fees from the poor and prohibited clerics from charging for baptisms, marriages or funeral services.Marriage became a civil contract, although no provision for divorce was authorized. Registry of births, marriages and deaths became a civil affair, with President Benito Juárez registering his newly-born son in Veracruz. The number of religious holidays was reduced and several holidays to commemorate national events introduced. Religious celebrations outside churches was forbidden, use of church bells restricted and clerical dress was prohibited in public.
One other significant Reform Law was the Law for the Nationalization of Ecclesiastical Properties, which would eventually secularize nearly all of the country's monasteries and convents. The government had hoped that this law would bring in enough revenue to secure a loan from the US, but sales would prove disappointing from the time it was passed all the way to the early 20th century.
As these laws were being passed, Congress debated a new Constitution. Delegates were concerned with the precedents established by the first of the Reform Laws and the issue of whether Mexico would have a central, authoritarian government or a federal republic. In the end, the Constitution of 1857 established a centralist component.Since the constitution did not establish the Catholic Church as the official and exclusive religious institution, it was a major step in the separation of church and state.
Each of the Reform Laws met strong resistance from Conservatives, the Church and the military, culminating in military action and war. After the Juárez Law, General Tomás Mejía (1820 – 1867) rebelled against the Liberal government in the defense of the Catholic identity of Mexico in the Sierra Gorda region of Querétaro. Mejía would conduct operations against Liberal forces for the next eight years.
Opposition to the Lerdo Law and the 1857 Constitution culminated in a takeover of Mexico City by Conservative forces. This operation was called the Plan of Tacubaya. When the military took control of Mexico City, then president Ignacio Comonfort agreed to the Plan's terms, but Benito Juárez, then president of the Supreme Court, defended the 1857 Constitution. Juárez was arrested.Comonfort was subsequently forced to resign and Gen. Félix Zuloaga was put in his place. After arriving in Mexico City, Zuloaga's supporters closed Congress and arrested liberal politicians, preparing to write a new constitution for the country.
The Plan of Tacubaya deeply divided the country, with each state deciding whether to support the Liberals' 1857 Constitution or the Conservatives' takeover of Mexico City. Juárez escaped prison and fled to the city of Querétaro.He was recognized as the Liberals' interim president. As Zuloaga and the army took over more of the central part of Mexico, Juárez and his government were forced to the city of Veracruz. From there the Liberal government had control over the state of Veracruz and a number of allied states in the north and central-west. The Liberal government would be located in Veracruz from 1858-61.
Full hostilities between Liberal and Conservative forces raged from 1858-60. The Conservatives controlled Mexico City, but not Veracruz. Twice in 1860 Conservative forces under Gen. Miguel Miramón tried to take the city but failed. From there Juárez directed the opposition movement, from which the Liberals obtained supplies and money through duties received in the port city.
At the beginning of the war Liberal leaders and armies lacked the military experience of the Conservatives, who were backed by Mexico's official military. However, as hostilities continued, Liberal forces gained experience and obtained aid from the US that would eventually enable victories for the Liberal side. On March 6 of that year, two ships previously acquired by the Conservative government were prevented from entering the city by a US naval force, acting in support of the Liberal faction of Benito Juarez. The force fleet attacked the Mexican ships and arrested their crews, eventually kidnapping Mexican marines and taking them to New Orleans.This incident is known as the Battle of Anton Lizardo. In the same year Conservative forces were defeated in Oaxaca and Guadalajara. In December 1860 Gen. Miramón surrendered outside of Mexico City. Liberal forces reoccupied the capital on 1 January 1861, with Benito Juárez joining them a week later. Despite the Liberals regaining control of the capital, bands of Conservative guerrillas operated in rural areas. Miramón went into exile to Cuba and Europe. However, Gen. Márquez remained active and Mejía operated from his stronghold in the Sierra Gorda until the end of the French Intervention in Mexico.
