Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States
Portada Constitucion 1857.png
Original front of the 1857 Constitution
Ratified5 February 1857; 164 years ago (1857-02-05)
SystemConstitutional presidential republic
ChambersUnicameral, amended in 1874 to reestablish the Senate.
Electoral collegeYes, presidential elections are validated by the Deputies.
First legislature7 September 1857
Repealed5 February 1917
Last amended7 November 1911
LocationMuseo Nacional de las Intervenciones
Author(s)1857 Constituent Congress
Supersedes1824 Constitution of Mexico

The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857 (Spanish: Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos de 1857), often called simply the Constitution of 1857, was the liberal constitution drafted by 1857 Constituent Congress of Mexico during the presidency of Ignacio Comonfort. Ratified on February 5, 1857,[1] the constitution established individual rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to bear arms. It also reaffirmed the abolition of slavery, debtor prison, and all forms of cruel and unusual punishment such as the death penalty. The constitution was designed to guarantee a weak central government by federalism and created a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, and a weak executive to prevent a dictatorship. Liberal ideology caused the constitution to emphasize private property and the suspicion of ownership of property by indigenous communities and the Catholic Church, which caused the Ley Lerdo to be incorporated into the constitution.

A number of articles were contrary to the interests of the Catholic Church, such as education that was free of dogma, the removal of institutional fueros (privileges), and the forced sale of property belonging to the church. Conservatives strongly opposed the enactment of the new constitution, which polarized Mexican society. The Reform War began as a result, with the liberals winning on the battlefield over the conservatives. The losing conservatives sought another way back into power, and their politicians invited Maximilian of Mexico, a Habsburg, to establish a Mexican monarchy with the Church's support.[2] The republican government-in-exile was led by Benito Juárez in the United States as the legitimate Mexican government. With the ouster of the French and the defeat of the conservatives in 1867, the Restored Republic was again governed under the 1857 Constitution. It remained as Mexico's constitution until 1917 although many of its provisions ceased to be enforced.


Having overthrown the dictatorship of Antonio López de Santa Anna in 1855, liberals sought to implement their ideology in new laws and briefly had Juan Álvarez in the presidency. As established in Plan of Ayutla, he convened the Constituent Congress on October 16 to establish headquarters in Dolores Hidalgo and to draft a new constitution embodying liberalism. The following year, the incumbent president, Ignacio Comonfort, endorsed the call to move the headquarters to Mexico City.[3]

The Congress was divided between two main factions. Most members were moderate liberals and planned to restore the Constitution of 1824 with some changes. Some of the prominent figures were Mariano Arizcorreta, Marcelino Castañeda, Joaquín Cardoso, and Pedro Escudero y Echánove. Their opponents the pure liberals,[4] who wanted to make a completely-new constitution. Among them were Ponciano Arriaga, Guillermo Prieto, Francisco Zarco, José María Mata, and Santos Degollado. The discussions were heated and lasted over a year.[3]

President Comonfort interfered through its ministers for the moderate faction, which he preferred.[5] Despite opposition from the executive branch and the minority, pure liberals ensured that their proposals successfully included: the prohibition of purchase of property by ecclesiastical corporations, the exclusion of the clergy in public office, the abolition of ecclesiastical and military fueros[a] (Juárez Law), and freedom of religion.

Those reforms were contrary to the interests of the Catholic Church. During the sessions of Congress, an insurrection for the clergy supported by the conservative, the staunchest opponents of the liberals, gathered force in Zacapoaxtla and Puebla. Comonfort sent federal troops and defeated the rebels.[6]

Finally, the Constitution was promulgated on February 5, 1857,[7] but the clergy threatened that whoever swore the Constitution would be excommunicated.[8]


The Constitution of 1857, with 8 titles and 128 articles, was similar to the 1824 Constitution. Both federalism and representative republicanism were again implemented, and there were 23 states, a territory, and the federal district. It supported the autonomy of municipalities in which each state was divided politically. These were most relevant articles:

  • 2. Abolition of slavery. It was ratifified by the Decree of Abolition of Slavery on September 15, 1829 by President Vicente Guerrero.[9]
  • 3. Free tuition, with no limit on dogma or religion.
  • 5. Freedom of vocation, with a ban on contracts with loss of freedom for the sake of work, education, or religious vows.
  • 7. Freedom of speech.
  • 10. Right to bear arms.
  • 13. Prohibition of privileges to individuals or institutions or of special courts (Juarez Law).
  • 12. Titles of nobility are not recognized.
  • 22. Prohibition of punishment by mutilation, beatings, branding, flogging, beating with sticks, torture of any kind, excessive fines, or the confiscation of goods.
  • 23. Abolition of death penalty for political prisoners, which would be modified to permit the execution of traitors under the law of 12 April 1869.[10]
  • 27. No civil or ecclesiastical corporation allowed to acquire and manage real estate except buildings for services or for the purpose of the institution (Lerdo Law).
  • 30. Definition of Mexican nationality.
  • 31. Obligations of Mexicans.
  • 36. Obligations of citizens.
  • 39. The sovereignty of the nation comes from the people.
  • 50. Division of powers: executive, legislative, and judicial.
  • 124. Prohibition on internal customs checkpoints.
  • 128. Inviolability of the Constitution.

