Short History of Mexico - Arthur H. Noll
The nineteenth century dawned upon New Spain with the clouds of war hovering over the country. The first Viceroy of the new century (the fifty-fifth in the whole long list of Viceroys) was Don Felix Berenguer de Marquina, Chief of the Squadron and ex-Governor of the Mariana Islands. Little of importance occurred during the rule of this naval officer, who seems to have been somewhat Quixotic, for among other measures adopted by him was the suppression of bull-fights. He was called upon to put down an uprising of the Indians in Tepic, and also to deal with a filibustering expedition across the northern border led by an American named Nolan. The leader of this expedition was taken prisoner and executed by the Spanish troops in 1802.
The Spanish government failed to approve all of the measures of Marquina, so he resigned in 1803, and was succeeded by Don Jose de Iturrigaray, whose administration was an active one, but ended disastrously for him. He completed the celebrated Puente del Rey (King's Bridge), now the Puente Nacional on the road from Vera Cruz to Jalapa; and was the patron of the celebrated architect of Celaya, Tresguerras, by whom were built the causeway and bridge over the Laja, whence Gel ay a takes its name. He organized a militia, and so disposed the troops in towns along the coast as to resist such foreign aggressions as were feared would result from the declaration of war between England and Spain. He was a thorough economist, and encouraged home industry and the sale of home manufactures. And as proof of the prosperity of New Spain during his rule, it is mentioned that the Mint coined in 1805, in silver alone, more than $27,000,000 and that in 1806 Mexico sent $31,000 to the widows and orphans of the victims of the great battle of Trafalgar. His administration was marked by two autos de fe, wherein two priests, who were the authors of irreligious books, were executed; and it was at this time that Baron Von Humboldt resided in the City of Mexico, in the house Calle de San Agustin, No. 3, marked by a tablet mentioning the fact.
Iturrigaray dabbled somewhat in repairs of the celebrated Tajo de Nochistongo. But some of his economic measures excited the animosity of those who were not directly benefited thereby, and his administration was brought to an end on the night of the 16th of September (a noted date in Mexican history, as we shall see), 1808, by an event that gave him the title of "The Monarchist." The Audiencia and some of the Spanish residents believed (whether with or without cause seems still uncertain) that Iturrigaray, taking advantage of the condition of Spain, weakened as it was by the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the absence of Ferdinand VII., was plotting to establish an independent monarchy in Mexico and to wear the crown thereof himself. A party of five hundred Spaniards, hastily organized, with Don Gabriel Yermo, a rich sugar planter, at the head, surrounded the vice-regal palace, killed the guards, captured the Viceroy and his family, took them first to San Juan de Ulua, and afterwards hastened them off to Spain as prisoners. It is alleged on behalf of "the Monarchist" that Yermo, in raising this opposition to the Viceroy, was actuated by purely personal motives. He wished to evade the payment of $200,000 borrowed from Iturrigaray.
To the next Viceroy, Don Pedro Garibay, historians have given the title "the Revolutionist." He was an old soldier who had made his career in Mexico, and was made Viceroy by the Spanish insurgents who had deposed Iturrigaray. He was subservient to the Spaniards, and sent all the money he could get from Mexico to aid the Spanish government in its troubles at home. His rule lasted but a short time,—September, 1808, to July, 1809. The Spanish government, already fallen to pieces at home, was on the wane in Mexico. Ideas of an independent government, of "home rule," had taken hold of various persons, and the subject was being freely discussed. There were those who were not afraid to announce publicly that the cause of Independence awaited only a suitable leader. It was at this time that a mysterious murder occurred in the archiepiscopal palace in Mexico. It was that of a lawyer named Verdad, who has consequently been called the first chief and proto-martyr of Mexican Independence.
Upon the removal of Garibay, "the Revolutionist," in default of a monarch in Spain to appoint a successor, a junta central requested Francisco Javier Lizana, Archbishop of Mexico, to assume the vice-regal office. To devote himself to the functions of the civil office, Lizana gave into other hands his archiepiscopal and inquisitorial powers. He was in sympathy with the Creoles, and exerted his influence in favor of the Independents, whose object he supposed to be better government in Spain and Mexico. He expressed regret for the part he had taken in the deposition of Iturrigaray. He secured a loan of $3,000,000 two thirds of which he sent to Spain to aid in the war against Napoleon and the French. But he refused to honor other demands for $20,000,000 made by Spain upon the treasury of Mexico, seized the property of the Duke of Terranova and the Marquis of Branciforte, accused of being Bonapartists, publicly burned a proclamation of the Bonapartes; and gave orders to apprehend all who were involved in a conspiracy discovered in Valladolid (Morelia), one of the premonitory symptoms of the coming great revolt.
