From Empire to Republic - Arthur H. Noll

Benito Juarez and the War of the Reform

The plan put forth by Zuloaga, in his pronunciamento of December seventeenth, 1857, drew off some of the "Moderado" deputies of Congress, and these became members of the Junta of Notables by whom Zuloaga was elected. He proceeded to secure the arrest of the Liberal deputies, but seventy of them escaped from the capital and made a rendezvous in Queretaro. There they organized under the Constitution of 1857, recognized Benito Juarez as Constitutional President in succession to Comonfort, and had him installed on the tenth of January, 1858, several days before the election of Zuloaga. From that time to the end of his life, Benito Juarez was so closely identified with Constitutional Government in Mexico that the history of the one is the history of the other.

Benito Juarez was one of the most remarkable men who has ever appeared in the history of Spanish America. He rose from the humblest origin to the greatest eminence attainable in his country,—not through the army, as was the case with most of his contemporaries, nor by military successes (for he was never a soldier), but by industry, perseverance, singleness of purpose, and the force of an indomitable will, and through the influence of his personal abilities and sterling honesty.

He was born in the small but picturesque pueblo which at that time bore the name of San Pablo Guelatao, lying about forty miles northeast of the city of Oaxaca, on the outskirts of Ixtlan, among the rugged mountains of that locality, and upon the shores of a mountain lake known from the transparency of its waters as Laguna Encantada, or the Enchanted Lake. The pueblo contained, in the early years of the nineteenth century, about two hundred inhabitants—all Zapoteca Indians. The Zapotecas, although of the native races which, under the social organization then in vogue in Mexico, had scarcely any rights that others were bound to respect, had ever been the most independent and self-respecting of the aborigines. Possibly they were the direct descendants of the most civilized of the native races whose architectural remains, plentiful in the State of Oaxaca, still baffle the inquiry of the scientist.

It was said of them, in the periods antecedent to the advent of the Europeans, that they maintained their freedom throughout all the wars waged against them, and gained the reputation of being the boldest and most vigorous of all the native races. They were characterized as a race of virtuous and well-favored women, and of strong, well-built, brave, and often ferocious, but withal honest, men, with powerful frames and rugged looks. And even after the conquest of the land by the Europeans, and the subjection of the other races to the power of the white men, the honest mountaineers of Oaxaca,—the Zapotecas,—maintained a quasi-independence.

The birthday of Benito Juarez was the twenty -first of March, 1806; and both his parents were Zapotecas. He was baptized when a day old, and received the name of Benito Pablo (Benjamin Paul). The second of these names he seems never to have used, and within half a century of his birth the simple name of Benito Juarez became a household word in Mexico, and was known throughout the world in attractive contrast with the long names usually borne by the aristocrats of Mexico and Spanish- American countries generally.

The home of Juarez's infancy was a rude adobe hut with thatch roof, such as may be seen in great numbers throughout the country. No other language was spoken in San Pablo Guelatao than the Zapoteca dialect, and Benito learned no other before he reached his twelfth year. His parents died when he was three years of age, and he was for nine years left to the care of a grandmother.

The reputation for honesty and industry acquired by the Zapoteca mountaineers stood their children in good stead, and made them in demand for house servants in the homes of Oaxaca, the capital and metropolis of that province. A sister of Benito had obtained some domestic service there, and in 1818, alone and unassisted, Benito took his journey to that city, probably intending to assist her in her labors. He was so fortunate as to find a home with a book-binder, who was also a member of a minor religious order,—the third, or lay order, of the Franciscans. By him, Benito was taught to read and write Mexican-Spanish, rudimentary mathematics, and the principles of Spanish grammar, without neglecting his religious and moral training or instruction in good habits. Thus the boyhood of Juarez was spent in the midst of the scenes of the military exploits of Morelos, whose memory was fresh in the minds of all with whom he came in contact.

After this preliminary education, Juarez was put in the Church school in Oaxaca, in October, 1821. The Independence of Mexico had just been established, and Juarez had reached an age when the subjects discussed about him were likely to make a deep and lasting impression upon his mind. During these impressionable years of his youth, while the stirring events succeeding the putting forth of the ''Plan de Iguala" were in progress, down toward the close of Victoria's Presidency, Juarez was pursuing a course in Mediaeval Latin, canon law, dogmatic theology, and philosophy,—the utmost range of study then permitted to a student, education in Mexico being still exclusively in the hands of the clergy. Iguala was within the limits of the Province of Oaxaca, and its importance in the events of the time were not likely to be overlooked by any of the Oaxacans, especially by so bright a student as Juarez was already proving himself to be.

