Juarez, Benito, on La Reforma

Benito Juárez, Apuntes Para Mis Hijos [Notes for My Children](ca. 1857)


In the year 1845, there were held elections of the deputies to the departmental assembly, and I appeared as one of the many candidates who offered themselves to the public. The electors nominated me and I was unanimously elected. Early in 1846, the departmental assembly was dissolved as a result of the military sedition led by General Paredes, who, under orders from the President, don José Joaquín de Herrera to march to the frontier threatened by the American army, pronounced in the hacienda of the Penasco in the state of San Luis Potosí, and countermarched towards the capital of the Republic, in order to seize the government, which he did, submitting himself completely to the direction of the monarchist-conservative party. The liberal party did not concede defeat. Aided by the Santa Anna party, it worked actively until it succeeded in overturning the reactionary administration of Paredes and in installing General don Mariano Salas provisionally in the Presidency of the Republic.


In Oaxaca, the movement against Paredes was supported by General don Juan Bautista Díaz; there was named a Legislative Committee and an Executive Power of three persons who were named by a Committee of Notables. The election fell on don Luis Fernández del Campo, don José Simeón Arteaga, and myself, and we began at once to fulfill the duties with which we had been honored. Informed of this arrangement, the general government decided to dissolve the Legislative Committee, and to entrust the executive power of the state to don José Simeon Arteaga alone. I had to return to my legal post in the prosecutor's office, but Governor Arteaga dissolved it in order to reorganize it with other personnel, and in consequence he proceeded to its reorganization, naming me President or Regent--as at that time was named the presiding officer--of the Tribunal of Justice of the state.


The general government called on the nation to elect its representatives with full powers to revise the constitution of 1824, and I was one of those named for Oaxaca, and so proceeded to the capital of the Republic, to fulfill my new duties, early in December of the same year of 1846. At this time the Republic was already invaded by forces of the United States of the North; the government lacked funds sufficient to set up a defense, and it was necessary for the Congress to afford the means of acquiring them. The deputy for Oaxaca, don Tiburcio Canas, took the initiative in authorizing the government to mortgage part of the properties administered by the clergy, in order to provide resources for the war. The proposal was admitted and then turned over to a special commission, to which I belonged, with the recommendation that it be given prompt attention. On January 10, 1847, a report was made on this matter, advising the adoption of this method, and it was brought up immediately for discussion. The debate was extremely long and heated, because the moderate party, which had a large majority in the chamber, put up a strong opposition to the project. At two in the morning of the 11th, however, the report was approved in general, but in the discussion of the particulars, the opposition presented a multitude of amendments to each of the articles, with the unpatriotic purpose that even when it was finally approved the act would have so many hobbles that it would not produce the result that the congress proposed. At ten in the morning the discussion came to a close with the passage of the law, but for the reasons stated it did not issue with the desired amplitude . . .


From that moment, the clergy, the moderates, and the conservatives redoubled their efforts to destroy the law and to eject from the Presidency of the Republic don Valentin Gómez Farías, whom they considered the leader of the liberal party. In a few days they succeeded in realizing their desires by inciting to rebellion a part of the city at the moment when our troops were fighting for the nation's independence on the northern frontier and in the city of Veracruz. This mutiny, which was called that of the Polkos, was viewed with indignation by most of the people; and the rebels, thinking that their plan could not succeed by force of their arms, resorted to subversion, and succeeded in winning over General Santa Anna, who commanded the army that had defeated the enemy at La Angostura, and whom the liberal party had just named President of the Republic over the opposition of the moderate and conservative party; but Santa Anna, inconsistent as always, abandoned his men and rushed to Mexico to give the victory to the rebels. These went to the Villa of Guadalupe to receive their protector, with their chests covered with badges of membership in religious orders and relics of saints, as "defenders of religion and the exemptions." Don Valentin Gómez Farías was removed from the Vice-Presidency of the Republic, and the liberal deputies were attacked and denied the reimbursement that the law allowed them for their subsistence in the capital. We deputies from Oaxaca could not receive any help from our state because there the legislature had been destroyed and replaced by those who supported the rebellion of the Polkos; and as a matter of fact the congress was not holding sessions because it lacked a quorum. I decided to go home and dedicate myself to the practice of my profession.


In August of [1847] I arrived in Oaxaca. Although they were persecuted, the liberals were working actively to reestablish the legal order, and in this effort they were authorized by law, for there existed a decree that, on my motion and that of my associates in the deputation from Oaxaca, was passed and sent by the general congress, condemning the mutiny that had occurred in this state and refusing to recognize the authorities established by the rebels; nor did I hesitate to help in any way that I found possible those who worked for the fulfillment of the law, which has always been my sword and my shield . .


On November 23rd, we succeeded very well in a movement against the intruding authorities. The President of the Court of Justice, Lic. don Marcos Pérez, took charge of the government; the legislature met and named me Governor pro tempore of the state.


[Juarez joined the rebellion against Santa Anna in 1855; became Minister of Justice in the victorious government; was named Chief Justice of the Mexican Supreme Court in 1857; and became President of the Republic when Ignacio Comonfort resigned under duress in 1858. Juarez would lead the government to victory during the War of the Reform against the Conservatives and would lead the victorious resistance to the Conservative/French Empire of the 1860s.  In 1867, he was once again in control in Mexico City and remained President until his death in 1872.]