The Archbishop was called to Spain the 10th of May, 1810, to answer charges made by the merchants of Cadiz. His removal was considered as disastrous to the Creoles and their cause. The government of New Spain thereupon devolved upon Don Pedro Catani, President of the Audience, who is called the fifty-seventh Viceroy. He exercised the functions of that office until the 14th of September, 1810, when the new Viceroy, Don Francisco Javier Venegas, ex-Governor of Cadiz, entered Mexico. Two days later the long-gathering storm burst over the country in all its fury.
Their long-awaited leader suddenly appeared to the view of the discontented Mexicans, in the person of el cura Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the priest in the little parish of Dolores, near Guanajuato. He was born the 8th of May, 1753, in poverty, and was educated for the Church in the school of San Nicolas in Valladolid. He afterwards became rector of the school. In 1779 he went to the capital, when he took holy orders and received the degree of Bachelor of Theology. He held various livings before becoming, on the death of his brother, cura of Dolores. He was a sort of universal genius, pursuing a great variety of occupations, all bringing him in contact with the people, and gaining for him great popularity in and around Dolores. This was the man to whom has been given the title of THE FATHER OF MEXICAN INDEPENDENCE.
Hidalgo revealed to a chosen few his plans for an uprising of the natives and the overthrow of Spanish rule. He made Ignacio Allende, a native of San Miguel el Grande (now called in his honor San Miguel Allende), his trusted lieutenant in his schemes. The father of Allende was a Spaniard, his mother a Mexican. Although of good family and rich, he had devoted himself to the army and was captain of dragoons at thirty-one. Coming under the influence of Hidalgo, he heartily espoused the cause of Mexican Independence. He gained the confidence and adherence of two other officers of his regiment, Aldama and Abasalo, He was in correspondence with Independent clubs which, ostensibly as literary clubs, discussed the political situation in San Miguel and Queretaro. It was the apprehension of one of these "clubs" and the arrest of its leader, Don Miguel Dominguez, corregidor of Queretaro, that precipitated the plans of Hidalgo.
Awakened at two o'clock on the morning of the 16th of September, 1810 (the day ever since regarded as the birthday of Mexican Independence), either by Allende or Aldama, and advised that the club at Queretaro had been suppressed and that its leader was in prison, and that imprisonment awaited him in a few hours unless he could save himself by battle or flight, Hidalgo sprang from bed, called his friends to his aid, and with ten armed men captured the prison of Dolores, liberated the prisoners, and armed them with swords. Then celebrating the mass in his church, he revealed his plans to all the countrymen as they came in. By these means by daybreak he had gathered about him a devoted body of men and had fired them with zeal for the independence of their country. All Spaniards in the village were secured, and then the cura and his followers set out on the road to San Miguel.
Allende's regiment swelled the band of patriots, which had increased in number on the way from Dolores to San Miguel. From this large mass Hidalgo organized his army, taking for himself the title of General, Allende being the Lieutenant-General. In passing the church of Atotonilco, the cura took therefrom a banner containing a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe (the same banner now preserved in the National Museum), and fixing it upon a lance adopted it as the flag of his army. It gave to the movement the additional enthusiasm to be derived from religion. Shouts of Viva la religion! Viva nuestra Madre Santisima de Guadalupe! Viva la America y muera el mal gobierno!—Long live religion! Long live our Most Holy Mother of Guadalupe! Long live America, and death to bad government!—rent the air. This war-cry now goes by the name of "el grito de Dolores."
The insurgents passed through Chamacuaro, and reached Celaya on the 21st of September, There a further organization was effected. By this time the followers of Hidalgo are said to have numbered between 50,000 and 60,000 men, all filled with the enthusiasm of their leader. As may be imagined, they were wholly without discipline and were miserably equipped. It was decided to march first upon Guanajuato, and on the 25th the army was within sight of that rich city. An order was sent for its surrender, but the Spaniards gathered all their property together and shut themselves up in the Castle Granaditas. The city was attacked, taken, sacked, and the people found therein were put to the sword. It was with difficulty that Hidalgo restored order. He finally appointed a civil government in the city, and established an ordnance foundry and a mint. Thus Guanajuato became the capital of the insurrectionary government.