In those days, a few Indians were annually permitted to enter the priesthood, and the door of the seminary was open to these. Not only was the career of the Church the only one open to talent in Mexico in the year when Juarez began his studies, but it was the one which his guardian naturally selected for him. Consequently, in 1827, Juarez began the study of theology, being intended by his guardian for the priesthood. But one of the immediate results of the Constitution of 1824 was a strong impulse given to popular education. The sturdy Oaxacans availed themselves of the exceptional opportunities offered them, and in 1826 the Legislature of the newly organized State of Oaxaca founded an Institute of Arts and Sciences, in the City of Oaxaca. Juarez withdrew from his theological studies and matriculated in the Institute. Two years later he was appointed Professor of Experimental Physics in the Institute. His preference for the law had caused his discontinuance of his theological studies upon his attaining his majority, and he pursued his legal studies while engaged as a professor in the Institute. It required seven years of study to fit him for the practice of his chosen profession. In the year 1832 he received the degree of Bachelor of Laws in the University of Oaxaca, which afterwards conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Civil Law,—a rare honor in Mexico, with its multiplicity of military titles. He was finally admitted to the bar in 1834, being then in his twenty-eighth year.

Already he had entered upon a political career. In 1831 he was elected Regidor of the City of Oaxaca, and filled the position of Judicial Secretary to the Municipal Council. The following year he was elected a Deputy to the State Legislature. As the result of the close attention he gave to public affairs, he adopted Liberal ideas, and attached himself at once to the Federalist party, which was the popular party of Oaxaca. He remained true to that party throughout his career, and throughout its transformation into the Liberal party of later days. He was ever a stanch supporter of the ideas of Gomez Farias. His was a political fidelity not usual among the public men in Mexico. Few men there have been as consistent as Benito Juarez in acting in accordance with avowed political principles.

It was not long before he was brought into close contact with national affairs, and made to learn that political life in Mexico has its discomforts and may be slow in bringing its rewards. Oaxaca was by no means so provincial as to be withdrawn from all interest in the stirring events of Santa Anna's career of intrigue. That State had always maintained such sturdy Federalist principles that it was naturally regarded with suspicion by the Centralists and Conservatives. In 1836, during the disturbed state of affairs resulting from the change of the Constitution of 1824 to the Siete Leyes  and the Centralized Constitution, Oaxaca, like other States, was deprived, by the new order of things, of her sovereignty. Against this she protested; and because of the boldness of her protest, Juarez with others suffered imprisonment for several months. The allegation was that he was implicated in a revolution against the Conservatives, similar to that of Texas, and with the same end in view. There can be no doubt that Juarez sympathized, as did most of the Oaxacans, with the Texans in their assertion of the rights of their State, although he regretted deeply that the course pursued with them was such as to occasion the loss of such valuable territory to his country.

During the next ten years, while Oaxaca was at the mercy of the Conservative politicians at the national capital, Juarez held the office of Civil and Revenue Judge for two years; acted for a short time as Secretary of the Governor of the State; and served as one of a triumvirate into whose hands the executive power of the State was placed, after the revolution of August, 1846, had restored to the State her constitutional sovereignty. These positions demanded the exercise of a large amount of tact and political sagacity; for the State of Oaxaca never wholly relinquished her sovereignty, and had to be constantly on her guard to avoid an open breach with the Centralized Autocratic Government at the capital of the country, and the appearance of rebellion. That Juarez avoided arrest all these years, attests the clear, cool judgment which dictated his course.

Besides his public career, Juarez practiced his profession, at intervals, with success. In this he was associated with a young man named Porfirio Diaz, his pupil, the inheritor of his political ideas and the future wearer of his mantle.

In 1846 Juarez made his debut  in national politics, being that year a Deputy to Congress from his native State. He supported the measures of Gomez Farias; and when Congress was dissolved, he retired to Oaxaca. He was almost immediately elected Governor of that State, and for five years he administered its affairs with economy and prudence. During his gubernatorial term he prepared and promulgated a civil and criminal code for the State—the first code of laws ever published in Mexico.

On a vague charge of complicity in a revolution in Oaxaca, Santa Anna had Juarez arrested in May, 1853. He was imprisoned, first in Puebla and then in Jalapa. Then, without being permitted to communicate with his family, he was again taken to Puebla, whence he was removed to Vera Cruz. After an incarceration in the dismal dungeon of the prison of San Juan de Ulua, he was sent into exile. He went on an English vessel, first to Havana, and thence to New Orleans, where he resided until July, 1855, finding abundant opportunity, even in the poverty imposed upon him by his exile, to study the institutions of a successful Republic, and to perfect himself in a knowledge of constitutional law and the science of government—a knowledge which he deeply felt was necessary to the working of a thorough reformation in Mexico and bringing to that country permanent peace and stability of government.

