From Empire to Republic - Arthur H. Noll

The Beginning of the Struggle for Independence

Throughout three centuries of misrule, Spain had furnished her subjects in Mexico with abundant grounds for revolt. The tide of revolution in America, begun in 1776, reached in time the Spanish provinces, and awakened there, among a people already discontented, a spirit of independence. Any shrewd observer of the social conditions of New Spain in the early years of the nineteenth century would have said that there existed therein every element of revolution. There were aborigines and half-breeds,—all ignorant and superstitious; there was a less numerous class of Creoles,—wealthy but discontented; and there were a few thousand Europeans,—proud and corrupt, profiting by every act of administrative iniquity. Such an observer would have predicted, furthermore, that the people were but waiting for some special occasion or for some competent leader to arouse them to an effort toward freeing themselves from the domination of Spain. Yet when the struggle for independence was finally inaugurated, in 1808, it was directly caused not so much by these conditions in Mexico as by the disruption of the Spanish government at home.

For many years, Spain had been under the spell of the French Revolution, and subservient to Napoleon Bonaparte, who had set his covetous eyes on the southwestern peninsula, and had determined that the Escurial should be occupied by a member of his family. Spain had been making war and peace at his behest, and in 1807 had arranged with him the partition of Portugal. But it was in defiance of all treaties that Napoleon was now proceeding to the military occupation of Spain. Murat entered the country with eight thousand French troops, in March, 1808, and proceeded to Madrid. The movement was nothing less than an attempt on the part of Napoleon to steal the crown of one of the greatest states of Europe, and if successful to rule not only Spain but also a boundless empire in the New World. Everything was favorable at the time for such an enterprise. In fact, had he chosen to wait patiently he might have attained his end in a short time without such an open and flagrant breach of law.

Carlos IV., the Spanish sovereign, was wholly unfitted to be the ruler of a kingdom. He had been reckless of his territorial possessions in the New World, and had, by the Treaty of Ildefonso, in 1801, "not as the spoils of an open war, but as the price of a dishonorable peace," basely and ignorantly abandoned to France what was known as the Province of Louisiana, containing 899,579 square miles; and Napoleon, without even taking possession, had subsequently sold this territory to the United States for fifteen millions of dollars.

The virtual ruler of Spain, however, was the corrupt Manuel Godoy, who, though high in favor with the King, was known to be the paramour of the Queen (Maria Luisa of Parma). The heir-apparent to the Spanish throne was Fernando (Ferdinand), Prince of Asturias,—narrow-minded, incapable of generous emotions, and in no respects better than Godoy, Carlos, or the Queen. He had lately been suspected of harboring designs upon his father's life.

Scarcely had Murat advanced to the capital, when an outbreak occurred in Aranjuez. Godoy fell, the King abdicated, and the Prince of Asturias was proclaimed King as Fernando VII., with all the enthusiasm of which the Spaniards have shown themselves capable throughout their history. That this movement was encouraged by Napoleon, if not actually instigated by him, there can be little doubt, despite his subsequent attempts to relieve himself of culpability in the matter. He at first refrained from acknowledging Fernando, and encouraged Carlos to withdraw his abdication as having been given under duress. When it thus became doubtful who was the King of Spain, Napoleon signified his readiness to act as arbitrator.

Fernando was persuaded to appear before the French Emperor in Bayonne, and was followed thither by Carlos and the Queen. A violent scene occurred between the father and son, and Napoleon succeeded in securing the abdication of both and their surrender for themselves and for their heirs of all rights to the crown of Spain. The two royal refugees then found themselves virtually prisoners in France. Carlos attempted to embark for his dominions in America, but was prevented. Fernando remained a captive in Valencay for five and a half years, with no knowledge of what was going on in Spain save as derived from French newspapers.

The crown thus relinquished by Carlos and Fernando was, much to the disappointment of Murat, first offered to Louis Bonaparte, then occupying the throne of Holland; and when indignantly refused by him, was hastily conferred upon Joseph Bonaparte, another brother of the great Napoleon.

Napoleon's efforts to obtain some show of consent, on the part of the Spanish nation, to the nomination of his brother to the throne, resulted in the submission of the nobles of Spain to the new order of things. The Council of Castile, the chief political body, gave its consent,—somewhat reluctantly, it may be,—and thereby set an example that was followed by the municipality of Madrid. A junta of one hundred and fifty Spanish notables, summoned to Bayonne in July, 1808, accepted a constitution proposed by Napoleon, by the terms of which the Spanish subjects in America were to enjoy the same privileges as those of the mother country, and were to be represented by deputies in the Cortes of Madrid.

