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Federalism to Centralism in Mexico: The Conservative Case for Change, 1834-1835

Author(s): Michael P. Costeloe


Source: The Americas, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Oct., 1988), pp. 173-185
Published by: Catholic University of America Press on behalf of Academy of American
Franciscan History
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1006783
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FEDERALISMTO CENTRALISM
IN MEXICO:
THECONSERVATTVE
CASE
FOR
CHANGE,1834-
1835

tn the summerof 1835 Mexico chose to abandonthe federalformof


| governmentinstituteda decadeearlierin 1824 andto replaceit witha
centralizedrepublic.The dismantlingof federallaws and institutions
andtheenactmentof thosedesignedto replacethemoccupiedthenexteigh-
teen monthsuntilon December30, 1836the processof changeto the new
systemculminatedin the publicationof a new constitution,the so-called
Constitucionde las Siete Leyes. This fundamental changein the political
structureof the nationwas not achievedwithoutconsiderabledissentand
the protractedtransitionalperiodpermittedmanygroupswho opposedthe
new orderof thingsto air theirviews andin some cases, notablyin Zaca-
tecasandTexas,to attemptmilitaryresistance.Thesupporters of centralism
found themselves, therefore,obliged to make and justify their case for
changeand to convincethemselvesas well as theiropponentsthat their
proposalsrepresentedthe popularwill. It is with this centralistcase for
change,or manifesto,thatthis articleis primarilyconcerned.
The transitionto centralismhas attractedremarkably littleattention,and
even less sympathy,in Mexicanhistoriography. 1 Mosthistoriesof the pe-
riodignorethe case putforwardat the timeor rely entirelyon the contem-
poraryaccountsof liberalwriterswho assertthatthe prime,if not only,
motivatingforcesat workwerethe Churchandthe militaryandthatfeder-
alismcollapsedbecausethosetwo institutionsandtheirmemberswerede-
terminedto retaintheirpowerandprivileges.Hencethe adoptionof centra-
lism is explainedas a reactionexclusivelyto the liberalthreatto Religiony
Fueros. The mostinfluentialandcertainlythe mostoftencitedadvocateof
this view is the contemporary liberaltheorist,Jose MariaLuis Mora.2His
analysisof the politicalintrigueswhichlay behindthe changeremainsthe
1 One of the few studies to examine in any detail the transitionalperiod and its conservativeideology
is A. Noriega, El pensamiento conservadory el conservadurismomexicano (2 vols., Mexico, 1972).
2 Mora's work has been the inspirationof most analyses of the political life of the period. See, for
example, J. Reyes Heroles El liberalismo mexicano (3 vols., 2nd ed., Mexico, 1974) and C. Hale,
Mexican Liberalism in the Age of Mora (New Haven & London, 1968).

173
174 MEXICAN
CONSERVATISM

bestof the few available.3Accordingto him, AntonioLopezde SantaAnna


chose to opposethe radicalliberalreformof the GomezFariasadministra-
tion(1833-1834)becauseof pressurefromtheclericalandmilitaryinterests
most affectedby it and becausehe himself aspiredto dictatonalpower
whichhe hopedto achieveby turningto his own advantagewhatwas a very
volatilesituationin the springof 1834. Havingachievedthe resignationor
departureof leadingliberalsunderthe Plan of Cuernavaca(May 1834),
SantaAnnaproceededto close congress,the state legislaturesand other
federalorganswhichposeda threatto his absolutistambitionsandhe gov-
erned the countryalmost single-handedlyfor the rest of 1834. In the
scrambleamongthe politiciansto gain his favorduringthis constitutional
vacuum,accordingto Mora,the moderateprogressivesandmoreimportant
from our point of view, convincedfederalistswon this early contestand
SantaAnnaallowedthemto occupythe mainoffices of state. They per-
suadedhim to endorsesome of the radicalliberalreformsin ecclesiastical
andeducationmattersandthatwhilethe 1824constitutionrequiredreform,
the basicfederalstructureshouldbe maintained.
Throughout1834, therefore,SantaAnnadiscouragedall talk of funda-
mentalconstitutionalchangeandnew congressionalelectionsunderfederal
law were ordered.These were in due coursewon by the pro-Church and
pro-militaryfactionswhichobtaineda majorityin the still federalcongress
whichopenedin January1835. Justas the liberalsweredividedinto mod-
eratesandextremists,however,so the supporters of the Churchandarrny
were by no means unanimousin their views. The more extremeof the
Church'sallies were soon incensedthatthe new governmentcontinuedto
refuse to revoke some of the anti-clericallegislation,notablyon tithes,
monasticvows andmostcontroversial of all, ecclesiasticalpatronage.Con-
spiracieswere soon afootto persuadeSantaAnnato get rid of thoseof his
ministerswho had persuadedhim to retainsuch partsof the liberalpro-
gramme.SantaAnnaquicklytiredof thepoliticalintriguein thecapitaland
perhapsalso becauseof his failureto get moresupportfor his napoleonic
aspirations,he withdrewto his countryestate. The campaignagainstthe
moderateministersincreasedandone by one theyresigned.
The mostdetenninedandradicalof the liberalswereto be foundin some
stateswherethe physicalsymbolof statesovereigntyandfederalismrested
in the civic militia.Henceone of the firsttargetsof the centralistswas the
abolitionof the militiaandwhenit becameclearthatsomestateswoulduse

