1824 Constitution of Mexico
|Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States|
Original front of the 1824 Constitution
|Created||January 21, 1824|
|Ratified||October 4, 1824|
|Location||General Archive of the Nation in the Lecumberri Palace|
|Author(s)||General Constituent Congress|
|Signatories||General Constituent Congress|
|Purpose||National constitution to replace the Constitutive Act of the Federation|
The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824 (Spanish: Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos de 1824) was enacted on October 4 of 1824, after the overthrow of the Mexican Empire of Agustin de Iturbide. In the new constitution, the republic took the name of United Mexican States, and was defined as a representative federal republic, with Catholicism as the official and unique religion. It was replaced by the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857.
- 1 Independence
- 2 The first legislatures
- 3 The empire
- 4 The rise of the provinces
- 5 The conflict about sovereignty
- 6 The second Constituent Congress
- 7 Drafting a constitution
- 8 The nature of the constitution
- 9 The struggle among confederalists, federalists, and centralists
- 10 A weak executive branch
- 11 The Constitution of 1824
- 12 Conclusion
- 13 Content
- 14 Federation
- 15 Reactions
- 16 Repeal and resettlement
- 17 See also
- 18 References
- 19 External links
When Mexico achieved its independence in September 1821, few imagined that the country would soon become a republic, much less a federal republic. The autonomists, the members of the national elite who gained power at independence, favored establishing a constitutional monarchy with the king of Spain or a member of the spanish royal family as sovereign. When the Spanish Monarchy rejected their proposal, the country's political leaders formed a national government.
The first legislatures
The newly independent Mexicans followed the precedents of the Hispanic Constitution of 1812. In 1821 they formed a Junta Provisional Gubernativa (Provisional Governing Junta) to function as the legislative branch until a Mexican Cortes was convened. After drafting and approving the declaration of independence, the Junta appointed a Regency Council. It named Agustín de Iturbide president of the Regency and head of the army. However, his political power was to be limited. As occurred in Cádiz the Junta assumed the title sovereign, not the Regency, which was charged with executing the mandates of the Junta. The conflict between two traditions—executive power versus legislative dominance—erupted immediately. The autonomists believed that they had achieved independence and that the ideas of 1808 had been fulfilled in 1821. Iturbide, on the other hand, was convinced that he had liberated the nation with his army, and that he therefore embodied the national will. The conflict intensified during the drafting of the convocatoria (decree of convocation) to elect the constituent Cortes. The Sovereign Junta believed that it had to follow the precedents of the Hispanic Constitution and elect deputies on the basis of population. Iturbide, however, insisted on an election based on traditional estates as well as the number of districts in each province. Faced with military force, the Sovereign Junta acquiesced.
The election of the Constituent Cortes did not settle the dispute between the legislative and executive branches. After months of contention, Iturbide and his military allies forced the Cortes to elect him emperor on 21 May 1822. While it is evident that congress had acted under duress, it is also clear that many deputies sincerely believed that they could maintain the authority and sovereignty of the legislature. They had, after all, elected a constitutional, not an absolute monarch. Indeed, they made that point forcefully when they declared that congress was sovereign and required the new emperor to swear obedience to the constitution and the acts of the legislature.
In the months that followed Iturbide's ascension to the throne, the Cortes sought to restore a semblance of normality and slowly attempted to reassert its authority. Soon a conspiracy, involving leading members of congress, emerged. The plotters intended to capture the emperor, nullify his election, reorganize the government and ensure that the army was brought under the complete control of the Cortes. The imperial government eventually uncovered the plot and ordered the detention of seventy persons, including twenty-one deputies, on 26 August 1822. The legislature opposed the violations of the civil rights of those arrested, particularly the government's disregard of congressional immunity. After months of impasse, Iturbide dissolved congress on 31 October 1822, claiming that the legislature was abusing its authority.
The rise of the provinces
Discontent with the national government flowered into rebellion in the provinces. Although several revolts erupted throughout the country, opposition to the emperor coalesced around senior army officers. Brigadier Antonio López de Santa Anna initiated the insurrection. Other generals, including Spaniards who had chosen to serve the new nation, carried the revolt to its conclusion when they issued the Plan of Casa Mata on 1 February 1823. The plan won the support of the provinces because it included a provision granting local authority to the provincial deputations. The election of a new legislature constituted the plan’s principal demand, because provincial leaders considered the composition of the first congress to be flawed. Following the precedent of the Hispanic Cortes, Mexican political leaders considered the executive to be subservient to the legislature. Thus, a new congress, which did not possess the liabilities of the old, could restore confidence even if the executive remained in place. Mexican politicians, of course, expected the new body to keep the emperor in check. Misunderstanding the intention of the provinces, Iturbide reconvened the Constituent Cortes and abdicated on 19 March 1823.
The conflict about sovereignty
The failure of Iturbide’s short-lived empire ensured that any future government would be republican. The reconvened Mexican Cortes appointed a triumvirate called the Supreme Executive Power which would alternate the presidency among its members on a monthly basis. But the question of how the nation was to be organized remained unresolved. The Mexican Cortes, following the Cádiz model, maintained that it was sovereign since it represented the nation. The provinces, however, believed that they possessed sovereignty, a portion of which they collectively ceded to form a national government. The Cortes insisted on writing the nation’s constitution, but the provinces maintained that it could only convene a new constituent congress based on the electoral regulations of the Constitution of Cádiz. Neither side was willing to cede. In the months that followed, the provinces assumed control of their governments through their provincial deputations. Four provinces, Oaxaca, Yucatán, Guadalajara, and Zacatecas, converted themselves into states. To avoid civil war, the Cortes acquiesced and elected a new constituent congress. Elections for a second constituent assembly, based on a convocatoria issued 26 June 1821 by the Hispanic Cortes, were held throughout the nation in August and September. The executive branch was not restructured, because both the provinces and the new constituent congress considered it subservient to the legislature.
