Imagens da página

pended in the corrupt practices of the temporary governments, and in the civil strife of the chiefs. Without industry and but little commerce, the ' national wealth was wasted away through bad government, and became continually absorbed in the church, through the bequests of those dying possessed of property, until there is in fact no wealth or power in the state, except in the hands of the clergy, and these have steadfastly refused to part with a dollar for the service of the country. The church has in fact become the state. It makes and unmakes governments at its pleasure; and from its course hitherto, it would seem bent upon bringing about such a state of things as will make a monarchy connected with itself indispensable. The war of independence would in all probability never have been successful, at least not for a number of years, but for the decree of the Spanish Cortez in 1820, ordering the sequestration of the Mexican church property. This immediately aroused the church in opposition to the Viceroy; and when Iturbide, who had been the bitter enemy of the patriots, deserted the royalist cause, he found himself supported by the clergy in the scheme to declare the country independent, and call Ferdinand VII. to the throne. Through the intrigues of the clergy the rural priesthood were set to work to rouse the passions of the people, and finally the Viceroy was deposed. It is probable that the lower orders of priests and the people had, like the Indians of Peru under similar circumstances, but a very vague idea of the nature of the struggle, and supposed that in throwing off the yoke of foreign masters that they were to recover their own liberty. From the course of events, Iturbide succeeded through intrigue to procure himself named and elected emperor in 1822; and although the clergy generally approved the choice, as Ferdinand could not be had, the Archbishop of Mexico refused to be present at the ceremonies. His tyranny soon produced a revolt began by Santa Anna, who surrendered the command to Victoria. In his distress for money, Iturbide called upon the church to contribute its share, by which he lost their support and his crown, and the republican forces under Victoria and Negrete entered the capital. The executive power was invested in Bravo, Victoria and Negrete. A meeting of congress was then held, and a constitution reported by committee, on the model of that of the United States. This constitution was strenuously opposed by the clergy and military, although the first article provides that “the religion of the Mexican nation is, and will be perpetually, the Roman Catholic Apostolic," and prohibits all others. A curious provision for a republican constitution! The clergy resorted to insurrection to prevent its adoption, and incited General Echavarri to revolt. He was, however, taken prisoner. Several states then arming themselves, threatened to secede from the confederacy unless the constitution was adopted, which was then done. At this juncture took place the great speculation in foreign stocks in the London markets; and the Mexican agents taking advantage of it, succeeded, in the year 1824, in getting two loans, amounting to $36,000,000. This made things go smooth; and in January, 1825, Victoria was declared president and Bravo vice-president. The government being strong as long as the money lasted, congress attempted to curb the power of the church something within democratic views, but without success.

As soon as the independence was declared, free masonry began to spread in Mexico, and in accordance with the bull of the Pope, the church caused a bill to be presented to congress to suppress it. This bill was rejected. The lodges, however, soon took the character of political factions. On one side the Escoces were in favor of monarchy, and Bravo, with Pedraza and others were its leaders ; on the other, Victoria, Santa Anna, Zavala and Bustamente, headed the democratic lodges, called Yorkinos. Among these latter were the people, the rural clergy, subalterns of the army, and all opposed

to the high dignitaries of the church and aristocrats. This rivalry soon broke out into civil war; and Bravo raising a force, denounced Victoria, and, backed by the clergy, declared in favor of a consolidated government. The clergy, who had opposed the constitution, and whose property had been attacked by it, were particularly active for its overthrow. This resulted in the defeat and banishment of Bravo. The government of Spain taking advantage of this state of things, attempted reconquest; but Mexico was saved by procuring the services of Cominodore David Porter, who commanded her marine of nineteen vessels through 1826-7-8-9, and captured great numbers of Spanish vessels with immense booty. Having lost one son and one nephew in the service, and had others wounded, he was rewarded by being obliged to leave the country to escape assassination.