3 Mora, 'Revista politica de las diversas administracionesque ha tenido la Republicahasta 1837', in


Obras Sueltas (Mexico, 1963), pp. 152-169.
MICHAEL
COSTELOE 175

themto sustaintheirsovereigntyby forceif necessary,the mainconserva-


tive and reactionarygroupsin the capitalconcludedthatthe only secure
way to asserttheirown controlof the politicalpowerwas to abolishthe
federalsystemaltogether.Accordingto Mora,LucasAlamanandFrancisco
Sanchezde Tagle, representingthe clericalinterest;GeneralGabrielVa-
lencia, representing the army,andJose MariaTornelandManuelBonilla,
representing SantaAnna,agreedon the abolitionof the federation.Tornel,
Valenciaand Bonillawere to arrangepopulardemonstrations, or pronun-
ciamientos, in favorof centralism;SantaAnnawouldlead a militarycam-
paignagainstthe federaliststrongholdof Zacatecas;andAlamanandTagle
wouldlook afterthe organization of the new centralistsystem.Subsequent
eventsfollowedthis patternbeginningwith SantaAnna'svictoryover the
Zacatecasmilitia led by FranciscoGarcia.Then hundredsof seemingly
spontaneouspronunciamientos for centralismappearedandtheseprovided
the politicaljustificationfor congressto declareitself constituentand its
intentionto drawup a centralizedformof government.4
Thebasiclines of this analysisby Moraappearto be accuratebuthe also
goes on to statethatthe centralistshadno politicalprogramexceptto rees-
tablishthe controlof the privilegedclassesandto constructon the ruinsof
the federation"the rule of the militaryand priestlyoligarchy".5In this
respect,Moradoes less thanjusticeto his politicalenemiesfor in fact, the
case for centralismand whatmay be labelledthe conservativemanifesto
was set out in considerabledetailduringthe long monthswhenthe political
maneuversdescribedaboveweretakingplace.
Throughout mostof 1834, a timewhenthe wordcentralismwas still rarely
usedin public,the intellectualandpoliticalcaseforchangebothin the form
of governmentand the social groupswho exercisedpower, was carefully
anddeliberatelypresented.Countlessnewspaperarticlesandeditorialsand
pamphletsanalysedthe advantagesand disadvantagesof federalism,ar-
guing at first by implicationbut lateropenly, the case for change.6This
propaganda campaign,hotlycontestedby the pro-federalistpresswhichre-
alized that, despite SantaAnna's repeatedprotestationsof loyalty, their
groundwas beingundermined, reflectedthe convictionof all politicalfac-
tions of the time thatthe popularwill hadto be persuadedof the virtuesof
change.Thus, promisesandpledges,some publicandsome private,were
made in the attemptto demonstratethattherewas a betteralternativeto

4 Many of these popularplans were published in the press.


s Mora, Obras sueltas, p. 158.
6 The propagandacampaign against federalism, without specifying centralismdirectly as the alterna-
tive, began in earnest with the publicationof the paper, El MosquitoMexicano on March 14, 1834.
176 MEXICANCONSERVATISM

