Napoleon made an alliance with the Muslim Ottoman Empire in 1806 and Persia in 1807.
Napoleon’s victories across Europe caused Spain’s King Charles IV to be unstable in his position regarding France:
first against, 1793;
then for, 1796;
then against, 1803;
then for, 1807.
In 1807, Napoleon finally invaded Spain, beginning the draining Peninsula War.
Frustrated Spanish citizens forced King Charles IV to abdicate on March 19, 1808, and replaced him with his son, King Ferdinand VII.
French troops proceeded to occupy of Madrid.
When Spaniards gathered in protest, Napoleon brought in the Muslim Mameluke cavalry to subdue them.
In 1808, on May 2, the “Dos de Mayo,” the Mamelukes charged on horseback brandishing their scimitar swords, slashing into the Spanish crowd.
Over 500 protestors were hacked to death, crushing the “Dos de Mayo Uprising.”
Immediately afterwards, on May 6, 1808, Napoleon forced King Ferdinand VII to abdicate.
Napoleon then installed his reluctant brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as the new King of Spain.
Spanish America questioned if it should remain loyal to the Spanish throne with the French brother of Napoleon on it.
Compounding the situation, New Spain was Catholic and Napoleon had been excommunicated by Pope Pius VII, June 10, 1809.
Soon, in 1810, Spanish America began to declare independence from French-controlled Spain.
Simon Bolivar led the revolution, which eventually gave independence to:
Colombia; (which included Panama);
Peru (with the help of Don José de San Martín); and
Bolivia (named for him).
A Constitution was written, similar to that of the United States, to create a “Gran Columbia” of former Spanish States.
It fell apart when Simon Bolivar insisted on being president for life.
U.S. President William Henry Harrison referred to Simon Bolivar in his Inaugural Address, March 4, 1841:
“This is the old trick of those who would usurp the government of their country.
In the name of democracy they speak, warning the people against the influence of wealth and the danger of aristocracy.
History, ancient and modern, is full of such examples … Bolivar possessed himself of unlimited power with the title of his country’s liberator.”
The United State’s experience was different.
For a century and a half prior to independence citizens had been schooled by pastors and church leaders in self-government.
Simon Bolivar accused Spain of having kept the people of New Spain for centuries under a “triple yoke of ignorance, tyranny, and vice.”
As a result, in was therefore necessary that any new government “will require an infinitely firm hand.”
In Mexico, September 16, 1810, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo, gave a speech, “The Cry of Dolores,” calling people to revolt against the Napoleon-controlled Spanish elites.
Hidalgo gathered nearly 90,000 poor farmers.
Unfortunately, they were quickly defeated by the Spanish trained military at the Battle of Calderon Bridge in 1811.
Hidalgo was executed.
The Revolution continued, though, until Spanish General Agustín de Iturbide switched sides.
With his leadership, Mexico soon gained independence in 1821.
Unfortunately, rather than setting up a constitutional republic, like the United States, Agustín de Iturbide set up a Mexican Empire with himself ruling as the Emperor.
In 1824, Mexico adopted a Constitution.
In the following decades, Mexico struggled through the instability of 50 different governments.
Santa Anna rose to power.
In his 40 year career, called by some historians the Age of Santa Anna, he ruled as Mexico’s President for 12 non-consecutive terms.
He finally laid aside Mexico’s Constitution and made himself a despotic dictator.
Santa Anna told the U.S. minister to Mexico Joel R. Poinsett:
“A hundred years to come my people will not be fit for liberty …
A despotism is the proper government for them, but there is no reason why it should not be a wise and virtuous one.”
Modeling himself after Napoleon, he called himself “The Napoleon of the West.”
Santa Anna crushed dissent, resulting in Texas declaring independence in 1836:
“The late changes made in the government by General Antonio Lopez Santa Anna,
who having overturned the constitution of his country, now offers, as the cruel alternative, either abandon our homes … or submit to the most intolerable of all tyranny.”
General Santa Anna led the Mexican military, losing the Mexican-American War, 1846-1848, resulting in the Mexican Cession, 1848, and Gadsden Purchase, 1854.
In 1853, Santa Anna exiled a young leader who challenged his power — Benito Juárez.
The next year, Benito Juárez returned to led the Revolution of Ayutla, ousting Santa Anna.
An aspect of Mexican politics involved the Church.
Originally, the Catholic Church in Latin America saw its political responsibility as limited to being a conscience to the ruling elites, reminding them to treat the poor fairly as someday they too will face judgement.
Revolutionaries, though, wanted immediate change, and therefore accused the Church as being somehow complicit in maintaining the status quo.
In 1856, Benito Juárez, backed by Freemason leaders, led a War of Reform against the Church.
Religious orders were suppressed, church property was confiscated and religious clergy were denied rights.
Once he became President, Benito Juárez stopped paying interest on Mexico’s debt to Spain, Great Britain and France in 1861.
This resulted in those European countries planning an invasion of Mexico.
With the United States occupied in a Civil War, French troops landed in Mexico in 1862, actually being supported by various Mexican financial leaders and church leaders.
