Armas del Emperador Napoleón I.
Honneur et Patrie
Texto en castellano.
Texte en Français.
English version.
The Napoleonic Roots of Mexico’s Independence
Knight of the Royal Order of Saint Michael of the Wing

Laureate Essay of the II Count of Las Cases Memorial Prize
Mexico City, December the 2nd to the 31st, 2007.
Instituto Napoleónico México-Francia.
Translation by the Mexico-France Napoleonic-Institute ©
With our special thanks to Dr. Stewart Addington Saint-David
E.S. Enrique F. Sada Sandoval
Edition Year
NAME OF THE AUTHOR ORIGIN PHOTO POINTS % Evaluación más recurrente.
II 2007 The Path to Liberty: The Napoleonic roots of Mexico's Independence E.S. Enrique Sada Sandoval  Torreón, Coahuila; Mexico- Premio Memorial Conde de las Cases, México. E.S. Lic. Enrique F. Sada Sandoval. 107 (/128) 83,5 Trabajo destacado, vale 3 puntos.
Prof. Sir Eduardo Garzón-Sobrado, Presidente-fundador del INMF.

By Prof. Sir Eduardo Garzón-Sobrado
From the National Academy of History and Geography (ANHG-UNAM)
President-founder of the Mexico-France Napoleonic Institute
Founder of the Count of Las Cases Memorial Prize

Imperial Order of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
« The peoples that do not recognize their true benefactors aren’t worth to be free, nor shall ever be » Simon Bolívar.

It is a great honour for us to present the following paper, laureate essay of our II Count of Las Cases Memorial Prize, in its 2nd edition 2007.
Unanimously congratulated by the international jury, this valuable dissertation, The Path to Liberty, assumes of course a particular interest in what refers to its literal and intrinsec content, but also, doubtless, a very special value while being signalled at an historic moment of great importance for Mexico, when the preparations for the commemoration of the bicentenary of the beginning of our country’s fight for the Independence, to be celebrated in 2010, have officially begun.
In this unique context, and facing the alas inevitable advance of officialised dismemory which ineludibly approaches, it appears to us being of a particular necessity, on one side, to seize the occasion of the conjuncture of these celebrations to firmly emphasize the powerful influence that the napoleonic legacy, and through it the beneficial ascendant of generous France, carried out upon the men and the events which at length consumed our Independence in 1821, and which gave rise to our country as a free and sovereign nation. On the other side, and principally, we need to consolidate and vindicate the glorious memory and imperishable legacy of H.I.H. Augustine I, Emperor and liberator of our Fatherland, a goal that our text –we are convinced of it– brilliantly contributes to reach.
In effect, today when our country passes through moments of a strong identity crisis, prey to the continuous assaults of foreign cultural and social models that question our essential values and traditions, it turns to be primordial to clarify and diffuse the palmed history of our liberator and first monarch, whose memory has been clouded and sullied through so many decades of disinformation, slanders and iniquities. In this essential labour for the recovering and the revivification of this fundamental part of our national patrimony and identity, historic clarity, academic analysis, but before all free expression, are our more solid basis in favour of the vindication of the Fatherland through the just retribution of a debt of honour which we all Mexican have towards the memory of the Father and liberator of our nation.
As well, thanks to this renewed union, and above the sectary ideologies and partisan divisions that have only ripped up our country during two centuries, we will be able to lay the foundations for the reconciliation of our people with its most glorious past, a heritage and a tradition always alive and embodied today in the illustrious person of H.I.H. Count Maximilian of Götzen-Iturbide, Imperial Prince of Mexico.
This being said, let us give way to our author not without evoking previously, as truth and justice demand it, the last words that the hero of Iguala expressed in his memories: « When you instruct your children about the history of the Fatherland, inspire them love for the chief of the Trigarant Army (...) who spent the best time of his life for you to be happy ».

H.I.H. Emperor Augustine I of Mexico
By the Divine Providence, Constitutional Emperor of Mexico.

Instituto Napoleónico México-Francia , INMF.

Arms of the First Empire of Mexico

Similar to this is the story of many minds of our time,
We believe that it's useful to follow, step by step, all of their phases
Víctor Hugo.

From a historical and sociological point of view, the XIXth Century can be defined as the milestone which marks the advent of the Modern Age. Great epics and huge dreams had resounded on one side of the world, and have reached the other one, through the pen, the sword or the cannon.

New ideas were born, which have forged new men. Great men made their banner out of them, offering their own peace and even their own lives themselves so that they could turn these into palpable deeds, which were if not perfect, at least functional for present and future generations, for their fellow citizens, and for foreign peoples as well.

Liberty, source from which the noblest principles spring out, erects itself as the sovereign, and soon becomes the standard seized by prodigal beings who, in spite of the limits of their space, manage to glimpse, in the twilight of an era, a great new shaft of light.

This is neither fortuitous nor against nature. Each epoch is translated into a series of events finely intertwined, in which each link precedes the other: each step determines the following step, and even, by a strange subversion (which, in reality, isn’t one), every step forward that is made in the name of the progress of nations, as well as that of people’s destiny permits us at the same time to justify the steps that precede it, giving to the following echelon the greatest importance. This is how history is forged.

Men are the children of their time; this is an irrefutable truth. But frequently, those who believe in this axiom have a tendency to forget another truth, as important as the first and one that is inseparable from it: there are men who engender new times. It is to one of these men that this essay is dedicated.

Conqueror, restorer, reformer and creator, a singular genius of word as well as of action: these pages are dedicated to a great man and to his influence, still palpably alive, in the spirit of Europe and America.

H.I.H. Emperor Augustine I of Mexico

On the Old Continent, he raised the French nation from the ruins of the Old Regime, and imprinted on it a splendour that, in his era and even today, seems incredible to us. But he was still more prodigal, as he dedicated his life not only to the grandeur of his fatherland, but also to that of the nations to which the latter was tied, leaving there that grandeur and that noble spirit that characterize the Europe that we know today. Creator of institutions inspired by the Enlightenment, as important as they were in the past, he obtained victories quite beyond honour and the battlefield: in the world of Arts, of Science and in the mentality of many generations.

In America, in our America, his voice found a fertile echo in the libertarian epics of the peoples who, deprived during three centuries of liberty of expression, had forged an identity that, by its nature itself, implicated autonomy and equality for all of those who were born upon its soil. His image and his glory also found a worthy reflection in the heart of those great men (Iturbide, Bolivar, San Martin) who, for the love and glory of their fatherland, challenged the whole world, and undertook, with heroism, the fight for Independence, vanquishing almost insurmountable obstacles.

He stands, effectively, among those few giants to whom we owe the modern world as we know it. The evocation of his name alone describes equally well his work as well as his person: Emperor Napoleon I.

I would like to dedicate this text to the tutelary genius of the French nation, as well as to the Liberator of the Mexican Nation: Don Augustine I of Iturbide.