The second Constituent Congress
The new congress, which the provinces had insisted upon since March, finally met on 7 November 1823. The second Constituent Congress was quite different from the first. It represented the provinces more equitably, and some of its members possessed instructions to form only a federal republic. Oaxaca, Yucatán, Jalisco, and Zacatecas, which had become states, elected state congresses, rather than provincial deputations, as the convocatoria required. The Mexico City-based national elite, which had been struggling for power since 1808, and which had taken control in 1821, lost it two years later to the provincial elites. Although some members of the national elite were elected to the new constituent congress, they formed a distinct minority. Indeed, only thirty-five of the one hundred-forty-four deputies and alternates elected to the new legislature had served in the earlier Mexican Cortes.
The constituent congress, which convened on 7 November 1823, faced very different circumstances from its predecessor. Not only had the provinces declared their sovereignty, but they had also restricted the authority of their delegates. Valladolid, Michoacán, for example, declared: "This province in the federation does not wish to relinquish the major portion of its liberty and other rights; it only grants [its deputies] the authority absolutely necessary to keep the portion it retains." Mérida, Yucatán, decreed that "the elected deputies are granted only the power (...) to constitute the nation in a government that is republican, representative and federal", and that: "The federal constitution that they form and agree with the other deputies of the Constituent Congress will not have the force of law in the nation until the majority of the federated states ratify it." Zacatecas, Zacatecas, was even more explicit, asserting that "The deputies to the future congress cannot constitute the nation as they deem convenient, but only as a federal republic." Guadalajara insisted that the pueblos of Jalisco wanted only a popular, representative and republican form of government. Other provinces made similar declarations.
The new congress represented regional interests. Therefore, the debate in the legislature focused on the division of power between the national and the provincial governments, not on whether Mexico would be a federal or a central republic. The delegates were divided into a confederalist, two federalist, and one centralist faction. The confederalists, extreme defenders of local rights like Juan de Dios Cañedo, argued that only the provinces possessed sovereignty, a portion of which they collectively ceded to the union to form a national government. This interpretation meant that the provinces, or states, as Oaxaca, Yucatán, Jalisco and Zacatecas now called themselves, could subsequently reclaim the power they had relinquished. They were opposed by federalists like Servando Teresa de Mier who believed that only the nation was sovereign. In their view, although the country was organised into provinces, or states, for political purposes, the people, not the states, possessed sovereignty. The deputies, therefore, did not represent the states, but the people who constituted the nation. As the representative of the Mexican people, Congress possessed greater power and authority than the state legislatures. In a sense, they were reasserting the position which had prevailed in Cádiz in 1812. Midway between these extremes stood men like the federalist Ramos Arizpe, who believed that the national government and the states shared sovereignty. Although they favoured states’ rights, they nevertheless believed that the national government had to command sufficient power to function effectively. The confederalist/federalist factions were opposed by a tiny minority of centralists who argued that sovereignty was vested in the nation and that Mexico needed a strong national government.
Drafting a constitution
A committee consisting of Ramos Arizpe, Cañedo, Miguel Argüelles, Rafael Mangino, Tomás Vargas, José de Jesús Huerta, and Manuel Crescencio Rejón, submitted an Acta Constitutiva (draft of a constitution) on 20 November. The group completed the draft of the charter in a few days. This was possible because the document was based on the shared Hispanic political theory and practice that Mexicans, the former novohispanos, knew well, since they had played a significant role in shaping it. In the years since Napoleon had invaded Spain in 1808, the political entities that formed the Mexican nation in 1821 had undergone a series of rapid political changes that politicised the majority of the population and led to a vibrant political discourse. The Hispanic Constitution of 1812 and its institutions of government were well known; moreover, seven proposals for a Mexican constitution had been debated throughout the country in the previous months. The constituent congress, therefore, was filled with educated individuals with diverse ideas and extensive political experience at the local, state, national, and international levels. A few, like Ramos Arizpe and Guridi y Alcocer, had served in the Cortes in Spain and had participated in the discussions of the Constitution of 1812. In addition, Ramos Arizpe had been working on a federal constitution for some time.
The nature of the constitution
The Acta Constitutiva submitted by the committee was modelled on the Hispanic Constitution of 1812. Most of its articles were based on the Peninsular document; a few were adopted verbatim from that charter. For example, on the question of sovereignty the Hispanic Constitution stated: "Sovereignty resides essentially in the nation and, therefore, it [the nation] possesses the exclusive right to adopt the form of government that seems most convenient for its conservation and prosperity". Article 3 of the Mexican Acta Constitutiva read: "Sovereignty resides radically and essentially in the nation and, therefore, it [the nation] possesses the exclusive right to adopt by means of its representatives the form of government and other fundamental laws that seem most convenient for its conservation and greater prosperity". Although the deputies relied on their first constitutional experience, the Constitution of 1812, they did not slavishly copy the Hispanic model. Guridi y Alcocer, for example, explained that ever since he had served on the constitutional commission in the Hispanic Cortes he had maintained that sovereignty resided radically in the nation, by which he meant that the nation, as the institutional representative of el Pueblo, could not lose its sovereignty. His principal critics were radical federalists like Juan de Dios Cañedo, deputy from Jalisco, who challenged the need for an article declaring national sovereignty. He asked: that the article be deleted because in a republican federal government each state is sovereign. (…) Therefore, it is impossible to conceive how sovereignty, which is the origin and source of authority and power, can be divided among the many states. [T]hat is why the first constitution of the United States [the Articles of Confederation] (…) does not mention national sovereignty. And, therefore, (…) Article 1 which discusses the nation should not be approved because it is not appropriate in the system we now have.
