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The War With Mexico, Volume I (of 2) By Justin H. Smith Characters: 66988

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


It was of course the political side of Mexican civilization that had the most direct bearing on our relations with that country, and this can best be explained by approaching it historically. At the same time we shall be aided in studying, not only some of the principal figures in the war and their mutual attitudes, but some of its most important and mysterious events.

The colonial régime of Spain was intended and carefully planned to ensure the safety, prosperity and contentment of her distant subjects, but for certain reasons it worked badly. Like all nations of that period, she believed that her colonies existed for the good of the mother-country, and aimed first of all to control and exploit them. She had to depend upon very human agents that were practically beyond her reach. While theoretically all Mexicans, except the aborigines, enjoyed an equality before the law, the government felt that emigrants from the Peninsula were especially worthy of confidence; and at the same time not a few of these men had friends industriously scheming for them at court. The consequences were, first, the establishment of a powerful Gachupine oligarchy, largely dependent on the royal will, the lowest member of which, even if penniless, felt superior to every Creole, and, secondly, the enthronement of privilege, often gained by ignoble means, in government, army, church and business. The Creoles-overawed by the almost divine prestige of the king, trembling before his power, and convinced that only his troops could protect them against the Indians-submitted; but they hated their insolent oppressors, and the Indians hated both groups. On the principle of "Divide and conquer" the government fomented these dissensions; and, supported by the intolerance of the Church, it did its utmost to bar out foreigners and foreign ideas in order to ensure an unreasoning subordination.[1]

What Mexico owed to Spain, therefore, aside from the remembrance and fruits of an efficiency that she could not hope to equal, was a settled tradition of arbitrary rule based on force, of authority selfishly and often corruptly used, of the government as possessing the sole initiative, of social disunion resulting from privilege and monopoly, of personal successes frequently due to intrigue or purchased favor, of political indifference except among the controlling or aspiring cliques, of apathy concerning all high interests, of ignorance, inertness, fanaticism, hard oppression, blind obedience, passionate feuds and gross pleasures.[1]


Little by little new ideas reached a few of the more intelligent, however. The American Declaration of Independence became known, and also the fact that Spain, by supporting England's rebellious colonies, had co?perated with heretics long pictured as infidels and fiends. Echoes from Diderot's encyclop?dia and reports of the French revolution crept in; and the natural desire both to share on equal terms in the offices and in business, and to escape from the extra cost of living due to the monopolies, quickened thought. When war with England led to the raising of Mexican troops, a new sense of power began to be felt; when the Spanish monarchy crumbled before Napoleon in 1808, the illusion of the king's divinity and invincibility faded; when the royal family exhorted the Mexicans to accept the heir of the French revolution as their master, loyalty quivered to its base; and when the people of Spain took up arms to defend their betrayed nationality, the principle of popular sovereignty loomed up as greater than royal prerogatives. Finally the mass of the people, though too apathetic to realize the full meaning of these facts, were roused by a thunder-clap at home.[2]

Struggling with the crisis precipitated by events in the Peninsula, the viceroy-partly to gain support for himself, it is probable, and partly to gain support for the monarchy-showed a disposition to give the Creoles a voice in the government, upon which the leaders of the oligarchy were so amazingly foolish as to depose him by force, and usurp his authority. This conduct proved that much of their boasted loyalty and supposed ability had been shams, that what they really meant was to enjoy the wealth and power, that the cause of the Creoles was not one of subjects against their king, but one of subjects against subjects, and that only force could settle the issue. Dreams of independence immediately crystallized into schemes of insurrection.[2]

Foremost among the conspirators was Hidalgo, commonly described by the Mexicans as a Washington, but in reality a kindly, public-spirited, mockingly irreligious and frankly immoral priest. His plans were discovered; and so on the sixteenth of September, 1810, in the desperate hope of saving himself and his associates, he called upon the Indians, rabid with fanaticism and hatred of their oppressors, to rise against the Spanish, who, he declared, had now allied themselves with infidel Frenchmen against their holy religion. What followed was like the bursting of reservoirs filled with blood and fire. Scarcely a trace of statesmanship was exhibited by the leaders; most of their disciples acted like fiends let loose; and their enemies did little better. Soon many common priests, many Creole military men, and not a few other persons who felt sore under the heel of wealth and power and were ambitious to rise, embraced the cause, and so many of the rest sympathized with Hidalgo's demand for independence, that probably by good management he could have succeeded; but against a campaign like his the substantial elements of society found it necessary to combine, and when the heads of the insurrection were betrayed, captured and shot in 1811, little of it remained except horrible memories and lessons in conspiracy, treachery, hate, folly, wholesale destruction and wholesale murder.[2]

In a new form, however, the cause of independence lived on. Instead of wild hordes crying, "Death to the Gachupines!" there were now for the most part stealthy but merciless bands of guerillas, and the government soldiers followed close behind them in daring and ruthlessness. On the coast near Vera Cruz an officer named Antonio López de Santa Anna won a captaincy about this time by hunting down insurgents, and on the plateau a handsome, dashing man with brown hair and reddish side-whiskers named Agustín de Itúrbide, who had negotiated with Hidalgo about accepting the lieutenant generalship of the revolutionary army, distinguished himself on the royal side for greed and bloodthirstiness. In 1814 he wrote to the viceroy one Good Friday, "In honor of the day, I have just ordered three hundred excommunicated wretches to be shot," and the women among his prisoners fared no better than the men. On the other side Nicolás Bravo, whose father had been taken and executed, won a noble distinction by releasing about three hundred captives despite orders to kill them; Guadalupe Victoria, as he named himself, earned renown by living in caves like a wild beast rather than give up; and Vicente Guerrero, operating at the south in unexplored mountains, exhibited great resourcefulness, remarkable knowledge of men and extraordinary courage. The principal hero of this period, however, was Morelos, an Indian priest, who showed himself a consummate partisan leader.[2]

So successful were these and the many other chiefs in terrorism, robbery, slaughter and sack, and so deep a sentiment in favor of independence now existed, that with a little sagacity in counsel and a little concert in action the cause might have triumphed; but ambitions, jealousies, insubordination, disloyalty and political incompetence ruined everything, and by the end of 1819, although Guerrero still made head a little, the second phase also of the revolution was substantially at an end, leaving behind it hot embers of turmoil, fighting, treachery and massacre, and countless examples of making pillage a livelihood, selfishly disregarding the common cause, and grossly blundering in political management. Thought and feeling in Mexico had, however, been so educated by reflection, experience, discussion and foreign comments during the past nine or ten years, that a longer acceptance of the old régime could not be expected. Absolutism, though triumphant, was doomed.[2]


