Donathon C. Olliff.

Economics of Mexican-United States relations during the reformation 1854-1861. online

. (page 1 of 27)
Online LibraryDonathon C. OlliffEconomics of Mexican-United States relations during the reformation 1854-1861. → online text (page 1 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

THE REFORM, 185^-1861

Donathon Carries Olliff







3 1262 08666 476 9


This study is concerned with economic relations
between Mexico and the United States and their impact on the
more traditional diplomatic ties during the years from the
beginning of the Reforma in 185^ to 1861 when the American
civil war and the French intervention in Mexico brought an
end to all but nominal political relations. Previous stud-
ies of American involvement in the Mexican economy during
the nineteenth century have focused on the late Diaz period.
Prior to this period Americans were assumed either to be
unaware of or uninterested in the possibilities of develop-
ing Mexico's resources. During the decades before the
American civil war, Americans were thought to have been too
intent on territorial expansion, internal development, and
the sectional controversy to give any consideration to eco-
nomic developments in Mexico.

I first began to question this traditional view while
doing research on "John Forsyth's ministership to Mexico"
for a master's degree at Auburn University. This research
revealed that Forsyth advocated converting Mexico into an
economic protectorate of the United States and that without
authority he negotiated treaties with Mexico which he
believed would accomplish this objective. Since this
research was limited to American sources, principally

diplomatic correspondence, I could not determine the extent
to which Forsyth's efforts may have represented a response
to a widely recognized need for closer economic ties between
the two countries. Without evidence of private support in
either country for closer ties and without some indication
of the Mexican motives for signing the treaties and the
interpretation that Mexico may have placed on them, I could
not eliminate the remote possibility that the economic pro-
tectorate scheme had only been a product of Forsyth's fer-
tile imagination. The unusual features of the treaties, the
conditions under which they were negotiated, and Forsyth's
claim that leading liberals favored a protectorate status
for their country encouraged me to pursue the investigation
into Mexican sources. Further encouragement came from
Charles C. Cumberland's assessment, in Mexico* the Struggle
for Modernity , that Diaz's success late in the nineteenth
century in attracting foreign investment represented merely
the execution of a long established and accepted policy.
Cumberland's statement also made me more aware of the need
to be alert to indications of Mexican official encouragement
to American capital.

Research into Mexican sources was directed to throw
light on certain questions. What were the economic objec-
tives of the leaders of the Ayutla revolution? What role
was envisioned for the United States in Mexico's economic
future? How effectively were these views translated into
policy by the liberal governments? What private American


economic interests were involved in Mexico and what were
their relationships with the governments of the respective
countries? The results of this research coupled with inves-
tigations into American sources revealed complex patterns of
activities, aspirations, and relationships tending to draw
the two countries together.

Research revealed that the type of data necessary for
the construction of statistical analysis of volume and
nature of trade and investment was unavailable. Specific
figures could be gleaned only for limited periods and activ-
ities, frequently even these were of doubtful veracity. As
a result, no attempt will be made to quantify the economic
relations but instead, emphasis will first be given to atti-
tudes and activities of individuals, both private and offi-
cial, who were prominent in promoting closer economic ties.
After establishing the attitudinal atmosphere, the diplomatic
relations between the two countries will be analyzed with
reference to their effect on economic questions. In this
analysis economic is defined broadly enough to include not
only investment and trade interests pursued privately or
officially but also the desire of the Mexican government to
secure credit from private or official sources in the United
States and the desire of the American government to utilize
the financial distress of the Mexican government as a lever
to force acceptance of American objectives. The activities
of private American entrepreneurs are dealt with only as
they impinge upon official relations. Finally the activities


increasing concentration of public energy and attention on its
own domestic crisis made it impossible for the United States
to provide Mexico with the security and credit it needed.

The diplomatic and consular archives of Mexico and the
United States were used extensively in this study. News-
papers of Mexico City also proved a valuable source. The
collections of papers of Ignacio comonfort, Benito JuSrez,
James Buchanan, Melchor Ocampo, and Matlas Romero proved
valuable, as did the scattered records of several private
Americans involved in the Mexican economy.


