From Empire to Republic - Arthur H. Noll

Conflict Between the Republic and the Empire

To the apparently few adherents of the Republic and of Constitutional Government in the northern States of Mexico, the events set forth in the preceding chapter must have been disheartening in the extreme. It must have seemed that the end had come to all possibility of a Republican form of government, or of a Constitution that would maintain the rights of individuals irrespective of class and in the face of the claims of the Church. But to the iron-willed man who was at the head of the apparently defeated Republican Government, there v/as no such word as surrender when applied to a great principle.

Juarez felt that the French army was the concrete obstacle he had to overcome. All else was for the time a mere incident to that. He foresaw the end, and with Indian stoicism he bided his time, viewing meanwhile, perhaps with grim satisfaction, all the difficulties which he knew would beset the attempts of Maximilian to maintain himself, and of the Clerical party to keep its hold upon the government of Mexico and to rule it through the Empire. It was well for him and for his country that through this grave crisis he had the tenacity of purpose which is characteristic of the race to which he belonged.

In the middle of August, 1864, Juarez was forced to leave Monterey upon the approach of Imperial forces; and after some detentions in Viesca, Mapimi, and Nazas,—necessary for the re-organization of the slender forces of the Republican Government,—he went to Chihuahua. Here he was able to maintain his government until the following August (1865), when the approach of some Imperial troops again caused the removal of his provisional capital. Accompanied by twenty-two of his most trusted friends, the President went to the frontier town of Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juarez), and there established his government.

Among his twenty-two close adherents (afterwards dubbed "the Immaculates") was Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, brother of the late Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, who, in the capacity of Minister of State, exerted a powerful influence upon the affairs of the Republic even in those dark days. From Paso del Norte, Lerdo issued a circular declaring that it was the firm determination of the President not to abandon the territory of Mexico, but to maintain the struggle against the invaders of his country. The circular was followed by a letter from the President confirming it. Both documents gave proof of the energy of the President and of his faith in the final triumph of constitutional government. Juarez declined several invitations from the Commandant at Fort Bliss, on the United States side of the Rio Grande, and gave no opportunities for the enemies of the Republic to gain the impression that he had abandoned the territory.

The term for which, under the Constitution, Juarez had been elected President, expired while he was a fugitive from his capital. It would scarcely seem possible that the Presidency of Mexico under such circumstances could be the object of any one's ambition; stranger yet that one who must have known the situation as well as did General Jesus Gonzalez Ortega should have aspired either to the title or the office. Ortega had virtually abandoned the office of President of the Supreme Court of Justice to which he had been elected, the Court itself having practically dissolved during the peregrinations of the Executive department of the government. Yet in November, 1865, Ortega, by means of a pronunciamento, claimed the executive power. The term of Juarez had expired, he announced, and there had been no election to fill the vacancy thus created. The Presidency was therefore his by virtue of his office as President of the Supreme Court, in the same manner as that in which Juarez had himself first attained thereto.

It was a situation calling for the exercise of that cool judgment which was one of the chief characteristics of Benito Juarez. Willingly would he have embraced this opportunity to escape the cares of the office of President of Mexico, when it was engaged solely in struggling against adversity. But Juarez clearly foresaw the disasters that must inevitably overtake the Republic if a change were effected in the government under the circumstances then existing. He maintained that his term of office legally continued until, in time of peace, constitutional elections could take place and his successor could be elected; and in this position he was sustained by all the Republican authorities remaining in the Northern States.

