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

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[LATEST UPDATE/REVISION: 4/4/17 ]

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

  1. Independence
  2. Constitution and Empire

That’s all for now.


Chapter I: Independence

El Plan de Independencia

Colonel Agustín de Iturbide y Arámburu was a criollo, a term denoting one born in Spanish America but with proven Spanish ancestry, class that was overwhelmingly royalist, and which allowed its members special privileges and opportunities for advancement compared to mixed-race mestizos or the native indios. But it were his strategic brilliance and his zealous opposition to the insurgents which rose him to prominence in colonial society, his succesful 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 y Arámburu

After a long struggle which had drained the coffers and depleted the manpower of New Spain, most of the remaining insurgent commanders were methodically defeated and captured during the next five years, while the insurgency itself was reduced to a few thousand scattered across the mountains and jungles. Forced to wage a hopeless guerilla war against the viceregal government, the insurgents had become a mere annoyance, posing no threat to the colonial order anymore.

It was until November 1820, however, that Agustin de Iturbide would be given command of the Army of Veracruz and instructed to crush the remnants of the insurgency there once and for all. Iturbide’s forces were representative of most viceregal armies at the time, predominantly American regiments reinforced with a few battalions from the Spanish expeditionary forces that had arrived the previous years to fight the insurgency; though with the pardons issued to insurgents who surrendered to colonial authorities, former insurgent “rabble” increasingly joined the royalist armies too.

But considering the insurgents to be unthreatening, Iturbide’s attention and ambition were turned 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 regime and increased fears that it could collapse at any moment — while this was most certainly improbable, the phantoms 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 colonies in America after the previous decade.

Its authority thus undermined, the viceregal government failed to perceive the unrest spreading across colonial society, this time amongst the royalist elements which had opposed the independence movement before. Already weakened by its perceived failure to end the war despite the fact that the insurgents lacked a centralized and organized leadership, combined with the rebel bands that roamed the countryside and stifled trade between the provinces in the aftermath of the war, the belief amongst several groups within the establishment was that the viceregal government was failing the realm and could not be trusted to hold against a renewed tide of radicalism.

victoria
Guadalupe Victoria

It is unknown if Iturbide was already conspiring with these groups since the beginning, historians agree that he intended to mount some sort of organized opposition to the tide of republicanism that threatened to sweep Spanish North America once more, but it wasn’t until Iturbide was actually given general command of the Army of Veracruz that he himself began to consider independence in earnest and contact military and political leaders across the realm . After a couple of skirmishes in the mountains near Xalapa during early 1821, Iturbide realized that much of the population (especially the mestizos and indios) still held sympathies for the insurgents and their cause and decided to invite the insurgent leaders to his growing conspiracy — he held independence was not only convenient at that time, but had become inevitable, and a wide coalition between all forces in New Spain was necessary to ensure it became a succesful endeavor.

Guadalupe Victoria, the most prominent insurgent commander in the region, at first ignored the colonel’s proposal for a full pardon, claiming that he would not surrender. But after subsequent communications in which Iturbide vindicated the insurgent’s efforts to achieve independence (the insurgents had “kept the sacred fire of liberty alive” after “surviving so many disasters”) and explained his own plan to achieve independence in the following months, the insurgents 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 viceregal government, who remained oblivious to his intentions, that the insurgents had been defeated.

On February 24th, Agustín de Iturbide and Guadalupe Victoria would proclaim the Plan de Independencia, a proposition for the viceregal government to reorganize into a provisional council aimed to the establishment of an independent nation with a representative government, which the plan detailed would be a constitutional monarchy with the crown being offered to Ferdinand VII. The Army of Veracruz, now reinforced with the insurgent troops, changed its name to Army of the Three Guarantees, referencing the three guarantees that the Plan de Independencia offered:

  • Independence from Spain and Establishment of a Constitutional Representative Monarchy
  • Supremacy of the Catholic Religion
  • Abolishment of Slavery and the Caste System

The viceregal government was unable to oppose Iturbide and Victoria in any significant manner, and the Army of the Three Guarantees accumulated victories thorough the year in their march towards Mexico City — whenever trigarant forces reached a fortified city, it appeared that the local garrison provided only token resistance before opening the gates and declaring their support for the Plan de Independencia, and before too long, the trigarant forces controlled most major cities and the viceregal government was recalled.

