|Common languages||Spanish (official), Nahuatl, Yucatec Maya, Mixtecan languages, Zapotec languages|
|Religion||Roman Catholic (official religion)|
|Government||Unitary presidential republic under a military dictatorship|
|Miguel Barragán (first)|
|José Mariano Salas (last)|
|Chamber of Deputies|
|23 October 1835|
|15 December 1835|
|2 March 1836|
|28 December 1836|
|22 August 1846|
|ISO 3166 code||MX|
|Today part of||Mexico|
|History of Mexico|
The Centralist Republic of Mexico (Spanish: República Centralista de México), or in the anglophone scholarship, the Central Republic, officially the Mexican Republic (Spanish: República Mexicana), was a unitary political regime established in Mexico on October 23, 1835, under a new constitution known as the Seven Laws after conservatives repealed the federalist Constitution of 1824 and ended the First Mexican Republic. It would ultimately last until 1846 when the Constitution of 1824 was restored at the beginning of the Mexican American War. Two presidents would predominate throughout this era: Santa Anna, and Anastasio Bustamante.
Mexican conservatives attributed the political chaos of the federal era to the empowerment of states over the federal government, the participation of non-elite men in the political system through universal male suffrage, rebellions, and economic stagnation to the weakness of the federal government. Conservative elites saw the solution to the problem as abolishing the federal system and creating a centralized one, reminiscent of the political system during the colonial era.
The political and economic chaos that had marked the First Republic, however, continued well throughout the Centralist Republic. Infighting among the conservatives resulted in administrations continuing to be interrupted by successful military coups, and another centralist constitution known as the Bases Orgánicas would be attempted in 1843. Significant political and military agitation for the restoration of the federalist system continued as well. The period was marked by multiple secession attempts across Mexico, including the loss of Texas and Yucatan, and two international conflicts: the Pastry War, caused by French citizens' economic claims against the Mexican government, and the Mexican–American War, as a consequence of the annexation of Texas by the United States.
The First Mexican Empire fell in 1823, without having produced a constitution for the newly independent nation. Such a responsibility now fell upon the Supreme Executive Power, which was serving as a provisional government. The controversy between centralism and federalism first notably emerged during the debates regarding the new constitution, through factions which would eventually become the liberals and the conservatives. The most prominent opponent of the federal system during these debates was Father Mier. He argued that the nation needed a strong centralized government to guard against Spanish attempts to reconquer her former colony, and that a federation rather suited a situation in which previously sovereign states were attempting to unite as had happened with the United States. New Spain had never been made up of autonomous provinces; federation for Mexico, according to Mier would then be an act of separation rather than unification and only lead to internal conflict. The arguments for federation prevailed however, motivated by the long struggle during the independence war to seek as much autonomy as possible, and an eagerness to reap the salaries that would accompany local bureaucracies.
The newly established First Mexican Republic proved to be unstable, and presidential administrations were regularly interrupted by military coups. By 1833, the progressive Valentín Gómez Farías was president of the republic, sharing power with Antonio López de Santa Anna, whom at this point supported the liberals. The Farías administration however provoked opposition most notably through an anti-clerical campaign. The revolts would continue up until in 1834 Santa Anna switched sides and supported a coup against Farías. Santa Anna however, not only called for Farias' overthrow, but for the dissolution of congress. On October 23, 1835, a newly elected congress voted to turn itself into a constituent congress tasked with drafting a new constitution. The resulting centralist document came to be known as the Siete Leyes, and was formally promulgated in December, 1836. Now would begin a decade of conservative and centralist rule led by Santa Anna whom the congress expected to be the first president under the new constitution.
Constitution of 1835: the Siete Leyes
- The 15 articles of the first law granted citizenship to those who could read and had an annual income of 100 pesos, except for domestic workers, who did not have the right to vote. These centralist provisions narrowed the rights of darker, poorer, and less educated men, who had been empowered under the federal constitution.
- The second law allowed the President to close Congress and suppress the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation. Military officers were not allowed to assume this office. With these provisions there were no checks and balances, allowing the president to govern autocratically.