On the 10th of October the patriot-priest set out with the greater part of his troops for Valladolid, arriving there on the 18th, without meeting any opposition on the road. He obliged the clergy of Valladolid to raise the excommunication leveled at him by die Bishop of Michoacan; augmented his troops by a regiment of dragoons from Patzcuaro, and some of the provincial militia; arranged the civil government of the city; provided himself with supplies; and passed on towards the capital. Taking the road through Acambaro, Maravatio, Tepetongo, Ixtlahuaca, and Toluca (practically the route of the Mexican National Railway between Morelia—as Valladolid is now called—and Toluca at the present day), Hidalgo arrived with a force estimated at 100,000 men at the Monte de las Cruces (near the station of Salazar), within twenty-five miles of the City of Mexico, Camp was made there until the 2nd of December.
Meanwhile the Viceroy issued orders to the Spanish officers to concentrate and oppose the Independents. The ecclesiastics of New Spain, for the most part partisans of the Spanish government, furbished up their spiritual weapons. The Spanish friars preached furious sermons; and the Holy Office, always on the side of Spain, excommunicated Hidalgo and the most prominent of his companions, and only awaited a chance to lay hands upon him in order to otherwise punish him. But when the news of the taking of Guanajuato and the approach of the insurgents reached the City of Mexico, it was seen that Hidalgo would have to be encountered by carnal weapons. The people were seized with panic. Some placed their property in the convents for safe- keeping, and either fled or hid themselves. The Viceroy, Venegas, raised an army of three thousand men, well equipped, and placed it under the command of Gen. Torcuato Trujillo.
On the 30th of October, 1810, the two armies came into collision at Monte de las Cruces, and a terrible battle ensued. Numbers finally gained the day over better discipline and equipment, and the army of the Viceroy was completely cut to pieces. General Trujillo owed his own life to his excellent horse.
Instead of following up the advantage thus gained and advancing to attack the capital, then in a defenseless state,—a measure which would in all probability have shortened the struggle for Independence by ten years,—Hidalgo fell back toward Queretaro. Some of his soldiers deserted. The remainder encountered at Aculco some Spanish troops raised in the interior, and a disastrous battle followed, resulting in the dispersion of the Independents. Allende went to Guanajuato, accompanied by six or eight of his adjutants. Hidalgo fled to Valladolid, with only a few of his men. There he raised another army of about six thousand men, and set out for Guadalajara. The Independents of the latter city were in arms, and, under Don Jose Antonio Torres, had driven out the Spanish authorities. Hidalgo reached the city the latter part of November. Allende collected the troops in Guanajuato; but the force not being sufficient to oppose the threatened attack of the Spanish commander-in-chief, Felix Maria Calleja del Rey, who had by that time a considerable body of well-organized troops, he evacuated the city, and hastened by way of Zacatecas to join Hidalgo in Guadalajara. He reached that city on the I2th December.
Calleja del Rey, upon entering Guanajuato, began to punish the city for harboring the Independents. A friar of the order of San Diego, Padre Belaunzaran (afterward Bishop of Nuevo Leon), went out to meet the chief, and laying his hand upon the reins of his horse, commanded him in the name of Holy Church to desist from the slaughter of the citizens. Calleja obeyed, but not before he had shot fifty of the Mexicans and imprisoned others. Valladolid, abandoned by Hidalgo, was occupied by the Royalists.
In Guadalajara, Hidalgo took steps to organize a government, assuming for himself the title of Generalissimo, and naming a Minister of Grace and Justice and a Secretary of State. He sent also a commissioner to secure aid from the United States; but this officer fell into the hands of the Royalists. He issued decrees abolishing slavery, and tithes for the support of religious institutions, and somehow procured means to reorganize and equip his army and place himself in an offensive position. The Royalists, however, under Calleja, advanced upon Guadalajara, and compelled him to assume the defensive. As before, they made up in discipline what they lacked in numbers. Hidalgo took up his position at Puente de Calderon, where was fought a bloody battle on the 17th of January, 1811. It is said that the insurgent army numbered again one hundred thousand men, and had ninety-five pieces of artillery under the command of Abasalo. The Royalists had not a tenth of that number of men, but succeeded in accomplishing the complete dispersion of the Independents.
