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Valentino Gomez Farias and Anastasio Bustamente
From Mexico and Her Military Chieftains by Fay Robinson, published 1847
[Photo: Reproduction of a 19th century portrait by L. Garcés in the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico City] Valentine Gomez Farias is one of the most eminent men in Mexico, and has always been found in the same phase of the political world, a partisan of radical reform. His name has appeared in the records of every event since the revolution, having been a diputado to the first congresses; always the defender of popular liberties, he opposed Iturbide when the latter made himself a monarch, although one of his partisans at the commencement of his career; supported both Pedraza and Victoria, and has always been willing to stand by any one who would take a step towards the advancement of popular liberty. He first appears in a prominent position when, at the expiration of Pedraza's presidency, Santa Anna was chosen to succeed him with Farias as his vice-president. The state of affairs in Mexico at this period was most peculiar. Santa Anna was the constitutional president, and sought to destroy the instrument under which he held office so as to extend his authority, while Gomez Farias, a liberal, or "exaltado," was anxious to increase the privileges of the people, and assimilate the government to that of the United States his great object of admiration. In the congress of 1833 and 1834, there was a strong majority in favor of the vice-president, and decrees were passed or proposed destroying much of the incubus of oppression, by which the church, heterodox in the eyes of the Catholic world, as it was repugnant to the principles of a free people, would have been removed. Santa Anna long protested against these innovations, and at length began to hint that he would employ force to counteract the "views of the reformers." This was a hazardous scheme, the chances of which, however, he had well calculated; and by one of those maneuvers which be so well understood, be began to concentrate his forces around the capital. He proceeded so far as to post a guard at the door of the senate chamber, and gave to the officer in command, Captain Cortez, orders to exclude all but the senators known to be his friends. At this outrage, Cortez, who had been educated in the United States, represented, in a conversation not long afterwards, that though he obeyed his general, he felt as if he were guilty of matricide, knowing that he destroyed the liberties of his country. The consequence was, that the congress immediately declared the freedom of its discussions invaded, and on the 14th of May, 1834, suspended its sessions. This is the last thing a deliberative body should do. It should remember it has no dignity separate from that of its constituents; that it is its duty to do all things, to suffer all things, rather than degrade the character of the nation. A senate should never fly from a foreign enemy; and it may be with some propriety maintained, that it should sit, like the old Romans, calmly in the capitol till Gauls plucked at the beards of the senators.
The senate of Mexico, however, was not Roman. It was not even supported by the prejudices of the people. It is one of the peculiarities of the Spanish race, on both continents, to love titles. The old Castilian, like the soldier in Kotzebue's "Pizarro" proof to bribes, can be won by an appeal to kindness and vanity. The race is everywhere fond of titles, and consequently jealous of those who possess higher distinction than themselves. Mier y Teran, when he dispersed the congress of Chilpanzingo, said "that instead of attending to the interests of the people, its members were occupied in taking care of themselves, and calling each other excellentisimos," and this account seems to exhibit all the characteristics of the legislative assemblies of the country, before or since. The consequence of such a state of affairs could not but be jealousy on the part of the people, the existence of which Santa Anna took advantage of immediately on the suspension of its sessions by the congress, Santa Anna appealed to the people by a proclamation, in which he set forth his views in relation to the preservation of religion, order, and law, all of which, he said, were threatened by the vice-president, Farias, and his tyrannical majority in the legislature. How potent this address was, will be understood by a reference to a subsequent chapter, in which is exhibited a statement of the condition of the church. The minds of the people having been prepared by this address, a pronunciamento was effected on the 25th of May, at Cuernavaca, a town of the department of Mexico, about thirty miles from the capital. The plan proposed on this occasion was strange: it put a negative on all prospect of improvement from the extension of religious liberty, by a provision that all laws affecting church property should be repealed; it destroyed liberty of political opinion, by an enactment that all the partisans of the federal system should be banished, that the actual congress had ceased to exist, and that another should be convened, the members of which were to possess full powers to re-organize the government. This plan was almost universally adhered to, and the session of congress finally ceased. The new congress met on the 1st of January, 1835, as has previously been described, and the first act was to declare the vice-president, Farias, disfranchised, and he was accordingly compelled to retire to New Orleans, where he resided as lately as 1838. It then proceeded to a series of discussions, relative to the form of government, & c., the result of which was a declaration that congress might make any alterations it pleased in the organic form of the government, so that a republican constitution existed, and the Catholic religion was not interfered with.