federalismandthe radicalliberaldoctrinesassociatedwith it. Clericaland


militaryinterestswerecertainlyprominentbutthe appealfor supportrested
on a muchbroaderbase thanthatadmittedby Moraandlaterhistorians.
The initialplankof the centralistplatformwas negative,moreaversions
than principlesas Moraputs it, in that it consistedof an attackon the
federalsystemon the groundsof its unsuitability as a formof government
for the counttyin its thenstateof developmentandmoreimportant,on its
failureto fulfil the expectationsarousedon its adoptionin 1824. The re-
spectivemeritsof centralismandfederalismas formsof government had,of
course, been debatedat length in many forumsafter independenceand
especiallyin the congressof 1823-1824whichhadvotedafterlong debate
for the federation.At thattime, however,beforethe eventsas it were, the
argumentshad been largelyjuridicalandinevitablyin the abstractbut by
1835 a new factorprevailed.This was the decadeor so of experienceof
federalismin operationwhichprovidedthe centralistsupporterswith nu-
meroustargetsfor criticism.Hencetheirattackon the systemembracedthe
wholerangeof political,socialandeconomicproblemsfacingthe republic,
almostall of which were attributedto or blamedon the form of govern-
ment.7
The condemnation of the practicaleffectsof federalismwas expressedin
representations from state legislatures,local authoritiesand otherpublic
bodies as well as in almostdaily editorialsin some sectionsof the press.
Citizensof Toluca,for example,saidthatfederalismhadbeenadoptedin a
desireto imitatethe UnitedStatesbut withoutany real understanding of
how the systemworkedand withoutany accountbeing takenof the very
differentcustoms,traditionsand level of civilizationin Mexico. None of
the federalistshadforeseenthe consequencesof dividingwhathadbeenfor
centuriesan homogenousand compactmass into so many heterogenous
parts.8But the consequenceswerenow evidentfor all to see, accordingto
the Guadalajara town council.9The federalsystemhad not broughteco-
nomicprosperitybut ratherpovertyandrecession.It had causedpolitical
andfactionaldivisionwhichin turnhad led to the constantrebellionsand
pronunciamientos whichinhibitedall progress.Provincialandlocal politi-
cians had neverproperlyunderstoodthe conceptof statesovereigntywith

7 The argumentin the 1834-1836 years also differs from the earlier period in that there is markedly
less reference to Europeanwriters, notably EdmundBurke.
8 M. Diez de Bonilla -Ministerof War, Toluca, May 30, 1835, in El Sol, May 31, 1835.
9 'Representaciondel muy ilustre ayuntamientode la capital del estado de Jalisco, dirigidaal honor-
able congreso del estado paraque inicie ante las camarasde la Union la variacionde la actualforma de
gobierno, en republicacentral', Guadalajara,June 1, 1835, in El MosquitoMexicano, June 30, 1835.
COSTELOE
MICHAEL 177

the resultthatsome statesbelievedthemselvesto be totallyindependent of


all nationalauthority.The enormousincreasein state bureaucracies had
causeda huge rise in administrativecosts and whereasin the colonialera
Jaliscohadbeenadministered for45,000 pesosa year,by 1834thecost had
risen to more than 1,000,000 pesos. Taxes had thereforeincreasedto an
intolerablelevel. Federalismhad broughtthe people no benefits.On the
contrary,"fortunes,properties,individualfreedom,publicmorality,law,
religion,everythinghas been destroyed."
Similarbroadcriticismof the effectsof federalismweremadeagainand
againin the centralistpress. Accordingto El Sol whichcalTieda seriesof
editorialson the subjectthroughout theearlymonthsof 1835, the stateshad
rarelyif ever madetheirdue financialcontributions to the nationalexche-
querandthe "frenzyof provincialism"hadfomentedthecreationof exces-
sive andwastefulbureaucracies. 10Therushto createpublicsectorjobs had
stimulated the plagueof aspirantismo whichsowedthe seedsof revolutions
as peoplewerewillingto supportanyonewho promisedthememployment.
Therewerefar too manyexpensivelypaidlegislatorswiththeirretinuesof
advisorsandofficialswho weremoreoftenthannot an ostentatiousluxury.
Withso muchof the nation'sscantresourcesbeingconsumedby the ever
expandingnumberof officials,commerceandindustrywerebeing starved
of investmentandeconomicprogresswas impossible.ll
The Orizavamunicipalityand the Queretarolegislaturemade similar
points.12 Theconstantstrifeandpartypoliticalrivalrycausedby the federal
system were now such that even the independenceof the nationwas in
jeopardy.Thereligionof thepeoplehadbeenthreatened, clergyproscribed,
Churchgoods alienatedandmonasteriesclosed. Therewas no justice, no
personalsecuritynorprotectionof property.Thecivic militia,so promoted
andprotectedby federalists,was a nationalscandal:
The civic militiais a burdenon the Treasury,damagingto thosepeoplein
it, to theirfamiliesandto society;it is uselessin timeof waranda dangerin
time of peace;it upsetspublicorder,disturbsthe peaceandwiththe utmost
certaintyit may be statedthat it is the clearestenemyof a well organized
administrative system.
Theseattackson federalism,althoughseeminglyindependent and spon-
taneousexpressionsof opinionfrom diversesourcesaroundthe country
containmanysimilarltiesbothin the pointsmadeandin the languageused.
in the case of thosewhichappearedin 1835, it seemsthatthey
Particularly
10 El Sol, Februaxy1, 1835.
Ibid., 24 March 1835.
12 Representationspublished in ibid., 28 March, May 24, 1835.
178 MEXICAN
CONSERVATISM