Hidalgo fled to Aguas Calientes, and meeting a division of Independent troops under Iriarte, went to Zacatecas. Allende joined him, and they started for the United States to recruit another army. On the 21st of March they were apprehended by a Spanish officer named Elizondo in a desert place in Coahuila, called Acatita de Bajan; taken by a strong guard to Monclova, and afterward to Chihuahua, and imprisoned in the building now used as the Mint. The room occupied by Hidalgo is still pointed out.
A trial was had, and Hidalgo, Allende, and two other officers who had been apprehended, Aldama and Jimenez, were condemned to death. Hidalgo was shot in front of his prison (the spot is marked by an adobe monument, without inscription), at seven o'clock in the morning of the 30th of July, 1811, and the others later in the same day. Their heads were cut off and placed upon pikes at the four corners of the Castle Granaditas in Guanajuato. It was years afterwards, and after the cause for which they had fought and died had triumphed, that the four heads were reverently brought to the capital and deposited beneath the altar de los Reyes, in the apse of the great Cathedral.
Naturally the Spanish authorities supposed that with the victory of Puente de Calderon and the execution of the four great revolutionary leaders, the seeds of revolution had been wholly eradicated. But the old saying that "Revolutions never go backward" has seldom been better exemplified than in this case.
The next leader to come forward was Ignacio Rayon, who had been placed by Allende in command of Saltillo. With a party of Independents he took possession of Zacatecas, and organized in Zitacuaro a junta, composed of himself as president and Jose Maria Liceaga and Jose Maria Morelos as members, for the regulation of the affairs of the Independents. Morelos was, next to Hidalgo, the greatest hero of the Revolution, and a man of even greater ability than Hidalgo. He too was a priest. He was a native of Valladolid, whose name has since been changed in his honor to Morelia. Born of very poor parents, in 1765, no means were at hand for his education until he was thirty years of age, when he entered the College of San Nicolas, of which Hidalgo was then rector. Ambitious and possessed of great natural ability, his progress was rapid, and he won for himself a name as a student and a man of honor. He was admitted to holy orders, and was cura of two parishes when the Revolution of Hidalgo broke out. He followed his old schoolmaster into the conflict, and by his advice took up his position in the neighborhood of Acapulco. Upon the fall of his chief in the North, he took the lead of the Independents in the South. He was possessed of more military genius than Hidalgo, and managed his campaigns with better success. He has been called "the hero of a hundred battles."
His career as a revolutionary leader, briefly sketched, is as follows: On the 5th of December, 1811, Morelos made the Spanish officer, Musito, a prisoner, and ordered him shot, and then made a triumphant entry into Izucar, where he met the cura Mariano Matamoras, another patriot-priest. On the 17th Morelos repelled an assault made by Soto on Izucar, and on the 22nd of January, 1812, he defeated Porlier, who had come to destroy him. He captured the artillery and ammunition of Porlier, and in a short time he had swept the enemy from the country from Acapulco to Cuautla, and the Viceroy was for a while without forces or an officer willing to go out and meet him.
With three thousand men Morelos proposed to advance upon the capital, and took up his position in Cuautla. He was besieged for sixty-two days by a Spanish force of double the number of men under him, which the Viceroy at last succeeded in raising. The command was given to Calleja del Rey. The evacuation of the town by Morelos after his long and heroic defense is considered among the most glorious feats in his own history and in that of his country. He went, after his escape from Cuautla, to Tehuacan, and in October, 1812, attacked Orizaba, and captured it after a few hours of fighting,—whereby a large amount of supplies, estimated as worth fourteen million dollars, fell into his hands. In the mountains of Acultzingo he met with reverses; but he recruited his forces, amounting now to five thousand men, and on the 25th of November took Oaxaca by storm. Returning then to the scene of his first military operations, he forced the surrender of Acapulco, after a long siege, on the 25th of August, 1813. This movement of Morelos has been much criticized. It was a mistake similar to that made by Hidalgo when within easy reach of the capital.
The next month Morelos took steps toward organizing the Independent Mexican government. He called a Congress, which met at Chilpantzingo (in the present State of Guerrero). Rayon was a deputy; so also was the historian Carlos Bustamante, with other distinguished personages. This Congress nominated Morelos Captain-General; abolished slavery, and imprisonment for debt; declared the collection of tithes for the support of religious houses unlawful; and on the 16th of November put forth a Declaration of Independence. Mexico was declared forever free of Spanish control, with liberty to work out its own destiny, and with the Roman Catholic religion for its spiritual guidance. For the new nation the name of "Anahuac" was chosen, in deference to the idea which then existed in the minds of the Mexicans, of an Aztec empire bearing that name. The name, however,—which means "near the water,"—was applied to all the tribes who occupied the lake basin of the Mexican Valley.