The Acta, unlike the Hispanic constitution, did not grant exclusive or even preponderant sovereignty to the nation, because the states also claimed sovereignty. Accordingly, Article 6 stated: "Its integral parts are independent, free, and sovereign States in that which exclusively concerns their administration and interior government". The issue of sovereignty remained at heart a question of the division of power between the national and the state governments. It was an issue that would be debated at length in the months to come.
The struggle among confederalists, federalists, and centralists
The proponents of state sovereignty—the confederalists—were challenged by some less radical federalist delegates who argued that only the nation could be sovereign. Because these men stressed the need to endow the national government with sufficient power to sustain national interests, they are often mistakenly considered centralists. Servando Teresa de Mier, their outstanding spokesman, argued that people wrongly considered him a centralist, an error that arose from an unnecessarily restrictive definition of federalism. He indicated that federalism existed in many forms: Holland, Germany, Switzerland and the United States were federations, yet each was different. Mier advocated the establishment of a unique brand of federalism suited to Mexico. He believed that local realities precluded the adoption of the extreme form of federalism—confederalism—championed by states’ righters. He declared: "I have always been in favour of a federation, but a reasonable and moderate federation. (...) I have always believed in a medium between the lax federation of the United States, whose defects many writers have indicated, (…) and the dangerous concentration [of executive power] in Colombia and Peru." In his view, Mexico needed a strong federal system because the country required an energetic and decisive national government to lead it during the crucial early years of nationhood, particularly since Spain refused to recognise Mexico’s independence and the Holy Alliance threatened to intervene. For these reasons, Mier voted in favour of Article 5, which established a federal republic, while opposing Article 6, which granted sovereignty to the states.
Neither the advocates of states' rights, like Cañedo, nor the proponents of national sovereignty, like Mier, triumphed. Instead, a compromise emerged: shared sovereignty, as advocated by moderate federalists such as Ramos Arizpe. Throughout the debates, he and others argued that although the nation was sovereign, the states should control their internal affairs. The group saw no conflict between Article 3, which declared that sovereignty resided in the nation, and Article 6, which granted sovereignty to the states on internal matters. The moderates were able to forge shifting coalitions to pass both articles. First, they brought Article 3 to a vote. A coalition of the proponents of national sovereignty, the advocates of shared sovereignty, and a few centralists passed the article by a wide margin. To secure passage of Article 6, those favouring approval succeeded in having the question brought to the floor in two parts. The first vote, on the section of Article 6 which indicated that the states were independent and free to manage their own affairs, passed by a wide margin, since the wording pleased all the confederalist/federalist groups, including the one led by Father Mier. Only seven centralist deputies opposed the measure. Then Congress examined the section of Article 6 which declared that the states were sovereign. The coalition divided on this issue: Father Mier and his supporters joined the centralists in voting against the measure. Nevertheless, the proponents of states' rights and those who believed in shared sovereignty possessed enough strength to pass the measure by a margin of 41 to 28 votes.
The states did not just share sovereignty with the national government; they obtained the financial means to enforce their authority. They gained considerable taxing power at the expense of the federal government, which lost approximately half the revenue formerly collected by the viceregal administration. To compensate for that loss, the states were to pay the national government a contingente assessed for each state according to its means. As a result, the nation would have to depend upon the goodwill of the states to finance or fulfil its responsibilities.
A weak executive branch
The constituent congress’s decision to share sovereignty, moreover, did not settle the question of the division of power within the national government. Although all agreed on the traditional concept of separation of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, most congressmen believed that the legislature should be dominant. Recent Hispanic and Mexican experience had fostered a distrust of executive power. Therefore, the earlier Mexican Cortes had established a plural executive, the Supreme Executive Power. Since that body was perceived as subservient to the legislature, neither the provinces nor the Second Constituent Congress bothered to appoint a new executive. The authors of the Acta Constitutiva, however, proposed in Article 16 that executive power be conferred “on an individual with the title of president of the Mexican Federation, who must be a citizen by birth of said federation and have attained at least thirty-five years of age”. The proposal led to a heated debate that transcended the former division between states’ righters and strong nationalist coalitions. While Cañedo supported Ramos Arizpe in favouring a single executive, others, including Rejón and Guridi y Alcocer, insisted on the need to weaken executive power by establishing a plural executive.
Ramos Arizpe proposed that the president govern with the aid of a council of government. But that was not sufficient to mollify the opposition, which had the majority in congress. The opponents of a single executive presented several counter-proposals. Demetrio Castillo of Oaxaca suggested that a president, a vice-president and an alternate, called designee, should govern. Each would have a vote, but the president would cast the deciding one. Rejón, instead, recommended that three individuals form the Supreme Executive Power; their terms would be staggered so that one member would always possess seniority, but no individual would serve more than three years. Guridi y Alcocer proposed that the executive power be conferred on two persons. He argued that the best solution was to merge the experiences of ancient Rome, Spain, and the United States. Therefore, he urged that the two members of the executive power be backed by two alternates, who might resolve any differences that arose between the two members of the executive.
