The Early Republic
1823 - 1833
Mexican Constitution of 1824
After the collapse of the empire, Mexico was ruled by three military men : Guadalupe Victoria, Nicolas Bravo and Pedro Negrete, all military men . Elections were held to chose congressmen for the new constitutional congress .After the election the new congress met on November 27, 1823 to draw up a constitution . Soon two factions emerged as to whether Mexico should be federalist or centralist. The federalist were more liberal and the centralists more conservative and they were to transfer power from each other in a bloody manner in the early republic period in Mexico .
The centralist found support among the hacendados , the military and the clergy . The federalist were supported by liberal Creoles ( crillos ) and metizos who drew inspiration from the French and American revolution and the liberal Spanish constitution of 1812 . The centralists argued that the conditions in America were too different from those of Mexico to be used. There was no history of the democratic process and exchange political ideas that happened in the north . One spokesman said Mexico had " ...buckled for 300 years under the weight of an absolute monarch...we are like children barely out of diapers.." However, the long history of imperial rule and the recent disastrous Mexican empire won the federalist faction when the Constitution of 1824 was draw up and the Estados Unidos Mexicanos was organized as a federal republic of 19 states and four territories . The Central American countries had declared their own independence in 1823 .
There were three branches of government as in the United States to balance power : executive, legislative and judicial . The legislature was to be bicameral, with the upper house as the Senate and the lower house as the Chamber of Deputies . Each state was represented by 2 senators and one deputy for every 80,000 residents . The president and vice president were to be elected by the state legislatures for a 4 year term . The Catholic church regained its monopoly on the spiritual life of Mexicans . The president could become a dictator in times of emergencies. The clergy and military were granted the old Spanish exemption of fueros from civil trials.There was to be a free press and free speech . Indian tribute was abolished . During this period the factions attached themselves to Masonic lodges where they could meet in secret . The conservatives met at Scottish Rite lodges and Liberals meet at York Rite lodges .
The first president ( 1824 - 29 )chosen was Guadalupe Victoria ( real name, Jose Miguel Raman Adaucto Fernandez y Felix )and Nicolas Bravo as vice president .Guadalupe Victoria ( 1786 - 1843 ) was a former rebel leader, some report him as honest and unassuming and willing to meet with the public, brave in battle, but no an inspiring or talented administrator .As Iturbide did, he spent more on the military than revenues could sustain , A local military strongman emerges during these times, the caudillo .Over 50,000 men were kept under arms. The government sought to support itself through import duties, taxes and monopolies . These were insufficient to pay the huge debt the republic inherited .
These economic troubles and growing factional disputes led to an armed revolt against the president in 1827, led by vice president Bravo , who drew upon the conservatives of the Scottish Rite ( he was the Grand Master ) lodges for support .The York Rite masons , who controlled the army, gathered around the president and the revolt was suppressed by General Santa Anna . Bravo was exiled to Ecuador .
In foreign relations the Victoria administration did well. Many foreign countries ( except Spain ) recognized Mexico including the Unites States and the Sabine river was accepted as the eastern boundary of the US - Mexican border .
The new presidential elections were held in September of 1828. The liberal candidate was Vicente Guerrero, another rebel hero and the conservative candidate was Manuel Gomes Pedraza , who had served in Victoria's cabinet as secretary of war .The elections results showed Pedraza as the winner. The liberals charged that they had lost due to army intimidation of the legislators . The liberal decided to revolt and chose Santa Anna as their leader .After some fighting , the president elect declined the position and Guerrero became president and Santa Anna was given control of the army .
Guerrero was a much more active president than Victoria . He foreshadowed future populists moments by inviting the poor to his birthday party , abolishing slavery and other reforms to help the lower classes . Slaves were few in number by this time, but his act increased his support among mulattos. All remaining Spaniards were to be expelled from Mexico . Spanish imports were seen as a threat to the economy and the poor cotton farmers.
Vicente Guerrero . Click on cc for English translation .
Spain, which had never recognized Mexico's independence, choose this time to invade its most important former colony . King Ferdinand VII sent an expedition of 3,000 troops departed from Havana in July 1829 under the command of General Isidro Barradas . The expedition included many of the Spaniards exiled in 1827 who wanted to return to the country. The exiles had convinced Barradas that Mexico was eager to return to Spanish sovereignty.They landed near Tampico, which had been abandoned . Guerrero placed Santa Anna in charge of repulsing the invasion. After an initial attack which failed, Santa Anna settled in for a siege . As yellow fever and lack of supplies took its toll, and the Spaniards did not receive the support they expected from within Mexico , the Spanish general surrendered .The Spanish were allowed to go home and the invasion touched off reprisals against the few reaming Spaniards, mainly middle class merchants, who fled the country . With this victory and that off driving out the emperor, Santa Anna became extremely popular .
Guerrero's administration did not long outlast the Spanish invasion .From August 1829 to December he ruled by emergency decree, the most important of which was calling up of the reserves, even after the repulse of the Spanish. Reserves in Jalapa, called for a reduction of the emergency powers and asked vice president Bustamante and Santa Anna to lead them. Bustamante agreed, who portrayed himself as a defender of the constitution . Guerrero set off with a force to attack them, but the capital was taken over by rebel supporters after he left and he retired to his farm in Tixtla .
Guerrero was undone by the fear of a president with dictatorial powers after the emergency had passed and the fear of the upper classes of increased power of the lower classes leading to anarchy . The treasury by this time was also bankrupt. These factors led the Senate to declare Guerrero ' morally incapable' to rule and the minister of war ordered all officers to agree to the Plan of Jalapa of the conservative faction . Guerrero's old supporters were removed from office in many places and on the state level. This plan backfired , as this was the kind of act federalism was supposed to prevent and caused resentment of the state officials to the coup .Some of the states, such as Michoacan raised troops to fight the coup and Guerrero returned to fight . However, Bustamante, with army support was able to defeat the forces of Guerrero.This marked a return to power of the conservatives.
Bustamante cut back on the size of the army and renegotiated foreign loans, but he was no better able to revive the economy than Guerrero. He also undertook many repressive acts against the liberals such as curtailing the freedom of the press, using secret police and bullying the congress into compliance . Corruption was rampant . But the incident which caused the greatest public outcry was the execution of Guerrero .The public was roused against Bustamante and Santa Anna took advantage of the situation to become the ' savior ' of Mexico again .Bustamante, Santa Anna and Gomez Pedraza, signed the conventions of Zavaleta (December 21-23), by which Gomez Pedraza was to assume the presidency and hold new elections. Bustamante was to go into exile, which he did in 1833. Santa Anna gathered his forces and overthrew Bustamante and was elected president in the 1833 election .