There’s some bits of history that get all tangled up when the political affiliations of nations and kings go all pear shaped. You get claims and counter claims, revolutions and collapsed empires. Usually involving lots of thing that go BANG! in the night…
After the dust settles, everyone has a different memory of what happened, and history gets written down as a nice Tall Tail that is reminiscent of what actually happened. This is made worse when much of the area under dispute had very few people in it from any official government, and less from the unofficial ones.
The whole western third of the USA has a history based in those kinds of events. I don’t propose to thrash out the whole of it, but there are a couple of widely believed parts of it that could use a bit of clarification. Many of those around Texas and California (and to a lesser extent some of the other Southwest areas).
This started as a comment or two, by me, responding to a comment about La Raza and their claims to having a right to California and Texas (and more…) based on it historically being “Mexico”. Well, one of the minor problems with that is sorting out Spanish ownership from Mexican and the whole question of “Which Mexico?”. Season lightly with “can a war of independence grant freedom” (and if not, what is the USA or Mexico…) and you get the general idea. The Mexicos broke off from Spain, then went through a few changes, not the least of which was the revolt and war of independence of various northern Spanish Territories.
Throughout this, keep in mind a couple of key date markers. The land was largely claimed by Spain up until Mexico had a revolution. That was in 1821. By 1850 California was a State of the USA. At most, there is a 29 year period during which a perilous Mexican claim can be laid. In reality, it is narrowed on each end with revolutions and has at best a tepid lip service to Mexican rule.
On September 16, 1810, a “loyalist revolt” against the ruling Junta was declared by priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, in the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato. The first insurgent group was formed by Hidalgo, the Spanish viceregal army captain Ignacio Allende, the militia captain Juan Aldama and “La Corregidora” Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez. Hidalgo and some of his soldiers were captured and executed by firing squad in Chihuahua, on July 31, 1811. Following his death, the leadership was assumed by priest José María Morelos, who occupied key southern cities.
In 1813 the Congress of Chilpancingo was convened and, on November 6, signed the “Solemn Act of the Declaration of Independence of Northern America”. Morelos was captured and executed on December 22, 1815.
In subsequent years, the insurgency was near collapse, but in 1820 Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca sent an army under the criollo general Agustín de Iturbide against the troops of Vicente Guerrero. Instead, Iturbide approached Guerrero to join forces, and on August 24, 1821 representatives of the Spanish Crown and Iturbide signed the “Treaty of Córdoba” and the “Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire”, which recognized the independence of Mexico under the terms of the “Plan of Iguala”.
So everyone in Alta California was largely watching this ‘from afar’ as Spanish subjects. Mexico having a bit of a revolution. It then took Mexico a few more iterations of government and a few more years to get around to noticing much about Texas and California… Who fairly promptly had revolutions of their own and left Mexico to become independent Republics. Texas for about 10 years, California far shorter (then again, we had two different Republics, the first in 1836 like Texas…) so 15 years after the Mexican Empire claimed it and about when “officials” and “armies” started to show up. (that “Empire” bit matters… more below).
The Start Of Discussion
Here is the link to where the discussion started (h/t Gail):
La Raza goals are to bring California, Texas and other southwestern states into Mexico. “re-conquista of land’ BOUGHT from Mexico after the war. Check out their schools and read about what they’re taught in their “chicano studies” — to invade and weaken US to “take back their Mexico” http://www.mayorno.com/WhoIsMecha.html
Then Phil joined in with:
6 July 2016 at 9:18 pm
The irony is that the American southwest was never a part of “Mexico”. Mexico governed it (for a very short period), once Spain pulled out of the new world. But it was a separate territory. It never “Belonged” to Mexico. It belonged to Spain (and if you wanted to get technical, it belonged to the Native Americans).
La Raza is a lie.. Just as the Nazis were. A false narrative.
Which is sort of correct. As far as Spain and the USA were concerned, it is accurate. But Mexico thought otherwise. Then sent small armies to wander around parts of the place and generally make a mess of things and establish their claim. In California, at least one of the Catholic Missions, after confiscation from the Church, was used as a stable… others were simply destroyed / abandoned or sold to “friends of the Governor”… I have trouble calling that “governed” as much as “stolen”.
I also noted that The California Lone Star Republic was declared in 1836 along with their own flag, though very little can be found on that history other than the flag.
The Early Years
For a different point of view, we have the story of one of the families given large lands, told by Guadalupe Vallejo in 1890. She paints a picture of a grand and peaceful place, plagued by unscrupulous Americans invading it. Well worth the read for perspective.