Probably Juarez was wise enough to see that his best course was to wait for the Empire to expire felo de se. It had, in fact, already reached its zenith, and was beginning to decline. Its earliest months had been devoted to instituting the paraphernalia of Imperial dignity in its alien home. There can be no question of the genuineness of Maximilian's efforts to "regenerate Mexico,"—to quote the phrase he loved to use. That he made every effort to familiarize himself with his new country and its needs must also remain unquestioned. But after the novelty of the situation wore off, he failed to give that satisfaction to his partisans which had been expected. He found that Mexico was not easily governed by the mere issuance of decrees, however wisely and beneficently conceived. He discovered also that the professed partisans of the Empire were not to be trusted, and were not at peace among themselves. Efforts which he made to placate the Liberals, while failing of their direct object, alienated the members of his own party. The difficulties of the situation were enhanced by the fickleness of the Mexican character. We have seen how much Juarez had to contend with in this trait of the Mexicans. Now Maximilian found that the many who had deserted Juarez for what was then apparently the more popular cause, were equally ready to desert the Imperialists when occasion offered.

The Emperor came also into collision with the Clerical party very early. Though decreeing that the Roman Catholic religion was the established religion of the country, Maximilian declared that other religions might be tolerated under some restrictions. The earliest demand of the Clerical party was that the property taken from the Church by the decree of sequestration should be restored. But inasmuch as this property had gone into the hands of third parties, and it was impossible to recover it, the "Reform Laws" of Juarez were allowed to remain in force. Upon the declaration of the Emperor to that effect, the Papal Nuncio then in Mexico at once withdrew, signifying thereby not only that the Clerical party in Mexico was offended, but the Papal See as well.

Between Marshal Bazaine and the Mexican Emperor, during the early days of the Empire, the warmest friendship existed. So great was the Emperor's confidence in the integrity and good judgment of the Commander-in-chief of the French army, that it was not difficult for the latter, in contravention of the Treaty of Miramar, to dictate in many cases the policy of the Empire. When, however, the French soldier discovered that the interests of Maximilian and those of Napoleon were not absolutely identical, he hesitated not as to whom he owed the higher allegiance. He had nothing further to expect in Mexico, while a career awaited him in France, and the friendship of Napoleon III was greatly to be preferred to that of his puppet on the throne of Mexico, whose Empire was already hopelessly in debt and rapidly falling to pieces.

The final downfall of the Empire may be directly traced to the action of the government at Washington. The clouds of Civil War, hanging so heavily over the United States when the Treaty of London was signed, had furnished Napoleon III with the opportunity to carry out his schemes. He looked for the dismemberment of the United States and the permanent establishment of the Southern Confederacy. That the Confederate States of America and the Mexican Empire should be kindly disposed to each other, was thought to be quite natural,—although this might seem strange in view of the fact that the people of the Southern Confederacy were fighting for principles almost identical with those which Juarez was striving to establish, and against a principle of centralization which he was opposing. It was one of the inconsistencies of politics that the professedly democratic Southern Confederacy, avowedly opposed to Imperialism, should be looked upon as the ally of the Empire in Mexico.

Nevertheless, news of every Confederate victory was received in France with enthusiasm, and the French newspapers made much of the reports of a public demonstration in Richmond, the capital of the Confederate States, on the receipt of the news, in 1863, that the French army had captured Puebla. The Confederate States had given definite pledges that an alliance with the Mexican Empire might be counted on as soon as the Confederacy gained its independence. It was an important feature of the Napoleonic Plan.

As long as the United States were engaged in war within their own borders, and especially during the dark days when it was doubtful what the issues of the struggle would be, nothing could be done by the government at Washington beyond protesting against the action of the French Emperor in trampling upon the rights claimed in the Monroe Doctrine. The United States government remained firm in its early recognition of the Juarez government. In fact, in July, 1862, it had been proposed by the United States government to loan Mexico sufficient funds for the payment of all her foreign debts (some seventy-two millions of dollars), and to take as a pledge for the repayment thereof in five years the provinces of Lower California and Sonora—about one hundred and forty thousand square miles. But Juarez felt compelled to decline this offer, as well as another of a loan of ten million dollars on easy terms but with the same pledge of territory as security for its repayment. The charge, once widely circulated, that Juarez had negotiated the sale of, or was desirous of selling, some of the Mexican territory, may have been based upon these offers of the United States. The efforts of Napoleon to sell Sonora to a prominent Confederate sympathizer belong, not to a history of the struggle for Constitutional Government in Mexico, but to a more detailed account of the Second Mexican Empire. Maintenance of the integrity of Mexican territory was one of the political principles which Juarez had adopted; and he was true to it, even when it might seem to have been the better statesmanship or better financial policy to have relaxed it.