News of the "Plan de Ayotla" reached Juarez in New Orleans, and he felt that the time had come for Mexico to free herself from bad government. Going by way of Panama, he arrived in Acapulco in July, 1855. There he found himself in company with men having political views identical with his own. The part he took in the preparation of the new Constitution and the reform in the government was second to that of no one. He remained firm when Comonfort wavered. And he now took up the burdens of the exalted office of President, under circumstances which would have caused another to put them aside.

Without the means to establish his government in the capital, Juarez arrived in Guanajuato on the nineteenth of January, 1858, barely escaping General Tomas Mejia, who was in San Juan del Rio with Reactionary forces. In Guanajuato he was hospitably entertained by Manuel Doblado; and there he formed his Cabinet, and issued a proclamation declaring himself Constitutional President. He received the recognition of some of the States, and these contributed forces for the defense of the Constitutional Government.

As a body of Reactionary troops had left the capital in pursuit of the Constitutionalists, the latter deemed it wise to retire in the direction of Guadalajara. The battle of Estanca de las Vacas was fought near Celaya, and the "Constitutionalistas," or "Juaristas" as they began to be called, were defeated by a superior force of Reactionaries, and retired to Salamanca. On the thirteenth of March the battle of Salamanca was fought. Again the victory was with the Reactionaries.

Juarez arrived in Guadalajara on the fifteenth of February, and established his government in the State Executive Palace there. When the news reached him of the defeat of his little army at Salamanca, he issued a proclamation stating that the Constitutional Government was determined to resist all attacks made upon it. This was intended for the encouragement of his followers, who might otherwise take this second defeat of his troops as evidence that he had given up the struggle for constitutional government.

It was at this juncture that soldiers from the garrison at Guadalajara, having just pronounced in favor of the Reactionaries, entered the palace and arrested all who were found therein. Not content with this high-handed proceeding, the commandant of the garrison gave the order to shoot all the prisoners. For a moment Juarez stood with muskets leveled at him, awaiting the shot that would end the struggle for constitutional government and add his name to the long list of martyrs for the cause of law and order in Mexico. The cool behavior of one of his followers caused the soldiers to hesitate. They were induced to espouse the cause of the Constitutionalists. The report that Juarez had been captured was forwarded to the City of Mexico, and before it could be contradicted caused great rejoicing among the clericals.

Juarez was joined in Guadalajara by a few troops, and with these he advanced to Colima and Manzanillo. But so lamentable was the situation that the President and his ministers gained among the Mexicans (who are fond of bestowing nick-names) the popular title of the "Sick Family." On the way, a battle was fought at Santa Ana Acatlan. In view of the dangers encountered at Acatlan, and in order that his own determination to uphold the Constitutional Government in the face of all opposition and at the risk of his life might not involve the safety and happiness of his followers, Juarez proposed that his ministers might resign if they wished to. But they all declined, and renewed their pledges to support him in what must have seemed to all but Juarez a forlorn hope.

Proceeding on his way to Colima, Juarez appointed General DegoUado to be Secretary of War and Marine and General-in-chief of the army to be raised in defense of the Constitutional Government. Accompanied by his Cabinet, he proceeded by way of Mazatlan and by steamer to Panama. Crossing the Isthmus, he took steamer first to Havana, thence to New Orleans, and finally to Vera Cruz, where he established his government on the fourth of May, 1858. He was cordially received by the Governor of the State, and other Liberals whom he found there.

The city of Vera Cruz was admirably adapted, under the circumstances, to be the seat of the Constitutional Government. It was the principal port of entry in the whole country, by far the greater part of the public revenues being derived from the import duties at this port, and at Tampico, not far distant on the same Gulf coast. The city also afforded admirable facilities for securing arms and munitions from the United States; and within a year the United States (April 9, 1859) recognized President Juarez as the legitimate constitutional ruler of Mexico. From Vera Cruz the Constitutional President continued the war with the Reactionary party and with the usurpers of the Presidential office in the capital of the country. In this he conducted himself in such a manner as to win the admiration of the world.

This war is known in history as the "War of the Reform." It was the bloodiest of all the civil wars ever waged in Mexico, and by reason of the ecclesiastical interests at issue in the struggle it was marked with all the bitterness and cruelty of a religious war. Certainly the ecclesiastical powers did all within the limits of possibility to give it that character; they supplied the Reactionaries with resources for the conduct of the war, and encouraged them by the issue of inflammatory pastorals which kept the popular mind continually stirred up against the Liberal government.

