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Imperio Mexicano (Spanish)
Motto: Equidad en la Justicia
"Equity in Justice"
Anthem: "Himno Nacional Mexicano"
(English: "National Anthem of Mexico")
Territory of the Second Mexican Empire upon establishment
|Status||Protectorate of France|
|Government||Federal constitutional monarchy|
|Chamber of Deputies|
|8 December 1861|
• Empire reestabilished
|10 July 1863|
• Maximilian I accepts the crown
|10 April 1864|
• Emperor executed
|19 June 1867|
|1868||1,972,550 km2 (761,610 sq mi)|
|ISO 3166 code||MX|
|Today part of||Mexico|
The Mexican Empire (Spanish: Imperio Mexicano) or Second Mexican Empire (Spanish: Segundo Imperio Mexicano) was the name of Mexico under a limited hereditary monarchy declared by the Assembly of Notables on July 10, 1863, during the Second French intervention in Mexico. It was created with the support of Napoleon III of France, who attempted to establish a monarchist ally in the Americas. A referendum confirmed Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.
Promoted by the powerful and conservative elite of Mexico's "hacendados", with the support of the French, as well as from the Austrian and Belgian crowns, the intervention attempted to create a monarchical system in Mexico, as it had functioned during the 300 years of the viceroyalty of New Spain and for the short term of the imperial independent reign of Emperor Agustín I of Mexico. Support came mainly from conservative Catholics, who were at the time a majority within Mexico, and the main means came from the Mexican nobility, who aimed to promote stability. The Empire came to an end on June 19, 1867, with the execution of Emperor Maximilian I.
The rule of Emperor Maximilian was blemished by constant conflict. On his arrival in 1864 with his wife, Empress Carlota of Mexico, daughter of King Leopold I of the Belgians, he found himself in the middle of a political struggle between the Conservatives who backed him and the opposing Liberals, headed by Benito Juárez. The two factions had set up parallel governments: the Conservatives in Mexico City controlling central Mexico and the Liberals in Veracruz. The Conservatives received funding from Europe, especially from Isabella II of Spain and Napoleon III of France; the Liberals found backing from United States Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, after the U.S. had finished its own Civil War in 1865.
The United States government viewed Emperor Maximilian as a French puppet, and did not regard his reign as the will of most Mexicans or see him as the legitimate leader of Mexico. They demanded the withdrawal of French forces, and France acceded. In 1867, the empire fell and Maximilian was executed at the orders of Benito Juárez, in the Cerro de las Campanas near Querétaro.
Maximilian proved to be too liberal for the conservatives, and too conservative for the liberals. He regarded Mexico as his destiny and made many contributions. Before his death, Maximilian adopted the grandsons of the first Mexican emperor, Agustín de Iturbide: Agustín de Iturbide y Green and Salvador de Iturbide y Marzán.
Role of France
Napoleon III had more ambitious goals than the recovery of France's debts. Heavily influenced by his wife Empress Eugenie, he was intent on reviving the Mexican monarchy. Prior to 1861 any interference in the affairs of Mexico by European powers would have been viewed as a challenge to the U.S., and no one wanted to provoke a conflict with them. In 1861 the U.S. was embroiled in its own conflict, the American Civil War, which made the U.S. government in Washington, D.C., powerless to intervene. Encouraged by Empress Eugenie, who saw herself as the champion of the Catholic Church in Mexico, Napoleon III took advantage of the situation.
Napoleon III saw the opportunity to make France the great modernizing influence in the Western Hemisphere, as well as enabling the country to capture the South American markets. To give him further encouragement, there was his half brother, the duc de Morny, who was the largest holder of Mexican bonds.
- Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian born on 6 July, the second son of Archduke Franz Karl and his wife Sophie in Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna.
- Begins career in the Imperial and Royal Navy with the rank of lieutenant.
- The construction of his castle of Miramar near the Adriatic port of Trieste began.
- Ferdinand Max appointed the governor-general of the northern Italian provinces of Lombardy-Venetia. On 27 July marries the Princess Charlotte of Belgium in Brussels.
- On 19 April relieved of his post as governor-general. War breaks out with France and Piedmont-Sardinia.
- Napoleon III suggests Maximilian as a candidate for the throne of Mexico.
- In October a Mexican delegation arrives at Miramar to offer Maximilian and Charlotte the crown. Maximilian makes his acceptance conditional on a national plebiscite in his favor.
- On 14 April Maximilian and Charlotte leave Miramar on board the Austrian ship SMS Novara to sail to Mexico.
- End of the American Civil War; pressure placed on France to respect the Monroe Doctrine.
- Maximilian adopts Don Agustin and Don Salvador.
- Maximilian issues his Black Decree, condemning to death without trial more than eleven thousand Juarez supporters, thus inflaming the Mexican Resistance.
- Maximilian abolishes on November 30 the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico
- Napoleon III orders the withdrawal of French troops from Mexico. The Emperor Maximilian refuses to desert his Mexican supporters. Charlotte sails to Europe to plead for help, growing persecution mania robs her of her senses. Republican troops on the advance in Mexico. France and Mexico sign a series of treaties that allow France to seize the receipts of Mexican customs to pay for the French intervention.