Fernando, in this emergency, exhibited the duplicity of his character in the letters and proclamations which he sent forth from his imprisonment. The letters were to Napoleon and Joseph, and contained expressions of satisfaction and congratulation. Of the proclamations, one called upon the Spaniards not to oppose the "beneficent views" of Napoleon; and the other was to the Asturians, calling upon them to assert their independence and never to submit to the perfidious enemy who had deprived the King of his rights.

The first of these proclamations was regarded as having been extorted from Fernando under duress of imprisonment, and was more effective than the other in arousing the indignation of Spain. Excepting in localities where the French arms were dominant, the people rose everywhere in revolt. The city of Valencia renounced allegiance to the government of Joseph Bonaparte. Sevilla did the same, and established a junta to watch over the interests of Fernando and claim the obedience due to him. This junta declared war against France, in June, 1808. England proclaimed peace with Spain, and proceeded to aid the Spaniards in their war against France. The war thus begun continued until 1814, when Napoleon abdicated the throne of France and retired to Elba.

Each of the several political juntas now formed in various parts of Spain sent official notice of its proceedings to the Viceroy of Mexico, demanding his obedience, and asking for money to carry on the war. At the same time, Napoleon had his emissaries in Mexico striving to promote revolution. They brought orders, professedly from Fernando and the Council of the Indies, for the Mexicans to transfer their allegiance to France.

Information of the course of events in Spain was communicated to the Mexicans by the proclamation of the Viceroy dated on the twentieth of July, 1808. Naturally, perplexity and dismay resulted. The whole social system seemed to have been shaken loose. The Mexicans had been taught to regard the possessions of Spain as vested in the King, and not in the state or in the people. They could see no justice in any demand upon their obedience by a government which the Spanish people had established without their consent, and in the absence of their recognized sovereign. As there was no government in Spain, that country being overrun by French troops, were not they of the American provinces left absolutely without a government and was the necessity not clearly revealed of their making some provision for a government of their own?

It is somewhat remarkable, under such circumstances, to find the people generally manifesting a feeling of stanch loyalty to Fernando VII., and of opposition to the French. It was especially so to find the Creoles more loyal to the King than were the Europeans. A former Viceroy had made advances to the people in the name of Napoleon, and the Audiencia  had been disposed to favor the Junta of Madrid. But the Creoles received the news of the declaration of war with France with every demonstration of joy and loyalty, and it was with enthusiasm that they proclaimed Fernando VII. their King.

But for the class hatred that existed between the various components of Mexican society, and for the lack among Mexicans of leaders having a knowledge of the science of government, an immediate result of the perplexing state of affairs in Spain might have been the pacific withdrawal of Mexico, and the organization there of a representative government with, perhaps, Fernando VII. as King. The first effort in that direction, however, unfortunately aroused the class hatred to its intensest degree, and was thereby defeated.

The Viceroy of that time was Jose de Iturrigaray, the fifty-sixth, and by no means the worst, of those who had occupied that exalted office. He was public-spirited, an excellent ruler in many ways, and had shown himself rather favorably disposed toward the people. He had fostered commerce and stimulated home industry, although he had pursued the exactions characteristic of the Viceroys besides such as were necessary to supply Spain with the means to meet the extraordinary demands upon her finances.

In the perplexities that confronted him, the Viceroy declared himself determined to sustain in his government the interests of the dethroned Spanish Bourbons; and this seems to have been the popular determination throughout the Spanish-American provinces. It was with this purpose in view that Iturrigaray announced the establishment of the Junta of Sevilla, and required the Ayuntamiento  of Mexico to submit to the orders of that body. But he encountered most unexpected opposition. In the Ayuntamiento  there happened to be at that time a majority of Creoles; and some ideas of government had been developed in the minds of these, ever since the revolt of the British colonies to the north of Mexico in 1776. These ideas asserted themselves in the prompt refusal of the Ayuntamiento  to submit to the Junta of Sevilla. The Ayuntamiento  proposed to recognize Fernando VII. as the monarch, and to remain faithful to him. But it was recognized that Spain and Mexico were two kingdoms, and that a junta established in the former had no authority in the latter, either directly or indirectly, or by any sort of implication. The Ayuntamiento  therefore recommended the establishment of a junta in Mexico, to be composed of deputies from all the various cabildos  of the province, for the purpose of conserving the interests of Fernando VII. in Mexico and giving to that country a government.

