Tornel was prominent among the "santanistas," a group of politicians and officials who helped Santa Anna return to power frequently, despite defeats in the 1836 Texas Revolution and the 1846–48 Mexican-American War. Tornel advocated a federalist agenda in the 1820s. During that time, Tornel y Mendivil became Mexico's first president Guadalupe Victoria's right arm. Victoria named Tornel the Mexican ambassador to the United States. His mission was to inform Victoria on Americans' ambitions to take Texas. Thanks to that collaboration, Victoria's government came victorious in the Fredonian Rebellion. Although Tornel supported federalism during the Victoria presidency, he changed his political views to support Santa Anna's reactionary dictatorship in the 1850s. He helped orchestrate the Plan of Cuernavaca revolt in 1834. Tornel served as Minister of War, and helped plan the campaign that led to the Battle of the Alamo. Santa Anna's adopted U.S.-born son, John Hill, grew up in Tornel's household.
“The loss of Texas will inevitably result in the loss of New Mexico and the Californias. Little by little our territory will be absorbed until only an insignificant part is left to us.... Our national existence... will end like those weak meteors that, from time to time, shine fitfully in the firmament and disappear.” José Maria Tornel y Mendivil
^Fowler, William N. "Tornel and Santa Anna: The Writer and the Caudillo, Mexico 1795-1853". Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000.
Riva Palacio, Vicente (1940). Mexico Through the centuries, comprehensive general history of social development, political, religious, military, artistic, scientific and literary of Mexico from a remote antiquity to the present time, work, unique. (G. S. Lopez edition). Mexico.