Before the promulgation of this Declaration of Mexican Independence,—namely, in February 1813,—the Viceroy Venegas was recalled to Spain, where he took the part of the Bonapartists, and was created Marquis of the Reunion. He was succeeded in Mexico by Gen. Felix Maria Calleja del Rey, who for the barbarity committed by him has been called by historians "the Cruel." He pursued the Independents with great energy, and treated such as fell into his hands without mercy, Matamoras, after a career of bravery, was executed by his command on the 3rd of February, 1814, in Valladolid; and many other names were added to the list of martyrs to the cause of Independence. The immediate effect of Calleja's sanguinary measures was a more general uprising of the Mexican people. The entire country south of the capital was overrun by insurgents in little bands, under the commands of such leaders as Vicente Guerrero, Nicolas Bravo, Felix Fernandez (who afterwards called himself Guadalupe Victoria), Manuel de Mier y Teran, Ramon Rayon, and his brother Ignacio. These bands were so scattered as to make it difficult for the Royalists to suppress them.
After the Congress at Chilpantzingo, Morelos attempted to establish a formal government in Valladolid. The city was in the hands of the Royalists under the command l62) ?> of Agustin de Iturbide. Morelos with his troops came in sight of the city the 22nd. of December, 1813. A detachment of his troops under Bravo and Galeana attacked Garita del Zapote, but was defeated, and Morelos was forced to retire to Hacienda del Chupio, and on the 15th of January, 1814, the Independents were dispersed by an attack made by Iturbide at Paruaran.
Morelos fled again to Acapulco, and there convened his Congress. In Apatzingan, on the 22nd of October, 1814, the first Mexican Constitution was adopted. The Royalists, however, followed Morelos to Acapulco, and he with the Congress and about one thousand men fled to Uruapan, and afterward to Tehuacan. Near the town of Texmalaca, on the 5th of November, 1815, the Royalists and the Independents met in conflict. What might have been the issue of the conflict can only be guessed; but it was brought to an end by the treachery of a man named Carranco, serving in the army of Morelos. He betrayed his chief into the hands of the Spanish officer Jose de la Concha.
The "hero of a hundred battles "was conducted a prisoner to the City of Mexico. There his case was made to come before the Holy Office, which, having been suspended in June, 1813, had been re-established on the 21st of January, 1814, to combat the spread of "revolutionary ideas"—political quite as much as religious—in Mexico. The last auto de fe was held on the 26th of November, 1815. The priest Jose Maria Morelos was thereby condemned to do penance "in a penitent's dress" for being "an unconfessed heretic and an abettor of heretics, a profaner of the Holy Sacraments, a traitor to God, the King, and the Pope." He was then delivered over to the secular arm. He had refused to inculpate any other persons in the crimes of which he was accused. He was taken to San Cristobal Ecatepec, where, on the afternoon of the 21st or the morning of the 22nd of December, 1815, he was shot. Francisco Rayon, a brother of the patriots Ignacio and Ramon Rayon, was shot about the same time in Ixtlahuaca.
The Inquisition had no further opportunity to exercise its power in Mexico. It was finally suppressed by the decree of the Spanish Cortes becoming operative in Mexico on the 31st of May, 1820, a short time only before the final overthrow of the Spanish dominion. In its very efforts to support the tottering Spanish authority it wrought its own destruction. In its treatment of the hero Morelos alone it rendered itself so thoroughly odious to the people that it was impossible for them to rest until they had overthrown the government which used such a hated institution to oppress its colonies.
With the death of Morelos closed the second act in the great drama of Mexican Independence. The administration of Calleja del Rey lasted until the year 18 16. His cruelties continued until the end. Two women of distinction fell under his displeasure and into his hands, and were imprisoned. One was the wife of Andres Quintana Roos, a member of the congress of Morelos; the other was the wife of the Corregidor of Queretaro, Miguel Dominguez, whose fall in 1810 had precipitated the movement of Hidalgo. So the cause of Mexican Independence was not without its women martyrs.
