Cinco de Mayo – Alexander Von Humboldt – Napoleon III
Most Americans learn about the battle of “Cinco de Mayo” at school, and mistake it for the Mexican war for independence. The events that trigger this battle involved many interesting characters, countries, and stories that I believe, everyone ought to know about them.
The First French intervention attempt – “The Pastry War.”
1838 – 1839. During the War of Independence from Spain, [1810-1821] there had been unrest and a French pastry chef known only as Monsieur Remontel sent a complaint to King Louis-Philippe of France, claiming that in 1832 Mexican officers looted his shop in Tacubaya and he demanded 60,000 pesos as reparations for the damage [his shop was valued at less than 1,000 pesos] The Mexican Government refused to acknowledge this claim as legitimate.
In view of the response to Remontel’s complaint the King of France ordered a fleet to carry out a blockade of all Mexican ports on the Gulf of Mexico from Yucatán to the Rio Grande, to bombard the Mexican fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, and to seize the city of Veracruz. The French forces finally withdrew on 9 March 1838 after a peace treaty was signed.
However, this amount was never paid and that was later used as an excuse for the second French intervention in Mexico of 1862.
The Second French Intervention in Mexico – “Cinco de Mayo.”
France at this time was ruled by the Emperor Napoleon III, and the “Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain” by Alexander Von Humboldt. first published in French. [Read my blog about him.] Among other things, the chapter about the natural resources of Mexico including the silver mines became Napoleon III obsession, he was looking for an opportunity to establish an empire in Mexico that would favor French interests, and exploit those natural resources. Also, Napoleon III knew that the1859 McLane–Ocampo Treaty, which Benito Juárez signed giving the U.S.transit rights along the Isthmus of Tehuantepec was never ratified by the United States Congress, and he wanted to build the “Tehuantepec Canal” shortest route [120 miles] between the Golf of Mexico to the Pacific ocean.
Late in 1862, a well-armed French fleet attacked Veracruz, landing a large French force and moving on from Veracruz towards Mexico City, the French army encountered heavy resistance from the Mexicans close to Puebla, at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe.
The French army of 8,000 attacked the poorly equipped Mexican army of 4,000, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, On May 5, 1862, the Mexicans decisively defeated the French army. The victory represented a significant morale boost to the Mexican army and the Mexican people at large and helped establish a sense of national unity and patriotism!
The Third and Last French Intervention in Mexico! Maximilian I.
One year after the battle of “Cinco de Mayo”, the Emperor Napoleon III sent 30,000 French troops, which defeated the Mexican army, captured Mexico City, and install Emperor Maximilian I as ruler of Mexico. The French victory lasted only three years, from 1864 to 1867. Napoleon was facing a persistent Mexican guerilla resistance, that intercepted arms, and supply shipments sent to the Confederacy via the Mexican ports, and retreated from Mexico in 1866.
The Mexican Liberals recaptured Mexico City, and Maximilian I was apprehended and executed, along with his Mexican Conservative generals Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía Camacho in Cerro de las Campanas, Querétaro.”On June 5, 1867,
During the time Maximilian was in power, Benito Juárez was governing Mexico as the elected official president from his carriage, because he had to be on the move to avoid capture. He finally entered Mexico City where he installed a new government, based on the “Constitution of 1857”.
The Constitution of 1857.
Mexico was a colony of Spain for over 300 years, and liberal ideas of the “Enlightenment” had circulated widely among the city’s intellectual elite, and Creoles, resulted in the War of Independence in1810-1821. However, there was no consensus over the structure of government to insure everyone rights were equal under the law.
The Reformation War, 1858-1860, was a civil war between the Conservatives, who favored monarchy and the power of the church, and the Liberals that favored a constitutional government. The “Liberal” Constitution of 1857, established individual rights, universal male suffrage, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to bear arms. It also reaffirmed the abolition of slavery, the death penalty. central government, a strong national congress, an independent judiciary, executive to prevent a dictatorship.Juárez signed the Law for the Liberty of Religious Worship, the final step in the liberals’ program to dis-empower the Roman Catholic Church by allowing religious tolerance in Mexico.On April 6, 1859, the president elected Benito Juarez, a lawyer and member of the Indigenous Zapotec Juárez government was recognized by the United States during the Buchanan administration.
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