With the rapid collapse of colonial authority, many royalist officers who had once fought against independence declared their support, and at the same time, the promise of independence brought insurgents to the cause; people who had been fighting against each other for most of the previous decade suddenly found themselves marching together for the first time. Recognizing that independence was inevitable, the newly appointed viceregal government finally capitulated and recognized the Plan de Independencia on August 24th.

The Constitutional Convention

On September 28th, the victorious Army of the Three Guarantees entered Mexico City. The generals were received by a jubilant populace, and the following day, the independent Mexican Empire was declared and a Regency Council was formed with the aim to eventually summon a constituent assembly.

The members of the Regency Council of the Mexican Empire were:

  • Agustín de Iturbide: Mastermind of the Plan de Independencia, and leader of the Army of the Three Guarantees. During the conflicts of the previous decade, he was a royalist and fought the insurgents in several different battles, eventually he broke their power in 1814, and was appointed commander to the Army of the South.
  • Guadalupe Victoria: The co-author of the Plan de Independencia. One of the last insurgent commanders still fighting the royalist forces right before the War of the Three Guarantees, and now the rising star of the liberal and republican movement.
  • Juan O’Donojú: The last Viceroy of the New Spain, he was appointed to replace his predecessor, who had been unable to stop the advance of the Army of the Three Guarantees. Much to the surprise of everyone, he announced his willingness to discuss terms as soon as he arrived, and decided to join the Plan de Independencia soon after.

juan o donoju
Juan O´Donoju

Iturbide and Victoria, while temporary allies in the struggle to consummate the independence of the nation, 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 relentlessly 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 Regency 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 territories getting a flat amount of delegates all — interestingly, the lack of reliable census data led to the council to use outdated information which probably overrepresented the regions which had been hit the hardest during the previous decade of conflict. But not all citizens could be appointed as delegates, as delegates were required to be [priests, nobles, military officers, magistrates, merchants, or professionals]. In the end, one-hundred-and-fifty-two delegates were expected in the capital by [February 24th, 1822], the first anniversary of the Plan de Independencia, when the Imperial Constitutional Convention was to be inaugurated.

Additionally, the unusual presence of Juan O´Donoju and the Spaniards who accompanied him, who were all liberal, helped promote the influence of the Freemason Scottish Rite and its culture across the newly independent country. This would eventually have great repercussions for the Mexican Empire.

On February 24th, the Constitutional Convention was inaugurated in the midst of cheerful festivities. Most of the delegates had arrived the previous weeks and were confirmed by the Regency Council without incident, and after mass (it was Sunday), began to work on the daunting task of drafting a Constitution. That very same day, the Constitutional Convention drafted an inaugural statement which declared that:

  1. The Sovereign Constitutional Convention was legally established and in session.
  2. Sovereignty resided in the Mexican nation, at that moment assembled in the Sovereign Constitutional Convention.
  3. The Sovereign Constitutional Convention reserved to itself Legislative power, and temporarily confirmed the Regency Council to the Executive.
  4. The Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, exclusively and in prejudice of any other, was to be State’s.
  5. The Government of the Mexican Nation would be structured in the form of a Moderate Constitutional Monarchy, which would be named the Mexican Empire.
  6. The Sovereign Constitutional Convention offered Ferdinand VII the title of Constitutional Monarch of the Mexican Empire, and in case he was unwilling or unable to accept, the title would be offered to the princes of the House of Bourbon.
  7. The Sovereign Constitutional Convention abolished the practice of slavery, and declared the equality before the law of all free inhabitants of the Mexican Empire, disregarding ethnicity or previous national affiliation.

On February 28th, it was brought to the attention of the Constitutional Convention delegates that Spain refused to recognize the independence of the Mexican Empire, 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 split into several factions. The borbonistas, integrated by career military officers and church delegates, often Spaniard themselves, were the most numerous (though not by much) and hoped to negotiate a peace treaty with Spain in order to get their Bourbon monarch. With support from liberal and conservative monarchist factions within the Consitutional Convention, and the approval of the Regency Council, they succeeded in passing a resolution for the creation of a “special delegation”, which would cross the ocean, attempt to negotiate a peace treaty with Spain, and finally get the Mexican Empire its Constitutional Emperor.