The government at Washington had declined to pay any regard to the notification received from the "Under Secretary of State and Foreign Affairs of the Regency of the Empire of Mexico," of the action of "The Assembly of Notables" on the tenth of July, 1863. Its relations with the Minister Plenipotentiary of the Juarez government remained unbroken throughout the years when it must have seemed to many that the Empire was triumphant and that the restoration of the Republic was well-nigh hopeless. On every occasion that offered, it reiterated the interest it felt in the "safety, welfare, and prosperity of Mexico," and whenever it mentioned Mexico it implied thereby the constitutionally organized government of the Republic there. At first it accepted, as though made in good faith, the declaration of France that she was at war with Mexico "for the purpose of asserting just claims" and obtaining payment for just debts due from that nation, and not for the purpose of colonizing or acquiring any territory for herself or for any other nation; that she did not intend to occupy Mexico permanently, nor do violence to the sovereignty of the people; and that "as soon as her griefs were satisfied and she could do so with honor," she would quit Mexico entirely.

So long as these assurances were relied upon, the United States maintained a position of strict neutrality, disclaiming any "right or disposition to intervene by force in the internal affairs of Mexico, to establish or maintain a Republic or even a domestic government, or overthrow an Imperial or foreign one if Mexico chose to establish or accept it." But as it was clearly stated in a letter from the Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, to the United States Minister to France, September twenty-sixth, 1863, the government at Washington claimed to know that "the inherent normal opinion of Mexico favored a government there, republican in form and domestic in its organization, in preference to any monarchical institution to be imposed from abroad, . . . that such normal opinion of the people of Mexico resulted largely from the influence of popular opinion in the United States, and was constantly invigorated by it." The government of the United States was prepared, however, to declare that "should France determine to adopt a policy in Mexico adverse to American opinions and sentiments, that policy would probably scatter seeds which would be fruitful of jealousies which might ultimately ripen into collision between France and the United States and other American Republics."

When the purposes of France became apparent beyond all possibility of doubt, the Senate and House of Representatives at Washington passed a joint resolution to the effect that the occupation of Mexico by the Emperor of the French, or by "the person indicated by him as Emperor of Mexico," was an offence to the people of the United States; that the movements of France, and the threatened movements of "an Empire improvised by the Emperor of the French," if insisted upon, demanded war; and this resolution was furthermore declared to embody nothing inconsistent with what had been held out to France from the beginning. Although the United States did not at that time seem in a position to carry out its threat of war with France, there was no hesitancy about the assertion of the "Monroe Doctrine," and it was hoped that the means to maintain the position thus asserted would be forthcoming if required.

All protests and warnings were, however, unheeded by France so long as the war continued in the United States. But before the summer of 1865, the entire aspect of affairs took a change totally unexpected by Napoleon III. The Civil War came to an end, without any dismemberment of the United States. The Mexican Empire was thus left without any prospect of an ally in the North American continent; while the government at Washington was free to give to the French Intervention the attention it demanded. It returned to the subject, and pursued it with vigor. It declared in the most emphatic terms that France had trespassed upon the rights which the United States claimed as set forth in the "Monroe Doctrine," both in attempting European colonization in some of the Mexican States, and by establishing and maintaining an Empire on the American continent. It demanded that the French troops be withdrawn from Mexico without delay, and that all attempts at colonization cease; and it emphasized these demands by ordering an officer of high rank in its army to the side of President Juarez, and by placing an "army of observation "on the Mexican, frontier.

So resolute was the tone of this diplomatic correspondence, and so unmistakable was the disposition of the government at Washington to enforce its demands by war should this be necessary, that these warnings could no longer be disregarded. Napoleon, finding public opinion in France strongly opposed to his projects and their continuance, yielded to the situation; he agreed to withdraw his troops from Mexico within a specified time, and to abstain from further interference in Mexican affairs or attempts at colonization in that country. The triumph of the "Monroe Doctrine" was complete.