I think there is more than a little nostalgia wrapped up in it, but it is a direct narrative of someone who was there. The present town of Vallejo is named for their family, and they owned miles in all directions of that part of the San Francisco Bay Area.
It seems to me that there never was a more peaceful or happy people on the face of the earth than the Spanish, Mexican, and Indian population of Alta California before the American conquest. We were the pioneers of the Pacific coast, building towns and Missions while General Washington was carrying on the war of the Revolution, and we often talk together of the days when a few hundred large Spanish ranches and Mission tracts occupied the whole country from the Pacific to the San Joaquin. No class of American citizens is more loyal than the Spanish Californians, but we shall always be especially proud of the traditions and memories of the long pastoral age before 1840. Indeed, our social life still tends to keep alive a spirit of love for the simple, homely, outdoor life of our Spanish ancestors on this coast, and we try, as best we may, to honor the founders of our ancient families, and the saints and heroes of our history since the days when Father Junipero [Serra] planted the cross at Monterey. The leading features of old Spanish life at the Missions, and on the large ranches of the last century, have been described in many books of travel, and with many contradictions. I shall confine myself to those details and illustrations of the past that no modern writer can possibly obtain except vaguely, from hearsay, since they exist in no manuscript, but only in the memories of a generation that is fast passing away. My mother has told me much, and I am still more indebted to my illustrious uncle, General Vallejo, of Sonoma, many of whose recollections are incorporated in this article.
When I was a child there were fewer than fifty Spanish families in the region about the bay of San Francisco, and these were closely connected by ties of blood or intermarriage. My father and his brother, the late General Vallejo, saw, and were a part of, the most important events in the history of Spanish California, the revolution and the conquest. My grandfather, Don Ygnacio Vallejo, was equally prominent in his day, in the exploration and settlement of the province. The traditions and records of the family thus cover the entire period of the annals of early California, from San Diego to Sonoma.
Think about that for just a moment. The entire San Francisco Bay Area with about 5 million people now, was owned by 50 families. Yes, there were far far more people here, but they were employees, not owners. It is also worth note that these families often came by their vast land holdings via the confiscation of Church lands. There was a major assault on the Catholic Missions and their huge land holdings. Essentially, the Spanish Missions had run the place for a long time, and the Catholic Church had huge power in Spain. This created resentments, and eventually the Church came under attack. More on that below. But as a vision of “what it was like then”, the article is quite good. Just remember that those “golden days” were colored with the end of the Mission era and distribution of their lands at one end, and the collapse of the various Mexico governments at the other.
Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (4 July 1807 – 18 January 1890) was a Californio military commander, politician, and rancher. He was born a subject of Spain, performed his military duties as an officer of the Republic of Mexico, and shaped the transition of Alta California from a territory of Mexico to the U. S. state of California. He served in the first session of the California State Senate. The city of Vallejo, California is named for him, and the nearby city of Benicia is named for his wife (née Francisca Benicia Carrillo).
Note that this large land owning family was NOT fighting to keep California Mexican, but to transition away from it. It wasn’t all Gringos stealing the State, it was Californios, many who saw themselves as Spanish not Mexican, who revolted against Mexico (or one of the Mexicos… more on that below too).
As an example of how the Missions were ‘redistributed’:
In 1831 Vallejo participated in the “emergency installation” of Pío Pico as acting Governor. Vallejo became the Commander of the Presidio of San Francisco in 1833, oversaw the secularization of Mission San Francisco Solano. Mission San Francisco Solano was taken over by General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. At first he gave some of the land to the native mission workers as ordered. But later he transferred all the land and building to own Rancho Petaluma Adobe of 44,000 acres in the Petaluma Valley. Vallejo laid out the town of Sonoma in 1835. He had a large plaza made in front of the old mission chapel. But then he took tiles from the church roof and put them on his own house. In poor shape the mission church later was torn down. In need of a church for the town he made, in 1840 Vallejo had a small chapel built were the original parish church was.
He founded the town of Sonoma, and was granted Rancho Petaluma by Governor José Figueroa in 1834. In 1835 he was appointed Comandante of the Fourth Military District and Director of Colonization of the Northern Frontier, the highest military command in Northern California.
Vallejo began construction of the Presidio of Sonoma to counter the Russian presence at Fort Ross. Vallejo transferred most of the soldiers from San Francisco to Sonoma, and began construction of his two-story Casa Grande adobe on the town plaza. He formed an alliance with Sem-Yeto, also known as Chief Solano of the Suisunes tribe, providing Vallejo with over a thousand Suisunes allies during his conflicts with other tribes.
So we have a guy who under Mexican “rule” was told to split up the Church lands, but decided to gift himself with 44,000 acres of it instead… Any wonder it was a marvelous time for his family and friends?
