American Minute with Bill Federer
Napoleon made an alliance with the Muslim Ottoman Empire in 1806 and Persia in 1807.
In 1807, Napoleon invaded Spain.
When Spaniards revolted in Madrid, Napoleon brought in the Muslim Mameluke cavalry.
On “DOS DE MAYO,” 1808, the Muslim cavalry charged into the crowd, hacking with scimitar swords, and crushing the Spanish resistance.
Napoleon then installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain.
Spanish America questioned being loyal to the Spanish throne with the French brother of Napoleon sitting on it.
New Spain was predominantly Catholic and Napoleon had been excommunicated by the Pope.
Beginning in 1810, Spanish America began to declare independence from French-controlled Spain.
Simon Bolivar led Venezuela, Colombia (which included Panama), Ecuador, Peru (with Don José de San Martín), and Bolivia (named after him) to become independent from Spain.
A Constitution was written similar to that of the United States to create a ‘Gran Columbia’ of former Spanish States.
It fell apart when Simon Bolivar insisted on being president for life.
U.S. President William Henry Harrison referred to Bolivar in his Inaugural Address, March 4, 1841:
“This is the old trick of those who would usurp the government of their country. In the name of democracy they speak, warning the people against the influence of wealth and the danger of aristocracy.
History, ancient and modern, is full of such examples … Bolivar possessed himself of unlimited power with the title of his country’s liberator.”
Contrary to North America, where for a century and a half prior to its independence citizens had been schooled by pastors and church leaders in self-government, Simon Bolivar accused Spain of having kept the people of New Spain for centuries under a “triple yoke of ignorance, tyranny, and vice” and therefore any new government “will require an infinitely firm hand.”
In Mexico, September 16, 1810, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo, gave a speech, “The Cry of Dolores”, calling people to revolt against the Napoleon-controlled Spanish elites.
Hidalgo gathered nearly 90,000 poor farmers, but they were defeated at the Battle of Calderon Bridge in 1811. Hidalgo was executed.
The Revolution continued until Mexico gained its independence in 1821.
Rather than setting up a constitutional republic, like the United States, Agustín de Iturbide set up a Mexican Empire where he ruled as Emperor.
In the next 36 years, Mexico struggled through 50 different governments.
Santa Anna finally laid aside Mexico’s Constitution and made himself dictator, as he had told the U.S. minister to Mexico Joel R. Poinsett:
“A hundred years to come my people will not be fit for liberty … A despotism is the proper government for them, but there is no reason why it should not be a wise and virtuous one.”
Santa Ana exiled a young leader who challenged his power in 1853 named Benito Juárez.
The next year, Benito Juárez returned to lead the Revolution of Ayutla ousting Santa Anna.
Originally, the Church saw its political responsibility as being a conscience to the elites, reminding them to treat the poor fairly as someday they too will face judgement.
Gradually, political revolutionaries began to accuse the Church as being somehow complicit in maintaining the status quo.
In 1856, backed by freemason leaders, Benito Juárez and others led a War of Reform against the church.
Religious orders were suppressed, church property was confiscated and religious clergy were denied rights.
Once he became President, Benito Juárez stopped paying interest on Mexico’s debt to Spain, Great Britain and France in 1861.
This resulted in those countries planning an invasion of Mexico.
With the United States occupied in a Civil War, French troops landed in Mexico in 1862, being supported by various indigenous communities, financial leaders and church leaders.
On MAY 5, 1862 – “CINCO DE MAYO” – the French Army suffered a minor setback at the Battle of Puebla.
The French went on to capture Mexico City, Guadalajara, Zacatecas. Acapulco. Durango, Sinaloa and Jalisco.
Numerous Mexican leaders traveled to Europe to plead with Maximillian I to come to Mexico and restore order.
Maximillian was the brother of Emperor Franz Josef, one of the world’s most powerful leaders.
