An Alternate History of the Mexican Empire (1821-???)

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[LATEST UPDATE/REVISION: 10/29/17 ]

Greetings. This is a timeline I’ve wanted to start for some time now. It will chronicle the history of a surviving Mexican Empire, hopefully thorough both the 19th and 20th centuries; the PoD is that Agustin de Iturbide is sent to subdue Guadalupe Victoria and not Vicente Guerrero in 1821, and that changes everything. The timeline will be written in a narrative “textbook” style, with maps and tables where appropriate to understand the situation better. This timeline will be continuously revised and updated.

Table of Contents

  • I: Independence
    • Birth of a Nation
    • Constitutional Convention
    • Constitutional Emperor
  • II: Empire
    • Constitution
    • 1824 Census
    • 1824 Imperial Elections
  • Interlude: Mexican Nobility
  • III: The Northern Frontier
    • The Mexican-Indian Wars

That’s all for now.


I

Independence


Birth of a Nation

Col. Agustin de Iturbide was a creole, which meant he had been born in Spanish North America but his ancestors had come from Spain, and like most members of his class. But it would be his strategic brilliance, and his zealous opposition to the insurgents, which would rise him to prominence in colonial Mexico — his successful defense of Valladolid (1813) was followed by the Battle of Puruarán (1814), in which he permanently broke the power of the insurgents and made himself famous.

iturbide
Colonel Agustín de Iturbide

After a decade of fighting had drained the coffers and depleted the manpower of the Spanish North American colonies, most  insurgent commanders had been methodically defeated and captured, while the insurgent movement itself was reduced to a few thousand scattered across the mountains and jungles of southern Mexico. The war was for all intents and purposes over, and the colonial government had emerged triumphant.

In the aftermath, Iturbide was given command of the Eastern Armies and instructed to crush the remnants of the insurgent forces once and for all. The insurgent remnants in the Veracruz region were of particular importance to the colonial government because they had evaded capture for too long, and emboldended, had now resumed raids on Spanish positions with some small garrisons in the area even joining them. It was feared that these events could breathe new life into the rebellion, something which could not be allowed to happen.

But considering the insurgents to be nonthreatening, Iturbide’s personal ambitions were turning somewhere else. Across the ocean, a brief revolution had forced Ferdinand VII to accept a constitution, which in itself wasn’t that much of a problem, except that it showcased the weakness of the Spanish ancien régime and increased fears that it could collapse into revolution at any given moment — while this was most certainly improbable, the specters of liberalism and republicanism still haunted much of Europe in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, and this attitude had very much spread to the American colonies.

Meanwhile, the colonial government failed to perceive the unrest spreading across the land among the traditionalist elements which had opposed the independence movement before. The realm was financially devastated, politically compromised, and insurgent bands still roamed the land despite lacking manpower and coherent leadership. To put it simple, the belief among traditionalists was that the colonial government was failing and could not be trusted to hold against a renewed tide of radicalism, and for this, they began planning  a coup to seize control.

victoria
Guadalupe Victoria

Iturbide had arisen as a leading figure within this plot, but it wasn’t until Iturbide was granted command of the Eastern Armies that the plot could move forward.

After a couple of skirmishes in the mountains near Xalapa during the first weeks of 1821,  Iturbide had found that much of the population still held sympathies for the insurgent cause of independence, and came to realize himself that independence was not only convenient at the time, but had become inevitable. With that, the plot began to involve something more than just seizing control of the colonial government.

Iturbide thus ceased military operations against the insurgents, and instead invited them to talk, believing that perhaps they could be convinced to support the plot in exchange for a limited independence scheme. Guadalupe Victoria, the most prominent insurgent commander in the region, at first ignored the colonel’s proposal for a ceasefire and negotiations, claiming that he would never surrender. But after subsequent communications in which Iturbide not only vindicated the insurgent’s efforts to achieve independence, but explained in detail his own efforts and the support he could muster for the cause among creoles, Victoria decided to go along with the colonel’s plan, realizing there wasn’t any hope for them to successfully overthrow the colonial authorities by themselves. Iturbide would write to the colonial government, which remained oblivious to his intentions, that the insurgents had been defeated.