were coordinatedcentrally,presumablyfromthe capital,and it gradually


becameevidentthatcertainthemeswerebeingemphasisedas the centralist
case forchangewasbeingconstructed in thepublicmind.Possiblythemost
prominentof these was the problemof law andorder.Ruralbanditryand
crimesof violence againstpersonsand propertyhad long been a serious
problemespeciallyon the highwaysbut althoughwe lack statisticalevi-
dence of crimerates, accordingto centralistpropaganda,generallawless-
ness and violencehad significantlyincreasedin the yearsfollowinginde-
pendenceandthe effectivebreakdownof the Spanishjudicialcode. It was
no longera dangeronly in the remoterruralareas.Accordingto the Min-
ister of Justiceand numerousnewspaperreports,theft and murderwere
almostdailyeventsin the cities.l3Muggingsandrobberieswerecommon-
place in broaddaylightin the main thoroughfares of the capitaland the
people went abouttheir affairsin fear of their lives and theirproperty.
Thereis no personalsafetyanymorein Mexico, one newspaperdeclared.
People, especiallyhonorablecitizens, were being obligedto buy guns to
protectthemselvesbut "nobodyis safe on the streetseven in broadday-
light, nor in theirhomes at any time.''14Demandsfor toughersentences
wereheardin congressandin the pressandthe governmentpromisedthat
increasedpenaltiesfor cnmes of theftandviolencewouldbe introduced.
Violenceagainstthe personand againstpropertywere not restrictedto
the level of commoncriminality.Accordingto the centralists,they werea
reflectionor extensionof officially sanctionedviolence againstthe indi-
vidual.One of the mostembitteredcomplaintsagainstthe liberalregimeof
GomezFariasandthe federalauthoritiesin the stateswas theirallegedper-
secutionof politicalopponents.Thisissueattractedprobablymorehostility
and hatredof the liberalsthanany of theiranti-clericallegislationand no
single act was more condemnedthan the so-calledLey del caso of June
1833. Underthe termsof thatlaw, 51 persons,all well-knownandinfluen-
tial figuresincludingFranciscoSanchezde Tagle, AnastasioBustamante
andFranciscoFagoagaweresummanlysentencedto six yearsexile, appar-
entlybecauseof theirpoliticalbeliefsandin someinstances,for reasonsof
personalvengeance.Formernisters, againhighlyrespectedmembersof
the propertyowningclass like LucasAlaman,werechargedwith an array
of offences,includingcomplicityin the deathof VicenteGuerreroin 1831,
andhundreds,if not thousands,of publicemployeeshadbeendeprivedof
theirjobs when the liberalstook controlof the nationaland statebureau-
cracies.Seniorclergyhadbeensubjectedto personalabuseandthenation's

