MEXICO forms a triangle whose apex pointing southeast terminates the North American continent. It reaches to that ridge, 1,428 miles long, known as the isthmus of Panama; and includes the most northerly of the passes which exist in that immense embankment and offer a means of passage between the two oceans which wash the shores of the new world, namely, the pass called after Tehuantepec, a town on the Pacific coast. Mexico, however, extends beyond the pass or the isthmus of Tehuantepec; the peninsula of Yucatan, which is farther south, belongs to it also, thus making it contiguous to Central America, which is composed of five independent states, the most important being Guatemala, and of the English colony of Balize. Mexico, then, chiefly extends lengthwise in an oblique direction from 15° to 33° north latitude, lying southeast to northwest, from Cape Catoche in Yucatan to the bay of San Diego in the peninsula of California, a distance of not less than 1,863 miles. Its narrowest part is the isthmus of Tehuantepec, where the width in a direct line is only 136 miles: from Vera Cruz to Acapulco through Mexico, which is indirect, is 341 miles. Farther north, from the mouth of the Rio Bravo del Norte to the anchorage off the town of Sinalos, following the line of latitude, is a distance of 683 miles.
—Mexico, since the diminution it suffered at the hands of the United States, possesses a superficial area of 743,948 English square miles, less than half its size when ruled by Spain, and is about three and a half times as large as France. The greater part, as is shown by the preceding data, is in the torrid zone, the populated portion being almost entirely so. Northward the race of peaceable Indians, who by learning to work and embracing Christianity have entered the pale of civilization, disappear; and the population of European origin, although the more numerous, is scanty. Its increase is hindered by the incursions of savage Indians who are opposed to labor, and in particular those of the Apache nation, with regard to whom the United States, deeming them incapable of being improved, now openly pursues a policy of extermination.
—The Climate of Mexico and the Productions it favors. By its peculiar configuration Mexico is spared the disadvantages common to tropical countries. That portion of the earth's surface which bears the name of the torrid zone is in general unsuited to white men on account of its extreme heat, but even there the warmth of the sun may be modified by the elevation, that is to say, by the height of the land above the sea level. As the altitude increases, the temperature lowers, till at last, even at the equator, the limit of perpetual snow is reached. The greater part of intertropical Mexico forms a high table land, having a gradual slope on the one side to the Atlantic and on the other to the Pacific, intersected by valleys more or less deep, and studded with mountains and hills. This Mexican plateau enjoys many advantages, among which one in particular is worthy of note, that with the exception of a few isolated summits here and there, its elevation makes it admirably adapted to Europeans, and well suited to the cultivation of the products of the temperate zone, such as cereals, maize, the vine and the olive. On entering Mexico from the south, the central Cordillera of the Andes, which traverse the new world throughout all its length as though they were its spine, spreads out until it occupies almost the entire space between the two oceans; forming a plateau raised above the sea level to a height which, a little north of the isthmus of Tehuantepec, is about 4,900 feet, while at Pueblo, Mexico and Guanaxuato, it varies from 6,800 feet to 7,500 feet. Farther north the elevation is less than at Mexico.
—The city of Mexico is built at the foot of two mountains, both covered with perpetual snow, Popocatepetl and Istaccihuatl, the former of which is 17,800 feet high. Setting aside these formidable earth masses and a few others distributed over the plateau, the high districts are for the most part a sort of plain stretching far into the north; the distance this table land extends, from north to south, is at least 1,500 miles, that is, about the distance between Paris and St. Petersburg.