The two men would proclaim the Reform Plan on February 24th,  proposition for the colonial government to reorganize into a provisional council aimed to the establishment of an independent realm, with the crown being offered to Ferdinand VII.  The Reform Army, created from both insurgent and traditionalist forces, turned around and began their march towards the capital.

The colonial government was unable to challenge the Reform Plan, confirming the structural weakness on which the traditionalists had counted. Before too long, the Reformists controlled the vast majority of the cities and the armies in the realm, and the colonial government was recalled — after decades of war, men who had been enemies now marched together for the same cause.

Constitutional Convention

On September 28th, the victorious Reformists entered the capital. The Mexican Empire was immediately proclaimed to the cheers of the populace, with an Imperial Council appointed to oversee the government.

The members of the Imperial Council were:

  • Agustin de Iturbide: Helped write the Reform Plan. During the conflicts of the previous decade, he was a traditionalist and fought the insurgents in several different battles, eventually he broke their power in 1814, and was appointed commander to the Eastern Armies.
  • Guadalupe Victoria: Helped write the Reform Plan. He fought for the insurgents during the conflicts of the previous decade, and was a lieutenant of the insurgent hero Jose Maria Morelos. Was never defeated or captured. Now the rising star of the liberal and republican movement within the Mexican Empire.
  • Juan O’Donojú: The last colonial governor, he had been appointed to replace his predecessor, who had been unable to stop the advance of the Reformists. Much to the surprise of all, he announced his willingness to discuss terms as soon as he arrived; when he realized that independence was inevitable, he and his retinue joined the ranks of the Reformists.

juan o donoju
Juan O´Donoju

Iturbide and Victoria, while allied to consummate the independence, actually represented completely opposite interests — conservative monarchism versus liberal republicanism, two different forces that threatened to tear apart the young independent nation. In order to reconcile these two positions, Juan O’Donojú would work tirelessly the following weeks; most historians do not hesitate to attribute the eventual success of the Mexican Empire to the Spaniard’s valiant efforts to build a compromise between these two great men and the factions they represented.

The Imperial Council eventually agreed to move forward with the most pressing matter at hand, the Constitutional Convention. More precisely, its composition. After fierce debate, it was decided that a number of delegates would need to be appointed by the provincial governments based on the principle of proportional representation, with the sparsely populated northern territories each getting a flat amount of delegates — interestingly, the lack of reliable census data led the Imperial Council to use outdated information, which in turn meant that the regions which had been hit the hardest during the war would be over-represented.  In the end, 152 delegates were expected in the capital at the time of the Constitutional Convention’s inauguration, to be held on the anniversary of the Reform Plan’s proclamation.

On February 24th, the Constitutional Convention was inaugurated. All of the delegates had arrived the previous weeks without incident, and after mass, began to work on the daunting task of drafting a Constitution.

On February 28th, it was brought to the attention of the delegates that Spain still refused to recognize independence, and thereby, Ferdinand VII was “unable or unwilling” to assume the offered crown. Furthermore, other members House of Bourbon were now expected to spurn the offer given the situation. In the midst of the crisis, the delegates began to split.  Some began to push for the transformation of the Mexican Empire into a Mexican Republic, but overcome by both liberal and conservative monarchist factions, a resolution was passed for the creation of a “special delegation”, which would cross the ocean and attempt to obtain the recognition of the European powers.

Constitutional Emperor

Conservative delegate Lucas Alamán, who had briefly served as a representative to the Spanish Cortes during the Colonial era, was given command of the special delegation which sought to find a monarch for the realm, the men assigned to his charge were mostly professional statesmen with conservative valuesFearing that they might be arrested attempting to dock on a Spanish port, the special delegation had instead arrived in England — extensive correspondence was held between the delegates and their contacts within the Spanish Cortes, but they didn’t seem to accomplish much in regards of convincing Ferdinand VII to recognize the independence of Mexico.