13 Diario del Gobierno, November 20, 1835.


14 Ibid.
COSTELOE
MICHAEL 179

few bishopshad been orderedinto exile. Whateverthe reasonsfor these


actionsby the liberals,they were depictedby theiropponentsas totally
unjustifiedacts of stateviolenceagainstthe individual,as crimeson a par
withthoseof commoncriminals.Similarly,themanyconfiscationsof prop-
erty of corporationsandindividualswereportrayedas symptomaticof the
liberals'contemptfor the acceptedstandardsof politicalandpersonalcon-
duct.
This breakdownof law andorderandof the standards of civilizedpolit-
ical conductwere attributedto the effects of federalism.The "plagueof
thieves" was said to includethose who "as they committheirrobberies,
defendlibertyandthedivinesystem.ss15Thecrimewavewas alsoa product
of a moregeneralmalaise,a "torrentof immorality"whichfederalismand
its liberalsupporters hadcaused.16 Respectfor law andorder,for property
and for the person had disappearedin the coriuptionnow endemicin all
areasof life. The nation'straditional valueswerebeingundermined by the
new ideas and those liberalswho advocatedthem. Immoralliteraturewas
floodingintothetownsandcitiesandtherewasanairof demoralization and
despairin all social classes. The once strongfeeling of publicservicehad
disappeared to be replacedby unrestrainedpersonalambitionanda spintof
insubordination. Lawswereabused,disciplinein the armywas lax, corrup-
tion andtheftby publicofficialscommonplaceandcriminalsescapedwith
impunitybecauseof protectionby theirpoliticalpatrons.Educationwas
beingprostituted andyouthpervertedas parentsstruggledin vainto protect
theirfamilies:
The fatherof a familycan no longercounton even the securityof his own
hometo preservethe innocenceof his unwarychildrenbecauseimmoralityis
beingsubtlyintroducedinto it andin placeof innocence,thereis corruption.
Thoseimpiousbooks,thoselewd pnnts,thoseconcoctionsdisguisedwithan
attractiveappealand a deceivingname, how manyfamilieshave they not
ruined?l7

One cause of this declinein publicandprivatemoralstandardswas the


damagedone to the Churchandto religiousfaithby the federalistsanscu-
ottes. They had consistentlydecriedthe value of the establishedChurch
attackingits temporalitiesandridiculingits clergy.Religionhadbeenpro-
fanedby GomezFariasandhis cohortsandit was not suIprisingthatstan-
dardsof behaviorhad declined.The cancerof impietyhad to be stopped
beforeit was too late andthe socialfabricof the nationdestroyed.Respect

lS El Mosquito Mexicano, April 24, May 8, 1835.


16 Diario del Gobierno, November 8, 1835.
17 El Mosquito Mexicano, June 30, 1835: El Sol, February1-3, 1835.
180 MEXICANCONSERVATISM

for religion,the Churchandits ministershadto be restoredbecauseit was


preciselyattackson theirprestigein any society whichbroughtcivil dis-
order:
Disturbancesin a State have always been connectedwith those of the
Churchbecausethereis no respectforthecivil authoritywhentheyokeof the
faith is shakenoff: once heresyentersa nation,lightingthe revolutionary
flame,good citizensbecomeseditiousrebels.Oursuprememagistrates know
this very well andthey will not allowerrorto triumphovertruth.18
The restorationof publicmorality,respectfor the government,for law
and orderand for religioncould only be achievedby removingthe feder-
alists from power and replacingthem with gentede orden.They would
restorethe now lost valuesof earlieryears. Employeeswouldbe paidon
time, the publichighwaysmadesafe andcrimesjustlypunished.Orderand
stabilitywould againprevailand the nationwouldgrow prosperousonce
the inEnite"congresitos"and anarchicfactionshad been defeated.The
only social groupwhichcouldachievethesethingswerethe men of prop-
erty:
It seemsundeniable,therefore,thatthe governmentwhichoffersthe most
guaranteesis one in whichpropertyownershave influencebecauseunlike
non-propertyowners,they have an equalinterestin freedomandindividual
securityand, in addition,they have an eminentinterestin orderand good
management of propexty.Certainlytheydo notformall of societybuttheyare
the trunkandthe rootswhichmustfeed anddirectthe branches. 19
The "chimericalequality"preachedby liberalextremistswas theirpretext
to deprivehonorablecitizensof theirgoods andtheirhostilitytowardsthe
propertiedclasseswas intendedto stirup popularhatredagainstthem:
All theywantis to takeotherpeople'swealthin thenameof equalityandto
seize honoursandjobs whichshouldbe reservedfor knowledgeandvirtue.
The lackof equalitywhichthe Authorof all naturehas placedin all sections
of societyto forma scale of communications andserviceshas beenusedby
the instigatorsof the populaceto makethem regretthe differenceof their
particularsituation,to stiruptheirself-interestagainstthengorsof fateandto
encouragethemto conquerit throughcnme andpillagein the nameof some
sacredequality.20
Theelectoralsystemmustbe reformedto ensurethathombresde bienwere
electedandthe only secureway to do this was to makepropertythe essen-
tial qualificationfor votersandcandidates.Propertyownerswouldrestrain
the wild extremismand"dangerousinnovations"of radicals:"It is only in