—On leaving the shores of the ocean, whether it be the Atlantic or the Pacific, and going toward the high lands, owing to the rapid change of elevation, a quick succession of different climates is encountered, each having its own distinct vegetation. With good means of communication, it would be possible to go in one day, from sunrise to sunset, from the coast plains, where the heat is suffocating, to a temperature resembling that of Montpellier or Toulouse. At each step, the face of the country, the look of the sky, the appearance of the animals and plants, the manners and occupations of the people, all change. First, the sugar cane is met with, in company with indigo, cacao trees and bananas; then comes the coffee shrub, and in succession the cotton plant, oranges, tobacco, olives, wheat and vines, together with many plants peculiar to the country, such as the liana whose fruit is vanilla, the beautiful plant (genus convolvulus) whose root makes jalap, the smilax whose root is sarsaparilla, and the cactus (opuntia) the food of the cochineal insect. On first starting, palms, and all those vigorous trees which in equatorial regions spring up along the seacoast, form the surroundings; in the intermediate region, say about the elevation of Xalapa, the trees have that beautiful, bright green foliage, like that of the liquidambar, which is a certain indication of a country plentifully watered by rivers or by the clouds, and the temperature of which is always moderate; they are succeeded by the oaks, which in turn give way to pines and firs, and lastly the firs remain alone as they do amid the crags of the Alps; the last remnants of vegetation are the lichens which only disappear when the perpetual snow line is reached. Maize thrives in every region.
—Sugar planting is as profitable in Mexico as it is in the Antilles; cotton is of excellent quality, and the yield is abundant. Maize produces in a good locality and in a favorable season 800 grains for one. The wheat-growing country in the neighborhood of Puebla and of Toluca, notwithstanding that the farming is of the most primitive description, produces twenty-four or twenty-five grains for one. The banana or plantain is one of the staple food sources of Mexico, and it is well known that no other food plant needs so little attention or in proportion produces, even approximately, so much.
—It is customary to divide Mexico into three parts, according to climate and productions, giving to each a characteristic name. The first division, which commences at the seacoast, is distinguished by luxuriant vegetation and excessive heat. Unfortunately many parts of it are devastated by yellow fever, a disease deadly to strangers and even to the Mexicans if from the plateau. It bears the name of the hot district (tierra caliente). Next in order is the temperate district (tierra templada), the climate of which is a perpetual spring. Xalapa and Orizaba are examples of this delightful country, which has a mean annual temperature of from 18° to 20° centigrade, and the thermometric variation in the different seasons is very slight. It is not only free from the overheated atmosphere and malarial exhalations of the seacoast, but also from the insects, both trouble-some and dangerous, which swarm to the torment of mankind over a great part of the hot district. The third and last zone, the cold district (tierra fria) is the most extensive. It includes the entire plateau, and even those parts of the two inclined planes immediately adjacent to it. It is almost universally agreeable to live in, and the inhabitant of the choicest spots in Europe might almost believe himself at home there.
—The Mineral Wealth of Mexico. Mexico is naturally wealthy in minerals, and especially so in the precious metals, of which silver is the more abundant. The mines form a line 1,863 miles in length, reaching to the very north of Mexico, and taking a direction from southeast to northwest. They are the result of one of those tremendous upheavals which have set their mark on the successive periods of this planet's existence. The matrix is in veins, principally consisting of quartz, through which the silver is scattered in very small quantity, so much so that after the separation of the waste from the workable ore, the latter only yields the two or three thousandth part of its weight in metal, sometimes even less, and it is only the extreme abundance of the ore which compensates for its lack of richness. In northern Mexico, and especially on the Pacific coast, the traveler may see long lines of rocks cropping out, these being the quartz veins, the hardness and durability of whose substance has resisted all climatic influences. The number of argentiferous veins is practically unlimited, and their thickness is considerable, therein differing from the silver veins of the old world. Although Mexico has produced a great quantity of silver, it has been a mere sample of the metallic wealth of the country; an opinion which, expressed by the great Humboldt in the beginning of the century, has since been confirmed by every engineer and scientific man who has visited the country. The principal prospecting has been done in the neighborhood of the beautiful city of Guanaxuato, round about Zacatecas, farther north still at Guadalupe y Calvo, and in the opposite direction at Real del Monte. By an ingenious process, the invention of a sixteenth century miner, Bartholomew Medina, the silver is separated almost without the use of fuel from the different and often complex combinations in which it is found, the agent used, with a few other substances of less value, being mercury in the proportion of three pounds of it to two of silver. This process, called cold amalgamation, is of great value, because the country, sparsely wooded in the time of the Aztecs, was completely denuded of its forests by the Spaniards. Medina's process quickly spread from Mexico to all the other Spanish possessions in America, where it rendered the same services and is in use still.