Ferdinand VII had no male issue, but had two younger brothers. Don Carlos stood to inherit the Spanish throne, and had two male children; considered to be the future of the monarchy, he could not accept the throne of the Mexican Empire even if he hadn’t been forbidden to consider the proposal. Meanwhile, Don Francisco, while liberal-minded and adventurous, and sometimes even at odds with his own family, was still devoted to his eldest brother and would not disregard his wishes, though contemporary accounts also claim that he was too preoccupied with balancing out the conservatives in the court and feared that without moderation and restraint his brothers could inadvertently provoke a revolution.

Lucas Alaman
Lucas Alamán

This left the delegation in a tough position, while back in Mexico, the Constitutional Convention weighted the available options. A proposal was considered to give the delegates power to consider candidates and eventually elect a Constitutional Emperor if nobody else was found, and adopted by the Constitutional Convention after a particularly contentious debate. Critics noted that such an option defeated the purpose of the monarchical government,  namely that the monarch would be above the politics of the realm and that it would help forge strong relationships with the European powers. The deadline given to the delegates was exactly twelve months  after the inaugration of the Constitutional Convention, that would be February 24th of 1823.

Upon receiving news of these developments, the delegates doubled their efforts, but the remaining Bourbon candidates were either too young, or already possessed rich lands and prestigious titles in Europe that they were unwilling to forsake in exchange for what they considered a backwater province halfway across the world. Time was running out, and while the Mexican delegation were cautious and measured in their contacts with European princes, rumors still spread about their intentions, which led to ridicule and scorn across the continent.

The situation continued to deteriorate to the point that the delegates considered returning home a few months before the deadline and try to get Juan O’Donoju elected to the throne… that is, until they  caught the attention of Francis of Austria, and critically, that of his state chancellor, Prince Clemens von Metternich.

The Austrian monarch had requested from Britain details of the Mexican emissaries they were hosting and their intentions, and satisfied with the reports he received, invited the delegates to his summer residence. Francis was a very traditional monarch,   during the Napoleonic Wars he had acquired a deep distrust of liberal radicalism, and he had come to believe that the Mexican Empire could become a bulwark against such ideas in the American continent; he especially seemed to have in mind the growing power of the United States, which had aligned themselves with Napoleon. It is known that he told as much to Lucas Alamán and the other members of the Mexican delegation, but when asked if he intended to accept the crown of the Mexican Empire, he just laughed and explained that his intention was to remain in Austria, though he would consider assisting them in finding a suitable candidate for the throne.

The special delegation spent most of Summer 1822 in Vienna, while Emperor Francis discussed his plans and explained his wishes to the Austrian state chancellor. Prince Clemens von Metternich had been the main architect behind the Congress of Vienna; a staunch oppositor to anything that might upset the balance of power, despite his own concern regarding the United States, he was more critical to the idea of a Mexican adventure than his liege.

But the situation in Spain was rapidly deteriorating, giving Prince Metternich the opening he needed. Ferdinand VII had been reduced to a prisoner within his own palace, and the liberal government which had forced him to accept a constitution had radicalized even more, so much that the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic became a distinct possibility — these developments convinced the European powers of the Congress of Vienna to prepare an intervention in order to restore absolutism in Spain, and the Mexican Empire was about to become just another front against liberalism.

The candidate that Francis had in mind to sit the Imperial Throne of Mexico was one of his younger brothers. But not just anyone could be expected to lead the Mexican Empire successfully, not everybody had the military skill or the political experience to rule a country of that size, and it was part of his duties to make sure that the members of his House succeeded.

Emperor Carlos I
Charles I — By Divine Providence and the Congress of the Nation, First Constitutional Emperor of Mexico

But there was one person who could succeed. Archduke Charles Ludwig of Teschen was 51 and had four healthy children who would carry on his legacy. His skills as a military commander honed in the battles of the Napoleonic Wars, he grew to become an experienced and brilliant strategist who was considered to have been one of Napoleon’s most formidable opponents. As a commander, he emphasized caution and the importance of controlling of strategic points, and at the same time, he was flawless in executing complex and risky maneuvers of troops in the heat of battle.