It then seemed to Iturrigaray that the opportunity had presented itself for the establishment of some kind of "home rule" in New Spain, and he was inclined to assent to the suggestions of the Ayuntamiento  if they could be somewhat modified. He accordingly announced his intention of calling a junta or congress, to be composed of the Royal Audience, the Archbishop, and the Ayuntamiento; and to include representatives from each province, and from the several ecclesiastical and secular bodies, the nobility, the military, and some of the principal citizens. He also proposed the adoption of some form of provisional government in which the people would be likely to have confidence.

The Creoles were naturally flattered by the important part conceded to them in this proposed new order of things. There were ideas of independence beginning to crystallize in the minds of a few Mexicans who had studied the course of events in the United States, in Mexico, and in Europe. These also fell in with such a proposition. But the Audiencia, the Fiscales, and the military and civil officers sent out from Spain, were of a different mind; and they formed a powerful oligarchy with whom to reckon. They were naturally disposed to oppose any measure advocated by the Creoles, and especially one that required their cooperation with that hated class. They misconstrued the scheme of Iturrigaray into a treasonable design to set up an independent empire in the country, and to occupy the throne thereof.

The precise details of Iturrigaray's plan do not clearly appear. He may have hoped that during the absence of Fernando VII., who was to be the chosen ruler, the proposed junta would invest him with the government of Mexico; and he would thereby insure his retention of the viceregal office. But nevertheless it was his undoubted purpose to save the kingdom from anarchy, as well as from French intrigue; and the disinterestedness of his motives has never been called in question by representative Mexicans. On the eve of the day set for the accomplishment of whatever it was intended to do (the sixteenth of September—a date which, by a strange series of coincidences, was to be associated with a more prominent effort for the freedom of Mexico), a rich Spanish merchant living in Mexico, acting under the directions of the Audiencia, and jealous of the ascendancy the Creoles might gain from the popular form of government proposed, appeared before the Viceregal Palace at the head of a body of five hundred men. The guards of the palace were overpowered, and the Viceroy and his family were put under arrest, conveyed to Vera Cruz, and confined in the fortress of San Juan de Ulua until they could be sent across the Atlantic to Spain as prisoners of state.

This "counter-revolution," or "reactionary conspiracy," was indorsed by the Spaniards of the viceregal court and of the Audiencia, not only because they supposed the plan of Iturrigaray to be an infraction of their rights and prerogatives, but because they were alarmed, and their bitter class hatred was aroused by the suspicion that Creoles and Mestizos were to be admitted to a share in the government. As the Viceroy had been held in the highest esteem by all classes of Mexicans, this treatment of him awakened universal indignation; and the "Old Spanish party" found it necessary to take some defensive measures. They proceeded, therefore, to arm the Europeans against the Creoles, and to form "patriotic" associations for the defense of their "rights." They went even further, and made several arrests among the Creoles, accusing them, whether justly or otherwise, of being particeps criminis  with Iturrigaray in his schemes.

A leader of these persecuted Creoles was Licenciado Verdad, whose contributions to the cause of Independence had been made in the form of pasquinades and proclamations appearing daily in the City of Mexico. He was arrested upon a charge of treason, and imprisoned in the Archiepiscopal Palace. A few days later, he was hanged in his prison, without having had so much as the pretense of a trial. He was thereupon regarded as a martyr to the popular cause, and his death awakened a widespread sympathy for the upholders of the political principles he had espoused.

There was a mystery attending the execution of Verdad that has never been cleared up, though the crime of his death was laid at the door of Pedro de Garibay, an "Old Spanish" soldier whose whole career had been spent in Mexico, and whom the Europeans hastened to put in the place of the ejected Viceroy. He was a bitter partisan of the Spaniards, and during his brief term as Viceroy ad interim  recognized the Junta of Sevilla, sent to Spain all the money he could raise in Mexico, and vigorously prosecuted those who were under arrest for treason. He sought by a system of bold and oppressive action to drown all opposition to the authority of the "Central Junta," or Junta of Se villa.

The discontent of the people increased. The Creoles were thoroughly aroused. Strength was given to the revolutionary sentiments already spreading. The authority of the "Old Spaniards" began to be disputed, and from that time to decline. Ideas of a government independent of Spain began to take deep root in the minds of the Mexican people. The violence and arrogance of the Audiencia  but increased the Creoles' feeling of hostility to the Europeans.

The question in controversy became purely a class question, as to whether Spaniards or Creoles should govern New Spain during the captivity of the King. By the order of the Spanish Central Junta, ***Garibay was superseded by the Archbishop of Mexico, Francisco Javier de Lizana. He had been in Mexico since 1804, and had taken part in the deposition of Iturrigaray; but he had afterwards changed his views of the political situation, and so expressed himself to the Spanish Cortes. He openly favored the Creoles, although he promptly crushed an abortive conspiracy in favor of Independence discovered in Valladolid, in the province of Michoacan, in 1810, and arrested and executed the conspirators.