Victoria's term expired in 1828; and he is the only president who went in and out of office by constitutional means. This was owing to the fact of the loans procured in London, and the services of Com. Porter. Pedraza, of the church faction, through the means of the clergy, was elected to succeed him. Santa Anna placed himself at the head of the garrison of Jalapa, seized the funds of the state, and pronounced against the new government. After some difficulties, his troops, headed by Guerreo, entered Mexico and deluged the city with blood. Congress then declared Guerreo president, and Bustamente vice-president, and quiet was preserved for some months. As, however, Com. Porter had retired in disgust, a Spanish army, under Barradas, taking advantage of the defenceless state of the coast, landed at Tampico, July, 1829, from Havana, for the purpose of putting a Bourbon on the throne, supported by the church. He, however, surrendered to Santa Anna. In December, Bustamente pronounced against Guerreo, who sent Santa Anna to oppose him. He, however, deserted to Bustamente, who, placed by him in power, immediately became a centralist. · Guerreo in the meantime organized an army, and two years were spent in civil war, until he was caught and shot. Soon after, Santa Anna declared against Bustamente, but was defeated in a battle, and retiring to Vera Cruz, pronounced in favor of Pedraza, of the church faction. This resulted in placing himself in power, in 1833. Then took place the great event in Santa Anna's life. He had always been of the democratic faction and a federalist. Zavala, a member for Yucatan, brought in a bill to reduce the revenues of the church, and the clergy offered him a large bribe to withdraw it, which he indignantly refused. They then applied directly to Santa Anna, who suddenly changed his policy and became a devoted champion of the church-crushed Zavala's bill, and sent him to France as minister. The clergy iminediately began to intrigue with congress, and won, by the force of corruption, many over to centralism. As, however, a majority remained firm, Santa Anna dissolved congress by force; and in 1835 summoned another devoted to himself and the clergy. This congress demolished the Constitution of 1824, and passed a law disarming the people. Santa Anna became Dictator, and the Mexicans were reduced to slavery. A military chief at the head of the army, and supported by the clergy, bade defiance to the people. The state of Texas was the first to resist this usurpation, and was invaded by Santa Anna in person, who was defeated and taken prisoner. He was released by a treaty which recognized the independence of Texas, with the Rio Grande as its southern boundary. He did not get back to Mexico until 1837. Meantime, Bustamente had returned, placed himself in power, and repudiated the Texan treaty of Santa Anna. It was then that the French, having long demanded, in vain, the payment of a debt, appeared off Vera Cruz to enforce liquidation of their claims, but remained negotiating until 1839. Santa Anna being appointed to defend the coast, repaired to

his command. The French attacked and took the castle, when, in defending the town, Santa Anna lost a leg, and recovered his reputation. In 1839, Yucatan revolted against Bustamente and the clergy, in favor of the Constitution of 1824. They succeeded in throwing off the power of the central government, and establishing a constitution by which all religions should be tolerated.

In the meantime the national debt increasing rapidly, discontent spread, and Paredes pronounced against Bustamente in 1841. He was joined by Santa Anna, who again, in consequence, succeeded to power, which he retained as dictator, supported, for want of a government more to their views, by the clergy. It became evident, however, that some great convulsion was at hand, and a monarchial party was developed, patronized by the Archbishop of Mexico. The forced loans and great expenses of the government had disgusted the people, and in 1844 Paredes pronounced against the tyrant, overthrew and imprisoned him, in the castle of Perote, and Herrera was appointed president. His administration was mild; and but a few months elapsed before a coalition of monarchists was formed against him, under the archbishop, which resulted in placing Paredes in power. His tyranny soon became intolerable; one of his first acts being so to curtail the elective franchise, as to deprive the great body of the people of the right of sending deputies to the legislature. The national resources were now showing signs of utter exhaustion, and, driven by necessity, Paredes requested a loan of the clergy. He informed the archbishop that the government had formally suspended payment, had curtailed the pay of all officers, and that there was no alternative but to ask $2,400,000, in monthly instalments, from the church, to provide the means of resisting the invading army under Gen. Taylor. As this was a government “got up” by the church, the archbishop laid the request before the chapter, who, after the lapse of several days, replied, “that it was in opposition to the decrees of the Council of Trent, to part with church property for secular purposes," and therefore refused. In the meantime the press, which had been loud in its denunciation of the government, was suppressed, and a journal advocating monarchy started. Amidst accumulating evils the archbishop died suddenly, and his death was followed by outbreaks in favor of Santa Anna; but on the 16th June, 1846, Paredes was chosen president and Bravo vicepresident. In August a revolt broke out in favor of Santa Anna, who was invited to return, and did so immediately, having a pass from the United States executive. The Mexican provisional executive, Gen. Salas, then issued a decree for the re-establishment of the Constitution of 1824, and Santa Anna was invited to the supreme power, to which he was subsequently elected by the congress, which met in Dec. under the old Constitution. Gomez Farias was elected vice-president.

The next great difficulty was to provide means for carrying on the war. It became evident that there was no available property in the country, except that held by the church; and through the exertions of Gomez Farias, Jan. 7, 1847, a bill was passed by congress to raise $15,000,000 by sale of church real property. Against this bill the archbishop and his chapter sent in a protest.



This Chapter having been informed, from an undoubted source, that the sovereign congress has this morning approved of an Act for the taking possession of the church property, without losing a moment, for the preservation of those sacred rights charged upon them by the solemn Canons of the Church, have deter

mined to direct to your Excellency this communication, with the object of making known that they cannot, in any manner, coincide with the measure entertained in the above-named act, not daring to incur the ecclesiastical censures and penalties emitted at the end of the 11th chapter of the 2.nd session of the sacred Council of Trent, and reiterated in the third Mexican; and, in consequence, they hereby enter the most solemn protest against the Act now about to be sanctioned, only expecting from the piety of the Supreme Government, that the above-named disposition of the sacred Council of Trept, which comprehends all, whatever may be the dignity invested in them, and which inflicts the highest punishment upon those who disregard it, may be fully respected; obeying, likewise, the fundamental law pow reigning through the Republic, which guarantees the property of our ecclesiastical corporations.

May it please your Excellency to make known to the most excellent Senor VicePresident, that these are the sentiments entertained by this Archbishop's Chapter.

We present to your Excellency the assurances of our distinguished consideration and esteem. God guard you many years.