When the Mexican delegation learned of Francis’s decision, they were understandably ecstatic — a Habsburg prince was every bit as good as a Bourbon one, and not only had they been promised the Spanish recognition of the Mexican Empire’s independence, but also some degree of support from the Congress of Vienna powers. There was a condition, though — Charles would not be subjected to a liberal constitution, he would not be allowed to suffer through the same humiliations that the Bourbons in France and Spain had gone through, and would be permanently assured considerable power and influence as the Constitutional Emperor of Mexico.

The Mexican delegation accepted, and quickly sent word to Mexico that the mission had been a success. The conditions that the Austrians had imposed were expected to some degree, but they still caused turmoil in the Constitutional Convention, and provoked tensions between liberal and conservative monarchist factions, with the few republican delegates walking out in protest.

On September 13th, Charles disembarked in the port of Veracruz, and descended with his family to the welcoming cheers of the people; from there he was escorted to the capital, where he accepted to take the title of Constitutional Emperor.


II

Empire


Constitution

In December, Charles took residence in Chapultepec Castle in the outskirts of the capital. Although he had accepted to take the title of Constitutional Emperor, he would not be crowned nor assume the responsibilities of the position until after the Constitution itself was completed and the first Imperial Congress was elected.

Charles did not hesitate to exert his influence over the constituent process, though, and this interference would ensure that the Constitutional Convention moved towards fulfilling certain expectations.

An important issue which divided the delegates at the time was that of the territorial organization of the realm, which at over 4.000.000 km2,  was to large to be governed from a central location.  A proposal for the federalisation of the empire called for the reorganization of imperial territories into states, with each of the state’s borders based on those from the traditional kingdoms from the time before the bourbon reforms.

While this was well-received, further amendments were made under pressure from the monarch’s advisors which required that the states be considered autonomous realms under personal union with the imperial crown, a safeguard that would allow the monarch to assume direct control of a federal unit should it be considered necessary.  In exchange for these concessions, the delegates managed to extract certain guarantees from the monarch’s advisors, such as the election of Crown Parliaments in each state, which would form state governments in behalf of the monarch.

1824 Territorial DivisionBut there was significant dissent from the northern territories’ delegations. Mass settlement there was largely a recent phenomenon, so they were not being included into any of the four traditional kingdoms that would make up the states. While their consent was not considered essential, a proposal intended to appease these delegations guaranteed that territories would be able to request their accession into the the federation as a state, but only once their total population was equal to that of the imperial state with the lowest population — in 1823, that would have been the Crown of Yucatan, with about 600.000 inhabitants. This gave those certain regions a clear path forward to statehood in the coming years.

Federalism had triumphed over Centralism, but now the issue of the legislature and its relationship with the executive was brought back to the table. Most delegations now favored a bicameral legislature, the Imperial & Federal Parliament, with a lower-house which would voice the concerns of the male landowning citizens of the empire and an upper-house designed to represent the interests of the states.

Members of the lower-house, called the Imperial Parliament, would be elected as representatives of their home province, with each province being assigned a number of seats through the principle of proportional representation — each would serve a maximum of 4 years, and only male landowners over 25 would be able to vote or stand for election.

Meanwhile, the members of the upper-house, called the Federal Council, would be appointed by the state governments through equal apportionment, with each state government being allowed to send 7 representatives. The monarch was required to confirm each appointment, and all appointees were expected to hold a noble title or otherwise be an outstanding imperial citizen in all regards.

This structure seemed to balance the powers of the executive and the legislative to the satisfaction of the different factions within the Constitutional Convention. The proposed Constitution was considered progressive  when compared to the absolutist monarchies of the old continent, but managed to safeguard the privileges of the traditional powers,  and was sure to cause ripples in Europe, where it could provide a more realistic path towards reform than the radical republicanism of the United States.

The Constitutional Emperor, after all, had unlimited power to command all armies and fleets, negotiate and sign treaties with foreign powers, appoint the heads of the imperial ministries, and issue imperial decrees without consultation.