The year 1809 was one of great distress in Spain. The French overran the country, and drove the Central Junta from Sevilla to Cadiz. The Junta had summoned a Cortes in which the American subjects of his Majesty were to be represented. This Cortes was to convene in Cadiz, in March, 1810. Consequently there was no time to notify the Mexicans of the concession made to them, and their places in the Cortes were temporarily filled by persons chosen in Spain. The Junta appointed a Regency of five to administer the affairs of the government, and then disappeared from history.

This Regency issued a decree, on the twelfth of March, the declared object of which was "to Furnish the Inhabitants of the Extensive Provinces in America all the Means Necessary to Promote and Secure their Real Happiness." It declared that the Spanish subjects in America "were now raised to the dignity of freemen," and their "lot no longer depended upon the will of Kings, Viceroys, or Governors, but would be determined by themselves "; and it urged them to select deputies to the Cortes from the Spanish possessions in the New World.

Thus the spirit of independence was fostered in the colonies of Spain by the acts of Liberals at home. It seemed to both the governing class and to the governed, that after this action upon the part of the Regency of Spain, nothing could again permanently subjugate those who had been so long the slaves of the iniquitous system of Spanish government. And even before the idea of popular rights gained a firm hold on the minds of the Mexicans, the reverses sustained by the Spanish arms taught them that those arms were not invincible, and that it was a military possibility for them to free themselves from the control of the Audiencia  or of an unpopular Viceroy.

The governing class in Mexico felt that the government of Spain was completely subverted; but there was a lack of unity among them as to what it was best to do in such a case. Otherwise they would have separated from Spain, and compelled the people to continue their submission to the same harsh rule to which they had been accustomed, only under a different name. The loyalty of the people to Fernando VII. naturally inclined some of the Old Spaniards to favor the continuance of the Central Junta; others favored the Regency; others still sought to remain neutral. Could the people—the Creoles and Mestizos—have taken advantage of these divisions among the dominant classes, and of their own superior numbers, or could they have found a competent leader who could have guided them to such a course, a mighty nation might then have sprung into existence destined to achieve a splendid career. But the people lacked leadership and a knowledge of the science of government. There was no one even to tell them the value of the opportunity that was theirs. The news of the disasters in Spain, however, did this at least,—it caused the formation of clubs to further a scheme for independence from the control of Central Junta, Regency, and Audiencia, each of which had become, in the absence of the legitimate government of Fernando VII., a usurper of the supreme power in Mexico.

Lizana's career as Viceroy was brief. He was summoned to Spain by the Regency, to answer charges lodged against him by the Junta, upon representations from Mexico that his lenient policy towards the Mexicans was breeding insurrection. Pedro Catani, the President of the Audiencia, was Viceroy ad interim  until the thirteenth of September, 1810; then Francisco Javier Venegas received the Vireinate in Guadalupe, and arrived in the City of Mexico as the sixtieth Viceroy.

Venegas had been the leader of the Spanish armies, but had not been very fortunate in his conduct of the war then in progress in the Peninsula. He was scarcely the man to cope with such conditions as were then existing in New Spain. The mild Iturrigaray would have done better for Spain in such an emergency. In the first place, Venegas, by reason of his military failures on the Peninsula, was not calculated to inspire popular confidence. He was, furthermore, of hasty and passionate temper. He continued with vigor the policy of the Audiencia, and soon forced the people into resistance to his efforts to compel them to resume a position from which they had been specifically released by the action of the Regency that had appointed him to office.

Three days after Venegas took the oath of office in Guadalupe, the first actual uprising of the Mexicans began in the little town of Dolores, not far from the city of Guanajuato, and about two hundred miles northwest of the capital of Mexico. It was under the leadership of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who has since been known as "The Father of Mexican Independence." This distinguished patriot was the cura, or parish priest, of the village of Dolores. He was a Creole, nearly sixty years of age, and had been for several years nursing the idea of the independence of his country. He had mingled with the Indians, had gained a knowledge of their language, and acquired a powerful influence over them. At the same time, his learning and many excellent qualities had made him popular and influential among the Creoles and Mestizos.