- Maximilian and his Imperial troops are besieged in the city of Santiago de Querétaro. The city falls through betrayal after 72 days. On 19th of June, Emperor Maximilian and two loyalist generals are executed by a republican firing-squad on the Hill of the Bells.
- On 18 January the body of Maximilian laid to rest among his ancestors in the Imperial Crypt of the Capuchin Church in Vienna.
One of the main challenges encountered by the Emperor was the lack of sufficient infrastructure to link the different parts of the realm. The main goal was connecting the port of Veracruz and the capital in Mexico City. In 1857, Don Antonio Escandón secured the right to build a line from the port of Veracruz to Mexico City and on to the Pacific Ocean. Revolution and political instability stifled progress on the financing or construction of the line until 1864, when, under the regime of Emperor Maximilian, the Imperial Mexican Railway Company began construction of the line. Political upheaval continued to stifle progress, and the initial segment from Veracruz to Mexico City was inaugurated nine years later on January 1, 1873 by President Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada.
In 1857 the original proprietors of the government concession, the Masso Brothers, inaugurated on the 4th of July the train service from Tlatelolco, in México City, to the nearby town of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Eventually they ran out of funds and decided to sell it to Manuel Escandón and Antonio Escandón. The Escandón Brothers continued working and the project, and Antonio Escandón visited the United States and England in the last months of the year. In the first country, he hired Andrew Talcott, and in the latter, he sold company stock. Exploration of a route from Orizaba to Maltrata was performed by engineers Andrew H. Talcott and Pascual Almazán.
During the French intervention, part of the railways were destroyed. The only option available was the establishment of a pact between the French Army, and the two companies of the Escandón Brothers. The French Army was to provide a subsidy to the companies of 120 000 francs a month for the works, and the companies were to establish service from Veracruz to Soledad para by May, actually concluding on August 15, 1862, concluding 41 kilometres of tracks. Next they reached the Camarón station, with a length of 62 kilometres. By October 16, 1864 they reached Paso del Macho with a length of 76 kilometres.
On September 19, 1864, the Imperial Mexican Railway Company (Compañía Limitada del Ferrocarril Imperial Mexicano) was Incorporated in London to complete the earlier projects and continued construction on this line. Escandón ceded his privileges to the new company. Smith, Knight and Co. was later contracted in 1864 by the Imperial Mexican Railway to continue work on the line from Mexico City to Veracruz. William Elliot was employed as Chief Assistant for three years on the construction of about 70 miles of the heaviest portion of the Mexican Railway, after which he returned to England. He had several years of experience building railways in England, India, and Brazil. In this last country, he held the position of Engineer-in-Chief of the Province of São Paulo.
Maximiliano I hired engineer M Lyons for the construction of the line from La Soledad to Monte del Chiquihuite, later on joining the line from Veracruz to Paso del Macho. Works were begun in Maltrata, at the same time that the works from Veracruz and Mexico City kept moving forward. By the end of the Empire in June 1867, 76 kilometers from Veracruz to Paso del Macho were functional (part of the concession to Lyons) and the line from Mexico City reached Apizaco with 139 km.[better source needed]
Before 1864, there was no banking in Mexico. Credits were obtained from religious orders and merchant guilds. During the French Intervention, the branch of a British bank was opened. The London Bank of Mexico and South America Ltd began operations with a capital of two and a half million pesos. It belonged to the Baring Brothers Group, and had its head office in the corner of the Capuchinas and Lerdo Streets in Downtown Mexico City.
At the beginning of the American Civil War, the city of Matamoros was simply a sleepy little border town across the Rio Grande from Brownsville. It had, for several years, been considered a port, but it had relatively few ships arriving. Previous to the war, accounts mention that not over six ships entered the port each year. Nevertheless, in about four years, Matamoros, due to its proximity to Texas, was to assume state as a port, and multiply its inhabitants in number. Following is a quote from a Union General in 1885 describing the importance of the port in Matamoros:
Matamoros is to the rebellion west of the Mississippi what New York is to the United States—its great commercial and financial center, feeding and clothing the rebellion, arming and equipping, furnishing it materials of war and a specie basis of circulation that has almost displaced Confederate paper...The entire Confederate Government is greatly sustained by resources from this port.
The cotton trade brought together in Bagdad, Tamaulipas and Matamoros over 20,000 speculators from the Union and the Confederacy, England, France, and Germany. Bagdad had grown from a small, seashore town to a "full-pledge town." The English-speaking population in the area by 1864 was so great that Matamoros even had a newspaper printed in English—it was called the Matamoros Morning Call. In addition, the port exported cotton to England and France, where millions of people needed it for their daily livelihood, and it was possible to receive fifty cents per pound in gold for cotton, when it cost about three cents in the Confederacy, "and much more money was received for it laid down in New York and European ports." Other sources mention that the port of Matamoros traded with London, Havana, Belize, and New Orleans. The Matamoros and New York City trade agreement, however, continued throughout the war and until 1864, and it was considered "heavy and profitable."