During the presidency of Bustamente, who seems far purer and less vindictive than any other of the public men of Mexico, the prohibition under which Gomez Farias lay was removed, and he returned to Mexico. Bustamente, it will be recollected, had been a friend of Farias, or, at least, at one period of his life, had professed as devoted an attachment to the old federal, system; but during the absence of Santa Anna on his expedition against Texas, he had become chief magistrate under the constitution which declared the Mexican republic one and indivisible, and procured the exile of the subject of this notice. All accounts represent Farias as a pure and disinterested patriot, as one who, had he lived in the United States, would have acted with Jefferson and the other defenders of the greatest liberty against all and any usurpations. Bustamente, on the other hand, was a man of peace, a pupil of that school which believes whatever is safest is best, and which would inculcate the maxim that all things are better than a violation of public peace. Madame Calderon, in her entertaining book, represents him as boldly avowing these opinions, admirable, perhaps, for a private citizen, but altogether unworthy of the chief of a nation. The minister, however, often finds it convenient to renounce the opinions he had professed when seeking power, and Bustamente, under the old and the new constitution, were different beings. The sanction of an oath, also, gave him an excuse for acting as he did.
No sooner had Farias landed in Mexico, which he did in the latter part of 1839, the date it is almost impossible now to ascertain, than he set to work to arrange his plans, and in General Urrea, already somewhat known from his participation in the campaign of Texas, he found a hand ready to execute what his head would suggest. This pronunciamento was made on the 13th of July 1840. At the head of two regiments, one that del Comercio, the commandant of which was the celebrated Count Cortina, now distinguished as being not only one of the wealthiest, but most erudite men in Mexico, but who appears to have sustained Bustamente in this movement, they rushed to the palace del Gobierno, and imprisoned the president. The whole circumstances are, however, best explained by the government bulletin, an extract from which follows:
"Yesterday, at midnight, Urrea, with a handful of troops belonging to the garrison and its neighborhood, took possession of the National Palace, surprising the guard, and committing the incivility of imprisoning his excellency the president, Don Anastasio Bustamente, the commander-in-chief, the Mayor de la Plaza, and other chiefs. Don Gabriel Valencia, chief of the plana mayor (the staff), General Don Antonio Mozo, and the minister of war, Don Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, reunited in the citadel, prepared to attack the pronunciados, who, arming the lowest populace, took possession of the towers of the cathedral, and of some of the highest edifices in the centre of the city. Although summoned to surrender, at two in the afternoon firing began, and continued till midnight, recommencing at five in the morning, and only ceasing at intervals. The colonel of the sixth regiment, together with a considerable part of his corps, who were in the barracks of the palace, escaped and joined the government troops, who have taken the greatest part of the positions near the square and the palace. His excellency the president, with a part of the troops which had pronounced in the palace, made his escape on the morning of the sixteenth, putting himself at the head of the troops who have remained faithful to their colors, and at night published the following proclamation:
Previous to this the president had escaped. One proclamation in Mexico alwalys produces another, and Farias, who had been proclaimed president by his party, issued the following reply:
Besides this, a circular was sent to all the governors and commandants of the different departments, from the Palace of the Federal Provisional Government, to the effect:
Thus the hall opened, and as proclamations are valueless everywhere without force, and especially so in Mexico, the several documents were sustained by arms. Gomez Farias, though no military man, exhibited himself every where, and it was clearly enough shown that his cause was popular with the people and almost with the military, by the impunity with which he rode through the city. Mexico was, however, devastated; (here was almost a want of the necessaries of life in the capital, and the lives of inoffensive citizens were lost in the public squares and private dwellings of the national capital).
On the 19th, the following proclamation was issued:
Thus stood affairs for several days; and Mexico la hermosa was becoming a ruin. The palace of the archbishop was made a fortress by the party of Farias, a circumstance which, added to the fact that he had required, as one of the bases of any new organization of government, that the lands in possession of ecclesiastical bodies should be liable to alienation, and should pay taxes, as (lid the property of individuals, enabled the government to make representations that be had required the confiscation of the holy vessels of the cathedrals, and other churches, and thereby to alienate from him the people, whose superstition was more powerful than their patriotism. At this juncture, came a letter from Santa Anna, dated Mango de Clavo, July 19, in which he professed his willingness to assist the president in allaying this commotion. This letter is remarkable; as Farias and (Urrea, the latter of whom was never known to act but as the lieutenant of Santa Anna), had everywhere represented the last as their friend: and Bustamente at once took advantage of the circumstance, by publishing this adhesion, and others received from Valencia, Galendo, &c., in a bulletin, which, moreover, stated that it would be seen, in spite of all misrepresentations, how devoted Santa Anna was to the national cause. The people of Mexico were not deceived. They saw in this Janus-faced policy that Santa Anna, whatever might have been his professions, now made a catspaw of the pure Farias, and was seeking to grasp the fruits of a contest his high-minded contemporary had entered into for the good of his country.
