F Heritage History | Maximilian in Mexico by George Upton

Maximilian in Mexico - George Upton




Enemies Within and Without

Maximilian's failure to settle this question, so important to Mexico, not only was of the greatest detriment to the restoration of peace and order, but also lost him the sympathies of the clerical party, already averse to the new sovereignty.

The unsettled condition of the country has been already alluded to. It is impossible for peaceful industries to flourish where the lives and property of citizens are in constant danger. The path of outlawry and anarchy is marked only by mouldering corpses and smoking ruins. Some idea of the state of things may be obtained from a report sent by the prefect of Zamora to his chief, Antonio Moral, on the ninth of March, 1865:

"This prefecture has learned through spies and other sources of information that the robber chiefs Regules, Salazar, Egiulus, and others are assembling their bands in large numbers for attack. Should the troops stationed at Mazamitla and Uruapan be withdrawn, the bandits will capture this town without a doubt, an event which would be followed by the most serious consequences. I must add that all towns in the south of this department are in the same danger, and earnestly implore aid. Pazcuaro is menaced by more than 1400 outlaws. Unless General Neigre, who has been informed of the danger, speedily sends assistance, it will fall into their hands and a terrible catastrophe be precipitated."

On the tenth of May, 1865, the Mexican commander-in-chief, Vicente Rosas, writes to the minister of war:

"Matters are bad and grow worse daily. Besides the bands of Regules and Pueblita, several others are roving about in this vicinity, plundering and burning haciendas. Unless something can be done to remedy affairs, this whole department will be lost."

The country's most serious enemy, however, was its ex-President, Benito Juarez. Born about 1807, in the State of Oaxaca, of an Indian family, claiming descent from Zapotekos, Juarez's childhood was spent in extreme poverty. With a natural thirst for knowledge, he eagerly availed himself of all the opportunities for learning that came within his reach, and, finally succeeding in obtaining some education, he determined to devote himself to the study of law. A wealthy Indian merchant, named Don Jose Hernandez, had taken him into his service as errand-boy from which position he soon rose to a clerkship, and afterward was admitted to the bar with the dignity of Doctor of Laws. Later he was elected to the Vice-Presidency under Comonfort, upon whose resignation, in 1858, Juarez became President of Mexico.

When Maximilian assumed the throne, Juarez's term of office had nearly expired (November 30, 1864). He would have been wise therefore to recognize the Empire, under which he might have looked to hold some important position. Maximilian, indeed, did make overtures to the ex-President by offering him a place in the cabinet, but Juarez coldly declined, preferring to remain at the head of the revolutionists, who kept Mexico in a state of turmoil and effectually prevented any peaceful development of that distracted country.

The position taken by the United States toward the new Empire has already been alluded to. On the fourth of April, 1864, Congress adopted a resolution declaring the unwillingness of the United States tacitly to appear before the world as an indifferent spectator of the deplorable events then taking place in Mexico, and its refusal to recognize a monarchical government founded on the ruins of an American republic and under the protection of a European power.

Much to his regret, therefore, Maximilian was forced to abandon all thought of an embassy at Washington. Realizing fully how great an advantage recognition by the United States would have been to the Empire, both he and his ministers had used every effort to establish friendly relations between the two governments. The White House, however, still continued to recognize Juarez and his ambassador, Romero, a crafty official who succeeded, not only in establishing recruiting offices for his master in some of the large cities of the United States, but in winning over many of the newspapers also to his side.