—Gold is found in Mexico for the most part in combination with silver, in a proportion small in weight but of considerable value, the value of gold being fifteen or sixteen times that of an equal weight of silver. The gold is removed from the silver ingots by "refining." There exist, however, in addition, gold mines, properly so called, which are generally but not invariably alluvial, like those which, existing in every quarter of the globe, have hitherto yielded by the process of washing the greater portion of the gold possessed by man. But the magnificent gold deposits of California remained unknown and therefore undisturbed as long as the country was in the hands of the Spaniards or of independent Mexico. The provinces of Sonora and of Sinaloa, on the Pacific coast, which are an extension of California, contain, according to incontestable evidence, deposits similar to those of California, both in the form of auriferous quartz and of alluvial detritus.
—The Mexican mines have been, since the middle of the eighteenth century, the greatest producers of the precious metals in the world. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the war of independence broke out, their yield was from 125 to 130 millions, of which nine-tenths was silver. Since then, the country, distracted by continual revolutions and a prey to anarchy, has seen its mines neglected till the present yield barely equals that of the first years of the century.
—If the country were restored to a settled condition, if it had an enlightened and stable government to provide the advantages enjoyed by the most civilized nations for three-quarters of a century, such as laws for the protection of labor, technical schools, and lines of communication, the production of gold and silver in Mexico would increase rapidly. The discovery of the great deposits of quicksilver at New Almaden, in California, is calculated to give a lively impetus to Mexican silver mining; for experience joins with calculation to show that abundance of mercury at a low price is a great incentive to activity among the miners who work the silver lodes.
—The destruction of the greater portion of the forests and the entire absence of any mineral fuel must cause the production of other metals, and in particular of iron and copper, to be indefinitely postponed.
—Advantageous Position between the two Oceans. To the advantages which Mexico possesses in its climate, its soil, the unlimited variety of its agricultural products, and its many gold and even silver mines, it adds that of a topographical situation almost unique. It has on its sides the two greatest and most frequented oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific. It faces thus at the same time both sides of the old world, and the two most industrious, most civilized and most populous portions of it, one at its western extremity, that is, in Europe, and the other at the eastern, that is, China and Japan. It seems chosen to have intimate connections with both, and even to serve as a highway for much of their commerce. The railroad which is to cross Mexico from Vera Cruz to Acapulco, and is completed between the former city and the capital, will be of great service in opening up communication between the interior of the country and the seacoast, and will be useful to many strangers in spite of its steep ascending gradients, but the greater number will desert it for the line which the people of the United States, by a miracle of boldness and economy, have succeeded in opening between New York and San Francisco, both of which are metropolises exercising great attraction.
—The isthmus of Tehuantepec was strongly advocated, before the design of the Central Pacific railway between New York and San Francisco was conceived, as the position for a line of rail which, together with the Panama railway, should make a junction between the two oceans. This route has the advantage of shortening greatly the transit from the eastern to the western slope of the North American continent. Travelers going from New York to San Francisco by sea and one of the isthmuses would gain considerably by taking it as compared with the route via the isthmus of Panama.
—The direct railroad between New York and San Francisco deprives of this special advantage the line of rails that was to be placed on the isthmus of Tehuantepec. In return it seems now highly probable that that isthmus will be crossed by a maritime canal of wide section, adapted for the vessels which transport the merchandise exchanged in such quantity between the Atlantic and Pacific basins. This canal, which is intended to commence in the river Guazacoalcos, a tributary of the Atlantic, and to reach the Pacific through the lagoons near Tehuantepec, is seriously projected now by the company which had before the concession for the railway across the isthmus. The United States government has had the proposed route surveyed, and the decision of those surveys, made in 1870-71, under the direction of Captain Schufeldt, by the engineers Fuatos and Buel and other officers, was that the undertaking presented no extraordinary difficulties. It would be necessary to surmount by means of locks an ascent of 233 métres; the length would be 237 kilométres from the island of Tacamichopa in the Guazacoalcos to the port of Salma-Cruz on the Pacific. The watershed would be on the plateau of Tarita. Below the island of Tacamichopa use would be made of the bed of the river Guazacoalcos, which it would be easy to improve. The maritime canal of Tehuantepec promises better for the commerce of the United States than any of the rival schemes proposed, as it would greatly shorten the distance between the numerous and busy ports which the Union possesses on the Atlantic side and San Francisco, already the most important mart of the new world on the Pacific. It would also be the most convenient route to Japan, Hongkong or Shanghae.