Miramon won the battle of Carretas, and went to San Luis Potosi. The Reactionary forces attacked Zacatecas and killed some of the government officials. Degollado was defeated by Reactionaries under Miramon at Atenquique. Santiago Yidaurri (then a "Juarista") defeated Miramon at Ahaululco. The "Juaristas" met with reverses at Guadalajara and Tolototlan. By the capture of Zacatecas (which, however, he was unable to hold) General Leonardo Marquez attained to eminence as a Reactionary leader, and began a career of cruelty scarcely paralleled in the history of the nineteenth century. The war proceeded with varying fortunes, though for the most part disastrously to the "Juaristas," who lost battles and leaders, not a few of the latter by desertion to the Reactionaries.

Vidaurri held the northern States for the "Constitutionalistas" throughout the struggle, and deserted the Republic subsequently. To General Porfirio Diaz was assigned the task of the "pacification" of the State of Oaxaca, which he accomplished in May, 1860. The seat of the war extended, therefore, across the central portion of the country, but was concentrated upon the eastern slope of the Sierra Madre, between the capital and Vera Cruz.

Encouraged by his successes in the interior, Miramon attempted, in February, 1859, to capture Vera Cruz, the seat of the Constitutional Government. He succeeded in investing the city, but found the resistance so stubborn that he was forced to raise the siege the following month. To hide his defeat, he hastened to join Marquez in the defense of the capital, then threatened by the "Juaristas" under General Degollado. The two armies engaged in battle at Tacubaya; and, not content with victory, Marquez executed a great number of prisoners, and among them six medical men who had gone from the capital to care for the wounded of the army of the "Juaristas"—thereby gaining for himself the title of "The Tiger of Tacubaya." The day following the battle, Marquez made a triumphal entry into the capital, and was presented by the women with a silk sash inscribed with the words "To virtue and valor; a token of the gratitude of the daughters of Mexico." Marquez was subsequently arrested by the Reactionary chief at Guadalajara, for insubordination, and for robbing a conducta  of six hundred thousand dollars, on its way from Mexico to Guadalajara.

Miramon reorganized his army in three divisions, taking the command of one himself and giving the command of the other two to General Marquez and General Tomas Mejia respectively. Mejia was of pure Indian blood, claiming lineal descent from the Aztec war-chiefs. Being a stanch and fanatical adherent of the Church, he had been in arms against the Liberals since 1853, most of the time carrying on a guerrilla warfare in the mountain districts. He was the soul of honor compared with Marquez, for whom no deed of cruelty or robbery was too disgraceful to be perpetrated.

On the fifteenth of November, 1859, Miramon and Mejia defeated Degollado at a second battle of Estanca de las Vacas. Juarez relieved Degollado of the command of the army, and appointed him military governor of Zacatecas. He was succeeded in the command of the army of the Constitutionalists by General Jesus Gonzalez Ortega.

Early in 1860, Miramon returned to his former design of capturing Vera Cruz; and in March he appeared before that city. In preparing to besiege the city he sent to Havana, and, with funds furnished by the Church, purchased two steam vessels and munitions of war, to be brought to Vera Cruz and to cooperate from the Gulf with his forces on land. The approach of the two vessels was disputed by the squadron from other nations in the port of Vera Cruz, and they were regarded as semi-piratical, being unable to show proper ship's papers. Juarez requested the United States squadron to examine the papers of the two vessels; and in the attempt to do so, the United States frigate was fired upon. The commander of the frigate at once seized the ships and took them to New Orleans for further investigation. They were finally released; but the delay gained by their detention was valuable to the "Juaristas," and resulted in Miramon's failure in his attack upon Vera Cruz.

The commander of the British squadron in Vera Cruz, acting in the interests of the merchants of the city and of the foreign residents, offered to mediate the cause at issue between the two governments. An armistice was arranged, and an assembly of prominent Mexican citizens convened to devise some plan by which to settle the difficulties between the "Juaristas" and the Reactionaries, and to avoid the bombardment of the city. The assembly proposed a convention from the several States, to form a Constitution to be submitted to the vote of the people, with a provisional government ad interim: that is, a repetition of the "Plan de Ayotla," but entirely under the control of the Reactionaries. Juarez, who was tired of the repeated proposition for a new Constitution from the party that had showed no capacity for constitutional government, declared, as his ultimatum, that the country already had a Constitution and a government. What he demanded was the calling of a Congress according to the provisions of the Constitution of 1857. Miramon accordingly broke off negotiations and renewed the siege. From mere wantonness, he bombarded the city from the fifteenth to the twentieth of March. Having exhausted his ammunition, and finding that sickness was depleting his troops, on the twenty-first of March he raised the siege and returned to the capital to take his last stand against the Constitutionalists.