I dedicate these pages as well to the memory of Dr. Enrique (« Henri ») Sada Quiroga, decorated Mexican, in 1947, with the Médaille de Bronze de la Reconnaissance Française, who, pouring doubtless his inspiration from the great man of Austerlitz and pushed by the love of liberty, joined the effort of many men of his time to break the yoke of usurpation and tyranny which then ripped off the heart and the greatness of the French people during the German occupation. It is to him, as well, that these words are addressed.

Torréon, Coahuila-México, D.F.,

May 18th 2007, 20th anniversary
of the imperial proclamation of the throne of France;
185th anniversary of the imperial
proclamation of the throne of Mexico.

Plaque of the Imperial Order of Our Lady of Guadalupe.



I want your descendants to remember me
and say: he is the regenerator of our fatherland


Napoleon crossing the Alps
Painting by Jacques-Louis David. First version of Versailles (detail).

The last third of the XVIIIth Century and the first decades of the XIXth saw the end of the Old Regime and the transition to the modern age. The political revolutions that took place during this period put an end to absolutism and replaced it with new forms of government founded upon equality before the law, democracy and individual liberty. France is the clearest example of the suppression of ancestral models: it witnessed the crumbling of its out-of-date feudal social institutions, and saw the violent fall of its monarchy. The reasons were natural and evident.

On the legal level, French society was constituted as an absolute monarchy, incarnated by a king « by divine right, » and by a strongly centralized state that leaned on the division in orders founded upon privileges and social inequality. The only beneficiaries of this structure were the nobility and the clergy, both holders of exemptions. Along with these two groups, there was a third one that was constituted by burgers, craftsmen, peasants and other marginal groups that comprised the great majority of the population. It is through this heterogeneous ensemble that taxes and other charges enabled the financial support of the State.

But, around 1789, this form of organization had become obsolete, and the administrative and judiciary apparatus no longer worked properly. For many people, a deep reform was necessary, a reform the privileged states were very little attracted to. The Enlightenment underlined these contradictions; it criticized and denounced them, though contributing to mine the social and political basis of the Ancient Regime. The theories of Montesquieu and Rousseau, founded upon separation of powers, national sovereignty and equality of all citizens before the law, contributed to that particularly.

That is how the 14th of July, 1789 began in France as an uprising that would constitute an example for the whole world: the seizure of the Bastille would mark the beginning of the French Revolution. A little after that, the Bourbon banners would be replaced by the tricolour flag which, taking the colours of the city of Paris (blue, and red), and adding the royal white, would embody from then on the guarantees that free people would adopt as fundamental rights before « despotism »: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Before and after: Napoleon on the bridge of Arcole by Baron Gros, and as Emperor of the French, portrayed here on the imperial Throne of France, by Jean-Baptiste Ingres.

The French Revolution was the first bourgeois political revolution of the European continent. It permitted the establishment of liberalism, and represented a decisive blow for monarchical absolutism, in that it replaced by such principles as national sovereignty, the distribution of powers and the recognition of individual liberties. It was the abuse of royal power, as well as the tyranny of the decadent nobility that had caused the insurrection. The latter would carry, however, other reactions of a nature that was as contradictory as disastrous. France went from an excess of power to an excess of liberty, which degenerated very soon into anarchy and death with the installation of the Terror. There was no way out. Neither present nor past could assure the future: the revolution seemed destined to tyrannize and devour the common people, as well as its own children.

Despite their errors and failures, the very different governments that had followed one another in power between 1789 and 1800 had contributed to something positive: the integrity and the independence of the French Nation had been preserved in spite of the assaults and the menaces of the neighbouring European powers, which saw in it a potential menace; the decadent feudal system represented by the old regime had been abolished and the best principles of the Enlightenment were diffused in numerous places. Nevertheless, the institutions that would permit the safeguarding of the principles and the interests of the people were still to be established.

The spirit of Liberty that had just sprung from the Revolution scared the various peoples as much as it did the sovereigns. But fear ended when that spirit, which followed the French battalions, was held by a man gifted with military genius, a great natural political talent and unequalled courage: Napoleon Bonaparte. It is at Arcole where the epic of a new era begins. It continues at a fast pace until the campaigns of Egypt and returns to a France that expected impatiently the return of the man who seemed to be the depository of Glory and Triumph.

Once he was in power, thanks to people’s support, Napoleon quickly proceeds to the abolition of all arbitrary laws and anti-social divisions. He closed the wounds, rewarded merits as well as individual courage, and kept ties with the best ideals of the Republic, conducting Frenchmen to their national unification for the grandeur and the prosperity of the Fatherland. When he appeared on the political stage, « he understood that he should represent to the eyes of his compatriots, just as to those of the whole world, the trustee of the best principles of the Revolution and of the Enlightenment » (1).

The Napoleonic legacy materialized on different levels: on the socio-political and military level, it permitted the diffusion of revolutionary forms, of civil liberties (consecrated by the Civil Code in 1804) and the definitive annihilation of feudal structures. This work was concretized by the appearance of a series of moderate liberal constitutions, such as the Bayonne Constitution, the uprising of the bourgeoisie as a new dominant class, before the nobility and the clergy, the introduction of modern Rights and of innovations in the armies and in military tactics. His most remarkable achievements were concretized by the creation of a local administration of centralized structure, a judiciary organization in which the judges became functionaries and the restructuring of the bureaucratic apparatus. The corollary of this policy appears in the Civil Code, which guaranteed individual liberty, equality before the law, private property and economical liberty.

The result is the creation of a large empire in Europe directed by France, organized and governed in person, or through members of his family or military officers who had his confidence, along with the collaboration of the upper classes of the conquered countries, where constitutions and codes similar to France’s are promulgated.

Nationalism also was reinforced. Contrarily to the personal ties upon which loyalty to the feudal lord or submission to the absolute monarch was founded, this new hierarchy opened the way to a new way of relating within society: that of the free citizen in the framework of the Nation-State, which constituted a unity around common elements such as language, culture and history, and where territorial limits enclosed a State formed by a community that was clearly different from others.

The French Revolution reinforced this tendency as a way of exalting the nation above absolutism. Napoleon encouraged nationalisms: in Italy, he criticized the presence of the Austrians and supported the creation of an autonomous realm of Naples under the aegis of Murat. The promoters of German unification invoked this kind of nationalism which, some time later, would also be promoted and adopted by the Latin-American nations, and more particularly by the Mexican Empire at the moment of the proclamation of its independence from Old Spain.

There’s no doubt that the Emperor contributed more than any other man of his time to speeding the pace of Liberty and of Equality, by preserving the moral influence of the Revolution and attenuating the fears that the latter could arouse. Without the Consulate and without the Empire, the Revolution would have been but a historic and significant tremor that would have left a trace, but few concrete benefits. It is thanks to the fact that Napoleon set himself up solidly that the revolution could survive to propagate its ideals throughout Europe and in America.