—The Population of Mexico. The population of Mexico consists chiefly of the descendants of the indigenous race subdued by Cortez. This industrious and disciplined people rapidly embraced Christianity after Mexico was conquered. Whether voluntary or on compulsion, conversion was general. The Catholic clergy skillfully availed themselves of the similarities existing between Christian theology and that of the Aztec religion. Since that time the indigenes, called Indians through the mistake of Columbus who fancied he had found India, have remained submissive. In a very few instances and during periods of extreme suffering, isolated outbreaks of rebellion have occurred, but, very different in this from the Indian tribes once spread over the whole United States, the Mexican Indian regularly cultivates the soil either for himself or as the servant of some white man, does his day's work in one of the few manufactories which have been established, or labors of his own free will in the mines, where he gives surprising proofs of his physical development. There are numerous half-breeds, the offspring of intercourse between the whites and the Indians, who, under the Spanish dominion, were called castes. The number of negroes, or of those sprung from them through unions with whites or Indians, is very small. Formerly there were several thousand black slaves, but they were for the most part set at liberty on the commencement of the war of independence in 1810.
—On the western slope of Mexico, in the neighborhood of the city of Acapulco, whose magnificent harbor was the port of arrival and departure of the solitary ship called the Galion, which once a year made the round trip between Mexico and China and the countries which lay on the route, Malays may be met with, the descendants of those who came by that way to settle in the country, but they have not increased. The proof that the Chinese, who are so industrious, who make such intelligent and steady workmen, might easily be attracted to the country and would acclimatize themselves there, is seen in the fact that they are taking root both in California and Australia in spite of the bad treatment they are subjected to in those places.
—The dominant race till now has been the white, although in point of numbers it constitutes only one-sixth or one-seventh of the population. It is not without some admixture of Indian blood, as since the time of Cortez and indeed at that great man's instigation, lawful marriages have been contracted between the two races: several of his companions in arms, and those not the least distinguished, having united themselves before the altars to the converted widows of Mexican chiefs who had fallen in the struggle. The ascendency of the white race is not absolute. The classes of mixed blood and even pure-blooded natives have furnished eminent men to the country who have risen to the highest honors. Guerrero, who was president, was of mixed Spanish and Indian blood, and President Juarez was a full-blooded Indian.
—The number and composition of the Mexican people in 1810, according to the statistics of Don Francisco Navarro y Noriega, whom Humboldt mentions as being reliable, was as follows:
|Europeans, and Creoles of European origin...
|Castes or mixed faces...
At the present time the population of Mexico is estimated at about nine millions.
—Mexico since the Conquest by Hernando Cortez. Mexico was, before the European invasion, the most powerful state of the new world. It was the farthest advanced in both the useful and the decorative arts, in science and in literature. This civilization, while in many respects to be admired, was marred by some horrible practices, in particular by that of human sacrifice. Several peoples in succession ruled the country, the last and cruelest being the Aztecs, to which race the emperor Montezuma, in whose presence Hernando Cortez found himself, belonged.