The fatal blow came from its champions. In 1820 a revolution in Spain revived the liberal constitution that had been adopted eight years before and then had been abolished by Ferdinand VII; and Apodaca, now viceroy of Mexico, felt compelled to proclaim the new law. The troops and the people began to dread another civil war; and the oligarchy, especially the Church dignitaries, concluding at once that only separation from the mother-country could save their privileges, looked about for an instrument. One was easily found. Itúrbide's greed had finally driven him from his post, his fortune had been wasted in self-indulgence, and he was now desperate. Long since, his active mind had seen that if the Creole troops could be seduced, they-supported by the revolutionary sentiment of the people-could overmatch about half their number of Spanish regiments; and he agreed readily to become the champion of autocracy in order to betray it. Cleverly deceiving the government, he obtained a command through the aid of his backers, and, in order to clear the field, attacked Guerrero. To dispose of that wary foe proved, however, no easy task; so he negotiated privately with a public enemy, described himself as "destitute of ambition and self-interest," and finally inveigled the insurgent leader into joining the conspiracy. Victoria followed that example. Santa Anna, though recently made a lieutenant colonel by the viceroy, came over with his men. Other leaders did the same; and on February 24, 1821, Itúrbide felt strong enough to announce a programme, the famous Plan of Iguala.[2]

This declared for independence, a limited monarchy under a Bourbon king, the Roman Catholic church as the sole form of religion, the old fueros, the right of office-holders to retain their posts, the fraternal union and political equality of Gachupines, Creoles and Indians, and the appointment of a committee (junta) to govern Mexico provisionally. No scheme could have seemed more inviting, and none could have been more delusive, for it ignored insurmountable difficulties and promised incompatible advantages. In all probability Itúrbide knew this; but prelates, troops, officials and people took the shining bait; O'Donojú, the new Spanish general, deciding it would be useless to fight, made a treaty with the revolutionary chief; and on September 27, 1821, Itúrbide carried the tricolor through the gate of the capital, stopped his gallant black charger at the convent of San Francisco, and received the golden keys of the city. Obedience, the sole basis of Mexican society, had been swept away; treachery and perjury had triumphed; and yet the unthinking multitude hurrahed.[2]

The generalísimo, violating the principle of popular sovereignty, now appointed the junta himself, excluding all the old revolutionists; that body in turn elected him and four associates to exercise the executive power as regents; and a Constituent Congress was prematurely summoned to draw up an organic law. The situation soon proved to be extremely difficult. Resentments needed to be healed, jealousies appeased, commerce and the industries put in motion, and the whole edifice of society and politics rebuilt on new foundations out of incongruous elements. Peculiarly urgent was the demand for money-the more so as some of the taxes were abolished in order to sweeten the revolution, while the expenses grew. On entering Mexico Itúrbide had proclaimed, "You see me in the most opulent of capitals;" and every one expected the new government-an independent, Mexican, popular government-to bear an open purse. In October, 1821, some fourteen thousand claims were presented to it.[3]

Itúrbide, whatever his aims and whatever his faults, was the sole Mexican of recognized pre?minence, the sole possible rallying point; and patriotism called upon all to support his prestige and patiently correct his errors until society could take shape. Nothing of the sort occurred, however. The army idolized him; the civil officials counted on him; the prelates feared him less than they did his enemies; and the masses, ignorant of what went on below the surface, revered him as the Father of Independence; but the cheated absolutists, disappointed borbonistas, cajoled insurgents, distanced comrades, eclipsed leaders and unsuccessful claimants, the patriots, indignant that a cruel royalist should be the heir of the revolution, the republicans, few in number but increasingly influential, the friends of those he had massacred or plundered, and behind all the Scottish Rite Freemasons, who were liberals yet partisans of Spain-all these hated and dogged him. Honors and emoluments were heaped upon him to excite envy and odium; his weaknesses were baited; his strength was provoked; his administrative blundering was stimulated instead of corrected. When financial necessities compelled him to decree a forced loan, paper money and other arbitrary measures, many began to denounce him as a tyrant. Plausibly enough he was accused of disloyalty to his pledges and of aiming to be king. Finally his enemies, making the most of certain indiscretions that he committed, undertook to remove him from the command of the army. Whatever had been his purpose, he now found it necessary to strike; and a mutiny of the troops-endorsed later by the Congress under military and mob pressure-declared him emperor.[3]

Expenses then increased still more. Jealousies and enmities were embittered. Public sentiment veered sharply. Time, strength and funds were swallowed up in pomps that created no more illusion than a college student in a toga. Encompassed with flatterers, foes and traitors, financially and politically incompetent himself and guided by incompetent advisers, well enough aware that after deceiving everybody he could expect no one to be true, Itúrbide lost his head, sometimes wavered and sometimes tyrannized. Finally he thought it necessary to deprive Santa Anna of an authority that had no doubt been abused; and this interesting young man, who had recently proclaimed that he welcomed Itúrbide's elevation with a positively uncontrollable exuberance of joy, "pronounced" for a republic, knowing scarcely anything about that system, but knowing a great deal about the Emperor's unpopularity. This precipitated a revolution; and the movement, soon taken up by Victoria, Guerrero and Bravo, spread rapidly. Itúrbide's most intimate and trusted general was despatched against the insurgents, but betrayed him. The army went over. The people, who revered the Liberator but not the Emperor, concurred. With bad faith and gratuitous outrages his enemies crowded savagely upon him. Early in 1823 he abdicated; and in May, forsaken by every one of the many he had benefited, the discredited hero sailed for Europe, leaving behind him examples and suggestions of the most demoralizing kind.[3]

The junta, meanwhile, had disgusted the nation with its frivolities, political and fiscal incompetence and usurpation of powers, and there was a feeling of relief when it dissolved in February, 1822, the next day after Congress met. Congress, however, did no better and fared even worse, for it earned much contempt by sanctioning under pressure the elevation of Itúrbide; and then Itúrbide made Congress, and made all popular government, quite ridiculous in the eyes of the people and the army by forcibly sending the members home. When at his wit's end, he recalled it as if inviting the coup de grace, and soon it not only earned more contempt by pronouncing his elevation illegal and punishing every mark of condolence for the fallen chief, but undertook to outrank omnipotence by pretending that no empire had existed. Soon, too, all the selfish ambitions that had combined against Itúrbide in this body showed themselves so clearly as to add further discredit; and worse yet the Congress, though chosen merely to frame a constitution under the Plan of Iguala, held on after the refusal of Spain to co?perate had put an end to that scheme.[3]