Franz Josef ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire — which, after Russia, was the largest empire in Europe, consisting of:
Austria, Hungary, Bohemia (Czech), Croatia, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and parts of Serbia, Romania, Italy, Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine.
Emperor Franz Joseph later met Theodore Roosevelt in 1910.
When Emperor Franz Joseph’s nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, it began World War I.
Maximillian had a reputation for liberal ideas and progressive reform in favor of common people.
Maximillian spoke six languages and was commander of the Austrian Navy, sending out the first Austrian ship to circumnavigate the globe.
Maximillian was supported in coming to Mexico by Mexican leaders, led by José Pablo Martínez del Río.
Maximillian had the blessing of Pope Pius IX, and the backing of England’s Queen Victoria and France’s Napoleon III.
Maximillian arrived at Veracruz on May 21, 1864, to enthusiastic crowds.
He created an avenue through the center of Mexico City =- known now as the famous boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma.
Maximillian’s wife, Carlota, was shocked by the living conditions of the poor so she raised money from wealthy Mexicans to help poor houses.
Maximilian immediately abolished child labor and reduced working hour for laborers.
He canceled all debts for peasants over 10 pesos, restored communal property and broke the monopoly of Hacienda stores.
He forbade all forms of corporal punishment and decreed that poor people could no longer be bought and sold for the price of their debt.
To the dismay of wealthy, Maximilian upheld liberal policies of land reforms, religious freedom, and extended the right to vote beyond the landholding class.
The United States Government, after the Civil War, did not want European powers in the western hemisphere, as stated in the Monroe Doctrine, so it put diplomatic pressure on Napoleon III to abandon support of Maximillian and withdraw French troops from Mexico.
The U.S. then began secretly supplying guns to the Mexican gangs, conveniently ‘losing’ arms and ammunition by leaving them at El Paso del Norte near the Mexican border.
With the threat of a U.S. invasion backing Benito Juárez, Maximilian’s supporters began to abandon him.
Maximillian’s wife, Carlota, went to Europe desperate for help but was denied everywhere and suffered an emotional collapse.
Napoleon III urged Maximillian to flee Mexico, but he refused to desert his followers, knowing the fate they would suffer.
Maximillian let his followers decide whether or not he should abdicate.
Faithful Mexican generals Miguel Miramon, Leonardo Márquez, and Tomás Mejía fought with an army of 8,000 Mexican loyalists.
In 1867, they withdrew to Santiago de Querétaro, but Colonel Miguel López was bribed to open a gate to let a raiding party in.
Maximilian was captured.
Leaders around the world begged for Maximillian to be spared, including eminent liberals Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi who sent telegrams and letters to Benito Juárez pleading for his life.
Benito Juárez refused and had Maximillian shot to death on June 19, 1867.
Maximillian’s last words were:
“I forgive everyone, and I ask everyone to forgive me. May my blood which is about to be shed, be for the good of the country. Viva Mexico, viva la independencia!”
Benito Juárez died of a heart attack five years later after putting down a revolt by a young leader who challenged his power named Porfirio Diaz.
Porfirio Diaz was President till there was a revolt led by a young leader who challenged his power named Francisco Madero.
Madero was murdered in a coup d’Etat in 1913 by Victoriano Huerta, which started another civil war.
A reflective quote on the contrasting stability of the United States is from the 13th President Millard Fillmore, December 6, 1852:
“Our grateful thanks are due to an all-merciful Providence …
Our own free institutions were not the offspring of our Revolution. They existed before.
They were planted in the free charters of self-government under which the English colonies grew up …
(Other) nations have had no such training for self-government, and every effort to establish it by bloody revolutions has been, and must without that preparation continue to be, a failure.
Liberty unregulated by law degenerates into anarchy, which soon becomes the most horrid of all despotisms …
We owe these blessings, under Heaven, to the happy Constitution and Government which were bequeathed to us by our fathers, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit in all their integrity to our children.”
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.