It was after this course had been agreed upon, but before the mobilization of the French troops, preparatory to their final withdrawal from the country, had begun, that Maximilian took the step which sealed his own fate and that of his Empire. It was the issuing of the famous Decree of October 3, 1865. The Mexicans, who are expert in devising nicknames, often call it the "Decree of Huitzilopochtli, "that being the name of the War-god of the Aztecs, who was only to be propitiated by human sacrifices. This decree was so utterly at variance with the temper and spirit of the Emperor's official acts generally, that it has been debated as to whether it originated with him or was a measure dictated by others. It was held subsequently that Bazaine was responsible for the false information upon which the decree was based, and had inspired the decree itself.

The decree purported to be based upon information that President Juarez had abandoned the Mexican territory, crossed the northern frontier, and gone to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It declared that the cause sustained by him with so much valor had at last succumbed, and that the chief had abandoned his country and his government. "Henceforth," it went on to say, "the struggle will no longer be between opposing systems of government, but between the Empire established by the will of the people and the criminals and bandits which infest the country." It therefore declared that all persons carrying arms against the Empire, as well as all persons aiding them by selling them arms or supplies, were to be tried by courts-martial and condemned to death. Punishments by fine and imprisonment were prescribed for all who in any other way opposed the Empire.

The Emperor's recognition of the courage and constancy of Juarez, in the preamble of the "bloody" decree, caught the fancy of the Mexicans and tickled their sense of humor; and one of the papers, published in the capital, produced a caricature of the Emperor fastening upon the breast of Juarez (who wore a Phrygian cap) a medal for courage and constancy. In various ways the Emperor had paid tribute to the wisdom and statesmanship of the President,—sometimes by allowing the measures of the latter to stand altogether unopposed, and often by his failure to reverse them when he tried to do so.

Naturally, this decree has often been compared with that issued by Juarez on the twenty-fifth of January, 1862. But in such a comparison it must not be forgotten that the Imperial decree was based upon more than one false premise, as well as upon information that was untrue and the falsity of which was easily ascertainable. It was a false premise that the President had abandoned the country and his government. It was a false premise that the Mexican Empire had been established by the will of the people, and that the supporters of constitutional government were criminals and bandits. Far different, therefore, were the measures, however drastic, put forth by a Constitutional ruler in support of a legitimate national government threatened with treason within and invasion from without; far different would have been the most cruel decree that could have been sent forth under such circumstances, from a measure adopted to sustain an Empire obtruded upon a people in the first place, and then in the last throes of dissolution, being dependent upon foreign arms for its support throughout.

It was subsequently claimed, also, in mitigation of the criminality of the Decree of October 3, that it was only intended to terrorize the opponents of the Empire, and was not expected to be enforced. Unfortunately it was enforced, and in such a manner as to be the suicidal act of the Imperial Government. A few days after it was issued, and before it could be generally known outside of the capital except in the Imperial army, General Salazar (Military Governor of Michoacan), General Arteaga, Colonel Trinidad Villagomez, Colonel Jesus Diaz, and Captain Gonzalez, officers of the Republican army,—men of excellent reputation and high standing,—were made prisoners in the State of Michoacan by General Mendez of the Imperial army. They were tried by court-martial, condemned to death, and on the twenty-fourth of October were taken to Uruapan and there executed, in total disregard of the rules of war and of civilization.

The force of this ill-advised decree could not have fallen more unfortunately for the fate of the Emperor. The Imperialist newspapers at the capital described Arteaga as "an honest and sincere man, whose career had been distinguished by humanity." Salazar was one who could write to his mother the night before his execution: "My conscience is at rest. I go down to the tomb at thirty-three years of age, without a stain upon my military career or a blot on my name." Two hundred Belgian prisoners, in the hands of the Liberals at Tacambaro, protested most vigorously against this act of inhumanity, and stated in their letter to the Emperor that they had come to Mexico solely to act as a guard of honor to their Empress, and had been forced to fight against principles identical with their own.