The republicans, who were gaining ground because evidently no other Mexican could stand where Itúrbide had fallen, and the Iturbidistas, who desired to create anarchy in order to force the recall of their hero, clamored for new elections. Five provinces demanded them formally; and at length, despised by every one, Congress, the firstfruit of popular government, fell to the ground. Almost every institution that should have enjoyed respect was now discredited-even the Church, for it had crowned the emperor and shed its benedictions liberally on Congress. The army, however, stood, for it had shown its power both to elevate and to overthrow.[3]

The next Congress, which met November 7, 1823, had a more democratic basis; but the members were personally inferior, intrigue and self-seeking again prevailed, and the young orators-convinced that winning applause from the galleries was the true object of speaking-launched forth on all occasions with that fatal fluency which their intoxicating idiom encouraged. After centuries of enforced silence, men to whom liberty could only mean license were called upon to decide the gravest questions of statesmanship. Naturally they were eager to build before laying foundations; and naturally, too, where nine tenths of the people could not read, it seemed like genuine statesmanship to flourish the novel vocabulary of independence.[3]

Frivolous, fickle, now torpid and now running amuck, Congress found itself compelled eventually to frame a constitution. Under Spanish rule the provinces, each governed by an intendant, had known little and cared less about one another; and now, stimulated by the centrifugal tendency of the Iberian character and the dread of a tyrant, inflamed by transcendental doctrines of liberty, disgusted with the proceedings of the national authorities, and captivated by the thought of offices for all, they began to claim sovereignty; and something had to be done at once. A republic, though alien to all the habits and feelings of the nation, seemed evidently necessary, because no possible monarch existed, and because no other system could make it the interest of a sufficient number of persons to maintain the government; but this did not end the difficulties. The centralized type of republic was ardently desired by the oligarchy as likely to prove controllable, and by all the monarchists as a sloping path toward their goal; but the friends of Itúrbide and the enemies of privilege-strongest at a distance from the capital-fought against it, and at length, as the federal system, about which only the vaguest notions were entertained, promised more offices and seemed more likely to hold the country together, it was decided upon.[3]

To meet the crisis one individual, taking the constitution of the United States as a basis,[4] drafted the required instrument in three days; and so an untrained and uneducated nation found itself provided with a complicated mixture of democracy and privilege, liberty and intolerance, progress and reaction, which paralyzed itself by combining such antagonistic elements, omitted the safeguard of a supreme court like ours, and showed its own inadequacy by providing that in emergencies the President might be given "extraordinary powers," or in other words become a dictator. In short, the government was organized as a permanent revolution. There was much enthusiasm, however, over this triumph of nationality, and on New Year's day, 1825, the first constitutional Congress assembled. The treasury was now full of borrowed English gold; and-as every one hoped the new system might be developed in the direction he preferred-all agreed that an era of peace, joy and prosperity had at length arrived.[3]


Victoria was elected President. His frank, ruddy, bronzed face, peering out of gray whiskers and curly gray hair, looked happy and encouraging, but soon the mass of the nation felt once more cheated; for although Bravo had been the candidate of the oligarchy, Victoria-yielding to the pressure of that element-gave it a preponderance in the administration. A multitude of people were exasperated to find the old privileged classes again in control, and the execution of Itúrbide under an illegal law-for he had returned to Mexico-infuriated his partisans. Worse yet, the oligarchy denied the practicability of the federal system for so unwieldy a country, where the states felt so independent, where so many men aspired to hold office and where so few were qualified, and plotted to set up the centralized regime, with monarchy-preferably under a Spanish prince-as the ultimate aim of many; and Victoria, a polite, weak, indolent, easily-flattered man of small abilities, little education and immense vanity, who idolized his country but felt she would always need him as chief-priest, fell in with this plan, because without a change of the constitution he could not be President a second time.[5]

Disgusted and alarmed, the Federalists, who included the Iturbidistas, began therefore to scheme gropingly for a new revolution, a new war of independence; but at length, realizing that under the constitution a majority could rule, they established Masonic lodges of the York Rite, and with great skill, activity and perseverance organized their forces. Before long their power showed itself at the voting-urns, and the President, recognizing the logic of events and perceiving he could never supplant Bravo in the favor of the aristocracy, changed the complexion of the government. This in turn angered the faction displaced, and most unwisely-being physically much the weaker side-it massed its power in December, 1827, and revolted under a certain Monta?o. Bravo, though Vice-President, placed himself at the head of the insurgents; but the government forces under Guerrero, attacking him during a truce, quickly ended the revolt.[5]

Peace, however, did not return. The newspapers unearthed or invented so many unsavory tales about the leading citizens that, besides proving those men unworthy of confidence, they excited lasting resentments. The Federalists-particularly the Iturbidistas-harshly avenged their past sufferings, for the Mexican idea of justice meant a chance to persecute the oppressor; and every thinking mind saw with dismay that whereas previous insurrections had occurred in a natural revolutionary period, the government legally established by the nation had now been defied by a great party led by the Vice-President himself. This was the letting out of waters, and to palliate it as chargeable to circumstances would be to excuse all political crimes.[5]

Meanwhile another storm had been gathering. The Spanish element, which not only was superior but felt so, had given much offence; and, quite aside from grudges, many thought it unsafe to have so large a number of Gachupines in the country-many of them active and able, not a few of them soldiers, and some occupying high civil and military positions-at a time when Spain was preparing to reassert her authority over Mexico. Others argued that should the Spaniards go, their places in business and the public service would be available for Mexicans. Still others considered this a good way to enfeeble the oligarchy, so as to curtail its privileges. Many demagogues perceived that here lay a splendid opportunity to acquire a following; and the Spaniards, for their part, long accustomed to despise and lord it over the Mexicans, often exasperated the public by offensive and imprudent conduct. The natural consequences followed. Many insurrections, benevolently treated by the government, demanded the expulsion of the Gachupines; some of the states passed laws in that sense; and finally, in 1827 and 1828, Congress did the same. A very large number of Gachupines actually departed and carried away their money. This drew out the strongest fibres of public life, the army, finance, trade and the industries; while the injustice and impolicy of these decrees and the bloody vengeance taken upon a few silly Spanish conspirators embittered feeling in Mexico, and greatly injured Mexican credit in Europe, where few except the Spanish merchants enjoyed any financial standing.[5]