Most of the remaining issues, such as the monarch’s style of address, were of limited importance and were solved without much controversy. The sole exception was that of the individual rights of the imperial citizens, for which a charter of rights was swiftly drafted and approved without much disagreement — it provided citizens of the empire with some important rights such as free speech,  freedom of association and freedom of enterprise.

On May 5th, a date which would celebrated thereafter as Constitution Day, the delegates signed the finished their grand endeavor and proclaimed the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention. The first Imperial Elections would take place exactly two years after the inauguration of the Constitutional Convention, on February 24th of 1824.

Emperor Charles ratified the Constitution with the understanding the crowning ceremony would take place until after the elections in the aftermath of his proclamation by the legislative.

1824 Census

 

Population 1824Many attempts to estimate the count of the population of Mexico were made throughout the first three centuries of the colonial period, although only fragmentary records exist for most of them. The first official survey was made between 1579 and 1582 — when Philip II of Spain ordered an inventory of the physical, natural, social, and economic resources of the territories under his rule.

Three surveys are known to have been prepared in the latter part of the 16th century, while eight were made in the 17th century. None of these were published. The first comprehensive attempt at an actual enumeration of the population came in 1791, even though the results were incomplete both in area and coverage, and were never published in detail.

It wouldn’t be until 1823 that Constitutional Emperor Charles Ludwig of Mexico ordered the first census of the independent Mexican Empire in preparation of the elections the following year,  the results of which were published in considerable detail across some 14 volumes. While it was considered by contemporaries to be the most precise enumeration attempt published then, inadequate tools and preparations, alongside lack of cooperation from a large part of the native indigenous inhabitants, impaired the accuracy of the census.

1824 Imperial Elections

To better understand the political landscape in the Mexican Empire from 1824 onward, we must go thorough a brief recapitulation of the events and situations that lead to the formation of national parties.

The two national parties during this era had been shaped in the nebulous middle-class culture of the Spanish North America, upon which a certain movement, that of the Freemasons, had spread and grown in power over the decades leading up to independence. In societies in which political participation was a privilege and not a right, as had been the case in the Spanish colonies for everyone not sent from the Iberian peninsula and descended from her ancient noble bloodlines, association with these kind of organizations would swiftly open one’s prospects. This essentially means that the political and economical establishment of the Spanish North America was dominated by the Freemasons, and to be more specific, the Freemason Scottish Rite.

The Freemason Scottish Rite had empowered the O’Donoju and his faction, middle-class professionals and Spaniard immigrants that had been deeply involved in the administration of Spanish North America, who thought adopting the Reform Plan would provide the means of reconciling the Europeans to Mexican independence, while securing free institutions and a constitutional monarchy,  considered best adapted to the circumstances of the country.

1824 InfoboxIturbide and his allies, predominant within the officer corps, who sought to secure wealth and rank in advancing him to a position of supreme leadership, were among those surpassed and overcome. But their surrender did not come cheap,  for they succeeded in securing titles and fortunes for themselves within the administration of Emperor Charles, on the condition that they dedicate themselves to sustaining it.

This effectively joined the Iturbide and O’Donoju factions into one, supported from behind the scenes by the Freemason Scottish Rite, which at the time of the elections would consolidate into the Conservatives.

But this left another dangerous group, one which would be more difficult to defeat. The liberals and the republicans had spent an entire decade fighting against a colonial government just to see an imperial government replace it in the end, with the same people at the helm. The liberals under the leadership of Guadalupe Victoria saw the opening of the empire’s politics, and thus embraced their role as the opposition in order to pursue gradual reform, consolidating into the Liberals at the time of the elections — supporting them from behind the scenes was the Freemason Yorkist Rite, which was promoted from the American embassies by diplomats such as Joel Roberts Poinsett.

It was in this context that the 1824 Imperial Elections were held. For first time the Mexican people would be masters of their own fate. Even though the Imperial Parliament had limited powers, this would be a turning point in the politics of independent hispanic north america.

While hardline Conservative Lucas Alaman had become a renowned politican after leading the special delegation that had brought Emperor Charles to Mexico, he ultimately lost the Conservative leadership dispute to a more moderate figure. Nicolas Bravo was considered a compromise candidate, who had fought alongside liberals during the independence war, and thus could reach out to them in order to coordinate the reconstruction of the country.