—The Spanish conquest was achieved by a succession of battles and of deeds of daring which commenced on the day the Spaniards disembarked (Holy Thursday, 1519) and terminated Aug. 13, 1521, on which date the last quarter of Tenochtitlan, or Mexico, was carried by assault, and the young and valiant Guatemozin, the last Aztec emperor, was taken prisoner. The Spaniards at once set to work to organize this vast acquisition. The Indians, notwithstanding their conversion, were, with the exception of the nobles and of the people of Tlascala, shared as slaves, or nearly so, between the conquerors and people of all sorts who flocked from Spain to join them, or who were sent there by the crown. This system went by the name of repartimientos, a word which indicated quite sufficiently what was done. They portioned out these wretched Indians as though they were herds of cattle, making them till the ground and labor in the mines. This régime, when applied to the islands of Hispaniola or San Domingo, speedily resulted in the extinction of the aborigines. In Mexico the race to be dealt with was hardier and possessed greater vitality. The enforced labor decimated but did not utterly destroy it. It must be said, also, that in this case the clergy labored indefatigably in behalf of the unfortunate Mexicans, and their efforts were crowned with success, upheld as they were by the court of Spain. This latter looked upon the sentiments of Christian charity which Queen Isabella manifested toward the aboriginal peoples of America, and which she, when on her death-bed, commended to her successors, as an inalienable bequest. At a later period the courts of justice or audiencias, and the viceroys, among whom were many distinguished men, were the interpreters of the royal views, and ameliorated the evils under which the Indians were crushed by the colonists or by the feudal chiefs who were blinded by avarice. The clergy regarded the task of protecting those unfortunate creatures as a special duty assigned them. In this an example was set to the whole of the new world by the bishop of Chicopas, Bartholomew Las Casas, who, at the time of the barbarities practiced on the natives of Hispaniola, made Europe and America ring with his outspoken denunciation of them. At an early period the Spanish court modified greatly the régime established in Mexico as elsewhere. The repartimientos were abolished, and their place taken by encomiendas. This was, as nearly as possible, serfdom substituted for slavery. The Indian and his family were attached to the soil instead of depending on the individual caprice of a master. One portion of the Indians remained exempt even from the encomiendas in certain villages, access to which was forbidden to the whites. During the reign of Charles III., an enlightened prince, and one who gave his mind to benefiting his people, fresh abuses and deeds of violence came to light, and these seeming intolerable to the court of Madrid, the encomiendas in turn were swept away. The native had now no master but the king, but he was obliged to pay an annual tribute, and he continued in a state of pupilage all his life. He was declared incapable of transacting business whenever the sum in question exceeded five piasters. This was done on the supposition that it would act for the protection of the Indians, but the avaricious cunning of the whites still found means of oppressing them, and the more so that they were more unarmed and less free to do it. Intendants, civil governors created by the same prince in 1776 were placed at the head of each province, and invested with considerable power under the authority of the viceroy. Their duty was to administer the affairs of the country in general, and in particular to act for the protection of the Indian.
—The Indian nobility or caciques were exempt from the degrading condition of minority to which the other Indians were subject. From the time of Cortez they had been placed on a par with the Castilian nobility, but no care had been taken to educate their descendants. They had ended by lapsing into a condition of barbarity. Of their ancient superiority they only retained the habit of making exactions from their miserable fellow countrymen.
—The numerous class of half-breeds were scarcely better treated than the full-blooded Indian. They too paid tribute, but were, however, free from the state of perpetual pupilage which the Indian was forced to submit to; but they were none the less kept in a condition of degradation.
—The class of creole whites, that is to say, whites born in Mexico, suffered under a policy of suspicious surveillance. To those who by their own effort or by inheritance possessed wealth in mines, or in vast agricultural territories, titles of nobility were given; those who were less rich got commissions in the militia and decorations. Neither class was admitted to any share in the government or administration of the country. All that was granted them was the privilege of becoming members of the municipal bodies or ayuntamientos. Numerous, and, from their large possessions, influential, this class was profoundly discontented. There was no despotism clever or adroit enough to make the son of a father born in Spain and of a mother equally Spanish admit that there should exist a gulf between him and his parents or between him and an elder son who happened to have been born in Spain. It was useless to inspect all printed matter entering Mexico, with the object of preventing the circulation of any books unless approved by the inquisition; truth has a diffusive force which sets at naught the arbitrary decrees of the most absolute power or the watchfulness of the subtilest inquisition. An antagonism, at one time suppressed, at another outspoken, existed between the creoles (criollos) and the natives of Spain, who were distinguished by the name of Gachupines.