By the time Victoria's administration drew near its end, Mexico had marked out her downward route. The parties faced each other as implacable foes. Each perpetrated as much electoral fraud and violence as it could; each kept up a savage press; and each worked in the dark through secret societies. Owing to extravagance, peculation, bad management, the backwardness of the states in paying their quotas, and the failure of an English banking house, the treasury was empty in spite of lavish borrowing. "Liberty" had become a by-word, for Victoria had wielded the extraordinary powers for a year and a half, punishments had gone beyond the laws, and the government had been given authority, not only to expel foreigners at will, but even to banish citizens from their states. Corruption was general and profound, commerce feeble, credit extinct, justice perverted, reported the French agent; and, as his British colleague added, the "Name of Patriotism" was used as a "Cloak to cover the greatest Excesses."[5]

And now came something worse. Well aware they could not elect one of their own number President against the popular candidate, Guerrero, the Centralists looked about for an acceptable Federalist. Gómez Pedraza, Victoria's minister of war, though narrow, harsh and passionate, was a strict and honest man, a laborious official and a thoughtful, effective orator. He had fought on the Spanish side in the revolution, and naturally favored a conservative, aristocratic régime. He, therefore, was secretly adopted in place of Bravo, now in exile. All those who detested unseemly party strife preferred him, and as the moderate wing of the Federalists also took that side, quite unaware that Centralism lurked in the shadow, Guerrero's noisy and overconfident supporters found themselves beaten. This result and the open exultation, threats and hostilities of their old enemies, who still controlled the senate and the supreme court, enraged them, for they perceived they had been duped once more, and they hotly charged-no doubt with some reason-that money and Pedraza's power as head of the war department had frustrated the will of the people; while it disgusted Victoria to be superseded by a man he had looked down upon as merely a useful clerk.[6]


Another individual also took offence. After setting the ball in motion against Itúrbide, Santa Anna had been eclipsed by larger figures, and to shine again he took up arms as Protector of the People; but this enterprise collapsed at once, and he issued a very humble proclamation, closing with the words, "Permit me, permit me to dig myself an obscure grave that my ashes and my memory may disappear." A fairly comfortable grave was, however, dug for him by removing His Penitence to Yucatan as military commandant, and he proceeded at once to gild its interior by permitting illicit commerce with Cuba. Returning after a while to the proper field of ambition, he was more than suspected of complicity in two insurrections; but in each case he read the omens in season to extricate himself, and virtuously offered his sword to the government. Now, however, he took a bold stand. Not only were he and the successful candidate personal enemies, but he felt that little would be left of himself after four years of Pedraza's rule; and he knew that Guerrero, in addition to being favored by the army, really had a majority of the people on his side. Accordingly he unfurled his flag in September, 1828, for Guerrero, popular rights and a total expulsion of the Gachupines. In this contest he showed amazing quickness, audacity and resourcefulness, keeping up his motley troops principally by brigandage; but very soon his cause appeared to be doomed.[6]

At this point Lorenzo de Zavala, one of those human meteors that rarely illuminate Anglo-Saxon skies, came forward. His political relations were extremely intense; and now, believing the Centralists intended to place him before a firing-squad, he organized at Mexico, in the hope of saving himself and Santa Anna, the woeful insurrection of the Acordada, which fixed the example of party revolution. Victoria had an understanding with him, though after betraying the government and letting the handful of rioters get a safe start, he lost his nerve and betrayed them also; and in the end, at the cost of some bloodshed and extensive robberies, the insurrection triumphed; "the vile and unnatural Pedraza"-as his foes called him-fled to the United States, and Congress, after having declared Pedraza elected, pronounced Guerrero President on the express ground that revolts had occurred in his favor. In reality this was a revolution of numbers and popular ideas against privilege and oligarchy, and before long the country accepted the situation.[6]


Santa Anna was now a popular hero, the saviour of the nation; and he proceeded to confirm his title. In 1829 came the long expected blow from Spain, and having calmly assumed the military authority at Vera Cruz, he advanced to meet it. Near Tampico the invading army, stricken with fever, desired to lay down its arms; but Santa Anna, eager for laurels, attacked it. Spanish valor accepted the challenge; the Mexicans were repulsed; and their ambitious leader left the field before the battle ended. The invaders were then permitted to surrender, and soon a new cry was echoing through the streets of Mexico, "Viva Santa Anna, the Victor of Tampico!" Clothing himself with modesty and grace he now posed as a sort of benevolent divinity. Rather tall, thin, apparently feeble but capable of great exertions on occasion, with a head that bulged at the top, a swarthy complexion, brilliant and restless eyes, a very clear-cut voice and a voluble tongue, he moved about his estate at Manga de Clavo and the near-by city of Vera Cruz in an easy, affable way, accumulating popularity. "Can read somewhat," reported our consul in that city; but his thoughts were above literature. "Were I made God," it was said that he once remarked, "I should wish to be something more."[6]

Meantime, April 1, 1829, Guerrero assumed the Presidency. In his green jacket edged with fur, red waistcoat bound with a blue sash, brown mantle and heavy sabre, with his thick hair bristling toward all points of the compass, he was a picturesque figure, and as candidate had answered very well. For the role of chief magistrate, however, the British minister justly described him as "totally unfit." Being mostly of Indian and partly-it was stated-of negro blood, he instinctively distrusted the whites, while the latter utterly despised the class to which he belonged. Though his intuitive judgment was quick and within the range of his experience remarkably correct, he knew nothing whatever of letters and politics, necessarily depended upon the self-seeking flatterers of his party, and veered about like the wind. In military emergencies he could burst his bonds like a Samson, but the things he really cared for were a wench, a bottle, a game of monte and a nap under some spreading tree. Without ideas, knowledge, experience or high character, he faced a terrible inheritance: the laws ignored, the authorities despised, the administration disorganized, the treasury worse than empty, the country in distress and turmoil.[6]

Professions of loyalty to the "sacred" constitution and the laws could not blot out the fact that his authority was based upon a riot; and others would not feel satisfied merely because he was content. The extraordinary powers of the Executive, granted in view of the Spanish invasion, were used oppressively. A multitude of persons clamored for money and he could give them none; a multitude clamored for reforms, and he scarcely knew what they were talking about. As far as possible the rest of the Gachupines were driven out, but this merely added to the confusion. President and nation simply drifted, and the rocks were near. Before long the general government was practically ignored except at the capital, and the heads of the secret societies wielded the real power. Guerrero even allowed the oligarchy, his deadliest foe, to alienate him from the common people, the source of his strength. He became almost as isolated as Mahomet's coffin; and then-as soon as ambition could disguise itself with a programme-he fell.[6]