Juárez's interim presidency was confirmed by his election in March 1861. However, the Liberals' celebrations of 1861 were short-lived. The war had severely damaged Mexico's infrastructure and crippled its economy. While the Conservatives had been defeated, they would not disappear and the Juárez government had to respond to pressures from these factions. One of these concessions was amnesty to captured Conservative guerrillas who were still resisting the Juárez government, even though these same guerrillas were executing captured Liberals, one of whom was Melchor Ocampo. Juárez also faced external pressures from countries such as Great Britain, Spain and France owing to the large amounts indebted to them by Mexico.Conservative factions in Mexico, who still wanted a European-style monarchy, would eventually conspire with the French government to install Mexico's second emperor during the French Intervention in Mexico.
Battles in the Reform War:
José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori was a Mexican general and politician who served seven terms as President of Mexico, a total of 31 years, from February 17, 1877 to December 1, 1880 and from December 1, 1884 to May 25, 1911. The entire period 1876–1911 is often referred to as the Porfiriato.
Benito Pablo Juárez García was a Mexican lawyer and president of Mexico, of Zapotec origin from Oaxaca.
Ignacio Gregorio Comonfort de los Ríos, known as Ignacio Comonfort, was a Mexican politician and soldier. He became President of Mexico in 1855 after the outbreak of the Revolution of Ayutla that overthrew Santa Anna.
Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada Corral was a jurist and Liberal president of Mexico, succeeding Benito Juárez who died of a heart attack in July 1872. Lerdo was elected to his own presidential term later in 1872 rather than remaining successor due to his previous office of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Juárez's political rival liberal General Porfirio Díaz had attempted a coup against Juárez, but his Plan de la Noria failed and Díaz was eliminated as a political foe during Lerdo's 1872-76 term, giving Lerdo considerable leeway to pursue his program without political interference. Lerdo was more successful than Juárez in his final years as president in pacifying the country and strengthening the Mexican state. He ran for another term in 1876 and was elected, but was overthrown by Porfirio Díaz and his supporters under the Plan of Tuxtepec, which asserted the principle of no-reelection to the presidency. Lerdo died in exile in New York in 1889, but Díaz invited the return of his body to Mexico for burial with full honors. Not counting Miguel Miramón, an unrecognized president during the Reform War, he is the first president of the recognized presidents that was not born during Spanish colonial rule.
Miguel Lerdo de Tejada was a Mexican statesman, a leader of the Revolution of Ayutla, and author of the Lerdo Law, extinguishing the right of corporations, including the Roman Catholic Church and indigenous communities, from holding land.
Liberalism in Mexico was part of a broader nineteenth-century political trend affecting Western Europe and the Americas, including the United States, that challenged entrenched power.
Félix María Zuloaga Trillo was a Mexican general and a Conservative leader in the War of Reform. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, Zuloaga served as unconstitutional interim conservative president of Mexico in opposition to the constitutional president Benito Juárez of the Liberal Party.
La Reforma, the Liberal Reform in Mexico, was initiated in by liberal politicians following their ouster of conservative president Antonio López de Santa Anna under the 1854 Plan de Ayutla. The Liberal Reform as a historical period is often considered to be from 1855 to 1861, as one portion of the liberal republic in Mexico, but there is not total consensus on the dates. From the liberals' initial narrow objective to remove a dictator and take power, they expanded their aims to a comprehensive program to remake Mexico governed by liberal principles as embodied by a series of Reform laws and then the embedded in a new Constitution. The major goals of this movement were to undermine the power of the Catholic Church in Mexico, separate church and state, reduce the power of the Mexican military, and integrate Mexico's large indigenous population as citizens of Mexico and not a protected class. Liberals envisioned secular education as a means to create a Mexican citizenry. The liberals' strategy was to sharply limit the traditional institutional privileges (fueros) of the Catholic Church and the army, as well as undermine indigenous communities as a protected group. Liberals promulgated a series of separate laws, collectively known as the Laws of the Reform. These were then incorporated into the Mexican Constitution of 1857. Liberals required that Mexicans swear allegiance to it, which conservatives refused to do. Instead, they formed a conservative government and fought the liberals in a civil war, the War of the Reform. It was waged over three years with liberals defeating conservatives on the battlefield. However, Mexican conservatives sought a way to regain power. They helped install a monarch, Habsburg archduke Maximilian, who was chosen by French ruler Napoleon III. Adherents of the Mexican republic, led by president Benito Juárez, resisted and fought the French intervention, successfully ousting the monarchy in 1867. The liberals returned to power, in a period known as the Restored Republic (1867-1876), often considered the end date of the reform era.