A chapter on individual guarantees and judicial proceedings to protect those rights known as amparo was included. It was created, used, and endorsed by the Republic of Yucatán, which is now the State of Yucatán)[11]

Despite problems in Texas, some deputies unsuccessfully proposed a law granting certain rights to foreign colonization by arguing that the country needed to be settled.[3]


During the promulgation of the constitution, the nation was composed of 23 states and one federal territory. Nuevo León merged with Coahuila with the latter name being adopted. The creation of a new state and the admission of three of the four territories as free states of the federation also occurred.

Map of Mexico under the Constitution of 1857 The 23 states of the federation were:
Mapa Mexico Constitucion 1857.PNG

States admitted by the Constitution of 1824 were::[12]

Order Name Order Name
Nuevo León
San Luis Potosí
Coahuila y Texas

New state created::

Order Name Date of Admission
to the Federation
Installation date
of the Congress
27-10-1849[13] 30-01-1850

States admitted in 1857:

Order Name Date of Admission
to the Federation
Installation date
of the Congress
09-12-1856[14] 01-06-1857
09-12-1856[15][16] 19-07-1857

The only federal territory was Baja California. Also, Mexico City was called the State of Valley of Mexico but only if the powers of the Federation moved to another site. On February 26, 1864, Nuevo León was separated from Coahuila and regained its status as a free state.[18]


On December 1856, Pope Pius IX denounced the new Constitution and criticized the Juárez Law and Lerdo Law. In March 1857, Archbishop José Lázaro de la Garza y Ballesteros stated that Catholics could not swear allegiance to the Constitution on pain of excommunication.[3][19]

Justice Minister Ezequiel Montes met in the Holy See with the Cardinal Secretary of State. The Pope accepted the Ley Juárez and disposals of Lerdo Law but demanded the ability to acquire political rights. The negotiations were interrupted by the resignation of President Comonfort.[3]

Conservatives began planning a coup. A conservative general, Félix María Zuloaga , epudiated the Constitution. On 17 December 1857, he proclaimed the Plan of Tacubaya, which sought repeal of the Constitution and the convening of a new Constituent Congress. During the coup against the Congress and the Constitution, several ministers of Presidential Cabinet resigned. The president of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, Benito Juárez, and the president of Congress, Isidoro Olvera, were taken prisoner.

On December 19, Mexican President Ignacio Comonfort adhered to the plan: "I just change my legal title of president, by those of revolutionary miserable."[3] The states of México, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Tlaxcala and Veracruz agreed the plan. Veracruz changed from supporting the conservatives to the liberals in a major blow against Comonfort. Without any alternative, Comonfort resorted to the pure and released Juárez and other political prisoners. On January 11, 1858, Comonfort resigned and left with a guard for Veracruz. On 7 February, he sailed for exile in the United States. As head of the Supreme Court, Juárez became president of Mexico on 21 January 1858.[20]

Immediate impact[edit]

Alegoría de la Constitución de 1857, Petronilo Monroy, 1869.

Conservatives refused to recognize the new constitution or the liberal government. Conservative Félix Zuloaga established a Conservative Government in Mexico City; through the promulgation of Five Lawsrepealed the liberal reforms. Liberal were forced to move the seat of government to Guanajuato. Armies of the two opposing governments clashed in the Reform War.

States of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Colima and Veracruz supported the liberal government of Benito Juárez and the Constitution of 1857. States of México, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Chihuahua, Durango, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, Chiapas, Sonora, Sinaloa, Oaxaca and Yucatán supported the conservative government of Zuloaga.[20]

After the Liberal government won the Reform War, President Juárez and his government added to the Constitution of 1857, the Reform Laws that had been enacted in Veracruz. Because of the civil war, the Constitution remained without effect on almost all the country until January, 1861, when the Liberals returned to the capital. In 1862, as a result of Franco-Mexican War and the establishment of Second Mexican Empire, the Constitution was suspended. In 1867 the liberal, republican forces succeeded in ousting the monarchy, and restored the Republic and bringing the constitution into effect.[21]

Repeal and Constitution of 1917[edit]

On February 5, 1903, a liberal group protesting the regime of Porfirio Díaz placed on the balcony of the offices of the newspaper El hijo de El Ahuizote a great black curly for mourning with the legend "The Constitution is dead," one of many precursors that eventually trigger the Mexican Revolution in 1910, which overthrew Diaz and ended by the enactment of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1917 during the government of Venustiano Carranza.