Governor Figueroa died in September 1835, and was replaced by Nicolás Gutiérrez, who was unpopular with the Californio population, resulting in an uprising headed by Juan Alvarado the next year. Alvarado tried to persuade Vallejo to join the uprising, but he declined to become involved. One hundred-seventy Californios led by José Castro and fifty Americans led by Isaac Graham marched on Monterey. After the rebels fired a single cannon shot into the Presidio, Governor Gutiérrez surrendered on November 5, 1836. On November 7, Alvarado wrote to his uncle Mariano, informing Vallejo he had claimed to be acting under Vallejo’s orders and asking him to come to Monterey to take part in the government. Vallejo came to Monterey as a hero, and on November 29, the diputación promoted Vallejo from alférez to colonel and named him Comandante General of the “Free State of Alta California”, while Alvarado was named Governor. The Federal Government in Mexico City would later endorse Vallejo and Alvarado’s actions and confirm their new positions.
In 1842, the Federal Government replaced Vallejo and his nephew Alvarado with Manuel Micheltorena as both civil and military Governor of Alta California. Micheltorena arrived with the batallón fijo, a force of 300 pardoned criminals, who out of desperation at not being paid began to loot the population.
Although Vallejo was sympathetic to the advent of American rule, he deemed the perpetrators of the Bear Flag Revolt to be mere lowlife rabble. As he wrote in his five-volume history,
if the men who hoisted the ‘Bear Flag’ had raised the flag that Washington sanctified by his abnegation and patriotism, there would have been no war on the Sonoma frontier, for all our minds were prepared to give a brotherly embrace to the sons of the Great Republic, whose enterprising spirit had filled us with admiration. Ill-advisedly, however, as some say, or dominated by a desire to rule without let or hindrance, as others say, they placed themselves under the shelter of a flag that pictured a bear, an animal that we took as the emblem of rapine and force. This mistake was the cause of all the trouble, for when the Californians saw parties of men running over their plains and forests under the ‘Bear Flag,’ they thought that they were dealing with robbers and took the steps they thought most effective for the protection of their lives and property.
Rather a different picture from that typically painted. Of a Mexico dismembered by invading Americans. In fact, it was Spain and The Catholic Missions that were being dismembered by the local Hispanic population as they revolted against both. Then distributed the spoils among themselves. A rabble Mexican army is sent in and proceeds to wreck the place, and the locals are not at all adverse to the idea of the USA, just not keen on a local revolt of yet another group of non-elites.
There is a good short summary of the early years here:
The King of Spain tried again 60 years later and sent Sebastian Vizcaino to find the water route. Vizcaino failed also, but heard that ships from Russia, Portugal, and England had visited the coast. Spain was concerned that England and Russia might try to settle the land and claim it for themselves. Occupying a land is one way to keep others off of it. Russia had already come down the Pacific Coast from the northern coast of Alaska and had settled at Fort Ross in Bodega Bay north of what is now San Francisco. The Russians had come to California to hunt sea otters for their skins, called pelts. Colonizing the coast would also allow Spanish trade ships from Asia safe harbors with food and supplies on their way back across the Pacific Ocean so the King’s ministers devised a plan to settle the area using Missions which would help convert the native peoples and make them into citizens of Spain.
It is important to note that Russia clearly owned Alaska (per European terms… natives not so much) and had a settlement just north of San Francisco. They were living here before Spain even showed up. So you can cleanly slice off anything north of San Francisco from being New Spain or Mexico. Vallejo was worried about the Russians and wanted to buy them out, but his government connections delayed too much and it went to Sutter for his New Switzerland (Sacramento) instead. Mexican claims to anything north of Sacramento, even inland, must deal with that…
Similarly, an understanding of the Mission System is critical. It was a means to assure the lands were Spanish, by giving control of them to one of the Great Powers of the day, the Catholic Church.
King Carlos had two main reasons for establishing Missions. The Missions helped Christianize the natives which made them Catholic converts, or neophytes, for the Catholic Church and citizens of the crown of Spain.
Spain was a Catholic country. That means that they followed the teachings of the Catholic Church. Within the Catholic Church it was divided into different groups. Three main groups, the Jesuits, Franciscans, and Dominicans were involved with the colonization of Alta and Baja California.