- The 58 articles of the third law established a bicameral Congress of Deputies and Senators, elected by governmental bodies. Deputies had four-year terms; Senators were elected for six years. Since the president had the power to dissolve congress, the legislature was a weak body.
- The 34 articles of the fourth law specified that the Supreme Court, the Senate of Mexico, and the Meeting of Ministers each nominate three candidates, and the lower house of the legislature would select from those nine candidates the President and Vice-president,
- The fifth law had an 11-member Supreme Court elected in the same manner as the President and Vice-President.
- The 31 articles of the sixth law eliminated the federal republic's states with centralized administrative departments, fashioned after the French model, whose governors and legislators were designated by the President. In the federal system, states elected their legislatures, who in turn had exercised power within the federal system.
- The seventh law prohibited a reversion to the pre-reform laws for a period of six years.
Constitution of 1843: the Bases Orgánicas
In 1841, Antonio López de Santa Anna assumed the Presidency of Mexico, with extraordinary powers to govern and legislate; and he announced elections for a new Congress that would draft a new Constitution. After being elected in 1842, the Constituent Congress drafted a new Federalist constitution, much to the dislike of Santa Anna. Because of this, Santa Anna issued a pronuncimiento which disbanded the Congress in December 1842 and replaced the Congress with a new legislative body appointed by him. This Junta Nacional Legislativa (Junta de Notables) drafted a new centralist constitution, the 1843 Bases Orgánicas, which went into effect on 12 June 1843. Santa Anna claimed the constitution was "a charter that was to facilitate popular elections, provide order, and guarantee people's rights." It further empowered the executive and "consolidated the centralist republic." It furthered narrowed the franchise to vote, restricting it to adult men who earned over 200 pesos a year. Restrictions on who could belong to the Senate meant that only the wealthy, such as owners of landed estates, merchants, and miners could serve. Despite elites' wariness about electoral participation of the masses, the Bases Orgánicas sought to educate Mexico's populace within seven years, with the aim of opening male suffrage to those who were literate. Santa Anna personally had a strong commitment to education. Although the Bases Orgánicas restored the Centralist government that Santa Anna wanted, the former States were awarded greater national representation and influence for their Departmental assemblies. The Bases Orgánicas dissolved the Supreme Court and transferred those powers to the President. Elections held later that year under the Bases Orgánicas resulted in Santa Anna being re-elected as President, but the newly-elected Congress was found to be too independent for Santa Anna's comfort. When Santa Anna tried to dissolve it, the legislature claimed immunity and went into exile. Santa Anna was toppled in December 1844 by a coup of disaffected politicians, and Congress replaced Santa Anna in accordance with the Constitution of September 12, 1844 with José Joaquín de Herrera.
Herrera, recognizing the reality that Texas had been lost, tried to win his Government's recognition of the Republic of Texas as a means to prevent its annexation to the United States. In response, opponents accused Herrera of attempting to sell Texas and Alta California. On December 29, 1845, the United States annexed Texas to its territory. Mariano Paredes with the help of General Arrillaga, who was sent to secure the northern border, instead approached Mexico City, deposed De Herrera, and appointed himself as President.
Heads of state and the role of Santa Anna
The number of changes in heads of state during the Central Republic was staggering, an index of the political instability of this era. Whether holding the presidency formally or not, General Antonio López de Santa Anna was important. Writing his History of Mexico at the end of the 1840s, conservative politician and intellectual Lucas Alamán wrote, "The history of Mexico since 1822 might accurately be called the history of Santa Anna's revolutions.... His name plays the major role in all the political events of the country and its destiny has become intertwined with his." Liberal Lorenzo de Zavala said of Santa Anna, "He is a man who has within him some force always driving to take action, but since he has no fixed principles nor any organized code of public behavior, through his lack of understanding he always moves to extremes and comes to contradict himself. He does not measure his actions or calculate the results." The discussion of the Mexican presidency during the Centralist Republic must take Santa Anna's role into account, even if he were not formally in office.