The Plan of Ayutla was the 1854 written plan aimed at removing conservative, centralist President Antonio López de Santa Anna from control of Mexico during the Second Federal Republic of Mexico period. Initially, it seemed little different than other political plans of the era, but it is considered to be the first act of the Liberal Reform in Mexico. It was the catalyst for revolts in many parts of Mexico, which led to the resignation of Santa Anna from the presidency, never to vie for office again. The next Presidents of Mexico were the liberals, Juan Álvarez, Ignacio Comonfort, and Benito Juárez. The new regime would then proclaim the 1857 Mexican Constitution, which implemented a variety of liberal reforms.
José María Iglesias Inzáurraga was a Mexican lawyer, professor, journalist and liberal politician. He is known as author of the Iglesias law, an anticlerical law regulating ecclesiastical fees and aimed at preventing the impoverishment of the Mexican peasantry. From October 31, 1876 to January 23, 1877, he claimed the interim presidency of Mexico. However, he was never undisputed president.
Melchor Ocampo was a mestizo by birth, a radical liberal Mexican lawyer, scientist, and politician. He was fiercely anticlerical, perhaps an atheist, and his early writings against Roman Catholic Church in Mexico gained him a reputation as an articulate liberal ideologue. Ocampo has been considered the heir to José María Luis Mora, the premier liberal intellectual of the early republic. He served in the administration of Benito Juárez and negotiated a controversial agreement with the United States, the McLane-Ocampo Treaty. The Mexican state where his hometown of Maravatío now stands was much later renamed Michoacán de Ocampo in his honor.
José Santiago Vidaurri Valdez was a controversial and powerful governor of the Mexican states of Nuevo León and Coahuila between 1855 and 1864. He was an advocate of states' rights. In 1861, he sought an association with the Confederate States of America, which benefited his region economically. Earlier in 1855, he had been a supporter of the Revolution of Ayutla, which brought liberals to power. Vidaurri supported Benito Juarez in the War of the Reform. He later broke with Juarez and supported Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico. When the French regime fell in 1867, Vidaurri was captured and executed for his alliance with the French. In Nuevo León he remains an important historical figure.
Anti-clericalism in Latin America sprang up in opposition to the power and influence of the Catholic Church in colonial and post-colonial Latin America.
The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857 often called simply the Constitution of 1857 is the liberal constitution drafted by 1857 Constituent Congress of Mexico during the presidency of Ignacio Comonfort. It was ratified on February 5, 1857, establishing individual rights such as freedom of speech; freedom of conscience; freedom of the press; freedom of assembly; and the right to bear arms. It also reaffirmed the abolition of slavery, eliminated debtor prison, and eliminated all forms of cruel and unusual punishment, including the death penalty.
The Second Federal Republic of Mexico is the name given to the second attempt to achieve a federalist government in Mexico. Officially called the United Mexican States, a federal republic was implemented again on August 22, 1846 when interim president José Mariano Salas issued a decree restoring the 1824 constitution. Like the Mexican Empire, the First Federal Republic and the Centralist Republic it was a chaotic period, marked by political instability that resulted in several internal conflicts. Mexico's loss of the war with the United States saw half the territory Mexico claimed become part of the United States. Even though Antonio López de Santa Anna played a major role in much of this history, he returned to the presidency yet again, selling northern territory coveted by the United States contiguous to territory it just gained in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The sale of the Mesilla Valley was for many the final straw, and liberals promulgated of the Plan of Ayutla, calling for the overthrow of Santa Anna. Santa Anna went into exile and the liberals set about implementing their vision of Mexico.