Article 16 of the Acta Constitutiva was put to a vote on 2 January 1824 at an extraordinary session. It was defeated by a vote of 42 to 25. As a result, the congress did not address Article 17, which dealt with the vice-president. The proposal to establish a president and a vice-president was one of the few instances in which the second constitution of the United States served as a model. The majority did not agree with the proposal because it feared the possibility of one individual dominating Congress through military or popular forces, as Iturbide had done. The commission on the constitution revised the articles on the executive a number of times, but could not obtain support for its proposals.
The fear of provincial disorder also influenced the debate. After Articles 5 and 6 of the Acta Constitutiva had been approved, several provinces decided to implement their right to form their own government. The national administration viewed their actions with concern, particularly because some movements were also anti-European Spaniards. The revolt of 12 December in Querétaro, for example, demanded the expulsion of gachupines (Spaniards who had come to Mexico) from the country. A similar uprising occurred later in Cuernavaca. In both instances, the national government sent forces to restore order.
Then, on 23 December, Puebla declared itself a sovereign, free, and independent state. The authorities in Mexico City immediately concluded that the military commander of the province, General José Antonio de Echávarri, was responsible for the "revolt". Therefore, the government dispatched an army under the command of Generals Manuel Gómez Pedraza and Vicente Guerrero to restore order. The forces of the national government approached the capital city of Puebla at the end of December 1823. After lengthy negotiations, General Gómez Pedraza proposed that, since Congress was about to issue the convocatoria for national and state elections, the leaders of Puebla renounce their earlier action and hold new elections. The Poblanos agreed. The convocatoria was received in Puebla on 12 January 1824. Elections were held throughout the province and a new state government was inaugurated on 22 March 1824.
Although the national government had maintained order in the nation, the revolt led by General Jose María Lobato on 20 January 1824 demonstrated that the plural executive could not act with the unity of purpose and the speed necessary to quell a large scale uprising in the capital. The rebels demanded the dismissal of Spaniards from government jobs and their expulsion from the country. Lobato managed to win support of the garrisons in the capital and the government seemed on the verge of capitulation when the Supreme Executive Power convinced Congress to declare Lobato an outlaw and to grant the executive sufficient power to quell the rebellion.
As a result of the crisis, the majority in Congress eventually decided to establish an executive branch composed of a president and a vice-president. The creation of a single executive, however, did not mean that Congress had accepted a strong presidency. Most Mexicans continued to favour legislative supremacy. The Mexican charter, like the Hispanic constitution, severely restricted the power of the chief executive. The Constitution of 1824 created a quasi-parliamentary system in which the ministers of state answered to the congress. Consequently, the minister of interior and foreign relations acted as a quasi-prime minister.
The creation of a national government did not end the tensions between the provinces and Mexico City. The debate over the location of the country's capital sparked a new conflict. The national elite favoured making the "Imperial City of Mexico" the capital of the republic. The regional elites were divided. During 1823, while discussing the importance of local control, they also emphasised the need to maintain a "centre of unity", that is, a capital. However, a significant number pointedly refused to bestow that honour upon Mexico City. The special committee on the nation's capital recommended to the Constituent Congress on 31 May 1824 that another city, Querétaro, become the capital, and that the territory around it become the federal district. After a heated debate, Congress rejected the proposal to move the capital from Mexico City. Thereafter, the discussion centred on whether or not a federal district should be created. The ayuntamiento and the provincial deputation of Mexico were vehemently against such action. Indeed, the provincial legislature threatened secession and civil war if Mexico City were federalised. Nevertheless, on 30 October Congress voted fifty-two to thirty-one to make Mexico City the nation’s capital and to create a federal district.
The Constitution of 1824
After months of debate, Congress ratified the constitution, on 4 October 1824. The new charter affirmed that:
Article 3: The religion of the Mexican nation is and will permanently be the Roman, Catholic, Apostolic [religion]. The nation protects her with wise and just laws and prohibits the exercise of any other [religion].
Article 4. The Mexican nation adopts for its government a representative, popular, federal republic.
Article 5. The parts of this federation are the following states and territories: the states of Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Texas, Durango, Guanajuato, México, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla de los Ángeles, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sonora and Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Xalisco, Yucatán and Zacatecas; and the territories of: Alta California, Baja California, Colima and Santa Fe de Nuevo México. A constitutional law will determine the status of Tlaxcala.
Article 74. The supreme executive power of the federation is deposited in only one individual who shall be called President of the United States of Mexico (Estados Unidos Mexicanos).
Article 75. There will also be a vice president who, in case of the physical or moral incapacity of the president, will receive all his authority and prerogatives.
Like the Acta Constitutiva, the Constitution of 1824 was modelled on the Hispanic Constitution of 1812, not, as is often asserted, on the U.S. Constitution of 1787. Although superficially similar to the second U. S. Charter, and although it adopted a few practical applications from the U.S. Constitution, such as the executive, the Mexican document was based primarily on Hispanic constitutional and legal precedents. For example, although the Constitution of 1824 created a president, in Mexico the office was subordinate to the legislature. Since the Mexican republic was essentially confederalist rather than federalist, the Mexican Charter was closer in spirit to the U.S.’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, than to the U.S. Constitution of 1787. Entire sections of the Cádiz Charter were repeated verbatim in the Mexican document because Mexicans did not reject their Hispanic heritage, and because some of the individuals who drafted the new republican constitution had served in the Cortes of Cádiz and had helped write the 1812 Charter. Both the Hispanic Constitution of 1812 and the Mexican Constitution of 1824 established powerful legislatures and weak executives. But it would be an error to consider the Constitution of 1824 a mere copy of the 1812 document. Events in Mexico, particularly the assertion of states’ rights by the former provinces, forced Congress to frame a constitution to meet the unique circumstances of the nation.
