Emperor Agustin’s Colonization Law Decree of 1823: Articles 1-4
Article 1. The government of the Mexican nation will protect the liberty, property, and civil rights of all foreigners, who profess the Roman Catholic apostolic religion, the established religion or the empire.
Article 2. To facilitate their establishment, the executive will distribute lands to them, under the conditions and terms herein expressed.
Article 3. The empresarios, by whom is understood those who introduce at least two hundred families, shall previously contract with the executive, and inform it what branch of industry they propose to follow, the property or resources they intend to introduce For that purpose; and any other particulars they may deem necessary, in order that with this necessary information, the executive may designate the province to which they must direct themselves; the lands which they can occupy with the right of property, and the other circumstances which may be considered necessary.
Article 4. Families who emigrate, not included in a contract, shall immediately present themselves to the Ayuntamiento of the place where they wish to settle, in order that this body, in conformity with the instructions of the executive, may designate the lands corresponding to them, agreeably to the industry which they may establish.
McKeehan, Wallace L. Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas, 2015, Coahuila y Texas Index, Colonization Laws: http://www.sonsofdewittcolony.org/cololaws.htm
When coupled with the issues inherited from her colonial period, Mexico’s War for Independence further hampered her development. Beginning with the War of Spanish Succession, the futures of Spanish and French Empires were joined. Bourbon kings ruled both empires. Spain, and her empire, suffered greatly as the French Revolution and then Napoleon constant war which drain Spain’s treasury. Trade was disrupted, further stunting economic development in the colonies, especially in Mexico. Spain’s ability to govern her colonies weakened as the empire’s two stabilizing institutions, the monarchy and the church, fought to maintain their existence and influence against revolution and Bonapartism. Some Bourbon reforms, initiated in Spain, proved problematic for colonial Mexican society. Charles III’s expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767 interrupted educational activity in Mexico. Many Mexican’s believed that for Mexico to secure a prosperous future significant political change needed to occur. Serious differences existed over the nature of those needed changes. As Spain’s troubles deepened Mexican patriots, loyalists, and opportunists entered a struggle for dominance. Although Mexico’s War for Independence ended in 1821 the struggle to establish a stable political system continued for many years.
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“It would be an idle waste of time to set about refuting the various attacks which have been circulated against me; they are framed in terms well calculated to reflect disgrace upon their authors”: they seem to be inspired by the furies; they breathe only of vengeance and of blood;—and those who wrote them, having been actuated only by the basest passions- were incapable of reflecting on the inconsistencies with which they abound. Unhappy beings! their vituperation is my eulogy. Where has been the man of virtue who has laboured for the welfare of his country, and who has not been persecuted by envious enemies?”
Agustin de Iturbide, The Memoirs of Agustin De Iturbide: Chiefly Concerning The Late Revolution In Mexico, (London: John Murray, 1824), pp 2- 3.
“the evils I have caused America, now that the dream has been removed from my eyes and my penitence has left me prostrate in bed: from here I can see, far off, the gallows upon which I shall be executed, and with each moment I breathe out pieces of my soul and feel that, before I die once and for all, I shall die a thousand times of shame for my excesses.”
Father Miguel Hidalgo at his trial.
Henderson, Timothy J. The Mexican Wars for Independence. New York: Hill and Wang, 2009, p. 104.
Mexico and the United States moved from their colonial experiences into revolution on very different roads. Those experiences imparted important legacies on each nation. Legacies that provided challenges to and offered promise for life as independent nations. Because the United States and Mexico were both new nations, understanding their colonial and revolutionary legacies is critical to understanding the actions that brought them to war in 1846. This post continues my examination into those legacies, focusing on the revolutionary legacy of the United States. A similar post examining the revolutionary legacy of Mexico will follow.
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Mexico and the United States share historical experiences. Both nations experienced periods of colonization, revolution, and independence. However, the experiences of each nation through these periods differ greatly. A cursory examination of these experiences helps to understand how each nation benefited, or suffered, from the legacy of those experiences. My aim is to understand the trends that brought each nation to war in 1846. I am not establishing blame, justifying actions, proclaiming heroes, or identifying villains.
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“Something was said which drew from General Taylor the expression of views which greatly surprised me. They were to the effect that California and Oregon were too distant to become members of the Union, and it would be better for them to be an independent government. He said that our people would inhabit them and repeated that it would be better for them to form an independent government for themselves. These are alarming opinions to be entertained by the President of the United States.”
An excerpt from James K. Polk’s diary entry of Monday, March 5, 1849. Polk is relating a conversation between himself, President Zachary Taylor, W.W. Seaton (the Mayor of Washington D.C.), and Robert Winthrop (former Speaker of the House of Representatives) conducted during a carriage ride after Taylor’s inauguration.
Nevins, Allan (ed). Polk: The Diary of a President 1845-1849. New York: Capricorn Books, 1968. p 389.
There are few monuments in the United States to the U.S. Servicemen who gave their lives in service during the U.S.- Mexican War. None on the mall in Washington, D.C. These are a few of the Mexican- American War Memorials from around the U.S.
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Context is key to understanding a historic event, and contextualizing a complex event is a challenge. Where do you begin? Too far removed and the history will lack nuance. Too close and the history may present the event as particular when, in fact, it reflected a larger trend. Because the United States and Mexico were both new countries at the war’s outbreak in 1846, an overview of each nation’s colonial history is necessary. From there I studied each nation’s early history, looking at political, economic, and social developments. I examined the domestic concerns that animated people in both countries. Abolitionists in the U.S. fearing the expansion of slavery, or Mexican elites facing potential revolution and ethnic unrest. Or leaders in both nations fearing political adventurism in the continent’s undeveloped vastness. Concerns not unfounded. They were rooted in experience, in history.
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“The omission of such events as the Mexican War from the American consciousness does history injustice.”
“The cost in American lives was staggering. Of the 104,556 men who served in the army, both regulars and volunteers, 13,768 men died, the highest death rate of any war in our history. The period between 1844 and 1848 was a significant time, not something to be regulated to the attic of memory.”
Eisenhower, John S.D. So Far From God: The U.S. War With Mexico 1846- 1848. (New York: Random House, 1989). p. xviii