The Constitutional Emperor

Youthful conservative delegate Lucas Alamán, who had briefly served as one of the deputies for the Kingdom of Nueva Galicia in the Cortes during the Colonial era, was given command of the special delegation which sought to find a monarch for the country, the men assigned to his charge were mostly professional statesmen nominated by the borbonistas. Fearing that they might be arrested attempting to dock on a Spanish port, the Delegación Alamán had instead arrived in England; extensive correspondence was held between the Delegación Alamán  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 the Mexican Empire and her throne.

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 surge in republicanism.

Lucas Alaman
Lucas Alamán

This left the Delegación Alamán in a tough position, while back in Mexico, the Constitutional Convention weighted the 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 Delegación Alamán 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 Delegación Alamán 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, rumours still spread about their intentions, which led to ridicule and scorn across the continent.

The situation continued to deteriorate to the point that the Delegación Alamán 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 Delegación Alamán 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 Delegacíon Alamán 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 to become just another front in that conflict.

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 succesfully, 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
Carlos 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 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 French Revolutionary 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 Delegación Alaman 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 Delegacíon Alaman 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 officially accepted the title ‘Constitutional Emperor of Mexico’.


Chapter II : Constitution and Empire

Constitution

In December, Carlos took residence in Chapultepec Castle in the outskirts of the capital. Although he had accepted the title of Constitutional Emperor, he could not be “crowned” nor assume the responsibilities of the position until after the Constitution itself was completed — despite this, members of his retinue, which included nobles and technical experts from all corners of the Habsburg domains, had begun to interfere in the process.

This interference assured that the Constitutional Convention worked towards fulfilling certain expectations, but the exact structure of the government was still undecided. The main point of contention thorough the first weeks of 1823 was the relationship between the monarch and the powers of the state — even though the delegates agreed that the executive power of the state was embodied in the monarch and his cabinet of ministers, the liberals were unwilling to give the executive power itself inherent superiority over the legislative power. As a result of the stalemate between the proponents of legislative predominance and the supporters of a strong executive, the issue was postponed for the time being.

But there was another important issue which had divided the delegates. Imperial territory spread over more than four million square kilometers, and the delegations of the more distant locations had emphasized the importance of the provinces being allowed certain degree of self-government within the empire.

1824 Territorial Division
Federal Structure of the Mexican Empire, according to the 1824 Imperial Constitution.

One of the delegations calling for a federal organization of the empire was that of Guatemala , which had the most delegates as a consequence of its high population; one of its members, Gabino Gaínza, drafted a proposal that would divide the imperial territory into four different states, with each of the states’ borders based on the traditional kingdoms from the colonial era. The proposal was submitted on January 23rd, and gained the support of most delegations. A point of contention came when it was time to define the relationship between the states and the imperial government, though an amendment came forward that each of the states should be considered self-governing kingdoms in their own right, but under a personal union with the imperial crown; this would in fact give the monarch the ability to appoint regents to govern those realms in his name, while the regents would be free to appoint provincial governors within the realms under their care.

This amendment, pushed forward by the monarch’s advisors, was further modified until it was considered acceptable to most delegates. The final draft required that the regent be nominated by state legislatures before he could be invited to form a state government by the monarch, which would in turn be elected by the citizens of the state through a system of proportional representation.

There was significant dissent from the northern territories’ delegations. The northern territories were not being considered, mass settlement there was largely a recent phenomenon, so were not 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 a little less than 500.000 inhabitants. This was not ideal, as even the most populated of the proposed territories (the Central Northern Territories) would not reach half that number… so after further negotiations, the required population number was lowered to half that of the imperial state with the lowest population, which gave certain regions a clear path forward to statehood in the coming years.

On March 21st, in the aftermath of this great victory for federalism, the issue of the national legislature and its relationship with the monarchic executive was brought back to the table. A system similar to that established in the Spanish constitution was considered, which would have given the monarch the power to appoint a fixed number of representatives to the upper-house from a list submitted to him by the lower-house, but this failed to gain support from enough delegates.