The principal innovations—republicanism, federalism, and a presidency—were adopted to address Mexico's new reality. The monarchy was abolished because both Fernando VII and Agustín I had failed as political leaders, not because Mexicans imitated the United States' charter. Federalism arose naturally from Mexico's earlier political experience. The provincial deputations created by the Constitution of Cádiz simply converted themselves into states. However, unlike the 1812 document, the Mexican charter gave the states significant taxing power.
Although modelled on the Hispanic Constitution of 1812, the new charter did not address a number of issues included in the earlier document because the new Mexican federation shared sovereignty between the national government and the states. Thus, unlike the Constitution of Cádiz, which defined citizenship, the Mexican Constitution of 1824 remained silent on the subject. Similarly, it didn't define who possessed the suffrage, nor did it determine the size of the population required to establish ayuntamientos, two significant factors in determining the popular nature of the Hispanic constitutional system. These decisions were the prerogatives of the states.
The constitutions of the states of the Mexican federation varied, but they generally followed the precedents of the Constitution of Cádiz. Most state constitutions explicitly defined the people in their territory as being citizens of the state; they were chiapanecos, sonorenses, chihuahuenses, duranguenses, guanajuatenses, etc. Some states, such as Mexico and Puebla, simply referred to "the natives and citizens of the estate". Following the Cádiz model, all states established indirect elections. A few, however, introduced property qualifications. Many also followed the constitution of 1812 in allowing ayuntamientos in towns with more than 1,000 persons, but some raised the population requirements to 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000. Tabasco only permitted the cabeceras of the partido (district head towns) to have ayuntamientos. Article 78 of Veracruz's constitution stated that the jefe of the department "will arrange the number and function of the ayuntamientos".
Had an acceptable political accommodation been found at any time between September 1821 and March 1823, it is likely that Mexico would not have become a federal republic. If Iturbide had agreed to the Plan of Casa Mata and convened a new congress, it is possible that he could have remained on the throne and that Mexico could have become a strong federal monarchy. At independence, most people favoured a constitutional monarchy, and the provinces were content to obtain moderate home rule. But Iturbide's political failure, and the subsequent unwillingness of the national elite to recognise provincial aspirations, increased the scope of regional demands until a federal republic became the only possible solution to the nation’s political crisis. The framers of the Constitution of 1824 carefully considered the needs of their country. They granted the states the important role demanded by the regions, and that accommodation contributed significantly to maintaining national unity. It is no accident that despite numerous centrifugal forces, Mexico remained united while Central America and South America fragmented into many smaller nations.
On 10 October 1824, Guadalupe Victoria was elected the first president of the United States of Mexico for the period 1825-1829, and on the same day he and vice president Nicolás Bravo took their oaths of office. Guadalupe Victoria served as interim president from October 10 to March 31 of 1825. His constitutional term in office began on 1 April 1825.
The 1824 Constitution was composed of 7 titles and 171 articles, and was based on the Constitution of Cadiz for American issues, on the United States Constitution for the formula for federal representation and organization, and on the Constitutional Decree for the Liberty of Mexican America of 1814, which abolished the monarchy. It introduced the system of federalism in a popular representative republic with Catholicism as official religion. The 1824 constitution does not expressly state the rights of citizens. The right to equality of citizens was restricted by the continuation of military and ecclesiastical courts. The most relevant articles were:
- 1. The Mexican nation is sovereign and free from the Spanish government and any other nation.
- 3. The religion of the nation is the Roman Catholic Church and is protected by law and prohibits any other.
- 4. The Mexican nation adopts as its form of government a popular federal representative republic.
- 6. The supreme power of the federation is divided into Legislative power, Executive power and Judiciary power.
- 7. Legislative power is deposited in a Congress of two chambers—a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Senators.
- 50. Political freedom of press in the federation and the states (paragraph 1).
- 74. Executive power is vested in a person called the President of the United Mexican States.
- 75. It provides the figure of vice president, who in case of physical or moral impossibility of the president, exercise the powers and prerogatives of the latter.
- 95. The term of the president and vice president shall be four years.
- 123. Judiciary power lies in a Supreme Court, the Circuit Courts and the District Courts.
- 124. The Supreme Court consists of eleven members divided into three rooms and a prosecutor.
- 157. The individual state governments will be formed by the same three powers.
Although this was not stipulated in the constitution, slavery was prohibited in the Republic. Miguel Hidalgo promulgated the abolition in Guadalajara on 6 December 1810. President Guadalupe Victoria declared slavery abolished too, but it was President Vicente Guerrero who made the decree of Abolition of Slavery on 15 September 1829.
At the time of the promulgation of the Constitution, the nation was composed of 19 free states and 3 territories. That same year, two changes were made in the structure, resulting finally in 19 free states, 5 territories and the federal district.
|Map of Mexico under the Constitution of 1824||The 19 founding states were:|
- The five Federal Territories were: Alta California, Baja California, Colima, Tlaxcala, and Santa Fe de Nuevo México.
- The Federal District was established around the City of México on November 18, 1824.
Due to the influence of Spanish liberal thought, the fragmentation that had been gradually consolidated by the Bourbon Reforms in New Spain, the newly won Independence of Mexico, the size of the territory—almost 4,600,000 km² (1,776,069 sq mi)—and lack of easy communication across distances, there resulted a federal system with regional characteristics. The central states—Mexico, Puebla, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Veracruz and Michoacán—which were the most populated, worked as an administrative decentralization. The states of the periphery—Zacatecas, Coahuila y Texas, Durango, Chihuahua, Jalisco, San Luis Potosí and Nuevo León—acquired a moderate confederalism. The states furthest from the center—Yucatán, Sonora y Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Las Californias—acquired a radical confederalism.