King Carlos allowed the Jesuits to found and run the Baja California Missions but in June 1767 they were transferred to Franciscan control. The Spanish government thought the Jesuits were becoming too powerful. The Jesuits had been given control over the missions and the soldiers that lived at the military forts or presidios. Spain decided that the Franciscans would still have control over the running of the missions, but that they would not be in control of the soldiers. The Franciscans sent Father Junipero Serra to found the first Alta California Mission. His goal was to reach the harbor that Cabrillo had found and named San Miguel and that Vizcaino had claimed for Spain under the name of San Diego. Father Serra and the Governor of New Spain decided to split the expedition into groups that would go by land and by sea. Three ships, the San Carlos, San Jose, and San Antonio sailed during the first six months of 1769 and two groups of soldiers and priests went overland. It was a difficult trip and many men died; the San Jose was lost at sea–no one on the ship survived. The sea routes were very important, and that is why most missions are near the coast, the mountain ranges and deserts in Alta California made it difficult to reach the coast from inland.
The Franciscan Missionaries had a book of ‘rules’ written by Spain from what they had learned about founding the other missions. The book included info on how to entice natives to join the missions, what the daily schedule should be, and other details. With the rules in mind Father Serra founded Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769 and began the Spanish colonization of Alta California. Father Serra established 9 missions before his death and burial at Mission San Carlos. Eventually 21 Missions were built in the 54 years between 1769 and 1823 in a chain that stretched from its southern edge in San Diego to north of the San Francisco Bay.
Essentially, Alta California was a Church State as much as anything. The ‘converts’ became citizens of Spain, and that solidified Spanish control and ownership claims, but it was The Church that was on the ground, and owned it. It is also worth noting that the missions hug the coast. There are none in the Great Central Valley. So that Spanish ownership claim only extends a dozen or so miles inland. All the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada were largely just seen as wild lands. Thus Sutter could set up his New Switzerland without a lot of intervention from Mexico. They just wanted him to take Mexican citizenship and keep others out.
The Clementine then sailed for Alta California, reaching Yerba Buena on July 1, 1839 (now San Francisco), which at that time was only a small seaport town.
At the time of Sutter’s arrival in California, Alta California was a province of Mexico, and had a population of only about 1,000 Europeans and an estimated 100,000-700,000 Native Americans. Sutter had to go to the capital at Monterey to obtain permission from the governor, Juan Bautista Alvarado, to settle in the territory. Alvarado saw Sutter’s plan of establishing a colony in Central Valley as useful in “buttressing the frontier which he was trying to maintain against Indians, Russians, Americans and British.”
So about 1000 population of European origin is the claim size of Mexico, and many of them were not keen on Mexico. The purpose of granting him Sacramento? To keep out the Russians and British and Americans who were running around the place… Not sounding all that locked down Mexican, is it?
The governor stipulated however that for Sutter to qualify for land ownership, he had to reside in the territory for a year and become a Mexican citizen, which he did on August 29, 1840. Construction was begun in August 1839 on a fortified settlement which Sutter named New Helvetia, or “New Switzerland,” after his homeland, “Helvetia” being the Latin name for Switzerland. Sutter often began to identify himself as ‘Captain Sutter of the Swiss Guard’. Completed in 1841, on 18 June, he received title to 48,827 acres (197.60 km2) on the Sacramento River. The site is now part of the California state capital of Sacramento.
A Francophile, Sutter threatened to raise the French flag over California and place New Helvetia under French protection, but in 1846 California was occupied by the United States in the Mexican-American War. Sutter at first supported the establishment of an independent California Republic but when United States troops under John C. Fremont briefly seized control of his fort, Sutter did not resist because he was outnumbered.
Now do we count him as a Mexican, since he took their citizenship? As French, since he left Europe under a French passport? As Swiss or German due to birth and rearing? Or as an American (post Statehood)? He and his troop were part of that “European” contingent in the State at the time…
The key takeaway from this story so far is just how few Europeans of any sort were running around the place. You could fit them on a few Jumbo Jets now. In large part, California was still Native American land and there were a few scattered families laying claim to 200 km^2 chunks of it at a time based on a wave of a signature. In many ways the whole argument over Early California is just one of “Who gets to steal it from the Indians?” with The Church, The Spanish Crown, the Mexican Empire (and other Mexicos), and the local 50 Name Families vs 1000 “Europeans” arguing over the spoils. So all legal niceties aside, I’d say none of them have a decent claim.
You may have noticed my talking about The Mexicos. Isn’t there just one? Well, no. The government “evolved”… So for legal matters you have to know which Government we’re talking about. The first one was the Mexican Empire just after the 1821 revolution of independence. It was to be a constitutional monarchy, sort of like Spain.