From the time of Iturrigaray, the cause of Independence had been fostered in the cities of Valladolid and Queretaro, as well as elsewhere, by means of clubs, nominally of a literary character, but really political in their purposes. The clubs maintained a mutual correspondence, with a view to devising and ultimately cooperating in a scheme for the establishment of the Independence of Mexico. Of the club in Dolores, Hidalgo was president. He was maturing his plans for an uprising to occur during the great annual fiesta of the Indians, which begins on the eighth of December. It was expected that the support of the native races could then be easily obtained. Though the plan was intended primarily for the benefit of the Creoles and Mestizos, yet Hidalgo had been surreptitiously manufacturing lances in a neighboring hacienda for the purpose of arming the Indians.

Ignacio Allende, Aldama, and Abasalo,—officers in the provincial militia, which was composed at that time chiefly of Creoles,—were confidants of Hidalgo, and participants in his schemes as far as he had revealed them. Their plan of action, as at first formulated, included the capture of all public officers and of all persons connected or in sympathy with the Viceregal government and the Audiencia. This plan was by no means chimerical, considering the great disparity in numbers between the Europeans and the Creoles and higher-classed Mestizos whom it was intended to enlist in the enterprise. They were then to proclaim the Independence of Mexico, and to establish a government with a Senate and House of Deputies, all in the interests of Fernando VII, who was to be the recognized sovereign.

To obtain resources for their government, they proposed to confiscate the property of the Europeans, whom they intended to send back to Spain. In its inception, it was not essentially a race insurrection that was proposed. It was primarily a Creole movement. But when it was concluded to call in the Indians and half-breeds, a race feeling in all its bitterness was aroused.

Discussion of the details of these plans at a so called Literary Club in Queretaro, of which the Corregidor of that city and his wife were members, and an effort to enlist confederates and cooperating clubs in some of the principal provincial towns, led to the detection of the scheme by the Spanish authorities at Guanajuato. This followed closely enough upon the suppression of the threatened insurrection in Valladolid to make the Old Spaniards suspicious. The movements of the Corregidor  of Queretaro and his wife were closely watched, and orders were issued for the arrest of Allende, Aldama, and Hidalgo. It was in consequence of all this that the sixteenth of September, and not a later date, became the received birthday of Mexican Independence and Nationality.

At two o'clock on the morning of that date, Allende and Aldama came to the house of Hidalgo, awakened him, and informed him that their plans had been betrayed to the government authorities, and that the whole movement was jeopardized unless the blow were struck at once. Allende had indeed intercepted the order for his own arrest, as well as for that of Aldama and Hidalgo, and showed it to the priest. They accordingly sallied forth from Hidalgo's house, with seven other men hastily notified. They went to the juzgado  (jail), and liberated the political prisoners therein; secured arms from a neighboring cuartel  (military quarters), and armed eighty men whose allegiance they had by this time and by these means secured. They promptly seized the Europeans living in Dolores, and confiscated their property. This open declaration, at the outset, that the campaign was to be one of spoils, was not without its effect in attracting volunteers from among the Indians and half-castes. But it was not long before it had the unfortunate effect of repelling the better class of Creoles.

It was Sunday; and earlier than usual, Hidalgo prepared to celebrate mass in his parish church. To all who were in attendance he announced that the time had come for Mexico to free herself from European rule, which had become no longer Spanish but French, and which threatened to overthrow their most holy religion. He intimated that the Spaniards, who had so long been enemies to the best interests of the country, were now selling them out to French infidels. It was no difficult matter to arouse the feelings of his hearers, and his appeals for the uprising of the people have since been called the Grito de Dolores. They were responded to most promptly and heartily by the Indians of the little town and of the neighboring haciendas, and Hidalgo was able to set out that morning at the head of three hundred men, armed, for the most part, with the rudest kinds of weapons.

Passing the church of Atotonilco, Hidalgo took therefrom a banner bearing a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the special patroness of the Mexican Indians. This banner he affixed to a lance and adopted as the standard of the "Army of Independence," as he called his motley rabble. He thus appealed to the religious enthusiasm of the Mexicans, and excited to the utmost their hatred of their Spanish oppressors; for already a rivalry had sprung up between the votaries of the Virgin of Guadalupe and those of the Virgin de los Remedies, the latter being the special patroness of the "Old Spaniards."