Without the existence of established political parties, three political tendencies are distinguished. The first still supported the empire of Iturbide, but was a minority. The second was influenced by the Yorkist Lodge of freemasonry, whose philosophy was radical Federalism and also encouraged an anti-Spanish sentiment largely promoted by the American plenipotentiary Joel Roberts Poinsett. And the third was influenced by the Scottish Lodge of freemasonry, which had been introduced to Mexico by the Spaniards themselves, favored Centralism, and yearned for the recognition of the new nation by Spain and the Holy See.
With the consummation of independence, the "Royal Patronage" was gone, the federal government and state governments now considered these rights to belong to the State. The way to manage church property was the point that most polarized the opinions of the political class. Members of the Yorkist Lodge intended to use church property to clean up the finances, the members of the Scottish Lodge considered the alternative anathema. According to the federal commitment, states should provide an amount of money and men for the army, or blood quota. The federal budget was insufficient to pay debt, defense, and surveillance of borders, and states resisted meeting the blood quota, sometimes meeting that debt with criminals.
Some state constitutions were more radical and took supplies to practice patronage locally, under the banner of "freedom and progress". The constitutions of Jalisco and Tamaulipas decreed government funding of religion, the constitutions of Durango and the State of Mexico allowed the governor the practice of patronage, the constitution of Michoacán gave the local legislature the power to regulate the enforcement of fees and discipline of clergy, and the constitution of Yucatán, in a vanguardist way, decreed freedom of religion.
Repeal and resettlement
In 1835, there was a drastic shift to the new Mexican Nation. The triumph of conservative forces in the elections unleashed a series of events that culminated on 23 October 1835, during the interim presidency of Miguel Barragán (the constitutional president was Antonio López de Santa Anna, but he was out of office), when the "Basis of Reorganization of the Mexican Nation" was approved, which ended the federal system and established a provisional centralist system. On 30 December 1836, interim president José Justo Corro issued the Seven Constitutional Laws, which replaced the Constitution. Secondary laws were approved on 24 May 1837.
The Seven Constitutional Laws, among other things, replaced the "free states" with French-style "departments", centralizing national power in Mexico City. This created an era of political instability, unleashing conflicts between the central government and the former states. Rebellions arose in various places, the most important of which were:
- Texas declared its independence following the change from the federalist system, and refused to participate in the centralized system. American settlers held a convention in San Felipe de Austin and declared the people of Texas to be at war against Mexico's central government, therefore ignoring the authorities and laws. Thus arose the Republic of Texas.
- Yucatán under its condition of Federated Republic declared its independence in 1840 (officially in 1841). The Republic of Yucatán finally rejoined the nation in 1848.
- The states of Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and Coahuila became de facto independent from Mexico (in just under 250 days). The Republic of the Rio Grande never consolidated, because independence forces were defeated by the centralist forces.
- Tabasco decreed its separation from Mexico in February 1841, in protest against centralism, rejoining in December 1842.
The Texas annexation and the border conflict after the annexation led to the Mexican-American War. As a result, the Constitution of 1824 was restored by interim President José Mariano Salas on 22 August 1846. In 1847, The Reform Act was published, which officially incorporated, with some changes, the Federal Constitution of 1824, to operate while the next constitution was drafted. This federalist phase culminated in 1853.
The Plan of Ayutla, which had a federalist orientation, was proclaimed on 1 March 1854. In 1855, Juan Álvarez, interim President of the Republic, issued the call for the Constituent Congress, which began its work on 17 February 1856 to produce the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857.
- Constitutions of Mexico
- Constitutionalists in the Mexican Revolution
- Political Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1917 (currently in force)
- Politics of Mexico
- Texas Revolution
Jaime E. Rodríguez O., "The Transition from Colony to Nation: New Spain, 1820-1821" in Jaime E. Rodríguez O. ed., Mexico in the Age of Democratic Revolutions, 1750-1850. (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1994), 97-132. México. Soberana Junta Provisional Gubernativa, Diario de las sesiones de la Soberana Junta Provisional Gubernativa del Imperio Mexicano, instalada según previenen el Plan de Iguala y los Tratados de la villa de Córdova. (Mexico: Imprenta Imperial de Alejandro Valdés, 1821), 3-4. Jaime E. Rodríguez O., “The Struggle for dominance: The legislature versus the Executive in Early Mexico”, in Christon I. Archer, ed., The Birth of Modern Mexico, 1780-1824 Wilmington: SR Books, 2003, 205-228. Mexico. Congreso Constituyente, Actas del Congreso Constituyente Mexicano, 4 Vols. (Mexico: Alejandro
Valdés, 1822-1824), I, 2a. foliatura, 21.