On the 15th of July, it is well enough here to state, the following proclamation was made:
The object of this was, that as Farias and his friends stated that Bustamente had been released, on condition that he would restore federalism, the public might be aware, either that such a promise bad been extorted, or if made in good faith, would be disrerarded. On even the same day, Urrea, who had command of the troops of the federalists, proposed the following terms for a cessation of arms:
All of which were rejected by the party of Bustamente. On the 23d, the archbishop, acting in the capacity of mediator, which his social rank and functions entitled him to do, invited all parties to a conference in his palace, a proposition unanimously acceded to; but unfortunately, the truce was broken, and a bloody contest ensued; during the course of which, the calle de Monterillo, in which were the head-quarters of Bustamente, since he had left the palace del gobierno, ran with blood. In spite of the rejection of the terms proposed by Urrea, Gomez Farias, on the same day, offered the following:
These propositions were refused, and every means was used to prejudice the people against those who would have saved them; at the same time it was stated that Santa Anna was approaching the capital. The more the revolution progressed, the more disgusting it became: evidently aware they were acting falsely to the interests of Mexico, every opportunity was taken to misrepresent the leaders of the revolt in the eyes of the people. A yet more unworthy system was pursued; the taxes were lowered to gain the support of the leperos, who thronged the capital. The consequence of this was, that on the 27th the president was enabled to say:
Similar documents were sent to all the departments of the republic, and thus terminated the abortive but honest attempt of Farias to reform the government of his country. The, following letter of Santa Anna may be considered its finale:
This plan had for its object the political regeneration of the republic, and stated that six years previously a constitution had been adopted arbitrarily, which destroyed the lawful government of 1824, and which appropriated to a very few all the advantages of the social compact. The time, it stated, had come, when nothing but the exertions of the whole nation would win its ultimate salvation, and place Mexico in the position she should occupy among the nations of the earth. The first and fundamental article restored the constitution of 1824, and called for a congress to be composed of four deputies from each state. The constitution, after a scrutiny by this body, was to be submitted to the people of each state for approval. The third promises that the Catholic church shall be respected (respectada); the form of government was guarantied to be popular, representative, and liberal, and absolute equality was insured. The fourth provided for a temporary government in the capital, whose functions were to be limited exclusively to foreign affairs. Other clauses provided for the refunding of taxes illegally levied, the closing of all internal custom houses, and the prohibition for ever of all taxes having such an object as the odious Alcabala of the Spanish rule. All political offences since the revolution were absolutely pardoned. Where is the fault of this plan? It has not even one selfish clause; yet it did not succeed. Farias also published a letter denying any design to touch the cathedral plate, and appended to this was a letter from the archbishop, stating explicitly that there had been no outrages committed in any of the ecclesiastical buildings occupied by his followers.
On the night of the 18th of August, articles of capitulation were signed on both sides; and Gen. Andrade, in the absence of Urrea, led the pronunciados from the city to Tlanapantla, whence they dispersed. . When all was evidently lost, Gomez Farias disappeared; arid Madame Calderon says, he was supposed to be concealed in the city. His party did not, however, lay down their arms but on the following terms:
Gomez Farias thus for a time disappeared from the history of Mexico. When Bustamente was expelled from his country he went to Europe, and amid the double-faced court of Louis Philippe, was highly feted and honored. It is a matter of some self-congratulation that Farias sought the shores of the United States. Far be from us the design to impugn the motives of Bustamente, who seems to have won the hearts of all who came near him. The aristocratically disposed Madame Calderon, altogether English in her views, and consequently disposed to support with her ready and powerful pen that clique which would favor the interests of her country, and as the wife of a Spanish arnbassador necessarily remembering that the representative of the Spanish crown who preceded him, was a king in power and almost in station; and the democratic ambassador (comparatively speaking), all unite in giving testimony in favor of his honesty. Of this there is incontestable proof in the facts, that he laid down his public honors and his high power, poorer than when he entered the national palace as president, and in his long exile was indebted for all the civility he received, not to wealth, but worth. It may not be unsuitable here to refer to some of the incidents of the life of Bustamente.