Mainly owing to the good-will of Guerrero, the Vice-President was General Anastasio Bustamante, a heavy, dull, rather kindly and fairly honest aristocrat, though nominally a moderate Federalist. When appointed by Guerrero to command the army of reserve at Jalapa, the principal military force in the country, he exclaimed on taking leave of the President, "Never will I unsheathe my sword against General Guerrero," but within a year (December, 1829) he did it; and, though a beneficiary of the A

cordada riot, he revolted against the government in the name of the constitution. As a matter of fact his rebellion was merely another effort of the privileged classes, a revised edition of Monta?o's, and the army received its pay from the money chests of the oligarchs. Little opposition was encountered, for Guerrero had let Delilah shear him, the Acordada episode and much other misconduct had completely discredited the radical Federalists, and the Federalists in general-who had raised Bustamante from a political prison to the second place in the nation-could not believe, after his fresh protestations of loyalty to the constitution, that he would betray them. The President, finding nobody to lean upon, fled to his old haunts in the south, was treacherously captured and was shot; and meanwhile, on the first of January, 1830, Bustamante took up the reins. Greed, corruption, imprudence, evil passions and lawlessness had ruined the cause of democracy, and Victoria's experiment of letting aristocrats administer a professedly popular system had to be tried again.[6]

Bustamante opened Congress with a bit of the fashionable hypocrisy, asserting that a "sacred Constitution" had placed him in power; but he showed that what interested him was "the wishes of the army," and the army reciprocated this affection. Alamán, who had been Victoria's chief adviser at first, now became the real head of the government. More than any other man in Mexico he could claim to be called a statesman, for he knew some history, had observed politics in Europe, and in a superficial yet impressive way could reason; but he was a statesman of the Metternich school, wily and insincere, wholly unable to sympathize with democracy, and profoundly in love with force. Whatever did not suit the government he demolished without regard to law; whoever opposed it was crushed. In administration the government did well, but-attempting to represent democracy and privilege, progress and reaction, the past and the future, a self-governing state and an all-controlling church at one and the same time-it undertook to perform an impossible task by impossible means. Consequently it satisfied neither of the parties and offended both. King Stork proved worse than King Log.[7]

Santa Anna, incensed because Guerrero would not appoint him minister of war, had at first coquetted with Bustamante's movement; but soon, overshadowed at Jalapa by the Vice-President and by Bravo, whom Guerrero had pardoned, he retired to his estate. On the outbreak of the revolution he took up arms for Guerrero; but when his chief gave up, he followed that example, and patiently awaited, crouching, the time to spring. Now he saw the tide of passion rising, and saw also the best citizens agreeing that Mier y Terán,[F] an able and honorable man, should be the next chief magistrate. Accordingly, to prevent an election if nothing more, he "pronounced" in the name of Federalism at the beginning of 1832, and called for a change of Cabinet, though four years earlier he had battled for the principle that nobody should interfere with a President's choice of ministers; and then he required that Bustamante should give up his place to Pedraza as the rightful head of the state, though Santa Anna himself had been the cause of Pedraza's exclusion on the ground of illegal election. Supported by the Vera Cruz customhouse and defended by the pestilence of the coast, he occupied a most advantageous position; and consistency did not signify.[7]

Near the close of the year the two chiefs, brought together by Pedraza, adjusted the affairs of the nation-that is to say, the offices-as private business, and the troops on both sides were liberally rewarded. Congress protested, but was utterly powerless. Bustamante soon found it wise to give up the Presidency; and as the elections were not general enough, at the proper time, to create a Congress, constitutional government vanished. However, though Pedraza had resigned and even left the country, which no President could legally do, Santa Anna and Bustamante now hoisted him into power to complete the term interrupted by Guerrero, while the "best citizens" fell out over offices and personal issues, and so dissipated the brightest prospect seen as yet in Mexican public life.[7]


Under these circumstances, of course, the dominant general, Santa Anna, was elected President. For Vice-President the choice fell upon Valentín Gómez Farías, leader of the radical Federalists. In many ways Farías deserved warm admiration. He was active, indefatigable, fearless, thoroughly honest, and willing-perhaps a little more than willing-to serve the public in the humblest or the highest office. He loved Mexico ardently, and he believed in the supremacy of law and the civil authority. Unfortunately, however, his education was inadequate for the work he undertook to do; and he lacked prudence, patience and common sense. In short, he may be characterized as a fanatical democrat and political idealist.[7]

Santa Anna now had the army at his back, but he desired to have also the privileged classes there, and they had been exasperated by his overthrowing Bustamante. He therefore decided to let them see they needed him; and, retiring early in 1833 to his estate-which in fact he enjoyed much more than bearing the burdens of administration-he left the Vice-President in power. Farías then undertook to transform Mexico, by merely saying "Open Sesame!" to the Federalist majority in Congress, into a modern, liberal, orderly and prosperous nation; and reform projects made their appearance at once. The privileges of the army were boldly attacked and still more those of the Church, which aimed to be in the social order enough to dominate it, yet enough outside to escape from all obligations. Farías proposed, therefore, without having a well-digested plan, to reassert the supreme authority formerly exercised by the king, abolish the clerical fuero and the compulsory tithes, provide for popular, lay education, and bring into productive circulation the immense wealth controlled by the Church; and Congress, fully aware that reforms were necessary, dazzled by the boldness and novelty of his programme, and misled by the Mexican faith in theories and formul?, supported him.[7]

Naturally such projects and their foreseen consequences roused the clericals and all in that camp to fury, and the proprietors of great estates also grew alarmed. The President felt his time had come, and in May, therefore, he resumed his functions. The progress of reform promptly halted, and soon it was announced that Santa Anna, ingeniously made a prisoner by his own troops, had been proclaimed dictator. Undoubtedly he expected the mutiny that now broke out at the capital to overthrow the government; but Farías, again in power during the President's absence, quelled the revolt, and Santa Anna found it necessary to "escape" and resume his office.[7]


Pretending still with consummate address to favor both parties-though really a Centralist now-he made both of them court and fear him, and proved his power by breaking down and then restoring the army. Of course, however, these manoeuvres excited suspicion. The privileged classes, though anxious for his support, hesitated to pledge him theirs, and so he returned on a six months' leave of absence to his figurative plow, leaving Tornel, whom an American minister described as "a very bad man," to scheme in his interest. The now embittered and excited forces of reform were thus unleashed, and before long the Church and the rich proprietors offered the Cincinnatus of Manga de Clavo absolute power on condition that he should protect them. In April, 1834, therefore, two months before his leave was to expire, he took possession of the supreme power again, and was hailed by the clergy as a new Messiah. Supported soon by the revolutionary "plan" of Cuernavaca, he made himself in effect a dictator. The cause of reform was harshly checked and turned back. Congress found the door of its hall barred; and Farías, covered with abuse, was driven from the country.[7]