Rodríguez O., "Nosotros somos ahora los verdaderos españoles", II, 515-581. See also Ávila, Alfredo, Para la libertad. Los republicanos en tiempos del imperio, 1821-1823. (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2004) 213-276. Jaime E. Rodríguez O., “The Struggle for the Nation: The First Centralist-Federalist Conflict in Mexico,” The Americas 49:1 (1992), 1-22. Soberano Congreso Mexicano, Decreto del… para las elecciones que deberán hacer las Provincias, de los Diputados que han de componer el que constituya la Nacion (Mexico: Imprenta del Supremo Gobierno en Palacio, 1823). Rodríguez O., “Nosotros somos ahora los verdaderos españoles” II, 583-632. There are several works that treat these events in a somewhat different manner than mine: the detailed study by José Barragán Barragán, Introducción al federalismo (la formación de los poderes, 1824) (México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1978), 180-357; the chapter by David M. Quinlan “Issues and Factions in the Constituent Congress, 1823-1824,” and the chapter by Hira de Gortari Rabiela, “El federalismo en la construcción de los estados” in Rodríguez O., Mexico in the Age of Democratic Revolutions, 177-207 and 209-222: the chapter by Reynaldo Sordo Cedeño, “El congreso nacional: De la autonomía de las provincias al compromiso federal” in Vázquez, El establecimiento del federalismo, 115-154; Ivana Frasquet Miguel’s chapter “Cuestión federal, cuestión republicana” in her excellent book Frasquet, Las caras del águila. Del liberalismo gaditano a la república federal mexicana (1820-1824). (Castellón, México and Veracruz: Universitát Jaume I, Instituto Mora, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana and Universidad de Veracruz, 2008), 339-368; and the careful analysis of Fausta Gantús, Florencia Gutiérrez, Alicia Hernández Chávez and María del Carmen León, coords., La Constitución de 1824. La consolidación de un pacto mínimo (Mexico: El Colegio de Mexico, 2008). El Águila Mexicana (23 October 1823). Ibid., (17 October 1823) Ibid., (22 August1823). Gortari Rabiela, “El federalismo en la construcción de los estados,” 217. Although most of the literature does not distinguish between confederalists and federalists, the influence of confederalism on the Mexican political system at the time is considerable. David M. Quinlan has proposed a different breakdown of the factions in congress: federalist unificationists, central unificationists, antifederalists, and confederalists. See his “Issues and Factions in the Constituent Congress, 1823-1824,” in Rodríguez O., Mexico in the Age of Democratic Revolutions, 177-207. These constitutional projects were as follows: 1. Constitucion del Imperio o proyecto de organizacion del Poder Legislativo, presentado a la comision actual de constitucion por el Sr. [Antonio José] Valdés, como individuo de dicha comision. (Mexico: Imprenta Imperial del Sr. D. Alejandro Valdés, 1822). 2. Proyecto de constitución presentado a la comisión de ella por uno de los individuos que la componen (Mexico: Oficina de D. José María Ramos Palomera, 1822). This document has been attributed to Miguel Guridi y Alcocer. 3. Proyecto de reglamento político del gobierno del Imperio Mejicano presentado a la Junta Nacional Instituyente (Mexico: Imprenta del Supremo Gobierno, 1823). 4. “Constitución del Imperio Mexicano”, written by José María Couto. The project circulated in manuscript form; it is located in the Iturbide Papers in the US Library of Congress. 5. Plan de la Constitucion política de la Nacion Mexicana (Mexico: Imprenta Nacional del Supremo Gobierno, 1823). This plan was prepared by Sevando Teresa de Mier and his committee. 6. El pacto federal de Anáhuac (Mexico. 1823 Reimpreso de Guadalajara en la oficina del ciudadano Mariano Rodríguez, impresor del gobierno, 1823). This plan was written by Prisciliano Sánchez. 7. Contrato de asociación para la Republica de los Estados Unidos del Anáhuac por un ciudadano del Estado de Xalisco. Segunda edición revisada y corregida por el author (Guadalajara: Imprenta de la viuda de D. José Fruto Romero, 1823). This document was written by Severo Maldonado. In addition, there exist two plans prepared by Stephen F. Austin: “Proyecto de constitucion para la republica de Mexico” (29 March 1823) and “Plan de las bases orgánica o fundamentales para el establecimiento de una República federada en el Anáhuac”. Neither of these two plans was published or circulated widely. As Nettie Lee Benson has shown, they did not influence the drafters of the Mexican constitution. According to her, Austin’s “Plan” was a poorly organised composite of the Hispanic constitution of 1812 and the United States constitution. Ramos Arizpe’s Acta, on the other hand, was a well-organised offering modelled on the Spanish constitution and varied from it only when “the federal republic idea compelled change.” The parallelism between the Spanish constitution and Ramos Arizpe’s Acta is clear through clause after clause, not only setting forth the same ideas but also employing the same words. In fact, and not surprisingly, entire articles were borrowed verbatim from the Spanish constitution. Ramos Arizpe, furthermore, was well acquainted with the constitution of the United States of America long before he met Austin. A careful study of his Acta reveals its differences in organisation, terminology, and phrasing from the United States constitution. Furthermore, the Acta contained a number of articles and ideas not contained either in the Spanish constitution or the United States constitution. Those articles arose from problems indigenous to Mexico at that time. The Provincial Deputation in Mexico: Harbinger of Provincial Autonomy, Independence, and Federalism (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992), 123-124. Benson, La Diputación Provincial, 192-201. Acta Constitutiva de la Federación: Crónicas (México: Cámara de Diputados, 1974), 27. (Italics are mine.) Ibid., 269. Ibid., 270. The Articles of Confederation of the United States of America defined the powers of the states as follows: “Article II. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.” Acta Constitutiva de la Federación: Crónicas, 270. See, for example, Barragán Barragán, Introducción al federalismo, 197-198. The error persists, even though Nettie Lee Benson demonstrated in 1948 that Servando Teresa de Mier, their outstanding spokesman, was a federalist. Nettie Lee Benson, “Servando Teresa de Mier, Federalist,” Hispanic American Historical Review 28:4 (1948), 514-525. Acta Constitutiva de la Federación: Crónicas, 280-294. Ibid., 272, 338, 367: Benson, “Servando Teresa de Mier, Federalist,” 519-521. On the contingente see: Jaime Olveda, “La disputa por el control de los impuestos en los primeros años independientes” in José Antonio Serrano Ortega and Luis Jáuregui eds., Hacienda y política: Las finanzas públicas y los grupos de poder en la primera República Federal Mexicana (Zamora & Mexico: El Colegio de Michoacán & Instituto Mora, 1998), 115-132; and Jorge Castañeda Zavala, “El contingente fiscal en la nueva nación mexicana, 1824-1861” in Carlos Marichal and Daniel Marino comps., De colonia a nación. Impuestos y política en México (Mexico: El Colegio de México, 2001), 135-188. Barragán Barragán, Introducción al federalismo, 299. Acta Constitutiva de la Federación: Crónicas., 447-450; Jaime E. Rodríguez O., “The Constitution of 1824 and the Formation of the Mexican State,” in Jaime E. Rodríguez O. ed., The Evolution of the Mexican Political System. (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 1993), 84-90. “Proclama del ayuntamiento de Querétaro,” Águila Mexicana, Tomo III, Núm. 250 (20 December 1823), 1-2. Castro Morales, El federalismo en Puebla, 143-170. Bustamante, Diario histórico de México, Tomo II, 17. Documents about the revolt are found in: Bocanegra, Memorias para la historia de México, I, 337-343. Other documents concerning the rebellion are published in El Iris de Jalisco, Núm. 28 (2 February 1824), 1-3; Núm. 31 (9 February 1824), 2-4; y Núm. 32 (11 February 1824), 2. Bustamante discusses these questions in his Diario histórico de México, Tomo II (23 & 24 January 1824), 17-18. Charles W. Macune, “The Expropriation of Mexico City: Regional Antipathy in Newly Independent Mexico,” Proceedings of the Pacific Coast Council of Latin American Studies, 2 (1973), 117-142. Constitución Federal de 1824: Crónicas, 2 vols. (Mexico: Cámara de Diputados, 1974), II, 436-437, 556-581. See also: Andrés Lira, La creación del Distrito Federal (Volumen VII de La República Federal Mexicana: Gestación y nacimiento) (Mexico: Distrito Federal, 1974). “Constitución de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos,” in Tena Ramírez, Leyes fundamentales de México, 168-179. Jaime E. Rodríguez O., “Intellectuals and the Mexican Constitution of 1824” in Roderic A. Camp, Charles A. Hale, and Josefina Zoraida Vázquez eds., Los intelectuales y el poder en México (Mexico & Los Angeles: El Colegio de México and the University of California, Los Angeles, 1991), 63-74. “Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos,” in Tena Ramírez, Leyes fundamentales de México, 167-195. Mariano Galván Rivera, Colección de constituciones de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, 3 vols. facsimile ed. (Mexico: Miguel Ángel Porrúa, 1988). See also: Marcello Carmagnani, “Del territorio a la región: Líneas de un proceso en la primera mitad del siglo xix,” in Hernández Chávez and Miño Grijalva eds., Cincuenta años de historia en México, II, 221-241. See also: María Cecilia Zuleta, “Raíces y razones del federalismo peninsular, 1821-1825”; Jaime Olveda, “El pronunciamiento federalista de Guadalajara”; Mercedes de Vega, “Soberanías en pugna: Del unionismo al federalismo radical, Zacatecas, 1821-1825”; Carlos Sánchez Silva, “El establecimiento del federalismo en Oaxaca, 1823-1825”; José Antonio Serrano Ortega, “Federalismo y anarquía, municipalismo y autonomía: Guanajuato, 1820-1826”; Jaime Hernández Díaz, “Michoacán: De provincia novohispana a Estado Libre y Soberano de la federación mexicana, 1820-1825”; María Isabel Monroy Castillo and Tomás Calvillo Unna, “Las apuestas de una región: San Luis Potosí y la República Federal”; Luis Jáuregui, “Nuevo León, 1823-1825. Del Plan de Casa Mata a la promulgación de la constitución estatal”; Cecilia Sheridan Prieto, “El primer federalismo en Coahuila”; Octavio Herrera Pérez, “Autonomía y decisión federalista en el proceso de creación del Estado Libre y Soberano de Tamaulipas”; María del Carmen Salinas Sandoval, “Del imperio al federalismo. Estado de México, 1823-1827”; Alicia Tecuanhuey Sandoval, “Tras las trinchera del federalismo. Intereses y fuerzas regionales en Puebla, 1823-1825”; Juan Ortiz Escamilla, “El federalismo veracruzano, 1820-1826”; Raymond Buve, “Una historia particular: Tlaxcala en el proceso del establecimiento de la primera República Federal”; Héctor Cuauhtémoc Hernández Silva, “Las provincias de Sonora y Sinaloa, 1821-1825: El camino hacia el federalismo”; Mario Vázquez Olivera, “Chiapas, entre Centroamérica y México, 1821-1826”; and Carlos Martínez Assad, “La federación en Tabasco,” in Josefina Zoraida Vázquez, coord., El establecimiento del federalismo en México (1821-1827). (Mexico: El Colegio de México, 2003), 155-630, which discusses the formation of the states of the Mexican federation.
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- Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States (1824)
- "La Diputación Provincial y el Federalismo Mexicano" (in Spanish).
- "Historia de Mexico Volumen 2" (in Spanish).
- "Manuel Gomez Pedraza (Cancilleres de Mexico)" (in Spanish).
- Vázquez, Josefina Zoraida, Op.cit. p.534-535
- Vázquez, Josefina Zoraida, Op.cit. p.539