When, in September 1810, Hidalgo and Allende raised the cry of independence, which gathered around them most of the true hearts of Mexico, Bustamente was about thirty years of age, a physician in the city of Guadalajara, which is about fifty leagues west of Mexico. He was already in possession in that career of sorne reputation, when he felt himself called on to abandon it to participate in the efforts being made against his countrymen, the insurgents, by Spaniards. During the four months which followed the first pronunciamento, he had under the orders of Calleja fought against the cura Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama, and Abasolo, the four principal figures of the great scene of Mexican liberty. He was a participator as a subaltern, it is said, at the battle of Calderon, and acted so bravely as to attract general attention to him. The result of this sad battle has already been described, and we will not now follow Bustamente through the bloodstained episodes of this cruel war, every page of the history of which is interesting as it is horrible. Suffice it to say that at length he joined the patriots, disgusted at the outrages of Calleja and Vanegas, and became a general in the republican ranks. It is a pleasant task to say that one of the first efforts of his authority was to take down from the stakes to which they had been affixed, the heads of Hidalgo and his comrades, whom he had opposed, and have them buried with the rites of the church; for they had been inhumanly treated as persons heretical and accursed. This was the year of the revolt of Iturbide, to whom Bustamente was always loyal, and ill which for the first time he found himself in direct opposition to Santa Anna, who was the first to declare against, as he had been the first to hail him the emperor.
From this time to 1828, when the constitutional presidency was terminated, Bustamente participated in all affairs of state. On the 30th of November, an insurrection broke out in the capital, for the purpose of annulling the election of Pedraza, who had succeeded Victoria, the consequence of which was the sacking of the seat of government, the expulsion of Pedraza, and the accession to power of Guerrero, who, though called vice-president, was the chief magistrate defacto. In the next year, Guerrero shared the fate of his predecessor, except that death, not exile, was his portion. In December, 1829, Bustamente commanded a division encamped at Jalapa, when, as happened often in that portion of the Roman republic Mexico has ever seemed to imitate, the soldiers proclaimed their general the ruler of their country. On the 18th of December, he set out for the capital, which he approached with his indefatigable soldiers with such rapidity, that Guerrero was unable to collect a sufficient force to oppose him, and deserted the seat of government, the defence of which he confided to a subordinate officer. Mexico cannot be approached from Jalapa without a great detour, except over a long and exposed bridge across the lakes which are on the western side of the city. This causeway existed in the time of Montezuma, and across it Cortes marched to destroy the Aztec empire. Its communication was at the barrier of Guadalupe, where, as well as at the national palace, earthen defences were hastily erected. The merchants who remembered that in the same month of the preceding year, Mexico had been pillaged, made other preparations for defence, and fortified their warehouses. All who have ever been in any city of Spanish America, are aware that every building is a castle, and in the hands of brave men, would be a serious impediment to an enemy.
Parties of civicos (armed citizens) also patrolled the streets. This body was created in imitation of the national guard of France; but instead of being the protectors, like them, of public liberty, are composed, generally, of the dregs of the populace; and always have been found ready to follow any enemy of public peace. Bustamente had marched to within a few leagues of Mexico between the 18th and 24th. The night of the 22d and 23d was very dark, and a thick mist hung, like an impenetrable veil, over the causeway, and concealed, from the sentinels at the barrier of Guadalupe, a black mass, which advanced rapidly towards this outlet of the city. At length, the body of men, for such was this mass, was discovered. "Quien anda?" cried the sentinel. "Amigos," was the reply. "Que gente?" cried the sentinel again. "Tropas de Mejico." They were suffered to pass in tinder the impression that they were partisans of Guerrero; and as they passed, the drowsy guards asked, "Donde han vmdes dejado Bustamente?" (Where have you left Bustamente?) and were amply satisfied by being told, at Cordova. Another, and yet another body of troops, were suffered to pass in a similar manner. At daybreak, these parties united into one column, and proceeded rapidly down the streets of San Francisco and Plateros, to the plaza del palacio, of which, as well as of the terraces of the great palace, they took possion. In but a short time, a rumor was spread through the city, that a regiment of insurgents had passed the defences in disguise; and crowds collected in time to see them commence an attack on the startled garrison. Shot flew over the heads of the crowd; but all were too anxious about the result to leave. Bustamente at last entered the palace, and by energetic measures restored tranquillity, and prevented any recurrence of the scenes of 1828.
Thus was accomplished the victory of the Yorkinos over the Escoceses, referred to in the account of the presidency of Guerrero. Bustamente was for three years at the head of the government, which was in fact administered by Don Lucas Alaman. During his government he sought to endow Mexico with the benefits of art and manufactures, and established the banco de avio to protect them, and employed eminent artisans of other countries to instruct the natives. Mexico continued, however, in a condition of turmoil, in consequence of the hostilities of Guerrero with Alvarez and Armijo, in the south of the republic, a state of affairs only terminated by the death of the unfortunate president. Of all participation in this the world has acquitted Bustamente, and attributed it to his minister Alaman, in the life of whom will be fully detailed all its circumstances.