It was while these military operations were in progress in the neighborhood of Vera Cruz, and in the very darkest hour of the Constitutional Government, that Juarez issued the decree nationalizing and sequestrating the property of the Church in Mexico. Its ultimate effect was to deprive the Reactionary party of its resources, and thus to break its power. It was followed, on the twenty-sixth of July, by the law regarding civil marriage; and still later by the decrees of religious toleration and the secularization of the cemeteries. These were comprised in the "Laws of the Reform"—the basis of the great economic and social revolution so necessary to the regeneration of Mexico.

The apology offered for the first-mentioned of these decrees is somewhat analagous to that offered by Comonfort for confiscating the property of the clergy in Puebla after quelling an insurrection incited by them. The clergy had been the chief supporters of the Spanish party in the wars for the independence of the country, and since that time had been the most powerful enemies of progress and of popular government. They had promoted the present civil war, with the purpose of overthrowing the Constitution which the Mexican people had adopted, and of retaining their former supremacy in political as well as spiritual affairs. They furnished the active enemies of constitutional government with resources enabling them to maintain the war.

The decree was most sweeping in its effects. By virtue thereof, the nation was entitled to possess all the properties of the clergy, both religious and secular, and the Church was denied the right to possess real estate; religious orders and religious communities were absolutely and definitively dissolved, as being contrary to public welfare; Church and State were absolutely separated, and religious freedom was fully and firmly established. The clergy were thenceforth to receive such compensation for their services as might be voluntarily bestowed by their parishioners, instead of a stipend from the State.

By the other decrees, marriage was thenceforth to be considered in law as a civil contract only, and was thus freed from the restraints and expenses previously imposed upon it by the clergy, which had tended to the corruption of morals throughout the country and had been the means of sustaining among the poor a system of peonage beyond the power of the laws abolishing slavery to efface.

These decrees were intended to correct many abuses which existed in the country, and they were a part of that program of Reform which Juarez had set out to accomplish. As such, they were issued in good faith, although at the time they may have seemed intended merely to cripple the resources of the enemy and inspire the friends of the Constitutional Government with fresh courage. It was several years before they could be engrafted upon the organic law of the land; but their direct result was to secure reinforcements for the "Juaristas," and to turn the tide of popular favor in the direction of the Constitutional Government. For the "Constitutionalistas" were thereby proving themselves honest and consistent. No previous effort at reform had ever been adhered to in the face of obstacles as this had been. One-half the difficulties experienced by Juarez and his adherents would have been deemed, at any time in the previous history of Mexico, ample excuse for suspending any effort to secure popular government, or for throwing over any Constitution. Juarez was honest. He meant what he said, and was determined to do all he promised; and the Vera Cruz decrees inspired the people with confidence in him. Though the Reactionaries seemed at that time to hold the balance of power, and to be able to prevent the enforcement of the decrees, yet they were inspired with dread of the man who could so coolly proceed with the performance of his duty under such trying circumstances as those which they had created.

The position of the Reactionaries was, in fact, becoming critical. They were in possession of the capital, of Puebla, and of Guadalajara. But they were themselves split up into contentious factions. The people were beginning to take cognizance of the cruelties and robberies that marked their conduct of affairs. It was not long before General Ortega was able to capture Guadalajara, reorganize his army, and march toward the City of Mexico. Miramon made an unsuccessful attempt to recapture Guadalajara, and won an unimportant victory in the south of Jalisco. In August, 1860, the army of the "Juaristas" under Ortega defeated the Reactionaries under Miramon, at Silao; and by the tenth of November, Ortega was able to surround the capital. So assured was he of the final success of his plan, that he addressed a circular letter to the representatives of the foreign governments in the capital, making known his determination to occupy the city and to allow no reclamations under any pretext whatever for supplies furnished or for loans made to the Reactionaries.

