In December 1857 General Félix Zuloaga together with several other generals announced the Plan de Tacubaya, which decreed that the Constitution ceased to be in effect and that Comonfort would continue to be the president, governing with broad powers; it called for a special session of Congress to draft a new constitution more to their liking, doing away in the meantime with all those individuals who did not support this plan. In this period executions were common, and a number of people fled north to the United States.
Pressured by events, Comonfort decided to unite with this coup of conservative generals. Part of his team of collaborators resigned their positions while Benito Juárez, president of the Supreme Court, Isidoro Olvera, president of Congress, and a number of congressmen were imprisoned. The States became divided between those that supported the Plan de Tacubaya and those that defended the constitutional order.
The Conservatives pressured Comonfort to repeal the Liberal reforms, which he refused to do. Later, Comonfort tried to come to a reconciliation with the Liberal wing; he released Juárez from prison and carried out armed confrontations against the Conservatives, which were poorly waged. Seeing the futility of his resistance, he decided to end the fighting. He fled Mexico, leaving it engulfed in civil war.
The Liberal army and government suffered defeats that led them to convert their regime into an itinerant government. Despite the hardships to which they found themselves subjected, they continued issuing a series of legislative orders that symbolized a yet more radical posture than that maintained in the Constituent Congress of 1857. The legislation enacted in Veracruz considered a range of aspects affecting the nation and its inhabitants.
The laws enacted at this stage, known as the Reform Laws (Leyes de Reforma) established at last the separation of Church and State.
But while that came to pass, the civil war and the constant confrontations gradually exhausted the country's inhabitants. They tired of this fratricidal war, in which the Liberals were now winning. One event would put a radical spin on the situation: In 1859, the U.S. government in Washington recognized that of Juárez, and with that, Conservative chief Miguel Miramón promoted a reconciliation among both sides. After three years of civil war, the Liberal forces headed by Jesús González Ortega confronted what would be the last battle against the Conservative forces headed by Miramón in December 1860. The Liberals won in the battle of Calpulalpan in the valley of Mexico, and finally, on January 1, 1861, Juárez made his triumphant entry into the capital of the Republic.
A little before this took place, but already convinced that the constitutional forces would prevail over the reactionaries, Juárez issued on November 6, 1860 a call for elections for deputies to the Congress of the Union and the constitutional President of the Republic for two months time. The president had been governing with extraordinary powers, and so had a pressing need to reestablish the legality of the government by means of the Congress. At this time, the legislature had been shifting the balance of power in its favor, and becoming without a doubt the most important political power of the period, more so even than the Executive. The Executive, on the other hand, needed to succeed in the elections in order to be able to govern within the constitutional order.
After a very close vote, the Juarist government was scarcely able to triumph with just a few votes between them and their opponents. The Congress declared Benito Juárez President and González Ortega president of the Supreme Court of Justice, a post which made him a de facto legal runner-up for the presidency. The sessions in the chamber took place in the midst of great political tension, which forced the president to suspend some of the individual rights guaranteed in the constitution. As soon as the constitutional order was reestablished on a national level, the government sought the means to uphold the laws passed in Veracruz and also passed new laws, like the decree secularizing hospitals and charitable organizations issued in December 1861.
These new attacks on Conservative interests provoked uprisings on the part of the reactionary army. Despite having been overthrown by the Liberals, Zuloaga again proclaimed himself president. Political unease once again began to unfold and produced strong partisan confrontations, including against president Juárez, who took pains to keep within the constitutional order. Nevertheless, the assassinations of Melchor Ocampo and Santos Degollado, carried out by the Conservatives in 1861, made the social, economic and political situation critical. The Juarist government decided to suspend payments, look for a way to assemble funds by whatever means possible, and maintain the suspension of civil rights.
These measures would turn out to be insufficient to put a stop to problems with the reactionary wing and achieve the pacification of the country. Aiming to gain more resources to put a stop to the war and fix the Treasury, the Executive had to take drastic measures. The presentation before Congress of an initiative to suspend foreign debt and bond payments for two years was the natural consequence of the distressing situation. Debated in the well of the Legislative Assembly, the initiative was approved and made public in July 1861. The response of the affected European powers was immediate, and although the order was repealed in November of that same year, it was too late since the stance taken by the foreign governments foretold the start of a military intervention.
In spite of the goodwill shown, some Spanish troops arrived, in December 1861 to the port of Veracruz, and in January 1862 armies of the three European powers disembarked in Mexican territory. At least one of them arrived with imperialistic plans promoted by a Mexican, who before the virtual failure of the reactionary party, had turned his eyes towards Europe in a last effort to keep the Conservatives' privileges, and to impose a new government. In 1860-1861, a commission headed by Jose Maria Gutiérrez Estrada, José Manuel Hidalgo and Esnaurrízar and Juan N. Almonte would persuade the government of Napoleón III to support a new intervention in Mexico with the objective of imposing a monarchy. Once he expressed his support, it was decided that the ideal candidate would be Maximilian of Habsburg, who after resigning his rights to the throne of Austria, accepted the offer to become the emperor of Mexico.