The first president, Miguel Barragan, died just a month into office, likely of typhus. His successor, José Justo Corro was appointed interim president by Congress, and held office just over a year, serving out the term of his late predecessor. In that time he promulgated the Seven Laws that centralized administration and concentrated power in the hands of the president rather than the now-dissolved federalist states. Also importantly Spain finally recognized the independence of its former colony. Anastasio Bustamante, who had been vice president under Vicente Guerrero, and instrumental in forcing him from office, was elected president in his own right in April 1837 for an eight-year term. He served only two years of his term, when he left office to fight federalist rebellions. Santa Anna assumed the presidency from March through July 1839, and then himself left office. Nicolás Bravo was appointed substitute president in July 1839, serving about a week, and then Bustamante resumed office. Bustamante served another two years of his eight-year term, but took a leave from office to fight the rebellion of Mariano Paredes, Gabriel Valencia, and Santa Anna, under the Plan of the Ciudadela in 1841. The rebellion succeeded and Bustamante was ousted. Santa Anna served as provisional president for a year, October 1841-October 1842, when he took leave of the office and Nicolás Bravo was appointed substitute president October 1842-March 1843. Santa Anna served again as provisional president, March through October 1843, when he left office again. Valentín Canalizo was appointed interim president, serving from October 1843 through June 1844. Santa Anna had been elected president in January 1844, and assumed office in June of that year, serving only until September. José Joaquín de Herrera served nine days as president in September 1844, quickly replaced by Valentín Canalizo, who served two and a half months as interim president. Canalizo was arrested for attempting to dissolve congress, a power granted to presidents under the Seven Laws. José Joaquín de Herrera assumed the presidency and was himself ousted by the coup by Mariano Paredes in December 1845 and appointed interim president in June 1846, with Nicolás Bravo as his vice president. Paredes left office to fight the U.S. invasion of the Mexican American War, and Nicolás Bravo became president until August 1846, when he was deposed in a coup by José Mariano Salas. Salas reinstated the federalist Constitution of 1824, becoming the last president of the Centralist Republic of Mexico and the first president of the Second Federal Republic of Mexico.
Armed opposition to the Central Republic
The conservatives' attempt to impose a unitary state produced armed resistance in regions that had most favored federalism. Centralism generated severe political instability, armed uprisings and secessions: The rebellions in Zacatecas, Alta California, Sonora, New Mexico, the Texas Revolution, the separation of Tabasco, the independence of Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas that formed the Republic of the Rio Grande, and finally the independence of the state of Yucatán.
The Mexican Federalist War (armed opposition to the central republic) involved series of armed conflicts and political machinations between the Centrists and the Federalists. Superficially the war can be viewed as a conflict between rival generals, however the Centrist position favored a presidency that reflected the viceregal tradition of Spanish colonial times. and the Federalists supported republicanism and local self-government (which in some cases such as Texas led ultimately to secession from Mexico). Centrists tended to draw support from the privileged classes including prominent members of the Roman Catholic Church and professional officers of the Mexican army. They were in favor of a strong, central government and Roman Catholicism as the established church.
Rebellion in Zacatecas
Zacatecas, a silver mining center in Mexico's north, was a strong proponent of federalism. The revolt in Zacatecas was the first rebellion to erupt as a reaction to the formation of the Central Republic. The rebellion began as a response to the order of the Central Government dissolving the State militias, which had been a foundation of state power. Zacatecas had previously been a supporter of Santa Anna in the political struggles of 1832 against conservative Anastasio Bustamante. Santa Anna himself led the Mexican army against the Zacatecas rebels, who were led by Governor Francisco García Salinas. Zacatecas had a militia of about four thousand men against the Central Government. In one of his many absences that were to come, Santa Anna left the Presidency to General Miguel Barragán. Likely Santa Anna did not want any state to challenge the power of the new central government and the army, but historian Will Fowler suggests that Santa Anna "expected his allies to be faithful even if he changed sides" when they did not support the Plan of Cuernavaca. Governor García Salinas and his army were defeated in the 1835 Battle of Zacatecas. As punishment for rebellious Zacatecas, the region of Aguascalientes was separated from Zacatecas and declared on 23 May 1835 to be Federation territory. Santa Anna's troops pillaged Zacatecas, and left the region embittered against him, but Zacatecos who surrendered to Santa Anna's forces were allowed to go free. Santa Anna himself profited from the conquest, carting off silver from the Fresnillo mine and distributing some of it to his friends, such as José María Tornel, with the Mexican treasury losing 180,000 pesos.