The summary execution of this decree upon brave soldiers, in arms in defense of their land and constitutional government, raised a storm of indignation against the Emperor and his ministers in still another quarter. Many who had been favorably disposed toward the Empire now became lukewarm, or turned directly against it; while the neutrals were prompted to declare themselves openly in favor of the Republic. If such were the workings of a monarchical form of government, they were thenceforth in favor of the Constitution which was designed to furnish immunity from that class of experiences which had already stained too many pages of the history of Mexico. Disappointed that the Empire, with its "prince of foreign stock at its head," did not furnish an improvement upon what Mexico already knew far too well, a great many turned toward Juarez with the determination to support him in his efforts to reestablish constitutional government. And thus the fortunes of the little band of stalwart Republicans on the frontier began to turn.

The work of withdrawing the French troops from the interior and concentrating them upon the capital was successfully accomplished by Bazaine before the end of 1866. Some time was spent in arranging the exchange of prisoners between the foreign and the Republican armies, but this was finally done in a manner greatly to the credit of both armies, and the forces of the Republic were augmented by the return of some of those previously held as prisoners by the Imperialists. Toward the close of January, 1867, the foreign army began to retire, "and extended like a girdle of steel along the sandy road from the City of Mexico to Vera Cruz."

Bazaine used his influence with Maximilian to induce him to abdicate and return with the French army to Europe. The only way open to him to discharge the many obligations he was under to Maximilian was, it seemed to Bazaine, to urge him to escape from the fate that must inevitably overtake him if he persisted in remaining in Mexico. This he urged in personal interviews and in many letters; and the last act of Bazaine, before sailing from Vera Cruz, in March, 1867, was to write to Maximilian offering him a final opportunity to escape in the vessels provided for the transportation of the French army.

Bazaine returned to Europe to become the trusted Commander-in-chief of the unfortunate armies of France in the war with Prussia in 1870-71. He was faithful to his Emperor to the very end, but after the surrender of Sedan lost the confidence of the French people. He was court-martialed, and sentenced to death. After an escape from prison, he sank into obscurity, from which his death raised his name for a short time. He carried to the grave the maledictions of the Mexican people, in whose memory dwelt a large number of cruelties practiced in his ready obedience to the behests of the Emperor Napoleon HI.

As the French troops had withdrawn from the towns of Northern Mexico, the Republicans of the northern States reunited and occupied them. Thus, in November, 1865, a few of his soldiers having captured Chihuahua, Juarez promptly transferred thereto the seat of his government from Paso del Norte. He had to retreat, however, before returning troops in December, and was in Paso del Norte again on the eighteenth of that month. Early in June, 1866, the Republican troops were sufficiently reorganized to gain their first decided victory over Mexican Imperialists; Chihuahua was finally evacuated by the Imperial troops, and the seat of the Republican government was established there.

Thenceforth the tide of war turned in favor of the Republican arms. Escobedo, who had been in Texas from June, 1864, to the latter part of 1865, organizing help for Mexico, surprised and captured the Imperial garrison at Monterey. This had the effect of augmenting his forces and bringing together the dispersed soldiers of the Republic. In March, 1866, he was enabled to begin offensive operations toward the South. In June he captured Saltillo, after a brief resistance. He was appointed General-in-chief of the Army of the North, and continued his successful operations. In September he marched toward Guanajuato, and established his headquarters in Celaya. There he was joined by forces from Michoacan and from the north. Thereupon Juarez felt justified in transferring his seat of government to Zacatecas in January, 1867; but on the twenty-seventh of that month, he and his cabinet barely escaped falling into the hands of Miramon, and were obliged to take refuge in Sombrerete. Escobedo defeated Miramon at San Jacinto on the first of February, and the latter retired to Queretaro. Juarez removed the seat of his government to San Luis Potosi, where it remained throughout the closing scenes of the Imperial regime.