Despite this, the delegates agreed a bicameral system was to be preferred, and citing American revolutionaries such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, pushed through a proposal for an upper-house designed safeguard the interests of the few against the many; it was in this manner that the creation of a “federal chamber” was approved by a greater part of the convention — its members would be appointed in equal numbers by the governments of the kingdoms, the dioceses of the church, and the imperial monarch himself. This was a sort of turning point in the convention, in which the United States and the American constitutional philosophy began to be regarded more seriously by the delegates, and would be important going forward.

Valentín Gómez Farías, a member of the Guadalajara delegation, proposed the creation of a “national chamber” whose members would be chosen directly by the citizens of the empire through general elections every four years, the number of seats assigned to each of the parties would be proportional to the number of votes each of them received, with the parties submitting and publishing lists of candidates beforehand. This was yet another American innovation, introduced in the United States by the revolutionary hero Thomas Jefferson.

At this point, the conservative factions asked for clarification regarding the role of the monarch, claiming that while the legislature had been established, its powers compared to those of the executive were still ambiguous. There conservatives, especially the monarch’s advisors, were also concerned that the federalization of the empire would gravely limit the influence of the executive in the more distant regions, and would encourage separatist movements (such as the one commanded by the famous Guatemalan nationalist, José Cecilio del Valle.)

The ensuing debate resulted in the monarch being confirmed as embodying the sovereignty of the nation from the moment he is proclaimed by both chambers of the legislature. Amongst the offices associated with the monarch’s position would be that of supreme commander of the armies and fleets of the empire, and amongst his powers would be to [ negotiate and sign treaties with foreign powers, appoint the heads of the imperial ministries without interference, appoint a third of the representatives to the “federal chamber” or upper-house, review all legislation coming from both chambers of the legislature, issue imperial decrees, and dissolve the “national chamber” on the condition that new elections are called within the following three years.

The conservatives were also assured that since the state regencies would only form governments as representatives of the monarch, said state governments could be dismissed immediately, which in that case would require state elections to be held at the soonest possible moment. It should be noted that the Crown of Mexico would not require a regent on account of it being the imperial center, so it would be governed directly by the monarch and his ministers, and to a far lesser degree, by the national legislature as part of the empire as a whole.

1824 Constitution
Government Structure of the Mexican Empire, according to the 1824 Imperial Constitution.

These agreements seemed to balance the powers of the executive and the legislative to the satisfaction of the different groups, which would go a long way on ensuring the stability of the empire in the coming decades. Most of the remaining issues, such as the monarch’s style of adress, were of limited importance and solved without much controversy. The sole exception was that of the individual rights of the imperial citizens, several of which were guaranteed in both the Spanish and the American constitutions — a charter of rights was swiftly drafted and submitted by a delegate from Valladolid, José Sixto Verduzco, and was approved without much disagreement; it provided citizens of the empire with important basic rights such as free speech, freedom of association, the right to own private property, and the right to appeal.

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 elections for the National Chamber of the Imperial Congress would take place exactly two years after the inauguration of the Constitutional Convention, on [February 24th of 1824] ; the given reason for the delay was the expectation was that a State Congress for each of the realms would be elected before then, so they could then appoint and send representatives to the Federal Chamber of the Imperial Congress in time.

The Emperor Carlos ratified the Imperial Constitution with the understanding the crowning ceremony would take place until after the elections in the aftermath of his proclamation by the legislative. It was around this time that news reached Mexico that, despite Austrian guarantees, and in the aftermath of foreign intervention restoring him to absolutism, Ferdinand VII of Spain once again refused to acknowledge Mexico’s independence and planned to send a new expeditionary force…

State Elections
The most interesting developement during the last months of 1823 was the nation’s enthusiastic adoption of federal structures. As the Constitution did not detail the internal organization of the States beyond them being considered autonomous realms that happened to share the same monarch, most previously established intendents folded to the reformist attitude of the times,  allowing elections to form new governments which in turn appointed a fixed number of delegates to the State Chamber.  It should be noted that thorough these democratic procedures, no coherent national or state parties had formed still, meaning that most people elected both to head provincial governments or as representatives to the State Chamber could be considered independents if we were to judge them with modern standards, even though many were professionals and in some cases priests or military officers.

