Reform War

Last updated
Reform War or Mexican Civil War
1858 Mexico Map Civil War Divisions.svg
Date1857–1861
Location
Result

Liberal victory

Belligerents
Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg Liberals
Flag of the United States.svg  United States [1]
Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg Conservatives
Commanders and leaders
Benito Juarez
Jesus Gonzalez Ortega
Ignacio Zaragoza
Felix Zuloaga
Miguel Miramon
Leonardo Marquez

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 War of the Reform is one of many episodes of the long struggle between Liberal and Conservative forces that dominated the country’s history in the 19th century. The Liberals wanted to eliminate the political, economic, and cultural power of the Catholic church as well as undermine 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.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the tenth most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Second Federal Republic of Mexico

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.

Contents

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'etat 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.

Civil war war between organized groups within the same sovereign state or republic

A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups within the same state or country. The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, to achieve independence for a region or to change government policies. The term is a calque of the Latin bellum civile which was used to refer to the various civil wars of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC.

Antonio López de Santa Anna 19th-century Mexican politician general

Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón, often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, was a Mexican politician and general who fought to defend royalist New Spain and then fought for Mexican independence. He greatly influenced early Mexican politics and government, and he was an adept soldier and cunning politician who dominated Mexican history in the first half of the nineteenth century to such an extent that historians often refer to it as the "Age of Santa Anna." He was called "the Man of Destiny" who "loomed over his time like a melodramatic colossus, the uncrowned monarch." Santa Anna first opposed the movement for Mexican independence from Spain, but then fought in support of it. He was one of the earliest caudillos of modern Mexico, and he "represents the stereotypical caudillo in Mexican history". Lucas Alamán wrote that "the history of Mexico since 1822 might accurately be called the history of Santa Anna's revolutions…. His name plays the major role in all the political events of the country and its destiny has become intertwined with his."

Plan of Tacubaya

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 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.

James Buchanan 15th president of the United States

James Buchanan Jr. was the 15th president of the United States (1857–1861), serving immediately prior to the American Civil War. He was a member of the Democratic Party and the 17th Secretary of State, and he had served in the Senate and House of Representatives before becoming president.

Maximilian I of Mexico emperor of Mexico

Maximilian I was the only monarch of the Second Mexican Empire. He was a younger brother of the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I. After a distinguished career in the Austrian Navy as its commander, he accepted an offer by Napoleon III of France to rule Mexico, conditional on a national plebiscite in his favour. France, together with Spain and the United Kingdom, invaded the Mexican Republic in the winter of 1861, ostensibly to collect debts; the Spanish and British both withdrew the following year after negotiating agreements with Mexico's republican government, while France sought to conquer the country. Seeking to legitimize French rule, Napoleon III invited Maximilian to establish a new pro-French Mexican monarchy. With the support of the French army and a group of Conservative Party monarchists hostile to the Liberal Party administration of the new Mexican president, Benito Juárez, Maximilian was offered the position of Emperor of Mexico, which he accepted on 10 April 1864.

Liberals vs. Conservatives in post-Independence 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. [2]

Mexican War of Independence armed conflict which ended the rule of Spain in the territory of New Spain

The Mexican War of Independence was an armed conflict, and the culmination of a political and social process which ended the rule of Spain in 1821 in the territory of New Spain. The war had its antecedent in Napoleon's French invasion of Spain in 1808; it extended from the Cry of Dolores by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla on September 16, 1810, to the entrance of the Army of the Three Guarantees led by Agustín de Iturbide to Mexico City on September 27, 1821. September 16 is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day.

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. [3]

Freemasonry group of fraternal organizations

Freemasonry or Masonry consists of fraternal organisations that trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons, which from the end of the fourteenth century regulated the qualifications of stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients. The degrees of Freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval craft guilds, those of Apprentice, Journeyman or fellow, and Master Mason. The candidate of these three degrees is progressively taught the meanings of the symbols of Freemasonry, and entrusted with grips, signs and words to signify to other members that he has been so initiated. The initiations are part allegorical morality play and part lecture. The three degrees are offered by Craft Freemasonry. Members of these organisations are known as Freemasons or Masons. There are additional degrees, which vary with locality and jurisdiction, and are usually administered by their own bodies. Historian Jasper Ridley argues that it is, "the World's Most Powerful Secret Society."

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. [3] The Reform Era of Mexican history is generally defined from 1855-76. [4]

Age of Enlightenment European cultural movement of the 18th century

The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".

Ascendency of the Liberals in the 1850s

In the 1850s the Liberal 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. [4]

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. [5]

The Liberal Reform

Miguel Lerdo de Tejada drafted the law to disentail the lands of the Catholic Church and those of indigenous communities. Miguel Lerdo de Tejada-drawing.jpg
Miguel Lerdo de Tejada drafted the law to disentail the lands of the Catholic Church and those of indigenous communities.
Alegoria de la Constitucion de 1857 shows a dark complected Mexican woman clutching the liberal Constitution of 1857. The 1869 painting by Petronilo Monroy was completed after the expulsion of the French in 1867. Alegoria de la Constitucion de 1857.jpg
Alegoría de la Constitución de 1857 shows a dark complected Mexican woman clutching the liberal Constitution of 1857. The 1869 painting by Petronilo Monroy was completed after the expulsion of the French in 1867.

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, [6] 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. [7] 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. [6]

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. [6] 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. [7] 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. [6]

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. [8] 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. [9]

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. [9]

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. [6] 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. [9]

Civil war

Map

General Felix Zuloaga, conservative president of Mexico during the Reform War. Felix Maria Zuloaga.jpg
General Félix Zuloaga, conservative president of Mexico during the Reform War.
General Miguel Miramon General Miguel Miramon.jpg
General Miguel Miramón

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. [7]

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. [10] 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. [11]

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. [10] 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. [12]

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. [13]

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. [14] 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. [13] 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. [15]

The Juárez government up to the French Intervention

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. [16] 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. [16] [17]

See also

Battles in the Reform War:

Notes

  1. "Juárez es apoyado por tropas de EU en Guerra de Reforma" [Juarez is aided by U.S. troops in the War of Reform] (in Spanish). Mexico: El Dictamen. 2012-10-08. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02.
  2. Kirkwood 2000 , p. 107
  3. 1 2 Kirkwood 2000 , p. 109
  4. 1 2 Kirkwood 2000 , p. 100
  5. Hamnett 1999 , p. 160
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Kirkwood 2000 , p. 101
  7. 1 2 3 Hamnett 1999 , p. 162
  8. Kirkwood 2000 , pp. 101–102
  9. 1 2 3 Hamnett 1999 , pp. 163–164
  10. 1 2 "La Guerra de Reforma, Historia de México" [The Reform War, History of Mexico] (in Spanish). Mexico: Explorando Mexico. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  11. Kirkwood 2000 , p. 102
  12. Hamnett 1999 , p. 163
  13. 1 2 Kirkwood 2000 , p. 103
  14. "Juárez es apoyado por tropas de EU en Guerra de Reforma" [Juarez is aided by U.S. troops in the War of Reform] (in Spanish). Mexico: El Dictamen. 2012-10-08. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02.
  15. Hamnett 1999 , p. 165
  16. 1 2 Kirkwood 2000 , p. 104
  17. Hamnett 1999 , p. 166

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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 Act of September 25, 1874 elevated to constitutional status the Reform Laws. Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada enacted through a decree on September 25, 1873, a series of additions and amendments to the Mexican Constitution of 1857, concerning the Reform Laws that had decreed the separation of church and state.

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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