In 1833, when Bustamente was replaced by Pedraza, and Santa Anna become president, after the expiration of Pedraza's term, congress was induced by Santa Anna to banish a number of his enemies, among whom Bustamente had the honor to be included, and was sent under an escort to Vera Cruz, whence be expected to to to France. The ship which he purposed to sail in, was not however ready, and Santa Anna caused him to be confined in a bulk beneath the castle with the vilest criminals, an indignity base as it was useless. In 1836 he visited Europe, where he attracted much attention, and it is said devoted himself to the study of the peaceful career he had adopted in early life. When Texas revolted he crossed the Atlantic, and asked to be permitted to draw his sword in defence of the rights of the Mexican nation he had once governed. He was more fortunate than be expected; the imprisonment of Santa Anna having allowed the nation to act as it pleased, he was chosen president on the 25th of January, 1837, and was inaugurated on the 20th of April of the same year. His opponents were General Bravo, his old minister Alaman, and Santa Anna. The latter, on his return, was accused of having sacrificed the interest of the nation by an onerous treaty he had concluded at Washington, but found Bustamente had forgotten all his private wrongs in the high functions of his office.
A few days after his accession to power, Bustamente, to allay the impatience of his troops, who had long been unpaid, and the demands of whom the treasury was unable to meet, paid to them from his own funds, ten thousand dollars. He also concluded a definitive treaty with Spain on the 8th of May, by which that power finally consented to recognize the independence of Mexico, and renounced all hopes of conquering it. A severer ordeal for any ruler cannot be conceived than that to which Bustamente was subjected. The Mexican people have ever been prone to attribute to the government all their misfortunes; and the capture of San Juan by the French won for him many enemies. The penury of the country also added to his difficulties. Two years after this event, congress levied an impost of fifteen per centum on all articles brought into the city of Mexico. Commerce was already depressed, and this circumstance but added to the public distress: the many murmurs which were raised by the people, were eagerly taken advantage of. There has always been in Mexico a party of sincere men, lovers of the system of government of the United States, who neglect no opportunity to achieve their country's independence, who were on this occasion headed by Farias. A series of fights occurred, which filled up the whole space between the 12th and the 27th of July, the result of which has been already described in the preceding part of this chapter, and the effect of which was that Farias was driven into exile. There is, however, one episode which deserves particular mention. On one occasion the cannon had beaten in the wall of the national palace, and it was evident all would soon be over. The staff and friends of Bustamente besought him to fly, but he refused, saying that honor and duty required him to remain. Just then a band rushed into the room, crying, "Death to Bustamente!" The president advanced towards them, threw off his cloak, and showed them his glittering uniform. This intrepidity saved his life, for the insurgents withdrew without daring to lift a band against the representative of their nation. The popular cause, however, was but partially successful; congress removed the new tax, and Bustamente retained his power. In the course of but a few months, a new revolution broke out which changed the state of affairs. Bustamente, disgusted with power, resigned and returned to Europe in the months of September and October, 1842. He passed some time in travelling, and finally established himself in Genoa, where he remained until the new troubles of 1844 and 1845 induced him again to seek his native land.
In June, 1845, Santa Anna arrived at Havana, in the English steamer Medway, and met Bustamente on his way to Mexico. Had the ex-dictator gone to New Orleans, he would have met Farias on a similar voyage. In the two victims of his last ambitious intrigue, he read a lesson that honesty is the best policy, for, though widely differing in opinions, both Bustamente and Farias are equally honest. Both Bustamente and Farias have since participated in public affairs in a civil capacity; the one having been president of the congress at the time of Paredes' inauguration, and the other having contributed to the revolution which restored Santa Anna. Events have recently occurred which change the whole aspect of affairs, and have produced a state of things which may conduce ultimately to the salvation of Mexico, provided that country does not blindly shut her eyes to the demonstrations of experience, and confide in the pretence of a false republicanism, which must fade before the truth of institutions more liberal in character and faithfully executed.
The president, Bustamente, must not be confounded with his kinsmen Don Carlos Bustamente, celebrated as the author and editor of many works on Mexican history and the memorials of the Aztec race, and Don Jose Maria Bustamente, well known as a botanist and contributor to the natural history of his country. The whole family are said to be distinguished by high talent and devotion to Mexico.
SONS OF DEWITT