Secretly encouraging reactionary insurrections and instigating demands for a centralized régime, though still professing publicly the other creed, Santa Anna ordered the people to surrender their weapons, and crushed with a ruthless hand the state of Zacatecas, which dared to oppose his will. "Worthy son of the father of lies," "unrivalled chameleon," "shameless hypocrite," "atheist and blasphemer," shrieked his opponents. "With the tranquility of a tiger, which, sated with the flesh of its prey, reposes on what it does not wish to devour, Santa Anna reports his victory," cried El Crepúsculo. But resentment counted for nothing; Mexico was prostrate. Late in 1835, therefore, a packed Congress of self-seeking politicians decided upon centralization, and it was understood that Santa Anna would be chosen President for ten years, with a longer term and a higher title in prospect. But now the scene was tragically shifted. In March, 1836, the Texans declared their independence. The Napoleon of the West fell into their hands at San Jacinto, where they defeated his army; and, as an inkling got abroad of the unpatriotic agreements made with his captors while in fear of revenge for his cruelties, he thought it wise to announce, on returning to Mexico in 1837, a definitive retirement from public life.[7]

According to the organic law, any proposed constitutional change had to remain under consideration for two years; but the Congress of 1835, not minding a trifle like this, drew up as fast as possible what it named the Seven Laws-called by others the Seven Plagues. By December, 1836, despite the resistance and threats of the Federalists, the new régime was fully organized, and Bustamante soon held the reins again. The Church and the wealthy were now satisfied. The army also felt pleased, for the Federalists denounced its privileges, the cost of the many state offices created by them reduced the amount of money it could get, and an aristocratic government seemed likely to need it constantly and pay it with some regularity; and so the prospect was, especially with Santa Anna eliminated, that the new regime would be stable.[7]

But among the aristocrats it had become unfashionable by this time to meddle with politics. The groups that made up the dominant party, though united against the democrats, had little else in common. Each group desired to enjoy privileges and shun burdens; each aimed to exploit the nation; and there was not enough to satisfy all. The expulsion of the Spaniards had weakened the numbers, ability, energy and wealth of the party; and now, as after every revolution, it proved so impossible to fulfill the promises made to win support, that soon disappointed friends were allying themselves with open enemies.[8]

A new difficulty, too, arose, for under a centralized system the government had to assume financial responsibilities previously borne by the states. A strong treasury was therefore essential; yet the rich, and in particular the clergy, would not pay enough to carry on the government they had established. Consequently funds had to be borrowed, Church property being the only available security; and the clergy, instead of meeting the terms of the money-lenders, busily hid or exported their wealth. Every dollar that could be raised had to be given the army as the price of its allegiance, and for six months not one civil employé, from the President down, received a salary. In October, 1837, the ministry resigned in a body, and would not return to their desks, for nobody cared to support so heavy a load when there was no chance to steal or even to get paid.[8]

Early in November the British representative, although the legation had all along sympathized with the aristocratic party, reported that Centralism had completely failed; and it was notorious that Bustamante himself desired a restoration of Federalism as the only possible expedient. Seeing their enemies divided, the liberals took heart, and petitions for a change of system were soon pouring in from the departments, which had now taken the places of the states. Dissatisfaction spread. Pronunciamientos began, and only the popularity of Bustamante, who had mellowed with age and foreign travel during his period of eclipse, maintained the government. Yet Federalism could not act, for at this juncture the French minister was pressing claims, and the two wings of the party-the moderates led by Pedraza and the radicals led by Farías-disagreed passionately on this foreign issue. A complete state of anarchy prevails, reported our consul at Mexico in December, 1838.[8]


Santa Anna all this time was quietly at work, though he had called heaven to witness that he would be loyal to the existing regime; and, as often happened, chance came to his aid. A French fleet captured the fortress of Ulúa, off Vera Cruz, at this time, and a party of marines landed at the town, destroyed some war material, and then marched back to re?mbark. Santa Anna commanded there, and, being wounded in attacking these troops, had to undergo amputation at the knee. This was his opportunity, and he at once issued a most eloquent address. Already he had outdone opera bouffe, and now he outdid himself. "Probably this will be the last victory I shall give my country," he said; "I die happy that Divine Providence has permitted me to devote to her every drop of my blood.... May all my fellow-citizens, forgetting my political errors, concede to me the one title that I would leave my children, that of a Good Mexican." There had been no victory, for the French drove him out of Vera Cruz before he could dictate the address, and he did not dream of dying; but the Mexicans are tender-hearted, and the episode-particularly in contrast with the inaction of the government, which could not afford an efficient regular army and dared not arm the people-gave him a fresh hold on the nation, even though all capable of thinking felt by this time profoundly skeptical about him.[8]

Accordingly he became the power behind the tottering throne in December, 1838, and when Bustamante took the field early the next year to put down an insurgent named Mejía, the Centralist leaders had Santa Anna made temporary President as a bulwark against Federalism. The quality of his penitence quickly showed itself. His power was audaciously used to cripple Bustamante, suppress liberty, gain partisans and benefit himself and his friends. In a word, he achieved the most lawless and shameless administration yet witnessed, and though universally feared, was now execrated by almost all except his personal followers. In July, 1839, the President resumed his functions, but matters only went on from worse to worst-corruption rampant in the administration, public spirit dead. In July, 1840, rioters actually made him their prisoner for a time. False advisers, particularly Tornel, drew him farther and farther into Santa Anna's net. Corpulent and aging rapidly, he fell into a sort of mental stupor; and in August, 1841, the British minister reported that the government, if left to itself, would soon expire of inanition. As for the nation, it was not merely in anarchy but in chaos. Even the conservatives admitted that the Seven Laws would not do.[8]

This very month rang the bell for the next scene. General Mariano Paredes, another important figure in the history of our war with Mexico, was a brave but rather besotted officer, more honest but less clever than his leading contemporaries. On a mere pretext, though he owed much to Bustamante, he revolted; more or less in collusion with him Santa Anna pronounced as mediator; and General Valencia, correctly described by an American consul as "destitute of every principle of honor or honesty," treacherously getting hold of what was called the citadel at Mexico, rebelled on his own account: check from two knights and a castle, as Se?ora Calderón wittily described the situation. Weary, disgusted, indifferent, cynical, men heard unmoved the "Quién vive?" and "Centinela alerte!" of the insurgents at the capital, and between two puffs of their cigarettes gossiped about the revolution as if it had occurred in Europe. It was only a game of chess, and the public were spectators. They understood now that nearly all the pompous phrases of the politicians had meant, as Lara's Revista Política of 1840 put it, "Move, and let me have your place."[8]