18 La Lima, March 14, 1835, supplement.


19 El Sol, April 7, 1835.
20 El Telegrafo, 1, July 17, 1834
MICHAEL
COSTELOE 181

those countries where propertyis representedthat one finds rational


freedomanda less exposedpeaceandorder.''2lWithsuchmen in control
of nationalaffairs,economicprogresswouldbe rapidlyachievedbecauseit
was in theirown interest.Federalistshad neglectedthe economybecause
they wereonly concernedwithcollectingtheirsalanesandgettingjobs for
theirfriends.Underthe new regime,industry,agricultureand commerce
wouldbe encouragedand Mexico'snaturalresourcesfully exploited.The
taxationsystemwouldbe revisedandwithmoreefficiencyandless corrup-
tion, revenueswouldincreaseandpublicinvestmentin roads,communica-
tions andotherservicesexpanded.
Thusmen of property,hombres de bien,definedby Alamanas "menof
faith,honour,propertyandvirtue"wouldhenceforthpredominate anden-
surethatconservativevaluesprevailed.22 Whilea respectedandprivileged
Churchand armywouldguaranteethe new social order,however,it was
notthe intention,as Moraalleged,to createa dominantmilitaryandpriestly
oligarchy.WhatAlamanand his colleaguesin the 1835 ccngresssought
was to centralizepowerin theirown socialclass throughout the country.In
essence,theywanteda returnto whattheyfondlyremembered as the social
stabilityof colonialsocietybutin thatcolonialsociety,theChurchhadbeen
a subordinate institutionsubjectto the will of the secularheadof state. In
the mindsof the moremoderateconservatives,thatwas to continueto be
the clericalstatusin theircentralistrepublic.Henceonly certainof the lib-
eral anti-clericallegislationwas repealed,for example,the laws against
individualclergyandagainstclericalpropertybecausetheywerein accord
with the new emphasison the sanctityof the personand property.Other
reformsremainedon the statutebooksandin themostcontroversial issueof
all, ecclesiasticalpatronage,the moderateconservativeposition on the
matterof principleinvolvedwas little differentto thatof the liberals.23In
otherwords,the regalistprincipleof statesupremacyandthe government's
rightto makeecclesiasticalappointments was upheldmuchto the fury of
seniorclergyandtheirrelativelyfew ultramontanist supporters
in congress.
Even SantaAnna, neverknownas a man of convictionon such matters,
21 Ibid., June 23, July 7, 1834-
22 L. Alaman, 'Defensa del ex-ministro de Relaciones don Lucas AlamEn, escrita por el mismo
ex-ministroquien la dirige a la nacion' (Mexico, 1834) in Obras.Documentos diversos(Mexico, 1946),
vol. 11, p. 45. Alaman refers throughouthis writings to the importanceof political power being in the
hands of hombresrespetables,clase propietariaetc. See, for example, his letter to Santa Anna of
February 23, 1837, cited in J. C. Valades, Alambn,estadistae historiador(Mexico, 1938), pp.
362-368. For a good examination of Alaman's political ideas, see M. Gonzilez Navarro, El pensa-
mientopoliticode LucasAlamdn(Mexico, 1952).
23 For a study of the patronagecontroversy, see my book Church andStateinIndependent Alexico.A
studyof thePatronageDebate,1821-1857(London, 1978).
182 MEXICANCONSERVATISM

refusedto give in to clericalpressureon thisissueandtheactingMinisterof


Justice, Joaquinde Iturbide,rouseda stormof clericalprotestwhen on
February4, 1835 in his annualreportto congress,he firmlydefendedthe
principleof nationalpatronage.24 The government,he said, wantedto re-
peal the liberalmeasureson clericalappointments becausethey were "im-
politicandinopportune" buthe wantedto remindthepublicandthe clergy
thatthe possessionandexerciseof nationalpatronagehadbeenestablished.
Despitethe protestsof the clergyandtheirsupporters, the governmentkept
to its positionandin the new centralistconstitution,the clauseson Church
affairswere similarto those of its federalpredecessor,for example,con-
gressretainedtherightto approveconcordatsandtheexecutivestill hadthe
powerto admitor refuseentryto papalbulls.25
Thusthe Churchfoundthatdespitethe backingit hadgiven SantaAnna
andthosewho opposedthe liberals,therewas not goingto be any "priestly
oligarchy"whichwoulddominatethe politicallife of the nation.Instead,
religionwouldbe usedby thehombres de bienin the sameway it was used
by the Spanishmonarchy,thatis, to inculcate'proper'socialvaluesin the
population,respectfor law andorderandaboveall, for menof property.26
In rathersimilarfashion, Mora'ssuggestionthat civilianpoliticianslike
CarlosMariaBustamanteand Sanchezde Tagle favoreda militaryoli-
garchyis also misleading.Certainlythe militaryreformsenactedby the
G6mezFariasgovernmentweremostlyrepealedandthe maindemandsof
the militarywere met, especiallywith the destructionof the civic militia
andwitha guaranteethatin thenewconstitution themilitaryfuerowouldbe
protected.27The manydemotionsof individualofficersorderedby the lib-
eralswerealso repealedandconservativegeneralsandotherswererestored
to theirranksandcommands.But the praiselavishedon the armywas not
unqualified.In April 1835the Ministerof Warcriticisedrecruitment prac-
tices, moraleand disciplineand insistedthattherewere far too manyof-
ficers who expectedand obtainedrewardsfor their servicesto political
parties.The militaryfuerowouldcontinue,he said, for reasonsof circum-
stance and convenienceeven though "the progressof enlightenment"