The Plan of Iguala, also known as The Plan of the Three Guarantees (“Plan Trigarante”), was a revolutionary proclamation promulgated on 24 February 1821, in the final stage of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. The Plan stated that Mexico was to become a constitutional monarchy, whose sole official religion would be Roman Catholicism, in which all inhabitants of Mexico would enjoy equal political and social rights. It took its name from the city of Iguala in the modern-day state of Guerrero.
The two main figures behind the Plan were Agustín de Iturbide (who would become Emperor of Mexico) and Vicente Guerrero, revolutionary rebel leader and later President of Mexico. The Army of the Three Guarantees was formed by the unified forces Iturbide and Guerrero to defend the ideals of the Plan of Iguala. On 24 August 1821, Iturbide and Spanish Viceroy Juan O’Donojú signed the Treaty of Córdoba in Córdoba, Veracruz, ratifying the Plan of Iguala, and thus confirming Mexico’s independence.
So a few guys in Veracruz decide the nature of governance for everything from Guatemala to San Francisco. It is an Empire and with an Emperor. Nice touch, that. The Empire had nice ambitions:
The document explicitly includes all residents of Mexico’s geographic territory among its citizens: the preamble refers to “Americans, under which term are included not only those born in America, but Europeans, Africans and Asians who reside in it,” and Article 12 states: “All the inhabitants of the Mexican Empire, without any other distinction besides merit and virtue, are suitable citizens to apply for any employment,” or “All the inhabitants of New Spain, without any distinction between Europeans, Africans, nor Indians, are citizens of this Monarchy with option to all employment depending on their merit and virtues,” depending on the copy.
But it was not to be…
Although the Spanish Viceroy had ratified the Treaty of Córdoba, the Spanish Congress meeting in Madrid on 13 February 1822 repudiated the Treaty as “illegal, null, and void.” The Mexican government, however, insisted upon O’Donojú’s acceptance of the Plan as legally establishing the country’s independence and sovereignty. Spain responded with a series of efforts to reconquer Mexico over the following decade. It eventually recognized Mexico’s independence on 28 December 1836 by the Santa Maria-Calatrava Yreaty, signed in Madrid by the Mexican Commissioner, Miguel Santa Maria, and the Spanish state minister, Jose Maria Calatrava.
Following the fall of Iturbide’s empire, the Mexican Congress abrogated both the Plan of Iguala and the Treaty of Córdoba as the basis for government on 8 April 1823. Instead, a new constitutional convention was called which led to the adoption of the 1824 Constitution of Mexico on 4 October 1824.
Many folks will cite 1821 as the start of Mexican California (or Texas). Yet can you? That Empire government is gone. It laid claim to those lands, but so did Spain, and for a decade (until about 1834 – 1836) there was an ongoing Spanish civil war (from their POV) or war of Independence (from the Mexican POV). Now if you are sitting on your nice large 44,000 acre ranch in Alta California, a subject of Spain and citizen of Mexico (without requesting it) which side are you rooting for again? And who “owns” you?
During the middle of this time, the French got involved (and in a larger way in 1861 when they installed their own Emperor, but that’s after Texas and California spit for more stable associations, still worth noting as Yet Another Mexico). So what happened before California and Texas split?
The Pastry War (Spanish: Guerra de los pasteles, French: Guerre des Pâtisseries), also known as the First French intervention in Mexico or the First Franco-Mexican War (1838–1839), began in November 1838 with the naval blockade of some Mexican ports and the capture of the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa in Veracruz by French forces sent by King Louis-Philippe. It ended several months later in March 1839 with a British-brokered peace. The intervention followed many claims by French nationals of losses due to unrest in Mexico City, as well as the failure of Mexico to pay a large debt to France.
During the early years of the new Mexican republic, there was widespread civil disorder as factions competed for control. In 1828, President Guadalupe Victoria ejected Lorenzo de Zavala from the office of governor of the State of Mexico. Zavala, supported by Antonio López de Santa Anna, rallied most of the garrison in Mexico City (then a part of Mexico State) to his aid. Four days of fighting in Mexico City resulted in Zavala’s winning and installing a new president, Vicente Guerrero.
In 1838 a French pastry cook, Remontel, claimed that his shop in the Tacubaya district of Mexico City had been ruined by looting Mexican officers in 1828. He appealed to France’s King Louis-Philippe. Coming to a national’s aid, France demanded 600,000 pesos in damages, an enormous sum for the time, when the typical daily wage in Mexico City was about one peso (8 Mexican reals). More importantly, the government of Mexico had defaulted on millions of dollars’ worth of loans from France. Diplomat Baron Antoine Louis Deffaudis gave Mexico an ultimatum to pay, or the French would demand satisfaction.