The Texan Revolution began with the Battle of Gonzales on October 2, 1835. The discontent of the Anglo-American settlers had begun almost as soon as they began settling in Coahuila y Tejas in the 1820s. Many were from the slave-owning southern region of the US, so that the abolition of slavery in Mexico during the presidency of Vicente Guerrero was abhorrent. The rebellion of 1827 of Fredonia (in eastern Texas) led to the government issuing the Law of April 6, 1830 that increased the discontent of the colonists due to its attempts to restrict further US American immigration into Texas, among other things. In 1831, the Mexican authorities provided the town of González with a small cannon to help protect themselves from frequent Comanche raids. As a consequence of the order of the government to dissolve the state militias, Colonel Domingo Ugartechea, Commander of Mexican troops in Texas, sent a small group of soldiers to González to reclaim the cannon. On October 1, settlers voted to refuse the request, even defending it by force if necessary. The standoff ended the next day without violence with the withdrawal of Colonel Ugartechea's soldiers. After González residents' victory and later, the unsuccessful Siege of Béxar, the Central government won a series of victories against the region's settlers, most of them commanded by General José de Urrea. On February 23, 1836, the Army of Operations in Texas, headed by President Antonio López de Santa Anna, began the siege of the Alamo. Most of the soldiers involved in the siege had been recruited against their will. Nonetheless, The Alamo fell two weeks later on March 6, resulting in the deaths of all but two of the Texans defending the mission. On April 21, the Battle of San Jacinto (also known as "La Siesta del San Jacinto") took place, where the Mexican army was attacked while sleeping and was totally defeated. Santa Anna was captured days after the battle and signed under duress the Treaties of Velasco, which recognized the independence of Texas on May 14. The Mexican government headed by José Justo Corro did not recognize the treaty, maintaining that Santa Anna had no authority to grant independence to the territory. Despite that, Texas remained de facto independent until 1845, when it was annexed to United States.
Rebellion in Northeast Mexico
The Republic of the Rio Grande was a proposed republic composed of the Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and parts of the current U.S. state of Texas. On 17 January 1840, a group of notables of the three states met close to Laredo. They planned a secession from Mexico and the formation of their own federal republic composed of the three states, with Laredo as the capital. However, the legislatures of the states (then departments) did not take any constitutional action to support the creation of the new republic and instead asked the central government for help to quell the rebellion. The insurgents, in turn, asked for help from the president of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar, who gave them no support because Texas was looking for the recognition of its own independence from Mexico.
Finally, after a series of defeats, on 6 November 1840, Antonio Canales, Commander in Chief of the insurgent army, met with Mexican General Mariano Arista, who offered him the post of Brigadier General of the Mexican army to entice Canales to abandon his loyalty to the secessionists. Canales accepted the offer, and the bid for independence was ended.