Shouts of "Viva la Religion! Viva nuestra Madre Santisima de Guadalupe! Viva la America y muera el mal Grohierno! Viva Fernando VII.!" (Long live religion! Long live our most holy mother of Guadalupe! Long live America and death to bad government! Long live Ferdinand VII.) rent the air as the insurgents continued their march, their passions inflamed by recollections of years of oppression,—burning for revenge of real or fancied wrongs, and with the prospect of obtaining rich spoils. But they were unfortunate in adding soon afterwards to their war-cry, "Death to the Gachupines!"—f or such a bloodthirsty cry resulted first in alarming and then in alienating the Creoles. Many of these people were distinguished for their wealth and high standing, and they were naturally alarmed at an insurrection which placed them and their property at the mercy of an infuriated mob of Indians. In the first excesses committed by the uncontrollable Indians, many of the Creoles were slaughtered through failure to discriminate between them and the Europeans. The Creoles were therefore forced to the side of the Viceroy, as he prepared to adopt defensive measures.

The insurgents reached San Miguel that night. The regiment to which Allende belonged declared for Independence, and joined them. There the riotous character of the newly formed army became evident to the leaders, and they perceived what difficulty there would be in keeping the insurgents within bounds. A quantity of gunpowder, sent from the City of Mexico for use in the mines at Guanajuato, was intercepted and secured,—more than enough to supply an army having a limited number of fire-arms and relying upon its weapons of a ruder sort. More Indian volunteers were received, all as ill-armed and lacking in discipline as the others. Celaya surrendered to the insurgents, on the twenty-first of September, as they marched through it on their way to Guanajuato. An organization of the "army" was attempted in Celaya, and Hidalgo was proclaimed "Captain- General" of troops numbering twenty thousand men, including some Creole priests, but for the most part a heterogeneous mass without suitable equipment or discipline of any kind.

Meanwhile, the Viceroy had awakened to the dangers of the situation, and was sending out troops under skilled commanders to combat the insurgents and protect the places along the line of their proposed march. The discovery of the schemes of Hidalgo had been made in the time of Catani; and Venegas had been informed thereof on his way from Vera Cruz to the capital. He did not regard the matter as of great importance, however, and upon entering the capital he proclaimed the decree of the Cortes of March 12, 1810, and published a long list of rewards offered for services which might be rendered to the Spanish government. The main article of this decree related to the reduction of taxes and the removal of restrictions upon trade. It was accompanied, however, by a demand for twenty millions of dollars for the conduct of the Peninsular War. The Viceroy succeeded in attaching the Creoles more closely to his government; but his act had no effect whatever upon the hordes of infuriated Indians overrunning the province of Guanajuato, or upon their leaders, who were failing utterly in their efforts to keep them under control.

The Church had also awakened to the dangers which threatened it and the government over which it had established a quasi protectorate. The Bishop of Michoacan was issuing edicts of excommunication against the insurgents. Archbishop Lizana issued a pastoral letter combating the principles upon which Hidalgo justified the revolution he had started, and ordering the Spanish and Creole clergy to declare from their pulpits, and cause it to be everywhere known, that the purpose of the revolution was to subvert the Holy Catholic Religion. The Inquisition charged Hidalgo with every error of which that tribunal took cognizance.

This action would have had greater effect upon the faithful adherents of the Church among the popular classes, had it not been that at that time offices of profit and distinction were being conferred upon all the Spaniards who had taken part in the overthrow of Iturrigaray. For Iturrigaray had come to be regarded as a popular hero and martyr; and the benefits conferred upon his opponents revived the feeling of dissatisfaction aroused by the deposition of that Viceroy. The friends of liberty were stimulated afresh. The Viceroy Venegas was therefore forced to recall his conciliatory proclamation and his list of "inducements," and to publish a proclamation offering a reward of ten thousand dollars for the capture, dead or alive, of Hidalgo and his two chief military companions.

The city of Guanajuato, capital of a province of the same name, had about eighty thousand inhabitants, and was so rich as to divert the Indians under Hidalgo from the direct route to the City of Mexico. It was, in fact, next to the capital in point of wealth, being in the midst of the richest silver mines in Spanish America. The political chief of the province, Rianon, was universally respected for his courage, and was in command of a small body of troops. The people of the city showed a disposition to side with Hidalgo. Rianon therefore determined not to attempt the defense of the city, but he and all the Old Spaniards took refuge in the Alhondiga, or Castle Granaditas,—the fortified warehouse belonging to the Casa de Contratacion. There they put themselves in the best state of defense possible, in anticipation of the arrival of the insurgents.

Hidalgo arrived on the twenty-seventh of September, and, announcing that he had been elected "Captain-General of America," demanded the surrender of the city. The demand was at first accompanied with an offer of favorable terms, but was renewed with the warning that it would be impossible to hold in check the infuriated Indians if the surrender were refused and resistance were made. Rianon, however, refused to surrender, and prepared to sell his life and the lives of his fellow refugees as dearly as possible.