Such is the reason why (in additions to the re-establishment of religious worship) the transition from the Republic to the Empire, far from producing uncertainty or distrust, established peace and security, as it corresponded to the needs and the wishes of the majorities. This is how we observe that, like never before, such momentous changes had been introduced with so little effort.

In Napoleon’s case, it had been necessary, in order to palliate this absence of stability and of national continuity, constantly menaced by the interests of factions or by a return to the past, to found a new hereditary order, the power of which had to be founded upon the democratic spirit. Therefore, it is not surprising that such a man had so easily acquired an immense ascendancy, and this is due to two reasons: because he was necessary in the consequent historical order, and because no one could represent better than he did the most positive principles of power, as well as the best ideas of his time (2).

The laws that ruled the Empire, as well as the nations that were under its protection, were built upon the following principles: civil equality, in accordance with democratic principles, and a hierarchy in accordance with the principles of order and stability.
The power of the family constituted then the only hereditary dignity, no other post nor trade was so designated during that period. It was superiority of merit, courage and personal virtue that prevailed, and as testimony we have the creation of the Order of the Legion of Honour; all occupations, without any exception, were within reach for all citizens.

The instauration and the recognition of a new nobility founded upon personal courage, merit and virtue were the fruit of the Napoleonic inspiration, adopted by Emperor Augustine I and the Mexican Empire: The Order of the Legion of Honour and the Imperial Order of our Lady of Guadalupe; its motto: Religion, Independence, Union.

If we analyse the spirit of the laws that were created by the hand of a single man, in an epoch when disagreements were arranged more in terms of spirit of faction than of justice, in a moment when the rest of the world constituted a menace to the principles of Liberty and of Equality, we notice that Napoleon enacted the settlement of a pluralist system, precursor of our contemporary democracies, founded upon effective and permanent institutions, that represented the best guarantee for the future generations.

The Napoleonic system outside France consisted of convoking the ecclesiastic powers, the magistracies, the provincial, municipal, industrial, academic, and commercial administrations, and even the military corps, in order that all the classes which formed society felt represented (3).

Thus, Napoleonic politics assured the primacy of common good over individual interests and the ambitions of the factions, placing the latter under a similar spirit, which was to find very soon an echo in the mentalities of the Latin-American peoples in their struggle for Liberty.



The glory of Europe is extinguished for ever
Edmund Burke.

To France’s height under the Napoleonic Empire is opposed, in Europe, the dawn of the Spanish Empire, a historic drama which will become the main cause of the independence of Mexico and of the rest of America. Some agree that this fall began during the reign of Philip IV, who begins to suffer military defeats, as well as a loss of influence in his own territory, after the separation of the kingdom of Portugal. Nevertheless, historians –including the most recalcitrant– agree that the decadence of the empire that, at other times, didn’t witness the sunset, begins with the advent of a new dynasty: the Bourbons.

In our first image, the last of the Austrias, Charles IIthe bewitched(1665-1700), in front of despotism without luster (following protraits): the Bourbons Charles II (1665-1700), Charles III (1716–1788), Charles IV (1748-1819), and Ferdinand VII (1784-1833).

The death of Charles II, « the Bewitched », puts an end to the glorious chapter of the House of Spanish Habsburgs. As a consequence of last minute changes, the succession to the throne of the kingdom of Spain goes to the duke of Anjou, who will be known later as Philip V of Bourbon, grandson of Louis XIVth and first monarch of this dynasty to rule the two worlds. During the first half of the XVIIth Century, the Spanish empire, its victories over the kingdom of Naples aside, will remain in some sort of immobility before its American colonies, where sciences, production and arts begin to develop and shine in the eyes of the rest of the world, clearly showing the birth of what would later constitute its own identity before that of the metropolitan Spaniard, an identity that even the Creole, or American-born Spaniard, will claim. Even if the privileges the Spaniards benefited from (in opposition to the Creoles) were already the reason for some trouble, the situation worsens after the death of Ferdinand VI, first son of Philip V, who has no heir, and the access to the throne of his half-brother, Charles VII, king of Naples, who from then on shall be king of Spain and the Indies under the name of Charles III.

Subsequently, the reforms erroneously called « Bourbon » came from a Masonic origin, awkwardly promoted by Charles III and his non-Spanish ministers. These reforms limited, from a economic and social point of view, the American colonies, imposing on them productive restrictions and overloads, in contrast to the natives of metropolitan Spain. They were badly received and caused, even though not all of them were applied, the distrust and suspicion of the American subjects, who saw in them some injustice. However, this was but a prelude of what was to come.

The attitude of the king and of his ministers towards New Spain and the other colonies, far from being rectified, got even worse after the designation of José de Galvez as Minister of the Indies. Galvez showed, as visitor and as minister, nothing but a deep ignorance concerning the importance of the New World, and of New Spain particularly, as the main support of the Spanish Empire on both sides of the Atlantic. He also showed a great disdain for its inhabitants. It isn’t surprising that he had established policies which blocked Creoles and Mestizos from occupying important posts in the administration.

One of the greatest offences of both Galvez and the Bourbons was the expulsion of the Jesuits and the suppression of the Company of Jesus in the rest of the Empire. This measure provoked grave consequences, as well as the discontent of the population, which found itself deprived not only of moral and spiritual support, but also of ninety percent of the educators of New Spain. The missions were abandoned and, along with them, the civilizing progress that had already been accomplished for the benefit of barbarian Indians in the distant internal and eastern provinces.

The edict of the then viceroy Marques de Croix by which the royal policies of Charles III were executed not only afflicted the inhabitants of New Spain, it also offended them: « From now on, the subjects of the great monarch who occupies the throne of Spain must know that they were born to be silent and to obey, and not to discuss nor give their opinion about government issues » (4).

José de Gálvez y Gallardo (1720-1787)
Marquis of Sonora, minister and henchman to Charles III, natural enemy of the Spanish America.

Around the end of the XVIIIth Century, the general situation in the colonies was worrying. Many factors converged towards a situation which was to prepare the field for the war of independence. Three different observers, particularly lucid ones, have left us their points of view on this critical period. In 1783, the Count of Aranda, Spain’s ambassador to France, wrote to the king a secret report concerning the situation of the colonies after the independence of the United States. He had the impression that the political apparatus was weakened and that a radical political reform was urgent in order to avoid Spain's potential loss of sovereignty over those territories. He also anticipated that the United States would become a menace to the Hispanic world, and more specifically to Mexico.

In 1799, Monsignor Abad y Queipo, bishop of Valladolid, sent to the king a report concerning the situation of New Spain. He underlined the huge economical inequalities and assured that a social reform to benefit the poorest was needed, or otherwise, hatred between castes would go on growing. Finally, in 1806, Baron Alexander von Humboldt finished gathering information in order to create his monumental work, Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain. Although it was published fifteen years later, its diagnosis was exact: Mexico was a country of great economic inequalities and of great opportunities, but an economic reform was needed in order that the majority of the people might make the most of prosperity.