1 Charles C. Cumberland, Mexico ; the Struggle for
Modernity (New York: Oxford University Press, I968), pp.



PREFACE . . . . i

Notes iv




I. ATTITUDINAL SETTING . . ... . . . 1

Notes *KL



Notes . . . . . . . . . . 106



Notes .172


Notes . . . . . . . . . . 239


Notes 282



Notes 333


Notes 382





AGN - Archivo General de la Naci6n, Mexico City.

AHINAH - Archivo Hist6rico del Instituto Nacional de

Antropologla e Historia, Mexico City. This archive
contains two collections of letters to Melchor
Ocampo, mostly from Jose" M. Mata, forming legajos
8-2 and 8-4 of "Papeles sueltos." Citations to
these letters will identify sender, recipient, date,
legajo, and document number, e.g., Mata to Ocampo,
Sept. 10, 1859, 8-4-107, AHINAH.

AMR - Archivo Matlas Romero, Banco de Mexico, Mexico City.
This archive is divided into "cartas recibidos"
(CR) and "cartas dirijidos" (CD).

ASRE - Archivo de la Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores,
Mexico City.

BP/PHS - Buchanan Papers, Pennsylvania Historical Society,

GC/UT - Garcia Collection, University of Texas, Austin.
CP, GC/UT - Comonfort Papers
GFP, GC/UT - G6mez Farias Papers

JM - Juarez Manuscripts, Caja Fuerte, Biblioteca Nacional,
Mexico City.

MRE - Minister of Foreign Relations (Mexico).

NA - National Archives, Washington.

NA/CD/Tam - Consular Despatches (Tampico.

NA/CDA C - Consular Despatches (Veracruz).

NA/DD - Diplomatic Despatches (Mexico).

NA/DI - Diplomatic Instructions (Mexico).

NA/DN/Mex - Diplomatic Notes from Mexico.

NA/DPR - Diplomatic Post Records (Mexico).

NA/DPR/FM - Notes to Legation from Mexican government,

NA/RBO - Report of Bureau Officers.

NA/SM - Special Missions.


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate
Council of the University of Florida in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree
of Doctor of Philosophy

THE REFORM, 1854-1861


Donathon Carnes Olliff

March, 197^

Chairman: Lyle Nelson McAlister
Major Department! History

Mexican liberals of the Reforma era were committed to
achieving a broadly based transformation of Mexican life.
They saw economic reform and modernization as the key to the
regenerating process which they wished to undertake. The lib-
erals looked to the United States as a model for their devel-
opment programs and as a source for the capital and technol-
ogy required. They sought to bring the two countries closer
together and to convert Mexico into an economic protectorate
of the United States. Generous grants were made to American
citizens to develop and exploit the Mexican economy, espe-
cially in the field of transportation, and various laws were
enacted to favor the American investor-entrepreneur in Mexico.

The United States, on the other hand, pursued a policy
of territorial expansion toward Mexico. While American

businessmen and diplomats in Mexico favored a generous and
protective policy toward Mexico, Washington, particularly
during the Buchanan administration, proved unresponsive to
economic considerations. The purchase of territory in north-
west Mexico and unrestricted control over the Tehuantepec
transit route were the official American policy objectives.

The diplomatic relations between the two countries
was a contest to realize these conflicting objectives.
Mexico sought to exchange valuable economic concessions for
American protection and credit. The United States attempted
to take advantage of the fiscal bankruptcy of strife-torn
Mexico to secure land and transit rights. Twice, in the
Forsyth treaties of 1857 and the McLane-Ocampo treaties of
1859 i Mexico secured agreements with the United States which
would have placed her under American protection and reserved
her economy for American exploitation; each time Washington
refused. The American policy had serious consequences for
Mexico. The liberals, facing conservative revolts and the
threat of European intervention, turned to their "natural
ally," the United States for security and credit. The
refusal of the United States to respond favorably weakened
the liberal reformers, helped create the conditions leading
to civil war, and contributed to prolonging that conflict.
Responsibility for the failure to resolve the conflicting
objectives in a more mutually beneficial way rested with the
United States. The lack of effective and decisive leadership,
the immaturity of the American capital market, and the

of private individuals, mainly Americans, are treated with
special emphasis upon their relations with the respective
governments and individual officials in these governments.