All four State Chambers had consolidated before the year ended, and it wasn’t long before the monarch authorized the dominant coalitions within three of them to form State Governments in his name. Consistently, during the sessions in each of the State Chambers, a State Constitution was drafted and subsequently approved by the State Government, this in itself was not unexpected, but these constitutive documents all consistently allowed the Province Governments many more rights and freedoms than initially anticipated, including the right to be constituted through elections rather than be appointed.

In retrospect, that was to be expected, given that the Intendencies had been the basic geographical-political unit during the last few decades of the Colonial era and were understandably reluctant to give up their amassed rights and privileges.

The CensusMany 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 the results were never published in detail.
It wouldn’t be until 1823 that Emperor Charles 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.

National Chamber Elections, 1824

With the Federal Chamber of the Imperial Congress constituted, Emperor Charles was formally acclaimed the Constitutional Emperor. His first act was to call for elections to constitute the National Chamber of the Imperial Congress, after which he would dedicate himself completely to the defense of the imperial territories before the Spanish threat.

Going forward, to better understand the political landscape in the Mexican Empire from 1824 onwards, 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.

During the Constitutional Convention and under the direction of Juan O’Dononju, the Freemasons had empowered the bourbonists, middle-class professionals and Spaniard inmigrants  amongst whom existed many enlightened men, who thought that to adopt the Plan de Independencia would prove the means of reconciling the Europeans to the independence of the Mexican Empire,  checking the ambitious designs of Iturbide, and of securing the people free institutions and a constitutional monarchy, which they considered best adapted to the circumstances of the country.

Eventually, the bourbonists overcame all other factions, including Iturbide’s allies, predominant within the officer corps, who sought to secure wealth and rank in advancing “the hero of independence” to supreme leadership; but their willing subsumation 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 — Iturbide himself was extended an offer, and still favored by the populace, was made the Chief of the Imperial and Federal General Staff.

This essentially isolated the military, a potentially dangerous and unstable institution at that time, from national and regional politics, while at the same time securing its allegiance to the enduring institution of the monarchy.  They did not need to involve themselves in politics at all, their privileges were kept and expanded, while were granted noble titles they could bequeath to their descendants.

But this left another potentially dangerous group, that of the liberals and the republicans, who had been fighting for independence since 1810. For an entire decade they had opposed a colonial government only to see an imperial government replace it, with the same people at the helm. But there had been a reason for their acceptance and participation in this transformation under the direction of Guadalupe Victoria; they had secured something essential that they did not have before, a political system in which they could participate in the open.

Thus the former insurgents laid down their weapons and became politicians, while at the same time opening themselves to foreign influences which promised to empower them as the opposition to the bourbonist establishment — the American diplomats, in particular, promoted the spread of the Freemason Scottish Rite within the ranks of liberals and republicans,  which helped to consolidate them as one of the national parties leading up to the election.

Thus the first two great political coalitions were formed. The alliance between bourbonists and the generalisimo’s supporters organized into the Conservatives, which favoured to maintain the existing arrangements. Meanwhile the opposition organized themselves into the Liberals, who while in favour of further political reforms, seemed to have difficulties agreeing in much else, with the most radical members of the movements calling for the establishment of a centralized republic.

It was in this context that the 1824 National Chamber Elections were held. For first time the Mexican peoples would be masters of their own destinies, even if the legislature they would elect representatives for had limited powers, this was a turning point in the political history of independent hispanic north america. The total turnout was 3.28%, an impressively high number considering the circumstances .

 

Nicolás Bravo Rueda, a moderate conservative and former insurgent, had risen to a top position within the freemasons at a time in which this organization had captured most positions of influence within the country; but with most of these positions being non-political, he was essentially the de-facto leader of the Conservative faction at the time of the elections. In the weeks leading to the election, he endorsed moderate liberal ideas, while proclaiming his support for the monarchical government and the establishment.

Under his brilliant direction, the Conservatives won slightly over two-thirds of the seats in the National Chamber. Nicolás Bravo, at the top of the Conservative lists, became the first President of the National Chamber.