Noble visionary favorable to the Spanish America: Baron Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and Count of Aranda (1719-1798).

The first report was perceived as alarmist and wasn’t heeded. The second one was, but, in the end, didn’t attain anything concrete. As for Humboldt’s book, it was published when Mexico was already virtually, independent, and served only to attract the attention of the powers to the country’s riches. In total, the economic growth in the XVIIIth Century, the unequal distribution of wealth and the lack of political flexibility of the regime led Creoles to dispute with metropolitan Spaniards the enjoyment of the wealth of the vast territory of New Spain, as David Brading demonstrates (5). It’s in reaction to the Bourbon absolutism that what was to be called Creole nationalism, direct precursor of Mexican nationalism, grew up, with an irrepressible force, in the whole of New Spain. The characteristic of this nationalism was a great fondness for the territory of New Spain and for its inhabitants, mixed with a spirit of intellectual and economic liberalism of an autonomous nature.

Around 1788, the collapse seems imminent. Charles IV accedes to the throne, where he proves to be weak and even less intelligent than his father, to the degree that he allows an upstart, Manuel Godoy, his bodyguard and lover of his wife, to hold power. During his reign, the position of Spain before England, on one side, and France, on the other, became less advantageous. The result of these policies was inevitable: he began a war against England and another against France, both ruinous for the kingdom. Charles IV had to cede to England the island of Trinidad and suffered a defeat at Trafalgar, the 21st of October 1805, a battle during which Admiral Nelson destroyed the Spanish and French fleets.

The Bournonian decadence: Manuel Godoy Álvarez de Faría (1767-1851), Prince of Peace”, main Minister to Charles III and lover the latters wife, queen Maria Luisa of Parme (1751-1819).

In the meanwhile, the war between France and Portugal gave Napoleon the occasion, which he didn’t expect, to establish the best ideals of the French Revolution not only in the Spanish metropolis, but also in its colonies on the other side of the Atlantic. The influence of Napoleon, who built a powerful empire upon the debris of the French Revolution, as well as other circumstances, discredited Charles IV and the Bourbon dynasty. The news about the conjugal disputes of the latter, as well as of Godoy’s and his regime’s corruption, got to Mexico.

We have to emphasize that, around 1810, New Spain had a population of approximately six million inhabitants: a million Creoles, forty thousand Spaniards, three and a half million pure Indians, a million and a half Mestizo and a few less blacks. The unrest of the indigenous native population was then evident. There were three causes for that: the former kings and emperors of the House of Hapsburg in Spain, who had conquered and brought civilization to the New World, had always considered America, and Mexico in particular, as a kingdom or a province of the Spanish metropolis. The Bourbons, on the contrary, from 1699, with Philip V, saw it as a colony and had treated it as so.



Waterloo had as sole effect that the
revolutionary work continues on the other side

Víctor Hugo.

To speak of Liberty as the ideal cherished by the men of XIXth Century Spanish America, or to speak about Independence as the natural emanation of the Napoleonic spirit, we have to evoke a precedent and mention a key character. If there’s one man who can be considered as Napoleon’s titular heir concerning the idea of the independence of Mexico, and of Spanish America and its needs, that man is Dominique de Pradt.

His interest in the condition of the colonies, as well as their potential future, was as sincere as it was constant during his whole life. He didn’t even wait until Europe got interested in the subject. From 1798, Pradt stated in his works that the colonies were the children of the metropolis and that that’s why, once grown up, they should be emancipated, once they had attained their majority.

After the publication, in 1802, of his book Les trois âges des colonies où de leur état passé, présent et à venir, this priest of noble origin managed to influence Napoleon and the mentality of his time. His deep analysis of the condition of the Americas as independent nations, as well as of the promising future that they offered to France and to the world, crossed the frontiers and the oceans. The Emperor felt a deep sympathy for the priest’s liveliness, to the point that he decided to make him his personal chaplain, calling him « mon petit aumônier », my little chaplain; to which the priest replied wryly, designating himself as the « chaplain of the god Mars » (6).

The chaplain of god Mars: abbé Dominique de Pradt  (1759-1837), preceding Francisco Primo Verdad y Ramos (1760-1808), and et au viceroy José de Iturrigaray y Aróstegui (1742-1815), precursors of the Mexican Independence.

One of the most remarkable facts of the priest’s life had been his participation in the negotiations of Bayonne. Pradt himself tells in his Mémoires historiques sur la révolution d’Espagne (1816) how, while in Poitiers, he was surprised to receive the order of the Emperor to follow him to Bayonne. He affirms that his mission consisted of convincing the Prince of the Asturias to abdicate in favour of his father, and that he even suggested that Napoleon name Ferdinand VII as Emperor of New Spain in order to stimulate the independence of the colonies.

This depicts clearly the reciprocal influence of the priest upon Napoleon, and of the Napoleonic spirit on the work of the first. We perceive also the influence of Montesquieu on these two men. The author of L’Espirit des lois has affirmed that the independence of the colonies was written in the inevitable course of events. The Indies and Spain « are two powers governed by a single sovereign, but the Indies are the essential, while Spain is the accessory. It is in vain that politics will try to subordinate the main to the secondary: it is not Spain that attracts the Indies, it’s the Indies that attract Spain » (7).

The reading of the priest’s works by the most illustrated American caudillos, as Iturbide, Bolivar, San Martin and Pueyrredon, shows us the importance accorded by the patriots to having an ally and a defender of their cause in Europe itself. Thanks to the Napoleonic spirit and Pradt’s ideological presence, our liberators feel understood and legitimized before the world.

A pre-eminent idea that we find in his works is faith in institutions, and the importance of institutions for man to act and develop for the best. For Pradt, it is evident that Spain has not at its disposal any means to retain its American colonies, as it has become a mother who « exterminates at the same time in this fight... her children of America for those of Europe... in one identical act of suicide and of parricide » (8).

Pradt’s avid readers, admirers of Napoleon and liberator fellows: Simon Bolivar et Augustine of Iturbide in 1821.

Once the Independence of the new countries was acquired, what worried Pradt, as well as Napoleon, was American’s incapacity to govern itself, which could degenerate into anarchy, or into a new slavery as ignominious as that of the colonies, if they didn’t appeal to European experience and institutions: « Some of them will want a monarchy, the others a republic, others even absolute chiefs: what a multiplicity of things, what a confusion, how much blood and disgrace before a well-cemented arrangement manages to sort out all these difficulties... an excess of oppression is followed, quite frequently, perhaps always, by an excess of liberty, and the despotism of a single man is followed by that of many, which is the worst of all despotisms » (9).