Rebellion in California
In 1836, supporters of federalism in Alta California, under the leadership of Monterey-born Juan Bautista Alvarado, revolted against the Centralist Republic and succeeded in removing the Centralist Republic interim Governor of California, Nicolás Gutiérrez, from office. With the support of other Californio politicians such as José Castro and Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Alvarado named himself the new governor of California and called a territorial congress which adopted a program known as the Monterey Plan that declared Alta California as an independent nation until the reinstatement of the Mexican constitution of 1824. In 1837 the Mexican government named Carlos Antonio Carrillo as the new governor of California, and the citizens of Los Angeles rose in opposition to the rebels taking oaths of loyalty to the Centralist government.: 105 However when Carrillo attempted to assert his rule as governor by marching northwards in 1838 he was defeated by Alvarado's forces in minor skirmishes at Las Flores and San Buenaventura and then captured.: 106 The citizens of Los Angeles were then called into a public assembly and the ayuntamiento voted to recognize Alvaroda as the legitimate governor of California.: 107 The Mexican government responded by recognizing Alvarado's governorship in 1839 after which the Californian population, now satisfied that it had a strong governor that would represent its interests, ended its bid for independence.: 107
Rebellion in New Mexico
On 1 August 1837 in Santa Cruz, New Mexico a popular revolution against the Mexican Centralist Republic Governor Albino Pérez took place due in large part to widespread opposition to the governor's ineffective policies towards custom officials, who according to the revolutionaries were using corrupt taxation practices in order to take advantage of the lucrative Santa Fe Trail trade. Pérez attempted to raise a militia in response but on 8 August he was decapitated in a raid by a group of Indians and his head was taken to be displayed in public in Santa Fe. Along with Pérez at least 20 other government officials were killed and a new "popular junta" government was proclaimed. This government proved unpopular and a counterrevolutionary movement led by previous New Mexican governor and Albuquerque native Manuel Armijo rose in response with Armijo winning consecutive military victories and writing to the Mexican Central government requesting support and additional troops to quell the uprising. The rebellion would last until January 1838 with Armijo defeating the rebel leader José Gonzales in battle and proceeding to have the rebel leader publicly executed in Santa Cruz.
Rebellion in Northwest Mexico
In December 1837 former Mexican General José de Urrea, a veteran of the Texas Rebellion on the Mexican side, turned against the Centralist government and began a pro-federalist revolt in Sonora with the intention of reestablishing the 1824 Constitution of Mexico as the law of the land. With the support of federalist politicians in Sonora, Urrea gathered followers and traveled to Sinaloa in hopes of appealing to the federalist politicians there as well. However, he was instead intercepted and defeated in Sinaloa by Centralist government forces and was taken prisoner effectively ending the rebellion in Sonora and Sinaloa.
Rebellion in Tabasco
The Tabasco rebellion started in 1839. Like the other rebellions, it was led by Federalist rebels who were against the Centralist government being implemented in Mexico. The rebels took several major cities and also asked for aid from the Government of Texas, who supported them with two boats. This rebellion culminated in January 1841, with the triumph of the Federalists and the fall of the Centralist Governor José Ignacio Gutiérrez.
The then-Mexican President Anastasio Bustamante, in retaliation for this rebellion, closed the port of San Juan Bautista, which affected the economic life of the territory. This caused further agitation among the Federalist Tabasco authorities, who then on February 13, 1841 declared Tabasco's independence from Mexico.
Months later, Antonio López de Santa Anna, in response to the declaration of independence, threatened to send in the troops if it was not reversed while also assuring the Tabasco authorities that Federalism would soon be reinstated. This combined threat and promise culminated in the reinstatement of Tabasco into the Mexican Republic on December 2, 1842. But four years later, Tabasco again declared its independence in November 1846 as a protest to the lack of Central government assistance in resisting the American occupation of its coast earlier that same year.
Independence of Yucatán
When the Federal system was changed to a Centralist system, Yucatán considered their pact with Mexico dissolved. After several demands by Yucatán to the Central government to restore the Federalist Constitution of 1824, revolution broke out in Yucatán on 29 May 1839. After a series of victories by the Yucatán militia against Mexican Army installations and troops, the Central Government declared war on Yucatán. On 4 March 1840, the Congress of Yucatan decreed that as long as the Mexican nation is not governed according to federal law, the State of Yucatán would remain separated from it, retaining the power to establish its own legislature.
On March 31, 1841, a new constitution of Yucatán was enacted, which established innovations such as freedom of worship, freedom of the press and the constitutional and legal bases of the Writ of Amparo. On October 1, 1841, the Chamber of Deputies of Yucatán issued the Act of Independence of the Yucatán Peninsula.
Santa Anna sent retired Mexican Supreme Court Justice and revolutionary hero Andrés Quintana Roo to dialogue with the Yucatecan authorities to negotiate their return to Mexico. The meeting resulted in signed treaties that were beneficial for Yucatán, and which were later rejected by Santa Anna. Santa Anna then sent Mexican troops to Yucatán to quell the rebellion, but his troops were defeated. Having failed to subdue the peninsula, Santa Anna then imposed a trade blockade. The blockade forced the Yucatecan authorities to negotiate with Santa Anna. On 5 December 1843, new treaties were signed that restored Yucatán relations with Mexico, but Yucatán continued to govern itself under its own laws and leaders. In 1845, Mexican President José Joaquín de Herrera set aside those treaties and again raised tensions between Yucatán and Mexico.