When president Anastasio Bustamante made no payment, the king of France ordered a fleet under Rear Admiral Charles Baudin to declare and carry out a blockade of all Mexican ports from Yucatán to the Rio Grande, to bombard the Mexican fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, and to seize the city of Veracruz, which was the most important port on the Gulf coast. French forces captured virtually the entire Mexican Navy at Veracruz by December 1838. Mexico declared war on France.
With trade cut off, the Mexicans began smuggling imports via Corpus Christi, Republic of Texas, and into Mexico. Fearing that France would blockade the Republic’s ports as well, a battalion of Texan forces began patrolling Corpus Christi Bay to stop Mexican smugglers. One smuggling party abandoned their cargo of about a hundred barrels of flour on the beach at the mouth of the bay, thus giving Flour Bluff its name. The United States, ever watchful of its relations with Mexico, sent the schooner Woodbury to help the French in their blockade.
The point here being that Mexco proper was not paying much attention to California. It was blockaded and in a minor war with a major power. It was very nice to just lean back in Alta California and let the European intrigues flow past, half a world away.
This state of affairs continued until 1839. Suddenly that gap between Spain and USA is looking more like a decade…
From that Mexico history wiki:
The first decades of the post-independence period were marked by economic instability, which led to the Pastry War in 1836. There was constant strife between liberales, supporters of a federal form of government, and conservadores, who proposed a hierarchical form of government.
During this period, the frontier borderlands to the north became quite isolated from the government in Mexico City, and its monopolistic economic policies caused suffering. With limited trade, the people had difficulty meeting tax payments and resented the central government’s actions in collecting customs. Resentment built up from California to Texas. Both the mission system and the presidios had collapsed after the Spanish withdrew from the colony, causing great disruption especially in Alta California and New Mexico. The people in the borderlands had to raise local militias to protect themselves from hostile Native Americans. These areas developed in different directions from the center of the country.
Wanting to stabilize and develop the frontier, Mexico encouraged immigration into present-day Texas, as they were unable to persuade people from central Mexico to move into those areas. They allowed for religious freedom for the new settlers, who were primarily Protestant English speakers from the United States. Within several years, the Anglos far outnumbered the Tejano in the area. Itinerant traders traveled through the area, working by free market principles. The Tejano grew more separate from the government and due to its neglect, many supported the idea of independence and joined movements to that end, collaborating with the English-speaking Americans.
General Antonio López de Santa Anna, a centralist and two-time dictator, approved the Siete Leyes in 1836, a radical amendment that institutionalized the centralized form of government. When he suspended the 1824 Constitution, civil war spread across the country. Three new governments declared independence: the Republic of Texas, the Republic of the Rio Grande and the Republic of Yucatán.
So now we have Yet Another Mexico. The Centralist Dictatorship. Now the Independence Revolutions in Alta California and Texas, and one must note, Yucatan too, make a lot more sense in this context. So does THAT Mexico have claim of ownership? When it came into being by fiat suspending the constitution of freedoms? Now you can also see why California and Texas both split in 1836. This was the trigger event.
Texas successfully achieved independence as a republic in 1836 and joined the United States. A border dispute between the US and Mexico led to the Mexican–American War, which began in 1846 and lasted for two years. Many Southerners intended that slavery should be extended to the west in these newly acquired territories but the United States generally would not permit it, except in Texas. The War was settled via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico was forced to give up more than one-third of its land to the U.S., including Alta California, New Mexico, and the disputed parts of Texas. A much smaller transfer of territory in what is today southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico—known as the Gadsden Purchase—occurred in 1854.
The Caste War of Yucatán, the Mayan uprising that began in 1847, was one of the most successful modern Native American revolts. Maya rebels, or Cruzob, maintained relatively independent enclaves in the peninsula until the 1930s.
Dissatisfaction with Santa Anna’s return to power led to the liberal “Plan of Ayutla”, initiating an era known as La Reforma. The new Constitution drafted in 1857 established a secular state, federalism as the form of government, and several freedoms. As the conservadores refused to recognize it, the Reform War began in 1858, during which both groups had their own governments. The war ended in 1861 with victory by the Liberals, led by president Benito Juárez, who was Amerindian.
In the 1860s Mexico was occupied by France, which established the Second Mexican Empire under the rule of the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria with support from the Roman Catholic clergy and the conservadores. The latter switched sides and joined the liberales. Maximilian surrendered, was tried on June 14, 1867, and was executed a few days later on June 19.
Or does the claim of “ownership” end with the treaty at the end of the war with the USA? Or perhaps with the formation of Yet Another Mexico as a secular state in 1857? Or the French dominated Second Empire? Or the period of rule by the General?
