F Heritage History | Maximilian in Mexico by George Upton

Maximilian in Mexico - George Upton




Fruits of the New Government

We have seen from the preceding chapters what the state of affairs in Mexico was when Maximilian assumed the government. By the beginning of the second year of the Empire matters had already materially changed. Most of the country folk had returned to their farms, and city merchants who dealt in agricultural implements soon saw their stock disappear, and were forced to order fresh supplies. This led to a steady commercial intercourse with the United States which greatly increased after the close of the Civil War. In the Spring of 1865 the duties to Mexico from New York alone amounted to 1,700,000 pesos in a single week. Trade with the West Indies, South America, and Europe was also extensive. Merchants who at first had been obliged to purchase on credit, owing to the prevailing lack of funds, were by this time able to pay cash for goods. This was certainly one good result of the new government, as must have been recognized by all public-minded Mexicans.

With the prospect of profit and an assured market, trades and crafts also revived. Hundreds of youths, who had been torn from their peaceful occupations and forced to join the revolutionist bands, returned to their apprenticeships. Channels of trade were improved. A regular line of mail steamships was established in the Gulf of Mexico, and intercourse was resumed with all Pacific ports. Fine steamers made monthly trips from San Francisco to La Paz, Guaymas, and Mazatlan, and twice a month from Guaymas to Acapulco. Construction was begun on the railroad between Vera Cruz and the capital, though it was afterward suspended. A telegraph line was built from Mexico to San Luis Potosi. The national finances were also much improved. Customs receipts steadily increased and the mints coined more dollars than ever before, though still bearing the stamp of the Republic.

These were some of the happy results of the new administration. That they were of but brief duration was not the fault of the government nor yet of the Emperor, but of Juarez who, still passing as President, succeeded only too well in his schemes for undermining the Empire.

With increasing prosperity came a revival of various sports and amusements, of which the Mexican people are naturally so fond. Early in the year 1865 most of the European ambassadors arrived with their suites, and a series of splendid entertainments followed at the imperial court. Later the marriage of Marshal Bazaine to the seventeen-year-old niece of General Lopez furnished occasion for more festivities. These diversions, however, did not cause the Emperor to slacken his labors for the improvement of the country. On the third of March, 1865, he had the Empire divided into fifty departments and revived the so-called "Indian Council," which had existed in the days of Spanish sovereignty, placing at its head the advocate, Faustin Chimalpopoca, a pure Aztec. The Indians still formed the larger part of the population of Mexico in spite of the efforts of the Republic to enslave and crush them. Realizing the importance of this class of people, Maximilian took the greatest interest in their protection and welfare, while they in turn remained loyal to him to the last.

On the tenth of April, 1865, the anniversary of his acceptance of the crown, Maximilian published an imperial statute declaring that, as a number of provinces still remained hostile to the Empire, he did not deem it wise as yet to introduce popular representation, but promised to do so as soon as the national disturbances were settled. Besides the Guadeloupe order, revived in 1863, and the order of the Mexican Eagle, founded in January, 1865, a special order for women, that of San Carlos, was instituted, April tenth, by the joint sovereigns. Another important task was the reorganization of the army. Most of the Mexican officers at that time were quite useless and must be got rid of. To replace these and furnish a supply of efficient native officers, Maximilian opened the military school at Chapultepec.