Hall of the Sacred Church of the Archbishop's Chapter of Mexico, Jan. 10, 1847, 12 o'clock, noon.


This protest was followed by others from Puebla, Queretaro, and several interior states. The bill was, notwithstanding, passed, by a vote of 44 to 35.

The whole power of the priesthood was exerted to resist the law, and the popular mind was so excited by the clergy, that officials charged with the duty of levying upon the property, were assailed and driven off

' by the people. Farias, however, called the military to his aid, and seized the ringleaders, as well as clergy, caught in the act of inciting rebellion. The church excommunicated those who bought, and it was found impossible to sell. The church then suspended its rites; the cathedrals and altars were hung with mourning; the masses, burials, marriages, and baptisms were omitted; and the absence of the usual ceremonies produced a great sensation among a religious people, who cursed the government as the cause. Meantime, the journals in the interests of the clergy denounced the execution and counselled rebellion, as the means of defeating a sacrilegious attempt to despoil the church, at the moment that the only army was being destroyed under the blows of Taylor at Buena Vista. This movement resulted in an i surrection, under Barragan, and the utter defeat of Farias, in relation to the Church Bill. The commotion was only quelled by the arrival of Santa Anna, with the dust of Buena Vista upon him, to be inaugurated president. The fall of Vera Cruz followed, and the reputation of Santa Anna again perished with the army lie collected and exposed upon the heights of Cerro Gordo, to the blows of Gen. Scott; but he has been again made Dictator, without the power to make peace or to conclude a negotiation with foreign powers.

In considering the progress of Mexico, since its separation from the mothercountry, a rapid sketch of the leading features of whom we have attempted to make, one great fact," is apparent, viz: that there has been no steady power in the state, except that of the church ; all else has been going rapidly to decay and dissolution. The hierarchy has been to the country very much like a sovereign power. The government has existed like a ministry in monarchical countries, only when its measures did not conflict with the views of the church as sovereign. Almost every change has been brought about by the influence of the clergy; and the government has invariably fallen when ecclesiastical property was attacked. It is also evident that the people of Mexico have not interested themselves in the matter. The

great mass of the population were ignorant Indians, who, having been slaves for three centuries, revolted against Spanish power; and the scenes enacted under their first leader, Hidalgo, “whose war-cry was death to the Gapuchins," afforded ample evidence that their enmity burns as strongly against the Creole Spaniards as the Europeans. When the church excommunicated Hidalgo, he laughed at their impotency, and showed his followers that the curses of Spanish bishops had no efficacy.

In the war of independence, the Creoles succeeded, through the rural clergy, in identifying their cause with the natives; but it is evident, in the extreme apathy with which the revolutions of twenty-five years, as well as the present war, are regarded by the mass of the people, that they have long since discovered that independence of Spain was not political freedom, and to the fears growing out of this fact, may be ascribed the law disarming the population in 1835. A few soldiers have changed the government, made and unmade constitutions, and extended or curtailed the elective franchise at their pleasure ; and in no case have the people evinced that they were cognizant of what was doing.

At the date of the revolution, Mexico was free of debt—had a good trade, and protection to life and property might be said to exist. The national wealth was great, and the commercial spirit was growing, and promised soon to place that favored land above most others. All this is woefully changed. To the misfortunes growing out of the struggle with the mother country, have come to be added the disasters of the war carried on by the insurgents among themselves; and as if to strike the final blow at the prosperity of Mexico, the Federal Congress decreed, in 1827, the expulsion of such of the European Spaniards as had escaped from previous assassinatiors. With them disappeared the capitals of industry, the resources of commerce, the fortune of the country. Banished by a parricidal law, the principal merchants took refuge abroad, and there remained. Opulent proprietors, high functionaries, the possessors of great riches, transferred these to England, France, Spain and the United States. Important escploitations were suspended; the fertile soil of Mexico, its metallic treasures, its admirable geographical position, its ports on the two oceans, became, in a great degree, sterile advantages. The national debt has swollen to more than $100,000,000, of which the largest amount is due England. The provinces of Texas, Yucatan and California have been lost through the policy and frauds of the government; and not only is the credit of the government unequal to the procurement of a dollar of loan, but through the long absence of commercial enterprise, the devastation of civil war, and the insecurity of property, the national wealth has been exhausted. In all this ruin and rapid decay the church alone has remained strong, and steadfastly resisted all encroachments upon its property. It regards with perfect indifference the invasion of the country, and the destruction of its armies, overturning, even in the hour of greatest national peril, any gorernment that proposes to tax their property. In fact, the only consolidated body which has existed in Mexico has been that of the church. The Camanches have ravaged the western provinces with impunity, and robbers have infested the public roads. The citizens, even of the capital, depend upon their own resources for protection against robbers. The military, who form the government, are in fact themselves the robbers. Col. Yanez, the intimate friend and aid-de-camp of Santa Anna, robbed and murdered M. Mairet, the Swiss consul in Mexico, a few years since, with perfect impunity. Incredible disorder pervades the public administration of Mexico. Attacks by armed banditti, and murders, have ever been of extreme frequency in all the provinces—on all the highways; and not a week passed

« AnteriorContinuar »