Porfirio Díaz, a republican general during the French intervention, ruled Mexico from 1876 to 1880 and then from 1884 to 1911 in five consecutive reelections, period known as the Porfiriato, characterized by remarkable economic achievements, investments in the arts and sciences, but also of economic inequality and political repression.
But then Mexico has another revolution…
Mexican Revolution (1910–29)
President Díaz announced in 1908 that he would retire in 1911, resulting in the development of new coalitions. But then he ran for reelection anyway and in a show of U.S. support, Díaz and William Howard Taft planned a summit in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, for October 16, 1909, an historic first meeting between a Mexican and a U.S. president and also the first time an American president would cross the border into Mexico. Both sides agreed that the disputed Chamizal strip connecting El Paso to Ciudad Juárez would be considered neutral territory with no flags present during the summit, but the meeting focused attention on this territory and resulted in assassination threats and other serious security concerns.
On the day of the summit, Frederick Russell Burnham, the celebrated scout, and Private C.R. Moore, a Texas Ranger, discovered a man holding a concealed palm pistol standing at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce building along the procession route, and they disarmed the assassin within only a few feet of Díaz and Taft. Both presidents were unharmed and the summit was held. Díaz was re-elected in 1910, but alleged electoral fraud forced him into exile in France and sparked the 1910 Mexican Revolution, initially led by Francisco I. Madero.
Madero was elected president but overthrown and murdered in a coup d’état two years later directed by conservative general Victoriano Huerta. That event re-ignited the civil war, involving figures such as Francisco Villa and Emiliano Zapata, who formed their own forces. A third force, the constitutional army led by Venustiano Carranza managed to bring an end to the war, and radically amended the 1857 Constitution to include many of the social premises and demands of the revolutionaries into what was eventually called the 1917 Constitution. It is estimated that the war killed 900,000 of the 1910 population of 15 million.
Assassinated in 1920, Carranza was succeeded by another revolutionary hero, Álvaro Obregón, who in turn was succeeded by Plutarco Elías Calles. Obregón was reelected in 1928 but assassinated before he could assume power. Although this period is usually referred to as the Mexican Revolution, it might also be termed a civil war since president Díaz (1909) narrowly escaped assassination and presidents Francisco I. Madero (1913), Venustiano Carranza (1920), Álvaro Obregón (1928), and former revolutionary leaders Emiliano Zapata (1919) and Pancho Villa (1923) all were assassinated during this period.
So does that kind of chaos terminate “ownership” of a land that had been gone for 70 years by then?
IMHO the chaos that was Mexico from 1820 to 1920 justifies any Mexican State declaring independence and “moving on”.
There is a nice summary of the state of things here:
The republic was proclaimed on November 1, 1823 by Constituent Congress, months after the fall of the Mexican Empire of Agustín de Iturbide. The federation was formally and legally established on October 4, 1824 when the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States came into force.
The Federal Republic lasted almost twelve years with constant struggles between the main political parties: the Conservatives, landowners and former monarchists, favoring a strong central government and a confessional state; and the Liberals, republicans favoring a limited government power divided among the federated states and a secular nation. That caused a severe political instability and violence.
The republic was ruled by two triumvirates and nine presidents. Guadalupe Victoria, was the only president who completed his full term in this period and in almost 30 years of independent Mexico.
On October 23, 1835, after the repeal of the Constitution of 1824, the Federal Republic was changed by a Centralist Republic. The unitary regime was formally established on December 30, 1836, with the enactment of the seven constitutional laws.
In short, Mexico was a mess, the government was in constant flux, and the rule of law was very thin.
Alta California During Mexican Chaos
So what was going on while Spain and Mexico (and France) were fighting over rule? Remember that at first, Mexico was called “New Spain”.
Back at that missions link:
In September 1810 the people of New Spain revolted and decided they wanted to break away from Spain to be their own country. Spain was already busy with a war with France. Unable to send money to the Missions or to pay the soldiers, life at the Missions became more difficult. The Missions needed land to grow crops and raise livestock. As settlers moved in they took more of the land and California’s population increased. The Missions found it more difficult to support themselves. These new residents asked Spain’s government to make the Missions non-religious, or secular, institutions and to make the neophytes Spanish citizens. A law was passed in Spain to make the neophytes free, but the Government and soldiers didn’t enforce the law. In 1821 Spain lost the war of independence with New Spain. New Spain, now called Mexico, had finally won independence from Spain but the new country couldn’t deal with the financial and military burden that the Missions created. The Mexican government passed another law in 1826 to free any neophyte that had been a Catholic for over 15 years, and some left, but many stayed. They didn’t know how to live any other way.