Miramon gained a partial victory at San Bartolo, on the first of December; and on the sixth he surprised and captured Toluca, taking many prisoners, Gomez Farias and Degollado among them. These reverses did not, however, retard the preparations of the ''Juaristas" for the final decisive conflict. Ortega directed his march toward the east, that he might be between Vera Cruz and the capital. General Ignacio Zaragoza was brought from the defense of Guadalajara, to assist the "Juaristas" in the vicinity of the capital. On the twenty-second of December the "Juaristas" (an army of eleven thousand men under General Ortega) and the Reactionaries (eight thousand men under Miramon) faced each other at Calpulalpam for the decisive battle of the War of the Reform. The battle raged for two days, and the "Juaristas" were completely victorious. Miramon fled to the capital, where he and Zuloaga divided the Reactionary treasury between them. Miramon then went into exile. Zuloaga, Marquez, and other Reactionary leaders, retired to the mountain districts, where they continued to raise partisans to oppose the Liberal government.

The troops of the "Juaristas," under General Ortega, entered the capital on the twenty-seventh of December, and the decree of sequestration issued from Vera Cruz was speedily put into operation. In the spoliation of the Church which followed, it was due to the forethought of Ignacio Ramirez, a famous publicist whom Juarez appointed Minister of Instruction and Public Works, that the valuable paintings previously existing in the monasteries, went to enrich the galleries of the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts; and that the Bihlioteca Nacional was founded in the San Augustin Monastery, and was made the permanent depository of the books derived from the religious houses.

The defeated and scattered Reactionaries continued a guerrilla warfare, and sought by acts of wanton cruelty to wreak their vengeance upon the victorious Constitutionalists, or the party of the Reform, as they came now to be called. In February, 1861, Mariano Escobedo, who had risen from an humble position to the rank of Brigadier-General, and had been present in the latter capacity with the forces of the "Juaristas" at the battle of Calpulalpam, was sent to check the depredations of Marquez and Mejia. He was surprised and taken prisoner at Rio Verde, and Marquez issued an order to have him shot. His life was spared at the intercession of Mejia, and he subsequently escaped from imprisonment.

In April, Marquez, encouraged by the hope that the European nations would intervene in the affairs of Mexico in aid of the Reactionaries, marched upon Tulancingo, but was defeated in an attempt upon Queretaro. Joining Zuloaga, however, he occupied Villa del Carbon the following month. The Reactionaries now selected Melchor Ocampo as the especial object of their hatred, and encouraged the guerrilla bands which infested the country to capture him. This remarkable man was probably, next to Juarez, the most prominent of the Reform leaders. He was born in the city of Valladolid, in 1815,—the year when another great native of that city (in whose honor its name was changed to Moreha) was executed. He was a man of education, and a graduate in law; but after a few years of practice in that profession, he gave himself up to the study of botany, chemistry, and scientific agriculture, and acquired a reputation in those subjects abroad as well as at home. He served as Deputy in Congress in 1843 and in 1846, and was then unanimously elected Governor of Michoacan. During his term of office he made many public improvements, and established the college of San Nicolas Obispo and had it placed under State and not under ecclesiastical control. He resigned the Governorship in 1846, and retired to his country-seat, which he had named "Pomoca," being an anagram of his name.

He was reelected Governor, in June, 1852, but resigned again in January, 1855. The Legislature, in accepting his resignation, passed a unanimous vote of thanks for his eminent services to the State. He was among those arrested by Santa Anna upon the latter's assuming the Dictatorship in 1855, and was imprisoned in San Juan de Ulua awaiting a vessel to take him into exile. The "Plan de Ayotla" secured his release from prison, and he was for about eight weeks chief of the cabinet of President Alvarez. He resigned because of his lack of sympathy with Comonfort's policy of compromise. As a member of the Constituent Congress, he was active and influential. He was a member of Juarez's cabinet in Guadalajara.

A guerrilla band, under the leadership of a noted desperado named Cajiga, went to Pomoca for the purpose of capturing Ocampo. Meeting a visitor and mistaking him for the man they sought, they arrested him. The prisoner, desiring to protect his friend, refused to disclose his identity, and would have suffered in the place of Ocampo had not the latter appeared and promptly told who he was.

Ocampo was taken before Marquez, and by his orders was shot at Tepeji del Rio, on the road to Morelia, and his body was hanged on a tree. It was afterwards taken to the City of Mexico, and lay in state in the Chamber of Congress until entombed in the Panteon de San Fernando. The tomb of this noble patriot and progressionist bears the inscription, "Sacrificado por la Tirania."

The people in the neighborhood of Pomoca were infuriated by this crime of the Reactionaries, and threatened to sweep them out of existence. A feeling of intense indignation swept over the land. Congress offered a reward of ten thousand dollars for the heads of Marquez, Mejia, Cajiga, and other guerrilla chiefs who had been connected with the crime of Ocampo's murder. Though inexcusable in the eyes of the Liberals of the present day, this action of Congress seemed justifiable then because the City of Mexico was menaced by a reign of terror, and the people were not to be appeased by less drastic measures.