It is undeniable that the influence that the French priest, as Napoleon’s counsellor, had in America, made him a visionary, a precursor and the « prophet » of emancipation for many illustrious Americans. We see that Bolivar established a friendly correspondence with him; Chile, Rio de la Plata, Greater Colombia and other countries considered him a defender of their cause in Europe, and a man who possessed « the sacred fire » so much praised by the Emperor.

We can, however, assert that it was in Mexico, in the former Vice-kingdom of New Spain, where the typical objectives of the Napoleonic spirit and, consequently, of “Pradtian” thinking, were crystallized. As Fray Servando Teresa Mier used to say: « In August 1821, the viceroy O’Donoju and Augustine of Iturbide signed the Cordoba Treaties. This new document, as the preamble states, wanted to unfasten, without breaking, the ties that had been established between Spain and America. It recognized absolute independence. The government would be monarchical, moderate and constitutional, and Ferdinand would be approached to occupy the throne. Pradt obtained thereby a triumph”. (10).



Ferdinand, with all of his fury, will try to keep his sceptre,
but one of these mornings, it will slip from his hands as an eel

The Mexican Empire
Arms and allegoric motives

The Epic that will begin with the Mexican independence process was the reflection of all the conflicts and underlying projects that subsisted in the Old World, essentially, the fight between liberalism and absolutism. It is evident that the heritage of the French Emperor, the ideas of Montesquieu and the ideologists of the Enlightenment penetrated the vice-royalty through the news and the books that were well-received by the Creoles and by the Mestizos. However, we will notice that the anti-religious way of thinking of the French Revolution was in no way admitted by the Spanish-American caudillos of independence, who adopted only the political ideas. We may add that what precedes the fact of the contribution of the Christian-Catholic and Spanish tradition in the fundamental ideas for the formation of political criteria, such as essential equality among human beings, is the belief that each person is free and that his life isn’t fatally predetermined, among many others.

However, the dangers that threatened the Mexican people in its noble interests, by far more moral than material, also frightened the Church. That’s the reason why the thinkers clearly saw that the separation from Spain was the only way to get rid of them, as the Metropolis was, from the beginning of the XIXth Century, in such a state of decrepitude; a decay that was completely evident in the scandals and the abuses of the royal Spanish family, along with those of Godoy, and which occurred at the same time as the corruption and disrepute of the royal government in Spain itself, before the eyes of the world.

Precisely because the important priests used to participate in the juntas where the emancipation projects were discussed, they collided with an obstacle of a moral nature: rebellion against the legitimate authority of the kings of Spain, an uprising which they believed to be necessary to reach the only kind of effective independence. This situation was expressed in the principle that the king, in view of his quality of Christian prince, “can force his infidel subjects into the observance of the natural law” (11). Happily, this point was resolved by itself in the course of events, just at the moment and by the means that were the least expected: simply because the crown of Spain had ceased to exist.

The Spanish monarchical decomposition is reaching its climax and the nationalist hopes are put upon the Prince of Asturias. In October 1807, Charles IV discovers the elements of a plot and orders the arrest of his son. Ferdinand, accused of projecting the death of his father and of having asked for Napoleon’s help, giving new proof of the baseness which his reign will confirm, denounced all of his companions in the conspiracy: his dead spouse included. The king forgives his son, and in the midst of a farce -like judgement, all of those charged are acquitted.

Religión, Yndependencia y Unión: the Three Guarantees of the Plan of Iguala, which represent the Mexican nationality, fraternized in essence with the Napoleonic France in 1821. From left to right: Pavilion of the Three Guarantees; Imperial Eagle of Mexico; Arms of the First Empire of Mexico; Imperial Eagle of France.

Murat is at the doors of Madrid and Ferdinand believes that he brings him the crown, but fearing that his father would speak to Napoleon before he does, he beats him to it and arrives in Bayonne, where, once the whole royal family is gathered, including Godoy, one of the most shameful displays in history would occur: in the middle of an exchange of insults and accusations between the father, the mother and the son, they all demand that Napoleon be their arbiter, in order to sort out their differences. Charles abdicates before Napoleon on May the 5th, handing over to him the Spanish kingdoms and his properties in exchange for the Compiègne palace, the castle of Chambord and an annuity that he wouldn’t receive. Next day, Ferdinand abdicated in favour of Charles IV, not aware of the earlier abdication of the latter.

In some vile notes, the prince of Asturias congratulates Napoleon for his repeated victories in Spain, while signing the document as “the humblest subject of His Imperial and Royal Majesty, whose august brow Providence crowns”. He asks Napoleon for the hand of one of his nieces, the first born of Joseph Bonaparte « in order to remove from a blind and furious people the pretext of continuing to drench the Fatherland with blood ». If after that, the Spaniards who supported the Napoleonic intervention in the Iberian peninsula were disqualified with the nickname of « afrancesado », we can easily speak of Ferdinand VII himself as the first afrancesado in Spain, particularly if we consider strictly the facts and the various statements that he made during his stay at Valençay. If feeling “respectful”, “in love with Napoleon” and “proud of being under his protection” are words that can be considered as pertaining to someone who sides with a pro-French liberal political tendency, it is evident that the first afrancesado was the prince of Asturias and the future king of Spain himself, who sent these words and many others to the Emperor up until 1813. (12)

The Emperor, although surprised and infuriated, knew already the low moral value of the father, as well as of the son, when the two Bourbons, in the vilest manner, put the crown of Spain at his feet. In order to justify himself, Ferdinand signed the 12th of May of that same year a decree in which the following words were to be found: “Absolving the Spaniards of their obligations in this matter (the fact of being subjects to his person) and exhorting them to remain calm, expecting their happiness from the wise dispositions of the Emperor Napoleon”. (13)

Analyzing what we just saw, the king freed all of his subjects from the oath of submission that was due to him, and exhorted them only, without commanding it, to submit to Napoleon. Thus, Ferdinand VII, with this attitude, by the fact of abandoning his throne and even through his own words, left his people in full liberty to choose for themselves their form of government and their leaders. In these conditions, the Government Junta that the Emperor set up as unique, and that was in such condition authorized by Charles IV and by Ferdinand VII, together with the Castille Council, the Municipal Council of Madrid, and even the former Holy Inquisition itself, considered as valid the abdication of the Bourbons from the Spanish throne.

Authority was recognized in the person of Joseph I Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, but a swarm of regional juntas stood against him, groups which called themselves “governmental”, and which claimed to rule over Spain and America at the same time, disputing the authority among them, and without ever reaching a common agreement. From this situation, one could very easily infer that the same power that the different kingdoms of Spain had in order to establish their juntas, the New World had to formulate its own. The so called “Junta Central”, located in Seville, upon a basis that was both weak and questionable, was formed in September 1808, and was not in a position to demand any submission from the Americas, as no overseas kingdom ever participated, nor was in any way represented in it. Napoleon and Murat, when forming their Cortes (Courts) and the Constitution of Bayonne, still had had the deference and the delicacy to appeal to two Americans as representatives of the overseas kingdoms, an aspect that wasn’t even considered in that of Aranjuez. And all this, as one might expect, was known in Mexico.