—Ideas of independence were introduced into Mexico by the excitement caused by the independence of the United States and the French revolution, and sank deep into men's minds in spite of the barriers with which government surrounded the people; and the events which took place in the peninsula in 1808 giving the needed opportunity, by the total eclipse of the legitimate royalty from which the whole system emanated, an explosion followed. The independents, commanded by priests, first Hidalgo and then Morelos as their generals in chief, gained in the beginning important advantages, but they soon suffered severe disaster. A Spanish officer of great merit, Calleja, who was afterward viceroy, made them pay dearly for their early successes. Their armies were beaten and dispersed, their chiefs taken and executed. In 1815 the triumph of the Spanish authority seemed everywhere complete, but it was only so in appearance. The creoles, the chief of whom had in consequence of the atrocities committed by the independents made common cause with the Spaniards, rallied at last from all quarters to their country's flag. The signal was given by one of them, who had distinguished himself with the Spanish armies, Colonel Iturbide. This chief, to whom the viceroy Apodaca had entrusted an imported body of troops, proclaimed independence Feb. 24, 1821, and published a programme which has since been famous, by the name of the Iguala plan (so called from the small town where it was issued). The whole country, every class, gave in their adhesion to it. Independence was henceforth an accomplished fact, and from that time it has never again been questioned.
—The proclamation of independence was only the beginning of the greatest trials. The Iguala plan provided that Mexico should henceforward form a perfectly independent monarchy, the crown of which was to be offered to the king of Spain on condition of his residing in the country, and in the event of his refusing, to the infantas, his brothers. The court of Spain utterly rejecting this proposal, Iturbide had himself proclaimed emperor, but seated on the throne in May, 1822, in May, 1823, just one year later, he embarked at Vera Cruz, condemned to exile. The Mexican congress, a permanency since the emancipation gained by the Iguala plan, adopted the republican form of government, and believed it could do no better than copy the federal constitution of the United States, which, suited to the manners and antecedents of the former English colonists, jarred with the customs and prejudices of the Mexicans. The republican constitution, long in elaboration, was published in October, 1824, and the president elected was General Victoria, one of the most intrepid heroes of the war of independence. After four or five troubled years had passed, the horrors of civil war commenced, and the country, since then, has gone from revolution to revolution, from catastrophe to catastrophe. It has been by turns a federal and a simple republic. In the former case, the provinces have not only borne the name of states, but have also possessed a sort of independence with a distinct governing body, on the plan, more or less closely followed, of the United States; in the latter, the central executive has had the entire control, subject really or nominally to the decisions of a congress, consisting, like that at Washington, of two chambers. There has even been, apart from any foreign intervention, a thinly disguised effort to establish a monarchy. It was made by General Santa Anna after his return to power in 1853, who planned to have himself elected president for life with the right at his death of naming his own successor. But the attempt proved abortive. and a revolution overthrew Santa Anna in 1855.
—During the greater part of the time the federal form of republic has been the prevailing one, and is in existence at the present date. But it is impossible to give the provinces an independent existence such as is possessed by the different states of the American Union. This system has no root in Mexico's past and as a matter of fact the governor of Mexico always has a dominant influence, which, when the country comes to possess passable means of communication, will most assuredly increase.
—So great has been the political instability of Mexico since it became independent that the presidential chair changed occupants forty-six times between Oct. 10, 1824, and the French invasion, General Santa Anna's name appearing on the list five times. General Santa Anna was, from the declaration of independence until the movement of 1867, the most prominent figure in the country and the mainspring of the events occurring in it. He contributed more than any other to the overthrow of the emperor Iturbide; he, however, judged it inexpedient to accept the presidency till 1834. Forced again and again to relinquish power, he always regained it, and retained it longer than any of his rivals, steering skillfully between parties, soothing each in turn and using them one against the other.