This proved to be the right calculation, and the Conservatives won slightly over half the seats in the Imperial Parliament. Nicolas Bravo thus became the 1st President of the Imperial Parliament.


Interlude: Mexican Nobility

After the Mexican Empire was first proclaimed, one of the issues with which Imperial Congress concerned itself was the recognition of previously existing noble titles. In the wake of independence, existing nobility was a mixture of ruling elites from the precolonial era recognized as such by Spanish authorities and elites who had been granted noble titles by Spanish authorities during the colonial period, though less than a few hundred entitled nobles lived in the Mexican Empire at that time.

Shortly after the coronation of Emperor Charles in 1824,  he worked together with an  Imperial Congress commission in order to reform the peerage of empire — older titles were to be recognized, but expected to be soon outnumbered by the new set of  Imperial titles, which were honorary in so far as they did not imply financial obligations by the state, and in fact, required an ascertainable minimum of wealth or lands to keep,  being more of a  badge of distinction and honor which could in turn secure the title holder certain social privileges. The Imperial titles could only be granted by the Emperor of Mexico, but had to be confirmed by Imperial Congress, and there were five different ranks: Baron, Viscount, Count, Marquess, and Prince; members of the Imperial Family were granted the title Imperial Prince, title which indicated seniority over all other members of the noble class.

Additionally, several different Knightly orders were created, including the Imperial Order of the Knights of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Imperial Order of the Mexican Eagle, but unlike other titles, the ones granted to members of these orders were not hereditary, though depending on the specific circumstances, members could be granted a pension.


III

The Northern Frontier


The Mexican-Indian Wars

After ten long years of civil war, Mexico was economically devastated. As the new Imperial and Federal Government tried to consolidate its grasp over the vast land it now controlled, one of the most pressing issues became the so-called “barbarians” in the northern frontiers, which the state could no longer afford to keep in line through tributes.

With American settlers crossing the Mississippi in great numbers and establishing themselves across the Great Plains, the Comanche found profitable to raid Mexican ranches and sell the horses and mules to the Americans, often also taking captive Mexican women as additional wives and selling captive Mexican men and children into slavery.

In 1824, the conflict came to the attention of the Imperial and Federal Government when the Comanche began raiding villages south of the Rio Grande for the first time in several decades. After commanding that no person was to travel the roads without a party of more than thirty armed men, and recognizing the negative impact the raiders would have on the settlement of the land,  the governor of the Eastern Northern Territories requested that the central government send a military expedition to safeguard the province.

But after the chaos of the civil war, the Mexican militia was in shambles.  Corruption was ubiquitous.  Some officers enjoyed undue privileges and over time had come to see the troops under their command as their own, a situation that had arisen as soldiers who lacked allegiance to the nation and were content to be able to fulfill their most immediate financial needs, increasingly underpaid, were provided an additional income by their officers through the extensive extortion of the local populations. Additionally, the equipment of most regiments was already obsolete, and there was no predominant military thought or doctrine among the officer corps, and as a result, no overarching strategic vision.

To make of it all an effective fighting force, no doubt a daunting task, it would require an impressive effort, which would essentially entail building the entire army from the ground up. Perhaps it was fortunate, then, that Emperor Charles, veteran of the Napoleonic Wars,   was an experienced commander and consummated strategist.

army chart 1824Using the coming conflict with the Comanche as an excuse, he proposed to reform the existing militia along Austrian lines. He sponsored the creation of the Imperial and Federal Military Academy, where the military strategy pieces he had written before coming to Mexico, which emphasized the education of the troops and officer corps, would be translated from the original German into Spanish and become an integral part part of doctrine taught at the institution. He also proposed a new “soft conscription” recruitment scheme, in which each regiment would have its own zone of recruitment within the empire, with eligible men aged between 17 and 40 expected to serve, without being forced to,  within the regiment assigned to their zone for at least a full decade. The size of the army was  to be greatly reduced (from 39.000 active regulars to just 22.200), a move which was expected would allow the government to purchase fewer but higher quality weapons, and minimize logistical strain when moving armies across the empire, and as a result of this reduction, considerably increased wages and privileges for the average soldiers would also become possible, an attractive prospect for those willing to serve.

