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Essay/Term paper: Mexico's economy an politics in 19th century

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities

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Civil war had destroyed both social stability and the economy. Also, few people had enough political experience to bind Mexico together. The first constitution, spread in 1824, giving state legislators the power to elect both the president and the vice president. A result of this constitution, caused a series of weak presidents struggled to form an effective government.

During this time, Mexico"s political elite began to divide into two opposing factions: conservatives and liberals. The conservatives favored a highly centralized government and wanted to maintain the Catholic Church"s power and control of educational facilities.

The liberals wanted a federation of states that was not strictly controlled by a central government. They also sought to limit the power of the Catholic Church, foster public education rather than church-controlled education, and institute social reforms.

Vicente Guerrero, became president in 1829, but was shot and killed in 1831 by forces led by conservative political and military leader Anastasio Bustamante. Revolt followed revolt until 1833, when Antonio López de Santa Anna was elected president.

In 1834 a political crisis resulted in the overthrow of the constitution of 1824. A new centralist constitution, which stripped the Mexican states of their autonomy, was enacted in 1836. Protests against centralization encouraged the Texans to rebel against Mexican authority in 1835, in what came to be known as the Texas Revolution.

Santa Anna was called back to the presidency to attempt to save the republic. Mexican forces were defeated in battle after battle, however, and U.S. troops occupied much of northern Mexico by the end of the year. Mexico City fell on September 14, 1847, and Mexican forces surrendered soon thereafter. The Río Grande was fixed as the southern boundary of Texas. Territory, which now forms the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming, became part of the United States.

Liberal rebel leader Juan Álvarez became the provisional president of Mexico. The 1855 takeover of the government by the liberals began a period known as La Reforma, in which liberal leaders sought to reduce the power of the church and the military in Mexican politics and society. Later that year Ignacio Comonfort, a liberal who sought a more gradual pace of reform, replaced President Álvarez. In 1857 the liberals enacted a new constitution, which reestablished a federal form of government. It provided for individual rights, universal male suffrage, freedom of speech, and other civil liberties. The constitution also abolished special courts for members of the military or clergy, and ordered the church and other institutions to auction off any land or buildings not absolutely necessary for their operation.

Conservative groups bitterly opposed the new constitution. In 1858 a political revolt overthrew President Comonfort and Juárez became provisional president. Soon afterward conservatives who had participated in the revolt forced Juárez to flee Mexico City; he established a new seat of government in Veracruz. Mexico now had two competing governments: one led by conservatives based in Mexico City, and one led by liberals based in Veracruz. Conservative forces controlled much of central Mexico, but they were unable to drive the Juárez forces from Veracruz. As provisional president, Juárez issued a decree nationalizing church property, separating church and state, and suppressing religious orders. The Juárez government gradually gained the upper hand, and by 1861 the liberal armies had decisively defeated the conservative forces.

France, Britain, and Spain decided to intervene jointly to protect their investments in Mexico. While the United States continued to recognize the Juárez regime, it could offer little help because of its own civil war. Just as Maximilian hovered on the verge of establishing control over the entire country, events in Europe prompted the French to withdraw their troops in 1867. The Juárez forces reconquered the country, and troops under General Porfirio Díaz occupied Mexico City. Maximilian was besieged at Querétaro and forced to surrender. He was executed by a Mexican firing squad in 1867.

Although Benito Juárez now faced some opposition from other liberals who opposed his efforts to alter the Mexican constitution, he won the presidential elections of December 1867. In the struggle to put down chronic political and social violence in the aftermath of the French intervention, Juárez sought to draw liberals and conservatives together in some sort of political consensus. He also suspended some constitutional guarantees and worked to strengthen the presidency, which prompted critics to accuse him of running a dictatorship.

Juárez died in office in 1872 and was succeeded by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, head of the Mexican Supreme Court. In 1876, when Lerdo de Tejada sought reelection, Díaz led another revolt. Successful this time, he became president in 1877.

He would remain in office until 1911 and his long rule would become known as the Porfiriato. Completion of the nation"s railway network and its links with that of the United States received considerable attention, and Díaz did everything in his power to attract foreign investment. In 1888 Mexico negotiated a debt consolidation plan that opened the way for a flood of foreign money to pour into the nation. The country opened up new markets for its mineral and agricultural products and brought new land under cultivation. Díaz also laid the foundation for industrial development.


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