24 For details of the uproarcaused by Iturbide'sspeech, see ibid., pp. 146-150.


2S This issue caused a heated debate in congress: see El Nacional, April 20, 1836.
26 Clerical supportwas financial by way of loans and, more important,from the pulpits and episcopal
palaces with sermons and pastoralsurging the people not to join in revolts: see, for example, 'Circular
del Illmo. sr. obispo de la Puebla a los curas de su diocesis', Puebla, February11, 1835, text reprinted
in La Lima, February24, 1835.
27 The civic militia was reducedto a maximumof 1 per 500 inhabitantsin decree of 31 March 1835,
in M. Dublan y J. M. Lozano, Legislacion mexicana(Mexico, 1876), vol. III, p. 38. Fourweeks later, a
new merchantmilitia to be composed of merchantsand propertyowners in the Federal District was
established: see El Sol, May 8, 1835.
COSTELOE
MICHAEL 183

mightdemandotherwise.Moreover,he warned,important thoughthe army


was "the militaryaristocracyis the mostdangerousof all."28
Like the Church,therefore,the armywas restoredto favorbutonly as a
meansto an end, thatis, the consolidationin powerof the largelycivilian
elite of hombresde bien. Indeed,somekey aspectsof thenew constitution,
notablythe fourthpoweror Poder Conservador,were devisedat least in
partto frustratethe ambitionsof the leadingrepresentative of the army,
namelySantaAnna. Thereis considerableevidence,albeitcircumstantial,
that he aspiredto formaldictatorialpoweror, as some allege, to be the
monarchof Mexico. Sincehe hadassumedeffectivecontrolof the country
in May 1834with the nebuloustitle of Protector,therehadbeenpersistent
rumorand speculationthathis supporterswere tryingto mobilizeopinion
for his elevationto supremeand absolutepower. "The partyof a king is
now appearing,"one newspaperdeclared,and anotherwriterspeculated
the bizarre if interestingidea that Santa Anna's backerswanted him
crownedandthenmarriedto the Queenof Spain.29Theserumorswere so
persistentthatthe government'sofficialnewspaperfelt it necessaryto deny
publiclythatSantaAnnahadanysuchregalambitionsor thathe considered
himselfthe Napoleonof Americawhichwas anotheraccusationhis oppo-
nents frequentlylevelled againsthim.30Despiteofficial denials,his sup-
porterscontinuedto take every opportunityto eulogize him and he did
nothingto preventthe promotionof his own personalitycult.3l But the
politicianswho hadused SantaAnnaas muchas he hadusedthem,would
not countenancea militaryoligarchyheadedby an autocraticSantaAnna.
They lavished ceremonialhonourson him, commissionedportraitsand
statuesand declaredhim 'Benemeritode la Patria'but manydid so reluc-
tantly. As Carlos Maria Bustamanterecalled, he and his fellow con-
gressmenlet SantaAnna know that "we would not let him use us as a
steppingstoneto raisehimselfunderourauspicesto be the Autocratof the
Mexicans.9932
These, then, were the maingeneralthemesof the manifestowhich the
conservativesofferedto theMexicanpublicin thefinalmonthsof 1834and
early partof 1835 as they triedto win popularsupportfor theirplanned
changeto centralism.Thepoliticsof nostalgiawas a powerful
constitutional

28'Memoria del Ministerio de Guerra', in El Sol, April 12-27, 1835.