By 1865, Matamoros was described as a prosperous town of 30,000 people, and Lew Wallace informed General Ulysses S. Grant that neither Baltimore or New Orleans could compare itself to the growing commercial activity of Matamoros. Nevertheless, after the collapse of the Confederacy, "gloom, despondency, and despair" became evident in Matamoros—markets shut down, business almost ceased to exist, and ships were rarely seen. "For Sale" signs began to sprout up everywhere, and Matamoros returned to its role of a sleepy little border town across the Rio Grande.
The conclusion of the American Civil War brought a severe crisis to the now abandoned Port of Bagdad, a crisis that until this day the port has never recovered from. In addition, a tremendous hurricane in 1889 destroyed the desolated port. This same hurricane was one of the many hurricanes during the period of devastating hurricanes of 1870 to 1889, which reduced the population of Matamoros to nearly half its size, mounting with it another upsetting economic downturn.
Maximilian I wanted to reorganize the territory following scientific criteria, instead of following historical ties, traditional allegiances and the interests of local groups. The task of designing this new division was given to Manuel Orozco y Berra (1816-1881).
This task was realized according to the following criteria:
- The territory should be divided in at least fifty departments,
- Whenever possible, natural boundaries shall be preferred,
- For the territorial extension of each department, the configuration of the terrain, climate and elements of production were taken into consideration so that in due time, they could have a roughly equal number of inhabitants.
On March 13, 1865, the new Law on the territorial division of the Mexican Empire was published. The Empire was divided into 50 departments (departamentos):
- El Potosí
- La Laguna
- Nuevo León
- Valle de México
|Number||Department||Total population||Capital||Population||Surface (Sq Leagues)||Pop. Density|
|V||Chiapas||157,317||San Cristóbal de las Casas||10,500||1,871||84.08|
|III||La Laguna||47,000||El Carmen||5,000||1,685||27.89|
|XXXIX||Mapimí||6,777||San Fernando de Rosas||1,000||4,528||1.50|
|XXXIII||El Potosí||308,116||San Luis Potosí||34,000||2,166||142.25|
|IV||Tabasco||99,930||San Juan Bautista||6,000||1,905||52.46|
|XIV||Valle de México||481,796||México||200,000||410||1,175.11|
The information from this table was the estimate for the year 1865.
Today, the Second Mexican Empire is advocated by small far-right groups like the Nationalist Front of Mexico, whose followers believe the Empire to have been a legitimate attempt to deliver Mexico from the hegemony of the United States. They are reported to gather every year at Querétaro, the place where Maximilian and his generals were executed.
In popular culture
The 1970 film Two Mules for Sister Sara was set in Mexico during the years of the Second Mexican Empire. The two main characters, played by Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine, aided a Mexican resistance force and ultimately led them to overpower a French garrison.
The 1969 film The Undefeated starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson portrays events during the French Intervention in Mexico and was also loosely based on the escape of Confederate General Sterling Price to Mexico after the American Civil War and his attempt to join with Maximilian's forces.
The 1965 film Major Dundee starring Charlton Heston and Richard Harris featured Union cavalry (supplemented by Galvanized Yankees) crossing into Mexico and fighting French forces towards the end of the American Civil War.
The 1954 film Vera Cruz was also set in Mexico and has an appearance of Maximilian having a target shooting competition with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster's character at Chapultepec Castle. Maximilian was played by George Macready, who at 54 was twenty years older than the Emperor was in 1866.
The 1939 film Juarez featured Paul Muni as Benito Juárez, Bette Davis as Empress Carlota, and Brian Aherne as Emperor Maximilian. It was based, in part, on Bertita Harding's novel The Phantom Crown (1937).
In the Southern Victory Series by Harry Turtledove, Maximilian's Empire survives the turmoil of the 1860s into the 20th century due to the Confederate States emerging victorious in its battle against the United States of America in the "War of Secession"; thus, the United States becomes too weak and unwilling to pressure Maximilian's puppet state to capitulate to rebels and dissolve. It fights alongside the Confederate States against the United States in 1881-1882, 1914-1917 and 1941-1944 and experiences a civil war during the interwar years between republicans and Habsburg royalists. In 1881, it sold its northern provinces of Sonora and Chihuahua to the Confederacy and in 1944, it lost its extraterritorial province of Baja California to the United States after the Second Great War.
The 1990 novel The Difference Engine, co-authored by William Gibson and Bruce Stirling, is set in an alternate 1855 where the timeline diverged in 1824 with Charles Babbage's completion of the difference engine. One consequence is the occupation of Mexico by the Second French Empire with Napoleon III as the de facto emperor instead of the installation of Emperor Maxillian.
In Mexican popular culture, there have been soap operas like "El Carruaje" (1967), plays, films, and historical novels such as Fernando del Paso's Noticias del Imperio (1987). Biographies, memoirs, and novels have been published since the 1860s, and among the most recent have been Prince Michael of Greece's The Empress of Farewells, available in various languages.
- First Mexican Empire
- Second French intervention in Mexico
- Imperial Crown of Mexico
- Emperor of Mexico
- Mexican Imperial Orders
- Nationalist Front of Mexico
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Media related to Second Mexican Empire at Wikimedia Commons