Santos Degollado, then recently elected a member of Congress, and having been guilty of a certain malfeasance in office for which he wished to atone, asked the permission of Congress to take command of the forces sent out to suppress the Reactionary leaders. He was to be convoyed by General Tomas O'Horan, but was impatient of that officer's delay, and left the capital with only one hundred and fifty men. In the dense woods of Monte de las Cruces he fell into an ambush prepared by some bandit leaders. A desperate fight ensued. Degollado was taken prisoner, and was assassinated without regard to his rights as a prisoner of war. It was then discovered that the reason why General O'Horan had not accompanied Degollado was that he had deserted to the Reactionaries. The following June, General Leandro Yalle, a young man of excellent character, was sent against Marquez. He was defeated, and, by the orders of O'Horan, was shot and his body hanged. The list of "Sacrificados por la Tirania"  was being extended.

Such was the disturbed state of the country after the War of the Reform. A great war,—the first real war for a principle in the history of Mexico,—had been fought to a finish, and the victory was for Constitutional Government over the rule of the Church and the army or that of an oligarchy. But Juarez was anxious that the principles involved in the war should be fully and firmly established and decided, not by force of arms, but by the voice of the people. He was occupying the Presidency, as he felt, by a series of accidents. So he called for an election for President in accordance with the Constitution of 1857, knowing full well that the result of the election would be either for or against the decrees he had put forth in Vera Cruz in 1859. These decrees furnished the platform upon which he stood before the people asking their suffrages. There was no uncertain sound about the announcement of the principles for which he stood. In no instance does Benito Juarez stand out more heroically than in this act.

The proclamation for the election was made while Juarez was still in Vera Cruz. Miguel Lerdo de Tejada offered himself as a candidate, but died in March, 1861, before the election could be held. This was much to the regret of Juarez, who looked upon him, not as a rival for political preferment, but as an earnest supporter of his own schemes for good government. The only other candidate was General Ortega. The election resulted in a large majority for Juarez, and General Ortega was elected President of the Supreme Court of Justice, thereby becoming virtual Vice-President. When Congress met, in May, 1861, the result of the election was formally declared, and Juarez was promptly installed, on the first of June, as Constitutional President of Mexico.

The tasks which lay before the Constitutional party were stupendous. The condition of Mexico was pitiable. The country was literally exhausted by successive revolutions. Nearly two hundred thousand Mexicans had been engaged in the war of the past three years, and the loss of life had been frightful. The public administration of the law had been destroyed; robbery and murder had been practically legalized, and were the order of the day. The clergy had been stirring up strife in families by means of the confessional, the pulpit, and the power of excommunication, and by withholding absolution and the right of Christian burial from all who professed Liberal ideas. They had threatened with present excommunication and eternal malediction all who took possession of the property of the Church under the Reform decrees.

Juarez lacked the means to reorganize the Government at once. Of the chiefs of the Reform party, the greater number had but slight knowledge of military science. The old soldiers of the Republic had, with few exceptions, turned to the Reactionaries. There was the same difficulty in finding men of ability and training to serve the State in a civil capacity. The President was compelled, under the circumstances, to expend a large part of his energies and to waste his means in negative activity and in guarding against impending evils and checking present dangers. He was unable to devise measures for the immediate amelioration of the condition of the country, especially as the country was not educated up to the level of constitutional government.

His first measures, after entering Mexico, were severely criticized as indicating a change of temper. Most of the Bishops were banished, and with them were sent the Papal Nuncio and the Spanish Envoy, because they had misused their positions and done all in their power to aid the Reactionaries to drag out the civil war. The small property left to the Church was entirely taken from its hands, and the estates of the clerical communities were let out to farmers on the payment of twelve per cent of their values. Civil marriage was introduced. The opponents of the President, offended at these measures, gave expression to their want of confidence, in an address asking him to resign (September 7, 1861). It was signed by fifty-one of the Deputies. The same day, Juarez received a petition from fifty-two of the Deputies, urging him to retain his office.