After the news came to Maximilian of the final decision of Napoleon III to withdraw his support from the Mexican Empire, the unhappy Archduke pursued for a time a vacillating policy. A self-sacrificing effort, on the part of Carlota, to induce Napoleon to reverse his decision and adhere to the Treaty of Miramar, resulted in disaster to the beautiful Princess. This misfortune made the position of Maximilian the more trying. Plunged in melancholy by his domestic sorrows, and with the support withdrawn upon which his Empire had chiefly rested, he debated with himself what he ought to do. The purity and honesty of his personal motives remain unquestioned. He had accepted the task of "regenerating Mexico," and of giving good government to that country. He had failed to accomplish this. He was confronted by his own mistakes; but he felt in duty bound to embrace an opportunity, if it were extended to him, to make another effort. He finally attempted to shift the responsibility of the choice of duties resting upon him, by calling a meeting of his Council, at Orizaba, in November, 1866, and leaving with that body his abdication. The Council, by a small majority, declined to accept it. At the same time, the Church party stepped forward with an offer of support and a proposition to try the Emperor once more. The Empire therefore gathered itself together for a final struggle.

Miramon, after the establishment of the Regency, entered Mexico by way of the northern frontier, and hastened to the capital to tender his services to the Empire. They were not accepted, and he went abroad again. When Maximilian came, Miramon renewed his offer, and it was accepted; but Maximilian, fearing that his presence in the country might embarrass the Imperial government in some way, asked him to remain abroad and "study the Prussian system of military tactics." Marquez was at the same time sent as a special envoy to Turkey, that the Empire might not be embarrassed by his too close intimacy. When Miramon now opportunely returned to Mexico, he was sent by Maximilian to the capital to take command of a division of the Mexican Imperial army which it became necessary to organize there with the means provided by the Church. Marquez was recalled and made Commander-in-chief of the forces at the capital.

It was then decided to transfer the Imperial seat of government to Queretaro; and in February, 1867, the Emperor, in command of the entire army, and with Marquez as the chief of his forces, set out to march thither. General Tomas Mejia, as commander of the Third Division of the Army of the Empire, had evacuated San Luis Potosi in December, 1866, and retired to Queretaro. After his defeat by Escobedo at San Jacinto, Miramon made Queretaro his objective point; and subsequently General Mendez, from Morelia, added to the number of Imperial troops gathered in that city, which, though supposed to be a stronghold of the Church, was a very poor strategic position, being, as Maximilian afterwards called it, "a mouse-trap."

The troops within Queretaro numbered eight thousand picked men. Maximilian, writing to one of his ministers on the ninth of February, reviewed the condition of his army after he had been abandoned by the French, and acknowledged the mistaken impression under which he had labored when he signed the decree of October 3, 1865. "The Republican forces, wrongly represented as demoralized, disorganized, and united solely by the hope of pillage," he wrote, "prove by their conduct that they form a homogeneous army whose stimulus is the courage and perseverance of a chief moved by a great idea—that of defending the national independence which he believes threatened by the establishment of our Empire."

The opportunity for which the Republican government had so long and so patiently waited had arrived at last, and Juarez took advantage of it. In November, Escobedo found himself at the head of an army numbering fifteen thousand men. He was ordered to advance upon Queretaro. After an obstinate fight with the Imperialists on the heights of San Gregorio, Escobedo, his army now increased to twenty thousand men, surrounded Queretaro, and from the twelfth of March to the fifteenth of May, 1867, held the city in a state of siege.

The Imperialists made a series of brilliant sorties. In one of these, Marquez was sent to the City of Mexico with Vidaurri,—the former to raise reinforcements for the relief of the besieged, the latter to assume the office of Lieutenant of the Empire. Marquez, in disobedience of the Emperor's orders, and perfidious as ever, went to the relief of Puebla, then hard pressed by the soldiers of General Porfirio Diaz. His idea appears to have been that the Empire was about to go to pieces, but that there were chances of three governments being established, one in the North, one with Queretaro as its capital; and that his career lay in the establishment of the third, with Puebla as its capital, if not the City of Mexico. He was defeated by Diaz, and returned to the capital. There he assumed dictatorial powers, marked by the cruelty for which he was always famous.