A regenerating option: Joseph I (1768-1844), king of Spain and the Indies in 1808.

The juntista movement of the metropolis would have an echo in Mexico. After the events in Spain were known, the viceroy Iturrigaray and the public figure Primo Verdad began the debate with the auditors and the members of the Consulate in Mexico. Francisco Primo Verdad, a very cultivated lawyer, Mexican-born and trustee of the metropolitan municipal Council, exposed in his famous discourse that the faculty to form an autonomous Junta was based upon the fact that, as the peninsular government had disappeared, the people, as source of sovereignty, should assume it once again in order to place it in a provisional government, which would fill the void caused by the absence, as well as the voluntary and apparently perpetual dethronement of the kings of Spain. He based his thesis as well upon the « Ley de partidas » which foresaw the potential absence of a king.

In spite of the foregoing, the Spaniard auditors refused what they judged to be contrary to their interests, and stated it clearly in a phrase so offensive to the honour of any American-born man, which summarized so well the worst that they had felt since that old Bourbon formula that stated “callar y obedecer” – to shut up and to obey –, now on the lips of the auditor Aguirre: “If Spain falls and nothing but a cat should remain, all Americans should submit to it (14). The sentiment of those wrongs had attained its summit: the American, and particularly the Mexican, felt not only that the king of Spain commanded him, but further that each Spaniard considered him as a vassal and a slave.



Well, I’ll go to Mexico: there, I will find Patriots,
and shall put myself at their head to found a new Empire

In Bayonne, while Napoleon was occupied in deliberating how inconvenient the presence of the Bourbon monarchs was, he began to direct his views towards the New World.

The Emperor considered that one of the great glories of France had consisted in providing indispensable help and recognition in order that a confederation of English colonies, the United States, could obtain their independence from Great Britain. Consequently, the path to follow was very clear: he would also be a new and great artisan on the other side of the world. He would enact for the Spanish colonies the same advantages that Louis XVI had enacted in favour of the Anglo-American colonies. In order to realize this project, from 1809 on he sent frigates with French agents to the major capitals of America, so that they could, by establishing contacts and relations, communicate to the patriots in each region that he wanted to free them from the Bourbon despotism and decadence, and with such a goal he was willing to offer them troops, material and his moral support for them to manage to reconquer their independence. The agents of Napoleon announced a “great progress in Mexico”, chief among them, general d’Almivart, who had an interview with no one less than with friar Miguel Hidalgo, at “la petite France”, name by which his house in the village of Dolores was known in 1809. (15)

Great progress in Mexico”: the priest of Dolores, Don Miguel Hidalgo: contact of General Gaëtan Souchet D’Almivart, Napoleon’s agent in 1809. To the right, the standard of the Virgin of Guadalupe which the priest Hidalgo took at Atotonilco, adopting it as the banner to the insurgent movement.

It was when the Emperor seemed to have absolute control over Spain, and that only the so-called Junta of Cadiz defied the established order, that he announced his support to the cause of independence: “If the peoples of Mexico and Peru wish to remain united to the fatherland or to elevate themselves to the heights of noble independence, France will not oppose their will as long as they do not establish relations with England (16). This is how he reaffirmed it in his message of December the 12th 1809: “It’s in the necessary order of events, it’s in justice, it’s in the well understood interest of the powers(17). The impact of this declaration was to be felt in Mexico as well as in the rest of America shortly before 1810. The proof of this is the explosion, not at all accidental, of all the revolutions which aimed at independence.

Just as the autonomous conspirators and afrancesados of Mexico, Allende and Hidalgo believed that “all the grandeur of Spain was inclined, or even better, decided by Bonaparte” and that the peninsula was lost; that the authorities were accustomed to the days of Manuel Godoy, and that consequently they couldn’t be trusted (18). This isn’t totally unreasonable, if we consider that even in the peninsula great characters like Felix Amat, distinguished bishop and confessor to Charles IV, himself theologically justified his siding with Napoleon and Joseph Bonaparte as king of Spain by signalling that the hand of God had decided the fate of the throne, and that the fact of accepting Joseph I would “presently prevent Spain from suffering the horrors of the civil wars, the bonfires, the ravages and the casualties that it suffered during the introduction of this dynasty ”(the Bourbon one). (19)

From that moment on, the independence of the colonies became a strategic objective to Napoleon. In spite of the failure in the Iberian Peninsula and the disaster of the Russian campaign, Spanish America, and Mexico in particular, remained a priority, as he was fully convinced that its independence, which was inevitable, would be “the most important event of the century,” and that this same event in itself “would change forever the world’s politics”.

General Baron Charles Lallemand (1774-1839): Promoter of the Confédération Napoléonienne in Mexico.

Contrary to the Machiavellian politics carried out by England and the United States towards Spanish-American Independence, Napoleon maintained quite invariably his support for the cause of Liberty. His abdication of the throne of France in 1814, and his definitive defeat at Waterloo in 1815 left the insurgents without their main support and promoter. Even vanquished and exiled, Napoleon had not forgotten his great American dream as, in Elba as much as at Saint-Helena, he avowed occasionally to many persons that he had still a “great project for Mexico.” Concerning this option, the Emperor had expressed that if ever he got to Mexico, he would put himself at the head of the patriots in order to found a new empire.

When Don Luís de Onís, Spain’s Ambassador to the United States, learned that the Emperor had been confined on Saint-Helena under the custody of the English government, he received this news with great relief: he believed that the great man deposed and exiled would never intervene again with his influence in favour of the independence of the Spanish colonies. Time would demonstrate to him the exact contrary. In August of 1815 already, the Spaniard diplomat discovered that the Bonapartist general Humbert had allied himself with José Álvarez de Toledo and with Jean Laffite to invade the province of Texas. The plot combined a counter-offensive that, along with the insurgent forces of friar José María Morelos, would beat the regular Spanish forces. One had to add to that another major event: Joseph Bonaparte, Joseph I, briefly King of Spain and the Indies, had disembarked in New York to establish his residence there, as well as that of those of the Imperial family on American soil. All this, added to the constant rumours that “some marshals of Napoleon would come to put themselves at the head of the conquest of Mexico” would be for Onís the prelude to a long nightmare. (20)

Lord Holland, another of the fervent partisans of the independence of Spanish America, and among the most exalted English Bonapartists, considered that the politics of direct non-intervention from the English government was anti-liberal and contrary to England as much as to the free world, a reason for which he tried, along with Lord Cochrane, to correct it in Parliament. From then on, Holland had taken under his protection one Francisco Xavier Mina, a young Spanish guerrillero. Mina’s revolutionary credentials were impeccable: he had fought against the French forces in the Spanish peninsula and was imprisoned in France until Napoleon’s first abdication. A while after his return to Spain, Mina realized that Ferdinand VII was a much more despotic and weak ruler than Joseph Bonaparte. Hunted for his liberal ideas, he ran away to France. According to the Emperor himself, in March 1815, “Many Spaniards who had most resolutely opposed my invasion, who had acquired fame in the resistance, called me immediately: they had fought me, they said, as a tyrant; and now they were coming to implore me to be their liberator”. Among them he identified Mina as one of those who solicited his support in order to dethrone Ferdinand VII. (21)

In those moments Joseph and his generals were analysing many options to make a palpable reality from the American dream of Napoleon. Mina met Joseph Bonaparte in Philadelphia and received his economic and military support for his expedition. When leaving for Galveston, Mina took with him two of the closest followers of the former Joseph I: Noboa, as an agent for negotiations with the Mexican insurgents, and Jean Arago, a veteran of the Napoleonic army. The papers in the United States made public Mina’s project to enact the independence of the Kingdom of Mexico, the primary reason why ambassador Onís put them under surveillance.