The succeeding Viceroy entered the City of Mexico on the 19th of September, 1816, was Don Juan Ruiz de Apodaca, called by historians "the Unfortunate," whose misfortune seems to have been that he was called upon to administer the government of Mexico for five years at a critical period, when the affairs of Spain were in a hopeless condition at home, and when the cause of Independence in the New World was daily gaining strength, in despite of the loss of its greatest leader, and that he finally succumbed to the adverse circumstances which were all along too strong for him. It must be admitted that when the government first devolved upon Apodaca, the revolution seemed to be crushed. Following upon the death of Morelos were the defeat and surrender of one after another of the revolutionary leaders,—Manuel de Mier y Teran, Ramon Rayon, and Nicolas Bravo. Apodaca was at first disposed to be conciliatory, and some of the Independents accepted his offers of amnesty and laid down their arms. Some exiled themselves and became refugees in foreign lands. Others, however, retired to the mountains, and there "kept alive the sacred fires of Independence and Liberty." Among these was Vicente Guerrero, with whom we shall have more to do hereafter.
To this period belongs an incident not properly connected with the war for Independence, as it was the work of a foreigner, and intended to gratify his love of adventure rather than to better the condition of the Mexicans. Yet it is much lauded by Mexican writers as the most glorious of the pages of their nation's history, and is compared with the most famous exploits of the Spartans. This was the expedition of Mina. Francisco Javier Mina was a Navarrese who had been educated for the bar, but upon the invasion of his country by Napoleon Bonaparte had raised a band of patriots and pursued a sort of irregular warfare in the mountains. He was subsequently placed in command of a province, and went to Madrid. But he was not in accord with Ferdinand VIL, and attempted to incite a revolution. Being foiled, he escaped to England, where he met Mexican refugees, Mier y Teran among them, and arranged with them an expedition to Mexico to aid the cause of the Independents.
In April, 1817, with a small squadron and a handful of men, Mina debarked in Santander, and marched to Soto la Marina. Here he issued a manifesto announcing the re-establishment of the Spanish constitution, and constructed a fort in which to defend himself against the Royalists. He left therein one hundred of his men with artillery; and with the rest of his small army, evading the vigilance of the Royalists, he set out to join the Independent troops concentrated in the Bajio de Guanajuato. In May some of his men deserted. They were Texan colonists, and returned to Texas, and he was left with only three hundred men. The force left at Soto la Marina was compelled to surrender, and among the prisoners taken by the Royalists was Padre Mier. Mina with his scanty troops encountered and defeated a force of seventeen hundred Royalists in the Hacienda de Peotillos, and took four pieces of artillery, together with ammunition and provisions (June 8). The same month he captured the fort of Sombrero, and defeated the Royalists in San Juan de los Llanos, capturing two cannon, five hundred muskets, and many prisoners. At Jaral (in the State of San Luis Potosi) he captured the hacienda belonging to the Marquis of Moncado, and one hundred and forty thousand dollars left behind by the Marquis in his flight.
The Viceroy at last made up his mind that the astonishing stories that reached his ears of the advance of a new revolutionary chief were based upon facts, and awoke to the necessity of taking steps to check the career of this new enemy. He raised an army in l68) ?> Queretaro, and placed it under the command of Linan, and sent him in pursuit of the revolutionary leader. Mina, however, continued to act upon the offensive, and planned an attack upon Leon; but upon its failure he retired to Sombrero, six leagues distant. Linan reinforced his army, advanced to Sombrero, and surrounded the fort.
For nine days Mina and his men were without food or water; but on the 19th of August, 1817, the plucky Navarrese made a sortie, and escaped to San Gregorio with one hundred of his men, the rest of his army being cut to pieces. He was again besieged in San Gregorio, and again cut his way through the Royalist army; and going by way of Bajio he took San Luis de la Paz and the La Luz mines, captured Guanajuato, and mustering some cavalry went to the ranch of Venadito. There he was assaulted on the 27th of October, and after a desperate defense was made prisoner. He was conducted to San Gregorio, and executed on the 11th November, 1817.
The capture of Mina was celebrated at the capital with illuminations and public rejoicings, and gained for the Viceroy the title Conde del Venadito. The same month Rayon and his whole family were taken prisoner at Patambo, and were not released until three years subsequently. The Royalists did not succeed until the early part of the year 1818 in getting final possession of the forts which had been occupied by Mina's men.