  • ^a The fueros were privileges that kept the military and clergy to forbade members of these two groups were judged by the law, which effectively put them above the law and that no matter what kind of crime they committed, could not be judged, or in the best cases judged by special courts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Día de la Constitución Mexicana" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2003-08-11.
  2. ^ Martin Quirarte. "Visión panorámica de la historia de México". Librería Porrúa Hnos y Cia, S. A. 27a. edición 1995. México, D. F. Pág. 170-171.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Tena Ramírez, Felipe, op. cit., capítulo "La Constitución de 1857"
  4. ^ Reyes Heroles, Jesús, op.cit., p.200 : "On December 14, 1838 a popular movement emerged in Mexico City that invaded the National Palace acting against the constituted authorities and according to Bocanegra, under the slogan of We want tailless Constitution and pure Federation!. From that came, by the same author, the title of pure, which met the radical sector of the Mexican liberals (according to the book in 1858, a popular slogan was that pure went forward, the moderate did not move and conservative went backward)".
  5. ^ Revueltas, Silvestre Villegas (1997). "El Liberalismo Moderado en México" (in Spanish). ISBN 9789683659996.
  6. ^ Valadés, Diego; Carbonell, Miguel, op. cit., "Fernado Zertuche Muñoz" p.865-867
  7. ^ "El Congreso Constituyente a la Nación al proclamar la nueva Constitución Federal" (in Spanish).
  8. ^ "El clero, intolerante, amenaza a quienes juren la constitución" (in Spanish).
  9. ^ "El presidente Vicente Guerrero expide un decreto para abolir la esclavitud" (in Spanish).
  10. ^ Perry, Juárez and Díaz: Machine Politics in Mexico, p. 10
  11. ^ "El Juicio de Amparo" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  12. ^ "Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos" (in Spanish).
  13. ^ "Portal Estado de Guerrero" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  14. ^ "Portal Gobierno del Estado de Tlaxcala" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2009-12-27.
  15. ^ "Portal Ciudadano de Baja California" (in Spanish).
  16. ^ "el Comentario" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2010-08-10.
  17. ^ "Gobierno del Estado de Yucatán" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2010-04-11.
  18. ^ "Información turística INEGI" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2011-07-22.
  19. ^ Paul Vanderwood, "Betterment for Whom? The Reform Period: 1855-1875" in The Oxford History of Mexico, Michael C. Meyer and William H. Beezley, eds. New York: Oxford University Press 2000, p. 373.
  20. ^ a b El Colegio de México, Op.cit. p.597-598
  21. ^ "La República Restaurada. Una década en busca de un nuevo Estado" (in Spanish).

Further reading[edit]

  • Hamnett, Brian. "The Comonfort presidency, 1855-1857," Bulletin of Latin American Research (1996) 15#1 pp 81–100 in JSTOR
  • Knapp, Frank A, Jr., "Parliamentary Government and the Mexican Constitution of 1857: A Forgotten Phase of Mexican Political History," Hispanic American Historical Review (1953) 33#1 pp. 65–87 in JSTOR
  • Knowlton, Robert J. "Some practical effects of clerical opposition to the Mexican Reform, 1856-1860." The Hispanic American Historical Review 45.2 (1965): 246-256.
  • Perry, Laurens Ballard. Juárez and Díaz: Machine Politics in Mexico. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press 1978.
  • Scholes, Walter V. "Church and State at the Mexican Constitutional Convention, 1856-1857" The Americas, vol. 5, no. 1.
  • Scholes, Walter V. Mexican Politics during the Juárez Regime 1855-1872 (University of Missouri Press, 1957)
  • Sinkin, Richard N. The Mexican Reform, 1856-1876:A Study in Liberal Nation-Building (University of Texas Press, 1979)

In Spanish[edit]

  • Cosío Villegas, Daniel. La constitución de 1857 y sus críticos. Mexico City: SepSetentas 98, 1973.
  • García Granados, Ricardo. La constitución de 1857 y los leyes en México. Mexico City: Tipografía Económica 1906.
  • Guerra, François-Xavier, México: del antiguo régimen a la revolución. Vol. 1. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica 1988.
  • El Colegio de México (2009) Historia general de México, versión 2000 capítulo "El liberalismo militante", Lilia Díaz, México, ed.El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Históricos, ISBN 968-12-0969-9
  • Reyes Heroles, Jesús (2002) Los caminos de la historia, edición de Eugenia Meyer, México, ed.Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, ISBN 978-968-36-9350-1 texto en la web consultado 3 de noviembre de 2009
  • Rabasa, Emilio. La constitución y la dictadura: Estudio sobre la organización política de México. Mexico City: Porrúa 1974.
  • Ruiz Castañeda, María del Carmen. La prensa periódicoa en torno a la Constitución de 1857. Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales, UNAM 1959.
  • Tena Ramírez, Felipe (1997) Leyes fundamentales de México 1808-1992 México, ed.Porrúa ISBN 978-968-432-011-6 texto en la web consultado el 23 de octubre de 2009
  • Valadés, Diego; Carbonell, Miguel (2007) El proceso constituyente mexicano: a 150 años de la Constitución de 1857 y 90 de la Constitución de 1917, "El congreso constituyente de 1856-1857: el decenio de su entorno" Fernando Zertuche Muñoz, México, ed.Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, ISBN 978-970-32-3930-6 texto en la web consultado el 23 de octubre de 2009

External links[edit]