On the fourteenth of May, a general sortie from Queretaro had been planned, and the Emperor met with his officers in a Council of War. It was then declared by Mejia that the success of the movement was impossible at that time, and upon his advice the matter was postponed for twenty-four hours. After the breaking up of the Council, Colonel Miguel Lopez, a favorite member of the Emperor's staff went over to the Republican headquarters and gave information which enabled a small detachment of the Republican army to enter the city at daybreak the next morning.

The Emperor was awakened by his secretary, in his headquarters in the Church of La Cruz, early on the fifteenth of May, and was bidden to try to escape. He went out hurriedly, and was joined by Mejia on the Cerro de las Campanas. The assault on the city threw everything into confusion. The little party of Imperialists on the Cerro attracted the attention of the Republicans, and the fire of some of the batteries was directed toward it. Maximilian asked Mejia, the stoical Indian soldier at his side, what chances there were, and received the reply that it was utterly futile to prolong the struggle. A white flag was displayed, and Maximilian delivered his sword to a Republican officer who rode up in response to the signal. Thus ended the Second Mexican Empire. Mendez was apprehended, and with the recollection vivid in the minds of his captors of his too prompt execution of the decree of October third, he was unceremoniously shot. Miramon was wounded in the assault upon the city, and was put under arrest.

Shortly afterwards, the Teatro de Iturbide, in the city of Queretaro, was the scene of a remarkable court-martial. "Fernando Maximiliano of Hapsburg, Archduke of Austria," was arraigned, with Miguel Miramon and Tomas Mejia as particeps criminis, on charges of filibustering, treason, and putting forth the Decree of October third, 1865. Nothing was said in the process about an order, issued as lately as the fifth of the preceding February, for the prompt execution of Juarez and his ministers should they fall into the hands of the Imperialists, though that order was then actually in the hands of the President. The process against Maximilian was not actuated by a spirit of revenge.

The conduct of Maximilian throughout these scenes was heroic, and such as to awaken the interest and attract the sympathy of the entire world. He had been a weak ruler, the dupe of more than one unprincipled person, and the tool of those who were seeking to overthrow constitutional government in Mexico. But he was a brave and noble prince. Too ill to be present at the trial, he placed his defense in the hands of Mariano Riva Palacio (the noted Republican who had declined a place in his Council), and gave his attention to the arrangement of his worldly affairs in the prospect of death. He made several propositions to leave the country, but they were not accepted.

Senor Riva Palacio, with the assistance of other distinguished lawyers, did all in his power to save his unfortunate client, but without success. The court-martial, sitting from 10 A. M. on the fourteenth of June until 10 P. M. on the fifteenth, brought in a verdict of guilty, and fixed the death penalty. The death sentence was approved at once by the General of the army, and the execution was ordered to take place the next day. It was postponed, by telegram from Juarez, until the nineteenth.

In the interval, every effort possible was made to save the life of the unfortunate prisoners. Senor Riva Palacio went to San Luis Potosi to plead with the President. The Princess Salm-Salm rode across the country, a hundred and twenty miles, on a similar errand. Those who were in San Luis Potosi at the time tell how the President suffered during his interviews with those who pleaded for the lives of the condemned men. Although personally inclined to show clemency, it seemed to Juarez necessary to strike a decisive blow in behalf of the maintenance of the Republic. The possibility of Mexico's having to go through similar bitter experiences was to be obviated at all cost. "Now or never," said Lerdo de Tejada, "we must consolidate the Republic." Juarez felt that he was compelled by stern necessity to take the life of the noble Maximilian and of his two companions in arms. "If all the kings and queens of Europe were prostrate before me, I could not save the life for which you plead," he said to those who approached him. "I do not take it. It is the law,—the people demand it, not I. If I fail to do the will of the people, my life would justly be the penalty."