These measures were applauded by the members of the Imperial Parliament, a polite gesture, to be sure. But perhaps the greatest innovation introduced was that of the General Staff system, a group of officers who would spread the workload and serve as  an overmind to allow Emperor Charles time to consider the strategic picture at all times  — the General Staff itself was divided into four Directorates: Operations and Intelligence, Correspondence, Supplies, and Justice. Coordinating them all was the Chief of the General Staff,  pledged to stand beside the Emperor and carry out his will on the battlefield, an honor and privilege which in 1824 was granted to Agustín de Iturbide.

Infobox - Battle of San Agustin de LaredoAs a result of Emperor Charles’ reforms,  a compact but efficient fighting force with superior equipment and tactics, which would be known as the Imperial & Federal Army, was created.

The campaign against the Comanche, however, wouldn’t start in earnest until the first months of 1826 — Col. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, at the command of three divisions, had been commanded to drive the Comanche north of the Rio Grande and back into their ancestral homeland of Comancheria. Scouts had found out the Comanche band who had been riding south of the Rio Grande were settled around 60 miles northwest of San Agustín de Laredo, and for this reason Col. Santa Anna decided to use that town as his headquarters for the campaign — after leaving two of his divisions behind to guard several dozen towns south of the river that could be raided, the young colonel waited in San Agustín de Laredo for his scouts to signal him when the Comanche took off. When this happened, Col. Santa Anna rode with 200 and deftly took the Comanche from behind, effectively trapping them south of the river before annihilating them. Afterwards, from San Agustín de Laredo, Col. Santa Anna conducted a devastating campaign which saw the Comanche completely driven out of the Northeastern Territories and him become a renowned Texan hero.

Northern Settlements

In the wake of independence from Spain, the Texas province of the Northeastern Territories already harbored a substantial amount of colonists as a result of previous colonization laws, which granted land to Spanish subjects in exchange for them taking charge the recruitment and colonization of that land.

This laws were expanded with the 1824 Colonization Act, which for the first time allowed foreigners to purchase land in the northern territories of the Empire.  Those interested would be able to purchase up to 80 square miles each; the land would be sold considerably cheaper than what it would cost elsewhere, and settlers would be extent from paying taxes for a period of fifteen years.  In exchange, they would be required to acquire a Mexican citizenship before they could move in, which in turn entailed conversion to Catholicism and learning either the Spanish or the German language.

The government considered these measures radical but necessary, as the continent-spanning Empire was underpopulated for its size, and the northern frontier in particular was defenseless against other powers such as the United States. An American filibuster, James Long, had already tried to seize control of Texas in 1819-1820 — even though he was defeated by the Spanish authorities at the time, that event had demonstrated the threat that the United States’ growing population posed to the territorial integrity of the Empire.

Prince Ferdinand
Prince Ferdinand of Austria

The Emperor’s reforms and the (temporary) defeat of the Comanche had contributed to the restoration of law and order in Texas. While Col. Santa Anna still lacked enough manpower to evict the squatters already living there, he proved more than capable to  patrol the border and deter more from moving in.  In addition, to counter the influence of American colonists the government counted on German ones, whose migration was intended to be eased both through language and religion requirements and through the good relations that Emperor Charles maintained with his brother.

Subsequently, Emperor Francis, despite Metternich’s opposition, allowed his firstborn son and heir apparent at that time, Prince Ferdinand, to travel to Mexico. It is no secret that the youth had certain mental health issues which would render him unable to govern one of Europe’s foremost powers, and the move was basically him being sidelined so someone else could eventually take the reins, but in 1826, it helped encourage tens of thousands to make the journey across the Atlantic themselves. Prince Ferdinand would remain in the care of his uncle in Mexico City, but Germans would begin settling the Empire’s northern territories in large numbers, reaching as far as San Francisco in Alta California.