The Plan de Ayutla , proclaimed March 1, 185^, set in
motion a chain of events of profound significance for Mexico.
The revolutionary standard, raised in Guerrero by the old
liberal cacique Juan Alvarez, attracted the support of a
new generation of Mexican liberals — a generation of polit-
ically active individuals with a unique vision of Mexico's
past, present, and future. With its support of the Ayutla
revolution emerged victorious over the regime of Antonio
L6pez de Santa Anna in August 1855 • The victorious liberals
then embarked upon an ambitious program of reforms ( La
Reforma ) designed to transform Mexico into the country of
their dreams. Implementation of these reforms provoked a
three-year civil war, 1858-1860, which in turn provided the
setting for the French intervention of 1862 and the subse-
quent ill-fated empire of Maximilian.

The United States played a significant role in each
stage and phase of these developments. The sale of terri-
tory to the United States by Santa Anna, in December 1853 »
was a factor in the origin of the Ayutla revolution; many

of the civilian leaders of the revolt had been exiled to

the United States by Santa Anna; the revolutionists drew

both moral and material support from sources in the United

States; the policy of the United States toward Mexico helped
to mold the chain of events culminating in the French inter-
vention; and, finally, the United States, both as an inter-
national power and as a model for economic, social, and
political reforms, formed an inseparable part of the liberal
vision of Mexico and its future.

Scholars have investigated the development of liber-
alism in Mexico during the first half of the nineteenth cen-
tury and have identified many of the ties between Mexican

liberal thought and the United States. The tendency of

liberals to see the United States as a model for their

political institutions has also been noted. The role of

the United States in the evolution of the economic aspects
of the Reforma prior to the hiatus created by European
intervention in Mexico and civil war in the United States,
however, has not yet been investigated.

The decade of the Reforma was notable in nineteenth-
century Mexico for several reasons. It witnessed sustained
and conscious efforts to reject the historical past and
attempts to move the country toward an idealized Utopian
future by restructuring institutions and regenerating soci-
ety. The liberal governments of this decade were controlled
for the most part by civilians — a unique occurrence between
1820 and 1910. Prior to the Reforma, independent Mexico
had been dominated by generals who had gained prominence
during the wars of independence, 1810-1821, most of them as
royalist officers. The civil wars of the 1850's and the

contest of the 1860's against the French intervention and
the Maximilian Empire gave birth to a liberal generation of
generals who would dominate Mexico for the next half century.
Between these two periods lies the Reforma — a period during
which, with rare exceptions, civilians not only occupied the
responsible positions in the liberal governments but also
determined policy and wielded power.

Except for Juan Alvarez and Ignacio Comonfort, no
principal liberal figure had significant military experience
prior to the beginning of the Ayutla revolution in 185*4- .
Even Alvarez and Comonfort were not professional military
men in the traditional sense. To Alvarez, whose military
activities dated back to the Morelos phase of the war for
independence, military rank and responsibility Were only a
facet of a regional strongman or cacique . Comonfort 's mil-
itary experience had been limited to irregular involvement
in the militia since the 1820's. While some future liberal
leaders, such as Santos Degollado, Manuel Doblado, and Jesfis
GonzSlez Ortega, gained military experience during the fight
against Santa Anna, most key figures remained in the back-
ground until the end of the military phase of the revolution.
Missing from the leadership ranks during the military phase
were such individuals as Melchor Ocampo, Benito JuSrez,
Miguel and SebastiSn Lerdo de Tejada, Jose" Maria Mata,
Antonio de la Fuente, and Francisco Zarco. This group
emerged, however, as the key political figures in the
liberal governments from 1855 to 1862, dominating even