—In the midst of the turmoil of events and the incessant storm of personal pretensions, it is possible since the independence to single out two parties having distinct characteristics in complete opposition to each other, which by their antagonism furnish an inexhaustible incentive to revolution. These are, the conservatives and the reformers or liberals, neither, unhappily, knowing any moderation. The first named cling to ancient ideas and old forms of government, the second are saturated with modern theories, and admire in particular the principles of the French revolution of 1789, grafted on some of the federal principles of the United States. The ground on which they joined issue was the connection between church and state. It was not that the clergy had been at first hostile to independence; with the single exception of the dignitaries of the church, who were almost to a man Spaniards, they had favored the party of independence, and had even taken an active part in the insurrection, giving it its first leaders, Hidalgo, Morelos and Matamoras, and to the last they continued to support it. But this was not done without making both open and secret reservations. The plan of government sketched by the priest Morelos maintained the prerogative of the church and its absolute control over consciences. The Iguala plan, in accordance with which independence was definitely established, provided in its first article that one of the bases of the organization of the country should be the Roman church, catholic and apostolic, and that no other should be tolerated. In respect to its possessions, which were enormous, the Mexican church flattered itself that they would be respected, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that one of the accessory causes of its adherence to the party of independence is to be found in the system inaugurated by the court of Spain at the commencement of the century, of taking possession of the capital of the Mexican clergy and replacing it by annuity bonds which were deservedly protested against. This was actually done to the extent of 58,000,000 francs.
—Independence once achieved, the Mexican liberals, who had received their education from the works of the French philosophers and publicists, entered with ardor the course in which they had been preceded by the liberals of France, and in due course by those of the two great peninsulas of southern Europe, Spain and Italy. They openly favored freedom of worship, which the Catholic clergy, in obedience to orders from Rome, rejected with all their power. At the same time the liberals proposed to vest in the state, which was without resources, the possessions of the church. With sound reason Mexican liberals wished, in view of possible claims on the part of Rome, to give the state the guarantees which form part of French public law, and notably such as make the publication of bulls, briefs and other official utterances of the holy see conditional on obtaining the previous sanction of the government. The liberal party also comprehended in its programme the innovations of the Code Napoleon and the French concordat of 1801, such as the civil character of marriage, the abolition of perpetual vows, the abolition of ecclesiastical tribunals, the closing of monastic institutions, the limitation or confiscation by the state of church property, etc. By degrees, overstepping French bounds, it ended by allying itself to the system adopted by the United States, which entirely divorces government from religion and the state from creeds. There has been on this account a complete rupture between the liberals and the clergy. The latter formed the centre and nucleus of the conservative party, with which a great number of the landed proprietors and a section of the Indian population have identified themselves.
—After alternate successes and reverses, the liberals at last completely got the upper hand, and the French army found them in power when it entered Mexico. President Juarez, and the party which sustained him, relied on the constitution, which explicitly enjoined freedom of worship. Laws had been passed, which, with certain reserves in their favor, declared the lands and buildings belonging to the clergy to be sequestrated to the state, and under those laws many sales took place.
—The political difficulty which has hitherto proved insurmountable in Mexico consists in this, that up to the present time it has not only been impossible to make the two parties walk in harmony, but even to find common ground on which they would tolerate each other. They shun each other absolutely. The liberal party aims at a perfectly commendable object, but does so for the most part without enlightenment and without tact; this object being to establish in Mexico a political system founded on the general principles which modern civilization has adopted in the countries where it has reached its highest development, namely, those of western Europe and the United States of North America, while imitating more particularly such peoples as have an affinity to Mexico in having a resemblance or community in their origin, their traditions, their manners or their language. What are called in France the ideas of 1789, with the deductions which she has drawn from them, and which Spain and Italy have accepted, are the basis of this party's programme. All that portion of this programme which concerns religion, or rather the relations of church and state, is rejected as sacrilegious by the conservative party, which the court of Rome sustains here, and excites by all means in its power. The doctrines of 1789 advocate entire religious liberty, abolition of perpetual vows, and the suppression of church courts; and Juarez, on regaining power after the retreat of the French armies, brought back with himself the constitution whose offspring he was, and vindicated liberal tenets on the subject of religion. His successor, President Lerdo de Tejado, followed his footsteps closely. The liberal party seems to have entered on an indefinite lease of power. It directs its efforts toward remodeling the state on the type of the advanced nations in Europe or the American Union, a work infinitely difficult of accomplishment when regard is paid to the materials on which it has to work and the tools at its disposal.