In this confusion Santa Anna, whom the conservatives had now decided to support instead of the inefficient Bustamante, came rapidly to the front. His triumph was soon foreseen, and the nation acquiesced. Most people knew he was a villain, but felt that at any rate he possessed energy. Probably he could keep order, they said, and perhaps, if entirely trusted, would act well. If not, one big rascal could not be so bad as many little ones; and at the very least any change must be an improvement. In reality this bold, cunning, hungry, sharp adventurer, who knew what he wanted and got it, dazzled the average Mexicans. They saw in him a fulfilment of themselves, and in letting him rule they had the feeling of success without the trouble.[8]

For a while Bustamante, whose government practically faded out in September, 1841, resisted with dignity though with no chance of survival; but at length, in a fit of desperation, he cut the ground of legality from under his own feet by pronouncing for Federalism, and on October 7, Santa Anna, driving rapidly through Mexico behind four white horses belonging to a stockbroker, with a retinue of splendid coaches and an immense escort of cavalry, took up his quarters at the palace in Tacubaya, a few miles beyond. Yet not a single viva greeted his magnificent entry or his address to Congress. Memory paralyzed admiration. In despair, not love, Mexico consented to be his.[8]


By the new arrangement, called the Bases of Tacubaya, a new Congress was to draw a new constitution. Meantime some one, the choice of a junta appointed by the successful chief, was to have the powers "necessary for the organization of all branches of the public service," and naturally Santa Anna himself received the votes of his junta. This arrangement was regarded by the nation as a mere parenthesis, but the General held a different idea. On October 10, the gloomy old cathedral was as bright as gold, silver, gems and hundreds of candles could make it. Troops entered the sacred precincts, and formed to the music of drums and cornets. The archbishop proceeded to the main entrance in cope and mitre, holding in his hands a crucifix equally beautiful and precious, and there he waited for about three quarters of an hour, when a military officer, who had not even deigned to put on full dress, marched in and seated himself on a splendid throne. A large suite of generals followed, but none of them ventured to sit, though the Te Deum lasted an hour; and finally the man on the throne rose and took this oath: I swear to God-to do as I please; for such was the meaning of the Bases. Hardened by seeing his superior astuteness, audacity and energy balked so many times by circumstances and a lack of confidence in his honor, Santa Anna proposed, now that he once more had the power, to grip it with a hand of steel.[9]

As dictator he indulged himself by running through the entire diapason from childishness to omnipotence, announcing impossibilities and attempting absurdities. The freedom of the press and the freedom of speech were violated. The tariff was juggled with for selfish pecuniary reasons. He ordered the university to give one of his friends a degree and a chair-that is to say, learning and a profession. He closed a bank without allowing it the time to liquidate. He put up a cheap building of rubble work that was merely an eyesore-though Tornel compared it to the Simplon road of Napoleon-and the city government had to fall down and worship it. His amputated foot was dug up and reinterred with extraordinary pomp. On the top of a monument was erected a gilded statue of him pointing toward Texas, though some said it was pointing at the mint. The Church, now governed by the soft Archbishop Posada, drowsy with satisfaction and carelessly fattening on sweetmeats presented to him by adoring nuns, was forced to make "loans"; and payments on public debts, for which revenues had been solemnly pledged, were suspended.[9]

Nothing, one might almost say, was too great or too small for Santa Anna, if it looked auriferous. No coach wheel could turn without first paying a tax. Anybody with a promising scheme to get national funds could find a partner at the palace. Brokers and contractors took the places of politicians; wealthy merchants, able to loan great sums at great percentages, took the places of statesmen. Corruption was rampant everywhere, of course. "An arbitrary system, indeed, must always be a corrupt one," as Burke said; "there never was a man who thought he had no law but his own will, who did not soon find that he had no end but his own profit." These words describe Santa Anna's course. And when his chest was full enough and his army big enough, putting a substitute in his place and shaking off the cares of state, he went down to enjoy his gambling and cockfighting and plan his next political move at Manga de Clavo, secure from observation and protected by troops. Hints of a formal dictatorship began to be heard.[9]

To keep up appearances, however, he summoned the proposed Congress. A majority of the members were Federalists, but he promptly informed it that Federalism would not do, and when they insisted on their notion, Tornel, the minister of war, who was glad to be his lackey and wear the livery of the house, barred Congress out of its hall. Presently, without a sign of protest from any one, it was dissolved by decree; and then eighty persons, chosen by the administration, drew up a new constitution called the Organic Bases. Valencia was president of this junta; and both he and Paredes began to plot against the dictator. Santa Anna forced them to swallow their ambitions for the time being, however, and by dint of military interference-though his enemies were bestirring themselves and he was now increasingly unpopular-he became President in January, 1844, under the new constitution. This appeared like a concession to legality, but no doubt it was intended as a recoil for another spring. His dream of empire still went on, it was fully believed.[9]

Although the minister of justice described this period as "an epoch of glory" and an "era of absolute felicity," the new Congress manifested a disposition to antagonize the President; but an almost supernatural dread of him paralyzed even his enemies, and he readily bowled them over. Then he was given a special sum of four millions for war with Texas; and after that sum was promptly absorbed, he demanded not only ten millions more but "extraordinary powers" to lay taxes. This meant that he wanted to have every man's property at his disposal, and it was generally believed that with a foreign war as excuse he would soon try to make himself autocrat. Congress resisted, and before long was suspended.[9]


But now the people took fire. They had trusted Santa Anna completely, and their confidence had been as completely abused. It was felt that he had shown a deliberate intention to ignore the public interest and feed upon the nation-disregarding all personal rights, threatening all fortunes and contradicting all principles. Paredes, who had never forgiven Santa Anna for running him off the track in 1841, pronounced. In November, 1844, war began. The President attempted both to cajole and to terrorize his enemies, and moved against the insurgents with a powerful army; but on December 6 the troops at the capital revolted, and the nation concurred. In the departments he was particularly hated, for he had impoverished them with taxes and spent the money elsewhere; but Mexico itself blazed. "Death to the lame man!" shouted the populace, dragging his foot round the streets. Dazed and overwhelmed, Santa Anna, after moving about irresolutely with his dwindling army, left it with a small escort early in January, 1845, and then took to his heels with only four servants. Before long some peasants captured him, and later in the year he was banished.[9]