Plan of Tacubaya, also known as Tacubaya Plan or War of the Three Years was formulated to abolish the Reform Laws by Benito Juárez. In Mexico the new constitution was rejected by a large part of society, which had the support of the clergy and the army. Comonfort, aware of the limitations imposed by the new regime, proposed reforms to strengthen the government and mitigate "radical" measures; however, Congress rejected them. Given the delicate situation, Félix Zuloaga and other generals convinced Comonfort to convene another congress to draft a new constitution more in keeping with the customs of the nation. On December 17, 1857, Zuloaga proclaimed the Plan of Tacubaya. Comonfort joined the Plan of Tacubaya, which began the three-year war.
The Conservative Party was a Mexican political party that sought to preserve the organization and colonial Spanish values, both in government and in society. Although as a party it was founded in 1849, after the defeat of Mexico in the war with the United States, most of the political ideology directly descended from the Jesuits expelled in the 18th century, and the establishment of a Criollism or Hispanism sentiment, which then emerged and were strongly influenced by conservative European thoughts. It also advocated the preservation and supremacy of the Criollos élite culture over those of mestizo or indigenous. It was a party of the élite, established by white landowners and aristocrats. The Conservative Party disappeared in 1867, after the fall of Maximilian I of Mexico.
The Reform laws were a set of anticlerical laws enacted in Mexico between 1855 and 1863, during the governments of Juan Alvarez, Ignacio Comonfort and Benito Juárez that were intended to limit the privileges (fueros) of the Roman Catholic Church and the military. The laws also limited the ability of Catholic Church and indigenous communities from collectively holding land. The liberal government sought the revenues from the disentailment of church property, which could fund the civil war against Mexican conservatives and to broaden the base of property ownership in Mexico and encouraging private enterprise. Several of them were raised to constitutional status by the constituent Congress that drafted the liberal Constitution of 1857. Although the laws had a major impact on the Catholic Church in Mexico, liberal proponents were not opposed to the church as a spiritual institution, but rather sought a secular state and a society not dominated religion.
The Lafragua law or the Regulation of the Freedom of the Press is named after liberal politician José María Lafragua (1813-1875) and issued on 28 December 1855. It is one of the many Reform laws when Mexican liberals ascended to power in 1855 after the ouster of conservative Antonio López de Santa Anna. The Lafragua law was drafted during the presidency of Ignacio Comonfort when Lafragua was his minister of the interior. The law states that no one should be persecuted for his political opinions and it prohibited press censorship. The authors of newspaper articles should be made responsible for their writings by signing them. They were not allowed abuse of the freedom of the press, especially in religious and governmental matters. It is considered the most moderate of the Reform Laws. This legislation was elevated to constitutional status by Articles 6 and 7th of the [[Constitution of 1857|Political Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857 and reaffirmed by the Organic Law of Press Freedom 1861 issued by the Congress. In contrast, it was not accepted by conservative governments of Félix Zuloaga and Miguel Miramon, who restored the repressive Lares Law during the War of the Reform (1858–60).
Juárez Law was decreed during the liberal reform, named after the Mexican liberal leader Benito Juárez, who became the president of Mexico in 1861. This law took away the special privileges of the Catholic clergy as well as the Mexican military, such as the fuero exemptions. In addition, Juarez Law stated that members of the clergy and the military must be in the jurisdiction of the civil courts and the common law. So essentially, all Mexican citizens were made equal under this law. This law was created under the liberal objectives of equality to be carried out under it. It brought hope that there was change happening. When the law was first established by presidential decree, the increasingly unpopular Mexican president at the time, Ignacio Comonfort, proclaimed the immediate effect it had on the nation. "Yesterday and today feverish rumors were running in this capital of an imminent revolution...To support this law is a duty of the present administration..." On the other hand, days after the Juárez Law was established, the conservatives came out with the slogan "Religion and Fueros!" in order to counter the law and show support to the Catholic Church.
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