The outcome of the Mexican American War with the loss of half of Mexico's territory shocked the Mexicans into seeking a new direction to preserve the country . The last straw with the old order came with Santa Anna's selling yet more Mexican territory with the Gadsen Purchase in 1853 . The Revolution of Ayutla was named after The Plan of Ayutla announced in the town of Ayutla on March 1, 1854 ,which sought to remove Santa Anna and convening a constituent assembly in order to draft a federal constitution .The Revolution of Ayutla brought together some of the most creative minds in Mexico .The new liberal government ushered in a new era known as the Reform ( La Reforma.), which set about to dismantle the old military and church led conservative state and bring about a new secular, democratic state .This brought them into conflict with those who supported the old order and eventually led the country to civil war .
Santa Anna returned to power in a coup in 1852 and sought to fashion himself the new Mexican emperor, insisting he be called His Most Serene Highness and creating an even more centralized state . In Guerrero, Juan Alvarez rose against the Santa Anna regime with widespread peasant support . After over a year of guerrilla warfare, the neighboring states of Morelos, Michoacan , Oaxaca and Nuevo Leon joined the revolt . The army garrisons in Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi denounced Santa Anna, who went into exile in August 1855 and Alvarez rode into Mexico City in triumph and became provisional president . Ignacio Comonfort became secretary of war and Benito Juarez secretary of Justice . This began the period known as the Reform as the liberals began to dismantle the old conservative state . One of the first acts was to abolish the fueros, the special courts for members of the clergy and military and make them go to civil courts for cases dealing with civil or criminal law.
Alvarez becomes President
Almost as soon as Alvarez entered the capital, the liberal coalition began to fall apart over the fueros law. The moderates ( moderados) favored compromise, while the liberals (puros) refused . The leader of the young, socially motivated intellectuals was Benito Juarez , a Zapotec Indian from Oaxaca, sought to reduce the power of the church while Ponciano Arriaga wanted drastic land reform and Ignancio Comonfort was a moderate on most issues .Alvarez tried to balance these various interests in his cabinet, but gave up and named Comonfort his successor .
Comonfort becomes President
In 1856 President Comonfort issued a law prohibiting the Church from owning property not directly related to its operations to break up the vast landholding of the church . These holding would be put up for sale at a public auction .
( Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos de 1857 )
In accordance with the The Plan of Ayutla , delegates met to draft a new constitution and was debated between the moderates and liberals .The Constitution of 1857 was modeled after the one of 1824, the major difference being that the legislature was to be unicameral instead of bicameral to make it stronger in case of dictatorship and the president was to be limited to one four year term .
The Constitution of 1857 had more liberal declarations than the one of 1824. In the new constitution, freedom of speech, press, assembly and education were declared as was habeas corpus. While freedom of religion was not declared, the Catholic Church was not declared to be the state church .The church was not happy with this and issued decrees attempting to nullify the new constitution and threatened excommunication for those who sought to purchase church property at auctions .The pressing conflict for most Mexicans was whether to swear allegiance to the new Constitution. They would be heretics if they did so in the eyes of the church and traitors if they did not in the eyes of the state .this conflict led to the vicious war of reform.
( La Guerra de Reforma de México )
The subsequent War of the Reform raged in Mexico from 1858 to 1861. Like most Mexican Wars this one began with a plan, the Plan de Tacubaya, declared by the conservative general Felix Zuloaga and a junta of conservative generals and clergy who led a coup (golpe) , dissolved the Congress and arrested Juarez. President Comonfort was unable to resolve the issue and resigned, but was able to free Juarez and other liberals while he still held some power .Liberals in the provinces declared their support for the new Constitution and Reform laws . The army declared Zuloaga the new president and Juarez managed to escape where the liberals declared him president and started a three year war .The liberals established their capital in Veracruz where they could gather custom duties and arms .For the first two years, the better trained conservative army won most of the major engagements with the liberals .The civil war was very vicious .Captured prisoners on both sides were often shot . Priests who refused sacraments to liberals were shot as were doctors in conservative held areas who treated liberals .
The liberals nationalized church lands and declared freedom of religion . By 1860 the war began to favor the liberals with the leadership of the generals Ignacio Zargoza and Jesus Ortega and infighting among the conservatives.In late 1861 the liberals won a victory against the conservative general Miramon at San Migual Calpulalpan and the liberal army entered Mexico City .
Benito Juarez documentary in English
Benito Mussolini was named after Juarez
With the War of the Reform over, Mexico needed peace to rebuild after the devastation it had wrought .However, this was not to be . Juarez won the presidential election of 1861, but the liberals were divided on what punishment should be given to their enemies .The new president chose a more lenient policy, which angered to more radical liberals and kept the new government in a state of turmoil .But the biggest problem was yet to come.
Juarez inherited a bankrupt country. The sale of church lands had not brought in as much income as was hoped and the economy was stagnant . Mexico's foreign creditors began clamoring for repayment of debts, some over fifty years old .The Mexicans still owed 80 million in foreign debts, and 64 million of this was owed to the British .The conservative President, Miramon had borrowed heavily as well from the half brother of Napoleon III of France. Juarez repudiated the debts of the conservatives , but this did not satisfy the foreign bankers .To get some breathing space for the economy to revive, Juarez declared a two year moratorium on payment of the foreign debt . On October 31, 1861, Spain, England and France agreed to the Convention of London which declared an occupation of the Mexican coast until their claims were satisfied through custom duties . France, under the leadership of Napoleon III, sought to use the opportunity of the crisis and the American Civil war to establish a colony in the New World .
In December, 1861, 6,000 Spanish troops landed at Veracruz, followed by seven hundred British soldiers and two thousand French . When it became apparent that the French sought to conquer Mexico, Spain and England withdrew their troops .
Mexico After the War of the Reform