18.6.08

19 June 1867, The death of Maximilian I, of Mexico

Mexico, once a Catholic country has become the poor brother of the United States, it was once not so. The Country of Mexico at once comprised what is now California, Arizona, and New Mexico. It was ruled by a the Noble House of Iturbide, and then later by the Hapsburg line. Today I write a brief preamble to the that noble line's misfortune...

In 1833 Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón was elected President and three years later he lost the vast state of Texas to Sam Houston at the battle of San Jacinto. Having learnt nothing from his defeat there, Santa Anna led the Mexican forces into a disastrous and ill advised war with the US in 1846 and went on to lose half of all Mexico’s territory. In 1853 under what is known as the Gadsden Purchase, he actually sold 77,000 square kilometres of Mexico (all of Southern New Mexico and Arizona) to the US for $10 million, pocketing most of the proceeds for himself. Finally in 1855 the appalling Santa Anna was overthrown.

Things continued to go from bad to worse and became so bad that even among his opponents, many regretted the passing of Agustin and the Empire, which in comparison had been a sea of calm. Between 1822 and 1860 there were more than fifty changes of President and the actual form of government was changed no less than ten times. These fluctuated between total anarchy and outright dictatorship. In the same period there were over 140 military coups, a record that has yet to be surpassed.

In 1860 after yet another bitter civil war, with the backing of the United States, a ruthless and unprincipled radical native Indian lawyer by the name of Benito Juarez seized power. Juarez immediately instigated a bloody anti clerical policy and confiscated much of what was left of the church’s wealth. He also suspended all repayments on foreign debts, with the exception of those owing to the United States, to whom after all he owed his coming to power.

The suspension led to the principal creditors, Britain, France and Spain, sending a joint expeditionary force, which occupied the port of Vera Cruz in December 1861. Juarez fearing the worst gave in and repaid most of the outstanding interest and agreed to honour the debts. Britain and Spain withdrew, their claims having been honoured. But France continued the war marching inland and occupying Mexico City.

The France of Napoleon III had more ambitious goal in mind than merely the of recovery of her debts. Napoleon III heavily influenced by his romantically minded wife the Empress Eugenie, was bent of reviving the Mexican monarchy. He wanted to place a monarch on the throne who would promote the interests of France. The idea was not a new one but there was a new impetus. Prior to 1861 any interference in the affairs of Mexico by any of the European powers would have been viewed as a challenge to the mighty United States and no one wanted to provoke a conflict with them. However by 1861 the USA was embroiled in it’s own bloody conflict, the civil war. The war at home made the government in Washington powerless to intervene. And so encouraged by the Empress Eugenie, who saw herself as the champion of the emasculated Catholic Church in Mexico, Napoleon III took advantage of the situation.
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Brother of the Emperor of Austria-Hungary Franz Joseph, Maximilian I was executed by the Mexican forces on today's date 19 June, in the year 1867. I pause to wonder if the story of Mexico had been different. If there had been no Christeros War.

Dieu le Roy.
de Brantigny

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