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Benito Juárez and Liberalism  

Guy Thomson

Benito Juárez was born on March 21, 1806, in San Pablo Guelatao, a Zapotec-speaking hamlet in Sierra de Ixtlán (renamed the Sierra de Juárez on July 30, 1857) in Mexico’s southeastern state of Oaxaca. He died in the National Palace on July 18, 1872, as President of the Republic, an office he had occupied since January 1858, when, as President of the Supreme Court, he had succeeded the moderate Liberal Ignacio Comonfort, who had been driven into exile by a Conservative military revolt. During his fifteen years as president, a younger generation of Liberals, few of whom could remember the revolution of Independence (1808–1821), radically transformed Mexico’s laws and institutions. In October 1855, when Juárez was the minister of justice in the newly formed Liberal government, he implemented the “Law of Restriction of Corporate Privileges,” which is credited with setting in motion the wider Reform movement. Between 1855 and 1860, in what was at the time called La Revolución but soon became known as La Reforma (the Reformation), Mexico moved from being a “Catholic Nation,” in which many of the social and racial hierarchies and corporate privileges of colonial rule still held sway, to becoming a secular federal republic regulated by a liberal constitution based on the sovereignty of the people and equality before the law, reducing the legal immunities and special privileges of the army and the Catholic Church and establishing a single system of civil law that guaranteed a wide range of freedoms and social rights. In the face of a Conservative uprising in January 1858, which broadened into the Three Years’ War (1858–1861), Liberals pressed ahead with an ambitious project of religious and civil disentailment (desamortización) that abolished corporate or communal property in favor of individual private ownership. The Liberal revolution was further strengthened in 1859 by the “Laws of Reform,” which ordered the wholesale nationalization of Church wealth and the closure of nunneries and monasteries; barred Roman Catholicism, the national religion until 1857, along with any other religion, from external manifestations of the cult; and established a civil registry and a strict separation of church and state. Conservatives, undeterred by their defeat in the Battle of Calpulalpan, in December 1860, and in spite of Juárez receiving his first full popular mandate in the elections of March 1861, redoubled their resistance to the Reform by encouraging Napoleon III’s colonial ambitions, efforts that culminated in January 1862 in the occupation of Veracruz by forces from France, Britain, and Spain and the imposition of Maximilian Habsburg as emperor in April 1864. Juárez now led the defense of the Liberal republic on two fronts, and he retreated to northern Mexico, from where he coordinated resistance to the Empire. Following the defeat of the Second Empire, which culminated in the execution of Maximilian alongside the principal Conservative generals at Querétaro on June 19, 1867, Juárez returned to the national capital wearing the twin laurels of Liberal law giver and savior of the nation. Although at his death, in 1872, he faced many enemies, especially in the Liberal camp, Juárez soon became enshrined as Liberal Mexico’s undisputed founding father and moral guide, much in the mold of his contemporaries Giuseppe Garibaldi and Abraham Lincoln. Under his leadership, liberalism had become insolubly fused with patriotism in the republican victory over European monarchy—Mexico’s second revolution of independence. La Reforma is recognized as a major watershed in Mexico’s history on a par with the revolution of Independence from Spain and the Revolution of 1910–1917.

Article

Antislavery and Abolition in the Spanish American Mainland  

Marcela Echeverri

One of the major changes that was produced by the wars of independence and the consequent foundation of new republics across the Spanish American mainland during the first five decades of the 19th century was the abolition of slavery. The history of the abolition of slavery in this region illustrates how economic, political, and social factors were entwined in the Spanish American revolutions as processes that were at once embedded in the broader imperial and transimperial dynamics of the 19th century, yet also singular in the origins and consequences that the end of slavery had in that region due to its connection to republican formation and the integration of African-descended people in legal and political terms.

Article

The Revolt of the Enteados and Tailors in Bahia, 1798  

Patrícia Valim

The 1798 revolt of the enteados and tailors in Bahia, also called the 1798 Conjuração Baiana (the Bahian conspiracy) in the historiography, was a movement of political contestation which occurred in two phases between 1796 and 1800 and involved all parts of soteropolitana society at the time. During the investigations carried out by two Desembargadores (appellant judges) from the Tribunal da Relação (appeals court) of Bahia, a group of powerful rich men, called the “corporation of the enteados,” “handed over slaves” to the courts to escape being accused of participating in the “planned revolt.” This episode shows that the resurgence of the colonial pact contained in the modernizing reforms of Rodrigo de Sousa Coutinho triggered an awareness of colonial exploitation, causing the upper sectors of Soteropolitana society to demand at the end of the 18th century the enrooting of their economic interests and the maintenance of their privileges threatened by the possibility of the end of monopolies, majorats, a change in the manner of selling positions in the treasury and the courts, and the maintenance of the extension of tithe contracts for Portuguese merchants. After a programmatic alliance with armed groups in the captaincy of Bahia, the middle and upper sectors of the Partido da Liberdade sparked the movement into life with handwritten pamphlets exploiting the two principal fears on the horizon of expectations of the Portuguese Crown in that conflictual fin de siècle: the mirage of free trade and a French invasion. After the beginning of the devassas (inquiry) to investigate the authorship of the pamphlets and discover the movement’s participants, its upper-class members retreated, handed over their slaves to justice, and formulated the principal evidence that had men from middle sectors condemned to death. The hanging in the public square of those condemned for the revolt of the enteados and the tailors, the 1798Conjuração Baiana (The Bahian Conspiracy), is paradigmatic, since the winning political project that emerged was a conservative one, as the Portuguese Crown carried out a series of compromise solutions with the corporation of the enteados, guaranteeing the internalization of their interests and the maintenance of their privileges, which made them the dominant sector in that society, fundamental for allowing Portuguese monarchical power to continue to govern the conflict within dominant sectors in the principal colony.

Article

The Farrapos War (Rio Grande do Sul, 1835–1845)  

Gabriel Aladrén

The Farrapos War was the longest provincial revolt faced by the Brazilian Empire. It originated with a dispute between two factions of regional elites vying for sources of power and wealth in a context marked by economic stagnation, institutional changes wrought by the Regency governments, and the geopolitical reconfiguration of the Rio de la Plata region. The rebels, known as farroupilhas or farrapos, overthrew the government of Rio Grande do Sul and established an independent republic. The main farrapo leaders were military officers and estancieiros, the owners of large estates, enslaved people, and cattle in the region that bordered Uruguay and Argentina. Their goal was to achieve autonomy in order to distribute political offices, control the borders, and change the fiscal and commercial policy of the empire. Their opponents, known as legalists, were drawn mostly from sectors related to maritime trade, the production of charque (dried and salted beef), and the urban military and administrative bureaucracy. The soldiers of both sides were recruited among the lower classes. They were cowboys and peasants. The farrapos also organized a sizable army of enslaved people who had been confiscated from their opponents and who performed military service in exchange for their freedom. The Republic of Rio Grande do Sul experienced a sharp decline beginning in 1842. The Battle of Porongos in November 1844 was the last major engagement of the war and resulted in the massacre of Black soldiers from the farroupilha forces. The campaign to bring the province back under government control, led by the Baron of Caxias, was carried out through the granting of amnesties, the payment of debts, and the incorporation of farroupilha officers into the Imperial Army. With the end of the Farrapos War, the Brazilian Empire ensured its internal consolidation and returned to an assertive foreign policy in the Río de la Plata region.