—Mexico needs a moderator who could force or persuade the opposing parties to accept a compromise; some one to reproduce in Mexico what was accomplished in France by the first consul, when he formulated a modus vivendi to which an overwhelming majority acceded, and which appeased the dangerous dissensions having their origin in religion. But on this occasion the holy see gave its sanction to the proposed plan, encouraged it, and ordered its acceptance. In Spanish America, on the contrary, the Roman court has not hitherto admitted any compromise, and has declared its intentions in public documents, among which may be cited the allocution, dated Dec. 15, 1856, of Pope Pins IX. on the state of religion in the republic of Mexico, and that of May 6, 1863, on Spanish America in general. Of the same tenor is the concordat signed at Rome, Sept. 26, 1862, with the republic of Ecuador, a document which might have been penned by Hildebrand; as is also the encyclical of Sept. 17, 1863, to the bishops of New Granada Unfortunately there is no one among the Mexicans who could present himself to them with the authority and prestige which the first consul enjoyed in France.
—The history of Mexico, since its independence, has been marked by many noteworthy incidents, viz.: 1. The invasion by the Spanish brigadier, Barrades, in 1829, to reconquer the country—an attempt which failed totally; 2. The Texan war, in which Santa Anna, wishing to recover that province from the American citizens who had taken possession of it, was defeated and taken prisoner at San Jacinto in 1835, with the result that this province, much larger than France, was lost to the Mexican republic; 3. The war of 1838, in which France took the chateau of Saint Jean d'Ulloa; 4. The war of 1847-8, when the army of the United States, after fighting numerous battles, took the city of Mexico, thereby obtaining the cession to the American Union of California and New Mexico.
—But of all events in Mexico's history, the most important was the attempt, made by France in 1862 and the following years, to reestablish monarchy in Mexico in favor of an enlightened and generous prince, the archduke Maximilian of Austria, who, after being installed there, saw himself abandoned by the French arms, and believing it his duty to remain at his post in defense of the Mexicans who adhered to him, was defeated, and fell into the hands of Juarez' government, which had the barbarity to hand him over to a military commission, by order of which he was shot at Queretaro, June 19, 1867.
—This expedition, foolishly conceived to begin with, badly organized, badly conducted, and which had such a fatal issue, was one of the greatest mistakes made by modern French policy. The object aimed at was, to raise the party of the great landowners and the clergy, by giving it the new throne as a bulwark: an insane project, as, at the time it was sought to carry it out, that party was so wrecked that so far from being able to make any headway against its opponents, it lacked the very cohesion necessary to maintain its existence, and either could not or did not know how to concentrate on behalf of its unfortunate prince what little power remained to it. The court of Rome, on whose fervent and cordial co-operation the emperor Maximilian thought himself justified in counting, betrayed his hopes and stood aloof from him.
—Mexico is at present comparatively tranquil, and laws are better kept or less unknown. Military men seem satisfied that the supreme magistracy should rest in the hands of a civilian. Public education is extending and improving in every department, from the highest to the lowest. Efforts are being made toward the development of public works. The railroad from Mexico to Vera Cruz, opened in January, 1873, promises great results for the agriculture of the country, the export of whose rich and varied produce it will greatly facilitate. Mining is receiving a fresh impetus. But a vast amount of ability, wisdom and firmness will be necessary before the unsettled habits, contracted during half a century of civil discord, are finally relinquished, and the passions which then had free vent are brought under proper control. Highway robbery flourished in Mexico when it was a Spanish colony, and the courts of justice were very severe, but it has increased enormously, the very trains on the Mexico & Vera Cruz railway being sometimes stopped and robbed. There still remains, therefore, much in the way of progress for Mexico to effect before it can equal the condition of the civilized states whose peer it wishes to be, or raise itself to the level of the political institutions it has adopted.
—Mexico is divided into twenty-seven states, one territory (lower California), and one federal district made up of the city of Mexico and its environs. The total revenue of the central government, in 1873, was estimated at over fourteen millions of dollars; the imports rose, in 1870, to twenty-three and the exports to twenty-six millions of dollars.
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