A protest from the United States government was also received, but all to no avail. Maximilian sent in an appeal, not on his own behalf but on behalf of his companions in misfortune, which met with no better success.

On the morning of the nineteenth of June, at seven o'clock, the stern sentence of the court-martial was executed upon Maximilian, Miramon, and Mejia, upon the Cerro de las Campanas, the spot where Maximilian had surrendered to the Army of the Republic. The bright dream of Napoleon III, of the establishment of an Empire in the New World, was at an end. The Republic of Mexico was triumphant.

It has been customary to blame Juarez for this apparently needless taking of the life of the noble-hearted but weak Maximilian. But it would seem, upon carefully looking at all the circumstances, that it was the great occasion in the life of Benito Juarez when he was to be pitied rather than blamed, and that throughout that trying period he was acting contrary to his own inclinations, and in obedience to what he regarded as the stern law of duty and necessity. He may have erred in his judgment as to the necessities of the case, but he was honest as to his convictions, and he had the courage to act in accordance therewith, even though the penalty was to bear the odium of having needlessly executed the death sentence.

If we are to look at the matter from the standpoint of Juarez, we must take into account his whole career, give due weight to the tasks he had assumed, and consider what must have appeared to him the probable result of his leniency to the most important personage he had ever held in his power. He could be lenient with anyone else with less risk to the future welfare of his country. He had taught stern lessons to conspirators in the Conservative and Reactionary parties; it was absolutely necessary to extend the lesson, and show that conspirators were not to be allowed to succeed even though they used a European prince for their foil. Nor were foreign princes henceforth to think it safe to lend themselves as tools for the schemers against constitutional government in Mexico, or to be carried away with the glamour of an imagined monarchy in the "Halls of the Montezumas." It was necessary that Emperors, and Emperors' sons, be taught that they could not join with impunity in plots against the independence of a nation. Neither high admiration for the virtues of the Archduke, nor pity for his sufferings, should blind our eyes to the baneful consequences that must have ensued from the suppression of independence and nationality in Mexico. It was a disagreeable lesson which the New World had to teach the Old, and we may pity rather than blame the master who had the courage to teach it.

Diaz, in the south, had gained possession of Puebla, had defeated Marquez, and dispersed the soldiers of the latter. He had followed up his advantage by advancing and laying siege to the capital. He was joined by part of the army from the north, after the fall of Queretaro. The capital surrendered on the twenty-first of June. Marquez hid himself from the fury of the citizens, from whom he had kept all knowledge of the fall of Queretaro, and upon whom he had inflicted his accustomed cruelties. He succeeded in escaping to Habana. Vidaurri, the traitor, was discovered in hiding, and, without the formality of a trial, was executed.

With the indisputable title of having saved the honor, the independence, and the national dignity of Mexico, Juarez returned to the City of Mexico on the fifth of July, 1867, and established the seat of his government in its proper place. His moderation in dealing with the conquered enemies of the government was in striking contrast with the conduct of Conservatives and Reactionaries whenever they had been triumphant. It promised well for constitutional government. The Imperialist chiefs, and their followers to the number of about two hundred, were imprisoned in old conventual houses until they could be regularly tried; but only nineteen were executed, and these were guilty of more than political offences. Among them was General Tomas O'Horan, who had proved treacherous at the time of Ocampo's assassination. There was but little confiscation of property, and the Constitutional Government directed its energies toward the repair of the evils wrought by the war.

Before the end of the year, the body of Maximilian was requested on behalf of his family; and after a delay, in which it was necessary for the New World, through Benito Juarez, the Indian President of Mexico, to teach another lesson to the Old World,—a lesson in diplomacy and international courtesy,—the body was delivered to an Admiral of the Austrian Navy, and was taken to Vienna. There it was received with Imperial honors, and entombed in the vaults of the Capuchin Monastery.