The fight that ensued was a bloody one. The provincial militia fought desperately, under skilled officers, in defense of the city; but without avail. The insurgents,—for the most part savages armed with bows, arrows, slings, machetes, lances, and the weapons to which they had been accustomed in their aboriginal state, without discipline, but fighting with desperate courage,—surrounded the city, occupied the various eminences that commanded the Alhondiga, shouted "Death to the Gachupines!" and emphasized their cries with showers of missiles. They finally forced the gates of the Alhondiga, and captured the place by storm on the twenty-eighth. Rianon was killed as the place was carried.

After the capture, Hidalgo, as he had given warning, found it impossible to restrain his undisciplined army, and the wildest scenes of confusion ensued. Despite his efforts and entreaties, a general massacre took place. For three days the carnage and destruction of property continued, until satiety and weariness stayed the hands of the insurgents. Hidalgo succeeded in adding five millions of dollars, found in the Alhondiga, to the treasury of the revolutionists. The whole province declared for him. Many of the provincial militia deserted to his standard, deeming it unsafe to remain opposed to his army. He continued his attempts to organize his troops, and kept the mint at Guanajuato employed in the coinage of money in the name of Ferdinand VII. He had the bells of the city cast into cannons for his army.

On the tenth of October he left Guanajuato for Valladolid, in Michoacan; and that city declared for independence immediately upon his arrival. The Bishop, the Cabildo, the civil authorities, and the European residents, had evacuated the place upon his approach. He now found himself at the head of eighty thousand men, but with the army of the Viceroy organized to oppose him, with himself excommunicated by the Bishop of the Diocese, and with a reward offered for his head. There was, furthermore, a Viceregal proclamation abroad decreeing that any one taken with arms against the government should be shot within fifteen minutes of the capture, and awarding no "benefit of clergy." The decree offered pardon to all who would return to their allegiance to Spain. Hidalgo received vast sums from the coffers of the Cathedral in Valladolid, and began his march in the direction of the City of Mexico. He reviewed his troops at Acambaro, and was proclaimed "Generalissimo."

On the thirtieth of October the army of the Independents gained a victory over the Spanish forces under General Truxillo at Monte de las Cruces, between Toluca and the capital, and within twenty-five miles of the latter place. In this battle the Spaniards established the precedent of suspending the customary rules of war, and a flag of truce sent by Hidalgo was fired upon by order of Truxillo. Of this act Truxillo boasted in his report of the battle, and it was applauded by the Viceroy. It is not remarkable that such acts, which characterized the Spanish in their conduct of the war that had now opened in good earnest, should have stimulated acts of a like character on the part of the insurgents.

The defeat at Monte de las Cruces completely demoralized the Viceregal army, and might have served Hidalgo a very good purpose, even to the extent of the complete success of his plan. The City of Mexico was panic-stricken, and might easily have been taken had the insurgent leader followed up his victory by a march in that direction. But he manifested an utter lack of military sagacity. After advancing to the hacienda of Quaximalpa,—only five leagues distant from the capital, and in full view thereof,—and sending a summons to the Viceroy to surrender (to which the Viceroy vouchsafed no reply), Hidalgo retreated with his army toward the interior of the country. The only plausible explanation ever offered by the admirers of Hidalgo for this strange conduct is that he dreaded subjecting the capital of his country to the frightful excesses he had seen visited by his troops upon Guanajuato.

Allende conducted the retreat, though it was against his better judgment, and in the face of his vigorous protest; and many of the insurgents, disappointed by this retrograde movement and terrorized by the ecclesiastical edicts fulminated against them, deserted. On the seventh of November the insurgents encountered a train of artillery and ten thousand well-equipped Creole troops under the command of General Felix Maria Calleja del Rey, who had been sent by the Viceroy to concentrate the Viceregal forces. A bloody and desperate battle followed. The Indians under the command of Hidalgo displayed courage, but no discretion. Rushing with their clubs upon the bayonets of the enemy, they fell in heaps. They were so ignorant of the effects of artillery that they ran fearlessly up to the mouths of cannons belching forth death and destruction, and attempted to stop them with their sombreros. As an inevitable consequence, the insurgents were defeated with a loss equal to the entire troops under Calleja del Rey. Such was the battle of Aculco.

Calleja went to Guanajuato after this battle, and made that city the scene of frightful cruelties in retaliation for the excesses committed by the Indians under Hidalgo. The inhabitants of the city were driven into the Plaza Mayor, and men, women, and children were deliberately butchered. Calleja boasted, in his official report, that by cutting their throats he had saved the Viceregal government the expense of powder and shot. The number of the slain is given as fourteen thousand; though it is difficult to believe that such a scene as this actually occurred upon our continent and in the nineteenth century. Its effect upon the Independents may easily be imagined.