The principal revolutionary leader remaining in the country when the year 1818 opened was Vicente Guerrero. He was born of humble parents in Tixtla in the year 1782, and in his youth engaged in agricultural pursuits. He joined the revolutionary army in October, 1810, and the next year fought under Morelos. In 1812 he was already distinguished for his energy and bravery, and likewise for his clemency to the conquered. He saw all the ups and downs of military life, but was never discouraged. In March, 1818, he saw all the revolutionary organizations dispersed and the war apparently at an end; yet in September he gained two victories over the Spanish troops, and the following month was able to collect the scattered revolutionary forces and reorganize the Independents. The next year he carried on a desultory but annoying war, winning about twenty battles of more or less importance.
Coming at the end of a long series of revolutionary movements, although he had made a more modest beginning than any of the others, it was clearly seen by the wiser men of the country, both Spanish and Mexicans, that the movements of Guerrero were to be fraught with greater consequences to New Spain than any of those which had preceded. The state of the Spanish government at home was such as to give no hope whatever that the seeds of revolution could be rooted out in Mexico beyond all danger of their springing up again and finally growing beyond all control. Attention began to be directed to the growth of the tree in the right direction.
The reader is to be introduced here to Agustin de Iturbide, a native of Valladolid (Morelia), the birthplace of Morelos. He was born September 27, 1783, his father being a Spaniard, his mother a Mexican. Before he was sixteen years of age he had been made an officer in the Spanish militia, and he subsequently served in the Royalist army in different parts of the country with such distinction as to secure his promotion to a colonelcy.
His ambition awoke. A glance at the status of affairs in 1820 was sufficient to convince him that there was no hope of maintaining the power of Spain any longer in Mexico. When the liberal constitution was that year proclaimed in Spain it was evident to Iturbide that a crisis was pending in Mexico, and he determined to gain for himself a higher position in the new order of things than the Spanish government could offer, even if it succeeded in maintaining itself. He attached himself to the ecclesiastics and more politic of the Spaniards, Creoles, and Mexican leaders, and after many conferences a program of action was duly adopted, though kept secret for a time. Independence and separation from Spain were to be secured, but by themselves, not by the already existing party of revolutionists, and by the terms of the compact a Mexican representative monarchy was to be erected, ruled by a king of Spanish royal blood. It was a scheme calculated to conciliate all the various factions in the country,—to attract even the staunchest Royalists.
Iturbide took the lead in the matter, secured from the Viceroy command of an expedition against Guerrero (who was then in the South), and in November. 1820, he established his headquarters in Teloloapam, with twenty-five hundred men. He entered forthwith into a correspondence with Guerrero, which resulted in an interview between the two opposing chiefs at Acatempan on the 10th of January, 1821, and the explanation to Guerrero of the plans to secure home rule for Mexico under an imported Spanish king. Guerrero was delighted, and at once ceded the command of the joint forces to Iturbide; and soon what has since been known as the "Plan de Iguala" was published to the world (February 24, 1821). It caused great excitement in Mexico, and gained favor everywhere. Only the immediate followers of the Viceroy were dismayed. And no offers from the Viceroy himself, of pardon, money, or promotion, seduced Iturbide from his purpose.
In vain the Viceroy raised an army of six thousand Royalists and established it on the road between the City of Mexico and Tlalpam for the protection of the capital and as a menace to the forces of Iturbide. Valladolid, Queretaro, and Puebla were captured, and the capital besieged by the army of the new chief. The Spanish cause grew weaker daily, and the Royalists finally began to find fault with the Viceroy, accusing him of incapacity. Apodaca gave up the struggle. Don Francisco Novella, his chief of artillery, then in command of the forces at the capital, was named in his place, and "the Unfortunate" departed for Spain.
Novella did little in the discharge of the vice-regal functions. It was too late to stop the tide of revolution, and the measures he dictated were without result. The Mexican officers who had previously retired from active service again came to the front, and even Spanish Royalists declared themselves in favor of Independence. Santa Anna became prominent in Vera Cruz; Negrete, Cortazar, Filisola, and Bravo are other names connected with this portion of Mexican revolutionary history. The whole country was in the hands of the Independents, Iturbide secured ample means for a successful campaign against the remnant of Spanish rule still left in the country.
Such was the state of affairs when, in July, 1821, there arrived in Mexico Gen. Juan O'Donoju, the sixty-fourth Viceroy and the last. He found things wholly beyond his control, and nothing to do but to acquiesce in the measures dictated by those whom he found in possession of the country he had been sent to govern. He took the oath of office in Vera Cruz.