In the face of this threat to Mexico's sovereignty, President Benito Juarez issued a call to the nation to be unite against the invaders, but the congress, which was markedly anti-Juarista, resisted many of his presidential initiatives. So strong was the conservative opposition in the Chamber that 51 deputies signed a formal request asking Juárez to resign due to his alleged incompetence. Nevertheless, 52 deputies voted in Juárez's favor, allowing him to keep power by a single vote. The President made a diplomatic effort to end the ultimatum of the tripartite alliance. The minister of Foreign, Manuel Doblado initiated a message interchange with the European governments. Because of the urgency of the situation, Congress had to authorize the executive branch to take all necessary measures for the purpose of retaining independence, defending the integrity of the territory, and maintaining the form of government set forth in the Constitution and the Laws of Reform. The Mexican government managed to reach an agreement with the Spanish representative and to subscribe the text known as the Preliminaries of the Solitude. This document was backed by the British but not by the French, thus demonstrating their true intentions: invasion of Mexico.
On April 9, 1862, the powers suspended the negotiations of the Convention of London, reason why the Spanish and British troops left the country. Meanwhile Almonte, under protection of the French forces, had arrived at Mexico and taken control of the government. His government defended the intervention and organized a cabinet with members of the Conservative Party. At that time, the invading army undertook the march towards the Mexican plateau with the purpose of seizing the capital and making an impression to the Mexicans with the forces they commanded. Although it is certain that at first the invaders were surprised at being defeated at Puebla by General Ignacio Zaragoza in the famous Battle of Puebla ("Cinco de Mayo", 1862), the arrival of reinforcements and a new French leader, General Forey, would in the long run allow the invading army to arrive at the capital in 1863.
On May 31, faced with the imminent arrival of the French troops, Juárez and his cabinet left the capital. That same day Congress gave the president a new vote of confidence, it closed its sessions and dissolved. Nevertheless, several deputies, among them the president of the Chamber, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, decided to accompany the president in his peregrination toward the north. Initially, Juárez, his cabinet and the permanent delegation went to San Luis Potosí where the powers of the nation settled down. Later, the government of the traveling Republic would pass through different parts of the country, staying in spite of a thousand vicissitudes as the maximum organ of Mexican representation throughout the time that the French intervention and the empire of Maximilian I would last, and indeed many foreign governments continued to recognize the Juarez government-in-exile as the legitimate authority. The Congress granted extraordinary faculties to Juárez at the beginning of the fight, and allowed him to remain chief executive after his prescribed term ended in November 1865. Juárez decided to prolong his mandate beyond this date having adduced the severe circumstances in which the nation found itself, and with the purpose of avoiding the dismemberment of the Liberal group.
Despite critiques of his invasive presence, from his first acts Maximilian gave clear signs of his liberal position with respect to certain topics such as the closure of the University, considering it reactionary. During the Empire, for example, he never spoke of seizing former clerical lands and property from their new owners. Furthermore, one of the emperor's first orders was to grant total freedom of the press so that everyone would be free to voice his opinions. Later the imperial government ordered that priests must perform the sacraments without requiring compensation. Income received from the nationalization of church properties would be turned over to the government; the emperor and his heirs would enjoy, with respect to church matters, the same rights as did the kings of Spain in their colonies, with civil control over marriages, births and death registrations, as well as over cemeteries, and, in short, a series of measures aimed at upholding some of the reform laws that had previously been passed under the Liberal government. The tenor of the orders issued by the imperial government did not please the Conservatives, much less the Church, which immediately pressured the emperor to eliminate all of the reform laws.
Maximilian found in the Conservatives a great resistance to his liberal policies, and in the Liberals an iron opposition since to them he represented the invaders, and, by extension, an attack on sovereignty and national institutions. And although the French army had enabled the Regency to govern in some of the states, it never managed to gain absolute control over the whole country. When the army withdrew from a city, Liberal groups immediately retook it for their cause. Unfortunately for them, when the American Civil War had ended, in 1866, Maximilian discovered that Napoleon had decided to withdraw his military support. This was done in part because a United States blockade of Veracruz prevented the arrival of reinforcements, and in part because the intervention had begun to be questioned in his own country, on both its own merits and for the onerous cost that it represented for France.
Product liability reform: 'war' on the Senate floor.(includes related article on Florida 'sick building' case)
May 01, 1995; PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Hvacr equipment manufacturers are closer than they have ever been to product liability reform, said Senator...