At first sight this collapse amazes us. It seems impossible that Santa Anna, whose particular talent lay in discovering the direction of political currents, should have lost so suddenly his tremendous power. But the explanation is readily found. Without a doubt he was the foremost Mexican of his time. Seen at the head of a ragged, undisciplined mob called a regiment, inspiring them with eye, gesture and words, and leading them on with almost electrical energy; seen at a banquet, where he could show himself-despite the six colonels erect and stiff behind his chair-merely a prince of good fellows, dignified but cordial, courtly but unrestrained, brilliant yet apparently simple; seen at the council board, seizing upon a shrewd idea expressed by one of his associates and developing, illustrating and applying it in a way that made its real author marvel at his chief's wisdom; seen in one of his outbursts of Jacksonian rage, as when he threatened at a diplomatic reception to run the boundary line between Mexico and the United States at the cannon's mouth; seen at the opera house, in a crimson and gold box with a retinue of crimson and gold officers, dressed in the plainest of costumes himself, and wearing on his countenance an interesting expression of gentle melancholy and resignation, as if he were sacrificing himself for the nation and shrank from the gaze of an adoring public-seen in these and other phases he appeared remarkable, and even, as combining them, extraordinary.[9]

But in reality he was a charlatan. Though head of an army, he knew nothing of military science; though head of a nation, he knew nothing of statesmanship. By right of superiority and by right of conquest Mexico seemed to be his; and, with what Burke described as "the generous rapacity of the princely eagle," he proposed to take the chief share of wealth, power, honor and pleasure, leaving to others the remnants of these as a compensation for doing the work. It was a cardinal principle with him that the masses could be ignored; and in 1844, having reduced the Church to subservience and formed a combination with the military and the financial men, based on a community of interest in exploiting the national revenues, he deemed himself invulnerable, the more so because the coterie of base flatterers that he loved to have about him reflected this conviction. Of a true national uprising he had no conception; and when this came, finding himself in the presence of a power that amazed and overawed him, seeing his axioms disproved and his pillars going down, he lost heart, and plunged from the zenith to the nadir of his essentially emotional nature.[9]


Santa Anna's legal successor was General J. J. Herrera, president of the council of state, a fair, pacific, reasonable and honest man; and the new ministry commanded respect. For a time the halcyon days of 1825 returned. This was the first great popular movement since Mexico had become independent. All had united in it, and therefore all were in harmony; every one had assisted, and therefore every one felt an agreeable expectation of reward. Factions laid down their arms. For a few weeks all remembered they were Mexicans. But the situation was extremely difficult. Santa Anna's constitution, which commanded no respect because neither authorized by the people nor endorsed by good results, was still in force. All who believed in his system, including twenty thousand half-pay-or rather no-pay-officers, dissipated, hungry and reckless, began at once to plot for his return or for some one of the same kind to succeed him. Herrera's aim to introduce reforms, both civil and military, gave great offence. Paredes, representing the Church and the aristocracy, stood at the head of the main army, and soon showed a disposition to hold aloof. Indeed every prominent man had a busily scheming clique.[10]

The correct course for the new President would have been to declare for the constitution of 1824, and throw himself upon the Federalists; but, fearing that such a step would excite a revolution, he adopted the timid and hopeless policy of trying to balance one party against another. Owing to fear of the army, though he knew he could not rely upon it, he dared not organize militia; and before long a body of troops were allowed to revolt with impunity. Soon, therefore, the government had no prestige and no substantial backing. Every sort of a complaint was made against it. The financial troubles became acute. Confusion and uncertainty reigned, and the President was physically incapable of a hard day's work.[10]

In March a conspiracy that indicated an ominous combination of Federalists and Santannistas came to light. In May, under strenuous pressure from England and France, the government shrinkingly agreed to recognize Texas if she would bind herself not to join the United States; and this wise though tardy move brought an avalanche of abuse upon it. In June the Federalists rose, but the affair was badly managed and failed. Tornel, the arch-plotter, a general who never had a command, was sent to the northern army; and other turbulent men were imprisoned. But still the government merely drifted-blind, irresolute, vacillating, moribund; and the general public looked on with complete indifference. Going to sleep red and waking up green-for revolutions usually began at night-was no longer a novelty.[10]

In August the ministers resigned; "the chief offices of state were begging in the streets," wrote the correspondent of the London Times; and the men who finally took them, while personally well enough, had little strength and less prestige. By September the government stood in hourly fear of a revolution; but so little booty could be seen, that although the plots thickened, they were lazily developed, and amounted to nothing. Paredes, the Santannistas and the Federalists became constantly more threatening, however, and the administration more and more afraid to take any step whatever, good or bad. Nobody could guess what it would do to-day from what it did yesterday. The anarchy of weakness constituted the government. A triumvirate of Paredes, Tornel and Valencia was much talked of. Many prayed for some respectable despot, many for a foreign prince; and some of the more thoughtful suggested cautiously an American protectorate. "Sterile, deplorably sterile" has been the movement against Santa Anna, exclaimed the friendly Siglo XIX in October, describing it as "a moment of happy illusion." By this time the administration was powerless even at the capital; and on November 30 El Amigo del Pueblo, an opposition sheet, announced, "There is no government in Mexico." This, however, was premature. Before the dénouement of this tragi-farce the United States was to enter upon the scene; and as this new phase of the drama requires to be prepared for, we must here leave Herrera, for a brief space, in the midst of his difficulties.[10]


Sterile indeed and most deplorable was the whole series of events that we have now followed. One is glad to pass on; but let it be noted first that while circumstances promoted, they did not produce it. The Mexicans knew better, far better, than they acted. In 1824 the Constituent Congress pointed out distinctly in a solemn address to the nation, that without virtue liberal institutions would fail, revolution would follow revolution, anarchy would ensue; and as time went on editors and orators frequently traced the causes of Mexico's downfall in vivid and truthful sentences. The trouble was that a great majority of those who might have advanced her welfare preferred ease to effort, guile to wisdom, self-indulgence to self-control, private advantage to the public weal, partisan victory to national success; and naturally, in such a state of things, the few honorable, public-spirited citizens could seldom command a sufficient following to accomplish anything. Our leading public men, said a contemporary, having been for one reason or another contemptible, have learned to despise and distrust one another, and the public, sick to death of their man?uvres, have learned to despise and distrust them all; yet such persons-demagogues and soldiers-were still permitted to lead. Paper constitutions and paper laws, naturally of little validity in the eyes of such a wilful, passionate race, had been rendered by experience contemptible.

For the consequences, if there be such a principle as national responsibility, the people as a body were responsible; and so they were for the results of this deplorable schooling as it affected the relations between their country and ours. The inheritance from Spain had been unfortunate, but there had been time enough to recover from it; and instead of improving, the Mexicans had even degenerated.[11]

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