Do note how they just say the war ended in 1821, not noticing the ongoing war and chaos in Mexico…
By the 1830s the food shortages were severe and many of the Missions’ workers had left to find other ways to support themselves and their families. In 1833 the Mexican government passed a law that except for the church buildings and religious artifacts the Missions should be divided between the pueblos, or towns, and the native Californians living at the Missions. With the workers gone the Fathers couldn’t run the Missions by themselves and the Mission buildings deteriorated from neglect which made them worth even less. Most Missions were sold for much less than what they were worth just a few years before. Some native Californians did receive land, but most of it was sold off to wealthy landowners for a small fraction of what it was actually worth.
Essentially, the 1833 law was the destruction of the Spanish Missions and an attack on both Spain and The Church.
There is much more interesting history to explore in all this. The interactions of the Church and Spanish Crown especially. But that would take a whole book all on it’s own. That Spain and Mexico had a dynamic much like King George and the future USA is also interesting.
The Royals of France, England and Spain; squabbling over who would own the New World and losing it all in the process. Oppressed people being ignored in their pleas, resorting to revolution. War and chaos following. Then the rise of Constitutional Republics. Had Mexico not tried a run at Empire and a Religious Monarchy, they would likely have become a Great Power in North America, keeping their Alta California, Texas, and lands in between. Instead, they tried to be a Little Spain instead of a Big Mexican Republic, and fumbled it all.
As a side note, Britain had a claim to Oregon and parts of Northern California (despite Spain running ships up to British Columbia and setting up a fort or two).
A long history of dispute characterized the ownership of the Oregon Territory, which included present-day Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and portions of Montana, Wyoming, and British Columbia.
Spain and Russia had surrendered their claims to the region, but the United States and Britain were active claimants in the 19th century’s early years. The matter’s resolution was delayed by the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, in which both parties agreed to a temporary policy of “joint occupation” of the region. This accommodation was extended in 1827.
So another whole article could be done on those areas.
Similarly, the Louisiana Purchase had a bit of ill defined western edge. France selling the USA lots of land that had never seen a European foot. Much of it then claimed by Mexico after a Spanish split. Part of the drive of the Texas independence war, but best put under the history of Texas (that reaches up to Colorado and the Rockies…)
When all of you (Nations and Empires) are claiming ownership based on the size of your pen, not asking the local Indians what they think, well, borders can get murky and wars can result. And did. IMHO, it is best for all to just “get over it” and accept a new starting point in modern history and our present borders.
Yet you will find lots of maps showing things like Mexico extending to the Oregon Border, when in reality it did no such thing. Utah was not full of Mexicans when the Mormons moved in.
A group led by two Spanish Catholic priests—sometimes called the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition—left Santa Fe in 1776, hoping to find a route to the California coast. The expedition traveled as far north as Utah Lake and encountered the native residents.
Fur trappers—including Jim Bridger—explored some regions of Utah in the early 19th century. The city of Provo was named for one such man, Étienne Provost, who visited the area in 1825. The city of Ogden, Utah is named for a brigade leader of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Peter Skene Ogden who trapped in the Weber Valley. In 1846, a year before the arrival of the Mormons, the ill-fated Donner party crossed through the Salt Lake valley late in the season, deciding not to winter there but to continue forward to California.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as Mormon pioneers, first came to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. At the time, the U.S. had already captured the Mexican territories of Alta California and New Mexico in the Mexican–American War and planned to keep them, but those territories, including the future state of Utah, officially became United States territory upon the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, 1848. The treaty was ratified by the United States Senate on March 10, 1848.
Upon arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, the Mormon pioneers found no permanent settlement of Indians. Other areas along the Wasatch Range were occupied at the time of settlement by the Northwestern Shoshone and adjacent areas by other bands of Shoshone such as the Gosiute. The Northwestern Shoshone lived in the valleys on the eastern shore of Great Salt Lake and in adjacent mountain valleys. Some years after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley Mormons, who went on to colonize many other areas of what is now Utah, were petitioned by Indians for recompense for land taken. The response of Heber C. Kimball, first counselor to Brigham Young, was that the land belonged to “our Father in Heaven and we expect to plow and plant it.” The land was treated by the United States as public domain; no aboriginal title by the Northwestern Shoshone was ever recognized by the United States or extinguished by treaty with the United States.
Like most all of the inland areas, it was lightly traveled by French trappers, and English explorers and a few Spanish expeditions, but populated by Native Americans, who had no pen at the signing tables where others argued over owning their lands.
So did Mexico give it up in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo? Or did they never really own or occupy it? What difference would it make now, anyway…