On MAY 5, 1862 – “CINCO DE MAYO” – the French Army suffered a minor setback at the Battle of Puebla.
The French went on to capture:
It is speculated that had the French not experienced the set-back of the Battle of Puebla, they would have taken Mexico sooner, and been in a position to alter the America Civil War by supplying arms to the Confederacy.
Numerous Mexican leaders traveled to Europe to plead with Maximillian I to come to Mexico and restore order, to which he agreed in 1863.
Maximillian was the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I, one of the world’s most powerful leaders.
Franz Joseph ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire — which, after Russia, was the largest empire in Europe, consisting of:
parts of Serbia, Romania, Italy, Montenegro, and Ukraine.
Emperor Franz Joseph ruled for almost 68 years, making him one of the longest reigning monarchs in history.
In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt met him.
In 1914, Emperor Franz Joseph’s nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated, starting World War I.
Franz Joseph’s younger brother, Maximillian, was known for being a forward thinker with liberal ideas, advocating progressive reforms in favor of common people.
He spoke six languages and was commander of the Austrian Navy, sending out the first Austrian ship to circumnavigate the globe.
Maximillian was supported in going to Mexico by England’s Queen Victoria and France’s Napoleon III, along with the blessing of Pope Pius IX,
He had the backing of many Mexican leaders, led by José Pablo Martínez del Río.
Maximillian arrived at Veracruz on May 21, 1864, to enthusiastic crowds.
He created an avenue through the center of Mexico City, known now as the famous boulevard Paseo de la Reforma.
Maximillian’s wife, Carlota, was shocked by the living conditions of the lower classes, so she raised money from wealthy Mexicans to help poor houses.
Maximilian immediately abolished child labor and reduced working hour for laborers.
He canceled all debts for peasants over 10 pesos, restored communal property and broke the monopoly of Hacienda stores.
He forbade all forms of corporal punishment and decreed that poor people could no longer be bought and sold for the price of their debt.
To the dismay of the wealthy, Maximilian upheld liberal policies of land reforms, religious freedom, and extended the right to vote beyond the landholding class.
The United States Government did not want European powers in the western hemisphere, as stated in the Monroe Doctrine.
The U.S. put diplomatic pressure on Napoleon III to abandon support of Maximillian and withdraw French troops from Mexico.
Lincoln instructed General Grant to send the order to Sheridan:
“Concentrate in all available points in the States an army strong enough to move against the invaders of Mexico.”
The U.S. secretly supplied guns to Mexican gangs, conveniently “losing” arms and ammunition at El Paso del Norte near the Mexican border.
General Philip Sheridan wrote in his journal:
“We continued supplying arms and munitions to the liberals, sending as many as 30,000 muskets from Baton Rouge alone.”
With the threat of a possible U.S. invasion in support of Benito Juárez, the supporters of Maximilian began to abandon him.
Maximillian’s wife, Carlota, went to Europe desperate for help but was denied everywhere and suffered an emotional collapse.
Napoleon III urged Maximillian to flee Mexico, but he refused to desert his Mexican followers, fearing the fate they would suffer.
He let his followers decide whether or not he should abdicate.
Faithful Mexican generals Miguel Miramon, Leonardo Márquez, and Tomás Mejía fought with an army of 8,000 Mexican loyalists.
In 1867, they withdrew to Santiago de Querétaro, but Colonel Miguel López was bribed to open a gate to let a raiding party in.
Maximilian was captured.
Leaders around the world begged Benito Juárez to spare Maximillian’s life.
Italy’s reformer, Giuseppe Garibaldi, sent telegrams to Benito Juárez on behalf of Maximillian.
Even eminent French author Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, pleaded for Maximillian’s life.
Benito Juárez refused and had Maximillian shot on June 19, 1867.
He even photographed him in his coffin.
Maximillian’s last words were:
“I forgive everyone, and I ask everyone to forgive me.
May my blood which is about to be shed, be for the good of the country. Viva Mexico, viva la independencia!”
Benito Juárez died of a heart attack five years later, after putting down a revolt led by a young leader who challenged his power — Porfirio Diaz.
Porfirio Diaz was President till there was another revolt led by a young leader who challenged his power named Francisco Madero.
Madero was murdered in a coup d’Etat in 1913 by Victoriano Huerta, which started another civil war.
A quote contrasting the stability of the United States with that of other countries was made by 13th President Millard Fillmore, December 6, 1852:
“Our grateful thanks are due to an all-merciful Providence …
Our own free institutions were not the offspring of our Revolution. They existed before.
They were planted in the free charters of self-government under which the English colonies grew up …
… (Other) nations have had no such training for self-government, and every effort to establish it by bloody revolutions has been, and must without that preparation continue to be, a failure.
Liberty unregulated by law degenerates into anarchy, which soon becomes the most horrid of all despotisms …
We owe these blessings, under Heaven, to the happy Constitution and Government which were bequeathed to us by our fathers, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit in all their integrity to our children.”