Bonapartist and fellows of arms: the legendaryAdmiral Lord Thomas Cochrane Count of Dundonald (1775-1860) and the navarrian guerillero Francisco Xavier Mina (1789-1817) conceived the project, along with Joseph Bonaparte, of the liberation of Napoleon and the offering of the throne of an independent Mexico as part of the Project of the Confédération Napoléonienne, among 1815 and 1820.

In 1817, Napoleon had received a secret communication from his brother Joseph, who informed him that the Mexican insurgent had offered him the Crown of Mexico. This news enlivened the Emperor’s mood in his exile, but that which he would receive some months later encouraged him far more. According to Montholon, the Mexican patriots extended the same offer directly to Napoleon, as “they had foreseen all the obstacles that resulted from the Emperor’s captivity, and hadn’t forgotten anything in order to ensure the success of their plan.” (22)

About the end of the month of August, Hyde de Neuville, ambassador of Louis XVIII in the United States, intercepted correspondence that implicated Joseph Bonaparte in a vast conspiracy which aimed to create the feared Confédération Napoléonienne from the West of the Mississippi. The plan was the same: to put Joseph on the throne of Mexico. Fearing that it could be too late, the diplomat expressed his frustration: “I can try to frustrate the Napoleonic intrigues in the New World, but those related to Saint-Helena can only be stopped in Europe… They say that Napoleon is behaving, but that he refuses to see anyone… With a naval officer, nothing would prevent him from finding himself in a latitude agreed upon in advance with a friendly vessel proceeding from America… Where will we go if this prodigious man gets to an already-conquered Mexico?”. (23)

Lord Holland (1773–1840), by François-Xavier Fabre (1795)
Was a British politician, nephew of Charles James Fox, and member of the Whig opposition party from 1797. Opposed to England’s belligerent and purely mercantile politics, he worked for Catholic Emancipation and was a partisan of a politics of conciliation with Napoleonic France, subscribing to Byron’s view that the restoration of the Bourbons represented « the triumph of tameness over talent ». The 3 of august 1822, he addressed to the Parliament the following words, evoking the Emperor’s death: « The very persons who detested this great man have acknowledged that for ten centuries there had not appeared upon earth a more extraordinary character. All Europe has worn mourning for the hero; and those who have contributed to that great sacrifice, are devoted to the execrations of the present generation, as well as to those of posterity ».

Consequently, Luís de Onís advised the vice-regal authorities, both in Mexico and in Cuba, warning them in due time about the menace that was posed for their interests by this expedition of almost a thousand men, commanded by the most famous generals of Napoleon, who were ready to invade the kingdom of Mexico with the support of Joseph Bonaparte, who expected to be proclaimed. (24)

Mina’s intervention in his campaign to freed Mexico and his attitude had produced questions among academic historiographers as he had himself expressed that “I don’t love Mexicans, neither a little, nor much.” (25) This phrase makes more sense almost two centuries later: Mina was fighting to achieve the independence of Mexico more because of ideological reasons, his loyalty towards Napoleon and the great project of Joseph Bonaparte’s Confédération Napoleonienne, which he shared with Lord Holland and Lord Cochrane in England.

We can’t be surprised that men working with Mina, as were Juan Davis Bradburn, James Wilkinson, and Morelos’ people, such as José Manuel Herrera, were to be found among the most faithful partisans of Iturbide, men who had his confidence even after his abdication. Bradburn would be the link to rapprochement between Iturbide and Guerrero, and in the end would become the counsellor and first aide-de-camp of the Emperor of Mexico. Wilkinson was to be the Counsellor of Affairs, and of Colonisation, proposing a project in which the Province of Coahuila-Texas would be populated in order to protect it from the United States’ incursions, and called “Provincia de Yturbide” (26). Don José Manuel Herrera, editor of the Constitution of Apatzingán and a link between Morelos and Joseph Bonaparte, would be the Minister of Foreign Relations of the Empire. He was a partisan of Iturbide until his death, who warned the Libertador (« Liberator ») in time about the expansionist ambitions of the United States, which, through Poinsett, conditioned the recognition of Mexico and of Iturbide as emperor, in exchange for the sale or the cession of the provinces of Texas, New Mexico and California. Lord Cochrane, in that which concerned him, had the personal charge, given by Iturbide, of liberating San Juan de Ulúa, ultimate Spanish stronghold on Mexican soil. But the death of the Libertador kept this project from realization. (27)

Mina’s expedition failed because of his own lack of foresight, as did the Bonapartist expedition of José Álvarez de Toledo and that of Mariano Renovales. The difference in the failure with these two was very simple: Toledo and Renovales were infiltrating agents of the Spanish government. They had previously betrayed Joseph Bonaparte, just as his companions did, for money, and in exchange for the forgiveness of the Spanish Bourbons through Luis de Onís himself, and Hyde de Neuville. (28)

Once again, at the end of 1818, a new expedition commanded by the same Mina was getting prepared in Galveston, after a request by general Lallemand from the position he occupied in the Champ d’Asile, on the border of the province of Texas. From there, they planned to disembark in Tampico, following the same route as that of their companion, Francisco Xavier Mina. Onís wasn’t remiss in sending diplomatic dispatches, convinced as he was that the true author of all this was none other than Napoleon himself, and he wasn’t wrong. From Saint-Helena, sometimes through ciphered messages that were published in journals like the Anti-Gallican in London, some others by means of dispatches sent via emissaries or administrators who approached the island (among whom the English were abundant), the Emperor maintained a network of communications which rendered him able to emit messages as well as to receive them, along with news from various places in the world.