Hidalgo succeeded in concentrating his remaining forces in Guadalajara, where he was received with every demonstration of joy. He made an attempt to organize something in the way of civil government. Retaining for himself the title of "Generalissimo," he exercised the functions of political dictator and appointed a "Minister of Grace and Justice" and a "Minister of State and Business." He attempted to send a commissioner to the United States; but the commissioner was made a prisoner by the Spaniards, and from him the exact state of Hidalgo's military resources and plans were learned, and other information wars gained which hastened the overthrow of the Patriot-Priest. Hidalgo had lost, in killed, wounded, prisoners, and desertions, at least thirty thousand men; but he still had an army of about eighty thousand, mostly raw recruits.

From Guadalajara he issued decrees abolishing slavery and stamp duties. He changed his policy somewhat, and removed the portrait of Fernando VII. from his banner. He began the publication of a series of "broadsides" entitled Despertador Americano  in which he sought to justify his acts and to explain his intentions more fully than he had previously had the means of doing. His edicts declaring all slaves set at liberty, and his declarations, both by word of mouth and by printed manifestos which he sent out until he flooded the land with them, that Mexico was freed from the Spanish yoke and released from all obligations to Spanish rulers, had but little effect. The opposition of the Church authorities was being felt in restraining citizens from flocking to his banner, as at first.

Though Hidalgo is now regarded as a national hero, it must nevertheless be admitted that he fell far short of being a model leader or an altogether admirable character. If he were only indirectly or remotely responsible for the excesses committed by the army of half-savage Indians whom he had enlisted and whom he was incapable of disciplining or controlling, there are some acts recorded for which he was more directly responsible, and for which it would be folly to seek justification.

Other Spanish forces were sent against the insurgents, and they suffered a final defeat in a battle fought at Puente de Calderon on the sixteenth of January, 1811. The army of the Independents was completely dispersed. Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama, and another insurgent leader, Jimenez by name, held together, and started toward the North, intending to purchase arms and procure assistance in the United States with which to renew the struggle. They were apprehended and taken under a strong guard, first to Monclova and then to Chihuahua. In the latter city, sometime in June, 1811, Allende, Aldama, and Jimenez were executed. Hidalgo was reserved for more deliberate action. He was tried by an ecclesiastical court, degraded from the priesthood, and then delivered over to the secular arm. He was shot in his prison in Chihuahua, on the thirty-first of July. The old man met his death heroically, with his last breath supplicating Heaven to favor the struggles of his country for independence.

The heads of these four martyrs to the cause of the Independence of Mexico were taken to Guanajuato and placed upon pikes at the four corners of the Alhondiga, as a warning to Mexicans of the fate that awaited any who chose to continue in revolt against the government of Spain. There they remained until 1821 and the dawn of a better day for Mexico. In 1823 the bodies of these heroes were buried under the "Altar of the Kings" in the apse of the great Cathedral in the City of Mexico.

Thus failed, chiefly through lack of a clearly defined purpose, the first great movement on the part of the Mexican people toward Independence. Hidalgo's mission seems to have been to arouse his people, to stimulate them to a struggle which must inevitably result in securing popular liberty, however long delayed. The cause survived its earliest leaders. The revolution had advanced too far to be crushed by the death of its projectors. The ghastly heads upon the Alhondiga in Guanajuato inculcated a lesson very different from that which was intended, and served to inflame the Mexicans with a new sense of their wrongs and to inspire them with a desire to renew the struggle with increased vigor.

Other leaders arose, one after another. But as the conflict deepened in intensity, it was apparent that hatred of the Spaniards was the animating principle of the Independents; and it was scarcely to be expected that a people brought up under the Spanish provincial system should suddenly prove themselves either worthy of liberty or capable of acquiring and maintaining it.

Among the military chieftains who, in irregular succession, assumed the direction of affairs, no man arose of such commanding talent as to insure the complete submission of his fellow-citizens and bind them together by the bonds of a common belief and a common purpose. Personal jealousies began to divide the Independents into factions, each governed by the temporary interests or humors of its leaders. Even in those early days we catch a fore-glimpse of the two great political parties which afterwards kept Mexico in a disturbed condition for more than half a century. The partisans of these several factions ignored whatever at the outset bound them together for common action, and betrayed each other. Otherwise the independence of Mexico had not been so long delayed. For what might not two millions of Indians, and the various castes, have accomplished by concerted action, under wise and efficient leaders, against ten thousand or even a hundred thousand Europeans?