those regimes headed by Alvarez (1855) and Comonfort (1855-

This generation could not escape having its outlook
colored by Mexico's relations with the United States during
the preceding decades. Loss of territory in the north to
the aggressive neighbor had left an indelible scar. More
traumatic than even the loss of territory was the invasion
and occupation of the Mexican heartland by the United States


in 1847 and 1848. For the first time this brought many of
the liberals, especially the younger ones, into direct con-
tact with Americans^ and with their actions and attitudes.
An affinity for the United States and an idealization of her
political, economic, and social institutions had been a part
of liberal ideology since Joel Poinsett's ministry to Mexico
in the days immediately following independence. Most of the
older liberals and many of the new generation had been mem-
bers of the Yorkino masonic lodges promoted by Poinsett.
The war with the United States, with the concomitant loss of
territory and foreign occupation of the valley of Mexico,
seriously challenged the idealized views of the United
States held by many liberals.

One group of young and extreme liberals, or puros .
including Manuel Doblado, Melchor Ocampo, Guillermo Prieto,
Ponciano Arriaga, and Manuel Siliceo, opposed any peace
settlement with the United States even after the fall of
Mexico City. The liberal newspaper El monitor republicano
had recommended in November 1846 that the war be fought by

means of guerrilla forces if necessary, and when formal
resistance collapsed during the fall of 18^7 • many puros
took up the cry for continued resistance with irregular

forces. Melchor Ocampo, governor of MichoacSn, offered his

state's manpower and resources for such an effort and the

Plan de Jarauta in 1848 attracted widespread puro support

for a renewal of hostilities with popular forces. y While

these demands for resistence to the bitter end (guerra hasta
el fin ) have been interpreted as a pro-Yankee stratagem
designed to force the United States to occupy all of Mexico
and either annex it or establish a puro government supported
by the occupation army, more dispassionate accounts
credit the puros with a patriotism that preferred total
defeat and the annihilation of Mexico to national dishonor.
The resulting enmity did not vanish overnight with the com-
ing of peace. Two years later the leading liberal newspaper,
El siglo XIX . under the editorship of Francisco Zarco, still
pursued an editorial policy hostile to the United States.

While the war may have embittered some liberals
toward United States, many others came out of the war with a
renewed and invigorated admiration for their recent foe.
Some young liberals appear to have blamed their conservative
compatriots for the war and its disastrous consequences
rather than the expansive greed of their northern neighbors.
The impressive ease of the conquest convinced many liberals
that not only was the United States a worthy political model
for Mexico, but that the enemy's surprising power was based

on social and economic institutions worthy of study and

..... 16

Some liberals, disillusioned with Mexico's chaotic
history since independence, openly cooperated with the con-
querors. The most notable example was found in the

avuntamiento of Mexico City during the American occupation.

A group of twenty-one liberals, mostly puros, secured elec-
tion to the ayuntamiento with the support of the occupation
authorities. The puros of the group, led by Miguel Lerdo de
Tejada, not only cooperated with their American overlords
but also used the abnormal situation to launch a program of
radical political, social, and economic reforms. The coop-
erative spirit shown by the ayuntamiento to the alien con-

-1 Q

querors earned it the label of traitor.

Even those directly involved in military action
against the invaders did not always come away permanently
hostile to Americans. Jose" Maria Mata, a young Jalapa sur-
geon and officer in the guardia nacional . was captured dur-
ing the battle of Cerro Gordo in 18^7. When he refused
the pledge not to take up arms again, the Americans shipped
him to New Orleans as a prisoner of war. This involuntary
trip had a great impact on the young officer; he returned

to Mexico in 1848 as an avid admirer of the political, social,

and economic institutions of his recent captors.