After Federalism was restored in 1846, Yucatán decided to rejoin Mexico, but a considerable minority opposed the reinstatement due to the U.S. invasion of Mexico in the Mexican–American War (1846–48). On 30 July 1847, Yucatán's Maya population rebelled in a conflict now known as the Caste War. The war forced Yucatán to seek help from Mexico, which negotiated their return to the Republic, which took place on 17 August 1848. The conflict in Yucatan was largely contained, with the Yucatecan government declaring victory. However, pockets of resistance continued to exist for another 50 years, when Mexican army troops destroyed the last Maya stronghold.
The flag of the Republic of Yucatán, created as part of its declaration of independence from Mexico, is still widely used as a civil emblem in the state and there are proposals even today to adopt it as the official state flag.
Engraved stone tells a few episodes of the Caste War between 1854 and 1855. Although the Centralist regime had already formally disappeared by that time, the stone still mentions the "Department of YUCATÁN".
International conflicts during the Central Republic
One bright light on the international front was Spain's and the papacy's recognition of Mexico's independence in 1836. However, in addition to domestic uprisings and political turmoil, Mexico faced foreign intervention from France and the United States.
First French intervention
The Pastry War was a war fought between Mexico and France that ran from 1838 to 1839, over damages to French shops from the 1828 riot in the upscale Parián market in central Mexico City. The French government demanded an extortionate amount of 600,000 pesos. In early 1838 the French Minister launched an ultimatum to the Government of Mexico from Veracruz: pay the claims of French nationals or its ports would be blockaded by the French fleet. Diplomatic relations were broken off on April 16, 1838, and began a French blockade of Mexican ports of Veracruz and Tampico. France sent Charles Baudin to negotiate a diplomatic exit with Mexico. Baudin conveyed a number of requests that were rejected by the Mexican Government. France responded by bombing Veracruz and the Fort of San Juan de Ulúa. Santa Anna offered his services to the nation to fight the French invasion. He scored a significant victory against them, injuring his left leg in a cannon bombardment that shot his horse dead from under him. The leg was amputated to prevent gangrene. His valor in action helped recuperate his political reputation from the disastrous loss of Texas. He was able to return to the presidency in 1839 because of it.
Two treaties between France and Mexico, mediated by Great Britain, concluded the conflict in 1839. In the end, Mexico did pay France 600,000 pesos, but other issues were resolved between the two countries.
Invasion by the United States
The incorporation of the disputed territory of Texas into the United States in 1845 and the constant provocations of the administration of James K. Polk triggered the events that led to war. During that year, tensions grew dramatically between Mexico and the United States. While the U.S. Army settled inside northern Mexican territory and began threatening war, the U.S. government offered to pay off Mexican debt to American settlers if Mexico also allowed the United States to purchase the provinces of Alta California and Nuevo Mexico. Mexico rejected the proposal and broke diplomatic relations with the U.S.
The first battle was fought on April 25, 1846, to the north of the Rio Grande, in the place called Rancho de Carricitos. The battle caused the United States Congress to declare war on Mexico on May 13, 1846; Mexico for its part declared war on May 23 of the same year.
Restoration of the Constitution of 1824
Finally on August 22, 1846, a new decree was issued that restored the Constitution of 1824, which ended the Centralist system and gave way to the Second Federal Republic of Mexico.
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- Michael P. Costeloe, The Central Republic in Mexico and the 'Hombres de bien in the Age of Santa Anna. Cambridge University Press 1993.
- Costeloe, The Central Republic in Mexico, 1835-1846. Hombres de Bien in the Age of Santa Anna.
- Priestly, Joseph (1864). The Mexican Nation: A History. p. 261.
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- Michael P. Costeloe, "Pastry War" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 4, p. 318.
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