29EIAnteojo,July 19, 1835: Procesodel GeneralSantaAnna(Mexico, 1836).
30 Diariodel Gobierno, November 7, 1835.
to
31 See, for example, LaLuz,December 16, 1835 and 11 March 1836 where Santa Anna is refexTed
as "the pretender".
del cuadrohistoricode la revolucionmexicana(Mexico, 1963),
32 C. M. Bustamante,Continuacion
vol. IV. p. 366.
MEXICAN
CONSERVATISM
184
force in Mexico afterthe decadeof chaos
experiencedunderthe federal
systemandcentralistpropaganda wascarefulto remindthepropertyowning
classes of the peace andorderof the colonialera
when, it was suggested,
socialvalueswereacceptedandeveIymanknewhis
place.33A newformof
governmentwouldbringbacknationalunityandendthe
andmulti-party factionaldivisions
politicswhichhadcausedso muchinstabilityand
trativedisruption.Law andorderwouldbe guaranteed adminis-
withthe streetsand
highwaysmadesafe for decentpeople. Aboveall, the
the family,respectfor the nation'sonce venerated traditional valuesof
institutions,the spiritof
publicserviceandpublicmoralityin generalwould
be restored.The pre-
ceptsof the onlytruefaithwouldagainbe taughtin
schoolsandthe corrup-
tionof youthby the modernheresiesof the day
stopped.34 Menof property
wouldreoccupytheirrightfulpositionin the corridors
of powerand their
presencewouldensurethatreformswhen neededwould
be madewithout
theradicalupheavalof societyandall the dangers
of social andeconomic
equalityas preachedby the demagogic,federalist
andthe armywouldonce againbe the twinpillarssansculottes. TheChurch
of theirnew society,but
notits masters.35
If we areto acceptcontemporary opinion,excludingliberalslikeMora,it
wouldseem thatthis manifestodid reflectMexican
publicopinionof the
time.The wordfederalismhas lost its once magic
appeal,as one writerput
itandthe experienceof the pastdecadehas
broughtdisillusionanda desire
forchange.36Morethan400 petitionsfor change
were
gressand while these may well have been centrally presentedto con-
directedfromMexico
City,most contemporaty observersacceptthatthe greatmajorityof what
Arrangoiz callsgentedeordenfavoredtheabolitionof the
privateletterto the Dukeof Monteleonewho was one offederation.37 In a
owners several property
whosegoodswererestoredto himin the new
forproperty,Alamanwrotethatthe changeto atmosphere of respect
centralismwouldbe easily
achieved becausethe people were tiredof the presentsituation.38
Carlos
33 In many respects, the transitionto centralism
was a rerunof the events and ideological
of
the Bustamante/Alamanregime of 1830-1832 propaganda
and those years were also held up as a model
beneficialeffects of centralizingthe political system: see the of the
34 Alaman was among those
editorial in El Sol, 16 March 1835.
invited to draw up a new plan for public education.
would help to provide the nation with an education He replied that he
"que esta en consonancia con el estado de las
luces",in Valades, Alamdn, pp. 351-352.
3S For an unequivocal
statementof the conservativephilosophy by another
and
especially of the Churchas the guardianof public contemporarypolitician,
morality, see L.G. Cuevas, Porvenir de Mexico
(Mexico, 1954), pp. 391-425.
36 El Sol, February2, 1835.
37 Bustamanteclaims that the
petitions emanateddirectly from the cabinet:
torico,
IV, 370-371: F.P. de Arrangoiz,Mexico desde Bustamante,Caadro his-
1807 hasta 1867 (Mexico, 1968), p. 369.
38 Alaman-Dukeof
Monteleone, July 28, 1835, Obras, vol. XII, pp.
286-290.
COSTELOE
MICHAEL 185

Mana Bustamantealso maintainedthat the change was popularbecause


they were tired of the "excesses of those in power, especiallythe little
congresses(congresitos) and stategovernors"and Jose MariaBocanegra
Centralism,as
impliesthe sameopinionin his descriptionof the situation.39
a morerecenthistorianhas expressedit, was in the airanda largenumber
of Mexicanshadreachedthe conclusionthatfederalismhadfailed.40In the
words of the editorof El Sol, "a new constitution,a new constitution,
aboveall else, is whatthe countrywants.''4

Universityof Bristol
Bristol, England P. COSTELOE
MICHAEL

39Bustamante, Cuadro historico, IV, 370: J.M. Bocanegra, Memorias para la historia de Me'xico
independiente, 1822-1846 (Mexico, 1897), vol. II, pp. 610-61S.
40 J. Vazquez et al., ffilistoriageneral de Mexico (Mexico, 1976), vol. III, p. 28.
41 El Sol, March 26, 1835.

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