Those who complained that the government of Juarez was unable instantly to restore order to the land, or that it lacked energy and spirit, and a sincere desire to deal fairly with its foreign claimants, evidently failed to take all of the circumstances into consideration,—circumstances extending back for years in the history of the country. Those persons were the more just who, allowing that much was to be said in favor of the government of Juarez, thus expressed themselves, in May, 1861; "However faulty and weak the present government may be, those who witnessed the murders, the acts of atrocity, and plunder, almost of daily occurrence under the government of General Miramon and General Marquez, cannot but appreciate the existence of law and order. Foreigners especially, who suffered so heavily under that arbitrary rule and by the hatred and intolerance toward them which are a dogma of the Church party in Mexico, cannot but make a broad distinction between the past and the present. . . . The Mexican Government has been accused, and not without reason, of having frittered away the Church property recently nationalized; but it must be remembered that while forced contributions, plunder, and immense supplies from the Church and its supporters, have enabled General Zuloaga and General Miramon to sustain the civil war for three years, the Constitutional Government had abstained from such acts, and has the sole robbery of the conductaat Lagos, towards the close of the war, to answer for." And again, in June: "Progress has been made. The signs of regeneration, though few, are still visible. Had the present Liberal party enough money at command to pay an army of ten thousand men, it could suppress the present opposition, restore order, and preserve external peace." The government of Juarez was indeed answering for its one act of plunder during the recent war—the robbery of a conducta  near Lagos. This was the act of Degollado, without the knowledge or consent of Juarez, who did all he could to repair the damage done by this act of insubordination,—not only to the owners of the conducta  but also to the reputation of his government.

Taken all together, the Juarez government, whatever its defects, was seen by the foreign powers who chose to examine it dispassionately, even at the time when it appeared least to an advantage, to be the only promising government that had made its appearance for years in Mexico; the only one which was likely to be actuated by liberal and constitutional principles. It had succeeded in overthrowing one of the most despicable, disgraceful, and sanguinary systems that ever debased and exhausted a country.

The British Consul and Charge d'affaires  wrote, in May, 1861, of the President himself: "President Juarez is an upright and well-intentioned man, excellent in all the private relations of life; but the mere fact of his being an Indian exposes him to the hostility and sneers of the dregs of Spanish society, and of those of mixed blood who ludicrously arrogate to themselves the higher social position in Mexico." And Mr. Charles Wyke wrote: "The Church party, though beaten, is not subdued, and several of their chiefs are within six leagues of the capital with forces varying from four to six thousand. The religious feeling of a fanatic population has naturally been shocked by the destruction of churches, and the disbanded monks and friars wandering about amongst the people fan the embers of discontent kept alive by the women, who are as a body in favor of the Church party."

The combined forces of Marquez were defeated by Ortega in August, 1861. Zuloaga, Marquez, and Mejia ceased to menace the capital, and fled to the mountains back of Queretaro. Marquez was finally defeated in Pachuca in October.

In July, 1861, Congress approved of the decree issued by the President, suspending for two years all payments on account of foreign debts. This was intended to gain time for the government of Juarez to straighten out the finances of the country, which were in a deplorable condition. Its best analogy might perhaps be found in the business house which has justifiable confidence in the business in which it is engaged, though it finds itself crippled for the time being by reason of recent misfortunes, but which, instead of going into bankruptcy or making an assignment for the benefit of its creditors, asks for an extension of time on its obligations.

There was special reason why the Mexican government should ask for such extension. The Juarez administration found itself confronted by claims originating with the pseudo-government which had just been put down—some of them of very questionable character. The "Mon-Almonte Treaty" was of that nature. Through the Spanish Minister and General Almonte, the Miramon administration had arranged that Mexico should assume the demands of Spanish subjects for reclamations, outrages, and compulsory loans agreed to in 1855 under the Santa Anna government, in consideration of assistance to be rendered the Reactionary government in the nature of a European protectorate over Mexico. This treaty was in itself sufficient justification to Juarez for sending the Spanish Minister out of Mexico, as a person unacceptable to the Government.

Already English and French squadrons had appeared off Vera Cruz, demanding the payment of so much of the national debt of Mexico as was due the citizens of those countries for indemnity for outrages; and the Spanish residents of Tampico had made complaint to their government of outrages received at the hands of the contending Mexican factions, and of the losses they had sustained by reason of forced loans. A Spanish vessel appeared at Vera Cruz, and demanded satisfaction and guarantees. To these, Juarez gave satisfaction only by diplomatic promises. It required time to look into these claims and determine precisely what ones were valid and what were fraudulent—what ones the government would assume as in honor bound, and what ones would be paid only as a matter of generosity to the claimants.

Nevertheless, the measure suspending payment served to precipitate the action of the European powers, which had apparently been in contemplation for some time. The English and French nations immediately broke off diplomatic relations with Mexico; and, to delay still longer the enforcement of constitutional government, there ensued the Foreign Intervention resulting in the French Invasion and the Second Mexican Empire.