While many Mexicans doubtlessly felt rancor toward
the United States in the postwar period, this did not pre-
vent the government of moderate Jose" Joaquin de Herrera

from maintaining relatively cordial relations with the late
enemy. Although such matters as disputes arising out of
the recent occupation, Indian raids along the frontier,
smuggling, inability to define the new boundary, and filibus-
tering raids caused difficulties, the Herrera government was
too occupied with the task of re-establishing internal peace
to allow these questions seriously to disturb the surface
calm of relations. Frightened that the caste war in YucatSn
might trigger a general race war, Herrera asked for 4-5,000

American troops to assist the Mexican army in putting down

servile revolts and maintaining internal order. It was

fortunate for Mexico that foreign policy traditions and
domestic politics made it impossible for the United States
to accede to this request; for if the Yankees had returned
by invitation so soon after having gained access by force,
the temptation to remain might have been insurmountable.

A relative calm also reigned in Mexican politics dur-
ing these years. The Herrera administration, 1848-1851,
drew from all areas of political opinion in an attempt to
establish a coalition government capable of coping with the
innumerable political and economic problems of the postwar
period. Moderates, liberals, and puros joined in the effort

for national unity, while most conservatives elected to

^ 21
remain aloof.

The postwar calm also reflected a deep disorientation

within political circles. Three decades of independence,

consisting of what has been called "institutionalized

22 .

disorder," capped by a rapid and humiliating defeat

required a re-evaluation of past actions, present policies,

and future objectives. In part this consisted of mutual

recriminations as each political faction sought to fix
responsibility for the recent disasters on other shoulders.
Each group could find convincing evidence that their oppo-
nents had been guilty of treasonous conduct during some
stage of the conflict with the United States.

More important than the recriminations were efforts to
analyze what factors had brought Mexico to her current sad
state and to formulate plans for rescuing her. The news-
papers, especially liberal journals such as El siglo XIX , El
monitor republicano , and Don Simplicio , devoted their edito-
rial columns to partisan but searching probes of the coun-
try's basic political, economic, and social institutions.
The most telling indictment of Mexico's institutional struc-
ture, Consideraciones sobre la situaci6n politica y_ social
de la republica mexicana . en el afto 1847 , resulted from the
collective efforts of a group of young politicians, moderate

and liberal, who took refuge in QuerStaro when the Yankees

occupied Mexico City in 1847 .

Pessimism dominated much of this introspection. From

across the political spectrum many agreed that the past

thirty years had demonstrated Mexico's inability to govern

herself, to establish social harmony, or to attain economic

prosperity and progress. The only solution to such a state

of affairs appeared to be for Mexico to place herself under

the tutelage of a foreign power. Conservatives looked to
European powers, while the liberals favored the United
States. v Under the leadership of Lucas AlamSn the conser-
vatives turned increasingly to the idea of a European-styled
monarchy with sympathetic ties to Spain or France. While
much of the yearning for a foreign protector was a temporary
symptom of the postwar syndrome, it was never totally absent
from the political scene during the years between the treaty
of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 18^8 and the French intervention in

While the friendly protection of the United States
was favored by many liberals, few saw such protection as
adequate in itself to cure Mexico's basic problems. Having
already rejected Mexico's colonial past, the liberals saw in
national defeat and humiliation not only proof that the
colonial institutions were disintegrating but also the need
to rebuild these institutions along modern and progressive
lines. To these liberals the protection of their northern
neighbor would only help insure that they could capitalize

on this opportunity to carry out a massive program of

"regeneraci&n. " As defined by Francisco Zarco, regenera-
tion was a dual process, destroying the colonial order with
one hand while constructing a new order with the other
hand. 28

Many of the liberals and several of the puros accept-
ed posts in the Herrera government, 18^8-1851, and in that
of Mariano Arista, 1851-1853, in hope of implementing their


projects for regeneration. Melchor Ocampo, Marcos Esparza,

Ponciano Arriaga, and Guillermo Prieto were among the puros

who held cabinet posts during these five years. Despite

their participation little was accomplished. Several, fac-
tors contributed to this failure. Had the projects and plans

Online LibraryDonathon C. OlliffEconomics of Mexican-United States relations during the reformation 1854-1861. → online text (page 1 of 27)