In 1819, many London newspapers announced that the forces of General Lallemand in Mexico would be joined by those of the legendary and liberal Lord Cochrane, the Admiral who not long after that would also consolidate the independence of South America with his liberating campaign on the sea. It was openly said that the Mexican insurgent had signed a unity pact with the Napoleonic forces of the Champ d’Asile and was looking forward to offering the Crown of Mexico to Joseph Bonaparte. (29)

In 1820, Napoleon was already losing his hopes of his great project in Mexico, and thus contented himself by simply reading Pradt. The plans of his brother and of general Lallemand had been frustrated once again, after the intervention of the Spanish ambassador to the United States. Through the signature of the Adams-Onís Treaty, Spain undertook to sell Florida to the United States, and thus became an ally to this country, in order to forestall this republic's support of the insurgents.



Bonaparte in Europe, and Iturbide in America,
are the two most prodigious men,
each one in his way, that modern history presents
Simon Bolivar.

The Empire of Mexico during the reign of Emperor Augustine I
After the crumbling of the empire, the country, divided into factions and antagonistic parties, sank into a chaos from which it would arise never more. Neglected and badly taken advantage of, the immense territory of the empire would be drastically modified after the United States’ invasions of 1836 and 1846-1847, when Mexico, aggressed in its borders and ripped in its bosom by the devastating infiltration of the masonic powers, party interests and intestine wars, was sold out, humiliated and amputated forevermore.

At the end of the year 1820, contrary to South America, the cause of Mexican independence seemed completely lost on both sides of the sea. Napoleon had already given up his projects on the one hand, due to the fragile condition of his health, and on the other hand because he expected that with his approaching death, his son, le petit Napoléon, would occupy the throne of France. In Mexico, most of the insurgents had resigned themselves to the vice-regal pardon, and thus the country was pacified. But then, a series of unexpected events will take place; a military insurrection in Spain forces Ferdinand VII to re-establish the Constitution of Cadiz, but this time with a radical liberal content. The news was received in Mexico with conflicting sentiments. The Spaniard businessmen from Veracruz and the Freemasons supported it, but the population in general looked with a suspicious eye on the constitution, because of its radical anti-clericalism, as well as because of its markedly radical social and racial inequality.

In spite of the apparent weariness of the country, despite the humane and political conduct of the viceroy de Apodaca, the idea of independence had spread even more widely. In the popular mind, it was an instinct; for cultivated men, it was already a right, and therefore, they judged that supporting the nationality of their fatherland was a duty. That is how, in the church of La Profesa, in the capital of the vice-regal state, a plan was forged with the objective of making Mexico an independent kingdom by maintaining it under a form of monarchy loyal to Ferdinand VII. A military man of great prestige was needed to direct the movement, and one man came to everyone’s mind: Don Augustine of Iturbide.

The plans for independence were already well-seasoned in him: like most Creoles, he sought to attain it since the time when he had been a royalist colonel. Hidalgo himself, who was his relative and knew well his valour, conferred on him when still very young the stripes of a lieutenant general, a distinction that he refused because he disagreed with the lack of plans and disapproved of the methods of the first insurgents against whom he fought. The desolation, the racial war, the killings and the pillage were the only visible results of the first insurrection. This explains why a large segment of partisans of independence withdrew their support and preferred to support the viceroy, considering the danger that a leaderless crowd represented for their lives, their honour and their property (30). Nevertheless, it would be during the heroic assault of Cóporo’s fort, in 1814, that Iturbide would avow to General Vicente Filisola his idea of achieving independence without spilling blood, gathering under the same flag the royalists and the insurgents..

To the left, Napoleonic company and battalion pavilions and flags, models which with no doubt inspired Iturbide in his elaboration of the Mexican national flag.

Just like Napoleon, Iturbide, in his position of unvanquished general in the fight against anarchy and banditry, offered not only a guarantee of emancipation that would be crowned by triumph, but also an independence achieved in order and in respect of the life and possessions of every Mexican “by virtue of the honour that he knew how to brand in every and each of his acts”, as told by Vicente Guerrero himself, while explaining the reason he abided by his command and recognized him as Chief, Liberator and Emperor. Abad y Queipo himself, visionary as always, predicted to the viceroy Calleja some years before 1821 that the only man who was able to enact the independence of Mexico was Iturbide: “Don’t be surprised that, with time, he will achieve the liberty of his fatherland”. (31)

Iturbide was present at the Profesa meeting, but only to convince himself that the anti-constitutional reaction would provoke a new and even bloodier civil war among his compatriots. The conspiracy would fail very soon, but Iturbide took his new command as General of the Armies of the South with a plan conceived by himself, destined to make Mexico independent from Spain. The merit of the great genius of Iturbide consisted in the fact that he knew how to amalgamate the clamours of the Fatherland without a sectarian or factionary spirit, in a plan that was modern, feasible, conciliating and peaceful for everyone, founded upon the following ideas: Absolute independence from Spain, the settlement of a new sovereign empire, the validity of an autonomous and characteristically modern constitutional order which establishes limits to power and guarantees the rights of men, the protection of the Catholic religion along with the rights of the Church, the Union of all the inhabitants of the new empire and the most absolute legal equality between its inhabitants, irrespective of their ethnic, economical or social origin: Creoles, Spaniards, Mestizo, Indians, castes, Negroes and Asians.

The most remarkable aspect of this plan was its political significance, because, far from providing constitutional means, or refusing them, it demanded its own Constitution. Besides, Iturbide conceived for himself a politically viable and admirable project which combined all the wills and answered to the general aspirations of peace, with an ideological vision that astonished the Mexican polemicists of his time: “When reading Pradt, which has been finely sold in paragraphs in Puebla, we can confirm that the most serene Mister Iturbide knew how to take advantage of this reading and of others of its stature, of the time, and of the order of things; he is then worth the highest praise” (32).

The Liberator of Mexico deployed a skilful diplomatic and epistolary campaign that, in a period of six months, and without spilling of blood, obtained what years of a disastrous civil war couldn’t achieve. The Plan of Iguala was so finely wrought that it managed to get the support of practically all the commanders and all of the royalist and insurgent troops with which Iturbide, who accepted the title of First Chief, formed the Imperial Army of the Three Guarantees, thus giving birth to the Mexican Army.

The 24th of February of 1821 a tricolour flag conceived by Iturbide, very similar to the Napoleonic flags, (incarnating the white, green and red colours, with a later modification in the order, plus the inclusion of the Mexican imperial eagle) provided with three diagonal stripes and a six-branch star on each, fluttered aloft, representing since that time the Three Guarantees consecrated in the Plan of Iguala, principles that were sworn to on that day, and upon which the new country was founded: Green is Independence, white, the purity of Catholic Religion, and red, the Union of everyone; insurgents and royalists, Mexicans and Spaniards, whites, various castes and Indians.

Independence Act of the Mexican Empire

The arguments to justify independence were set by Iturbide in very conciliating terms, and which revealed their own philosophical baggage, as well as the influence of Napoleon and of Pradt: “The nations that are said to be great upon the expanse of the globe were first dominated by others; and until the Enlightenment weren't permitted to set their own opinions; they did not emancipate… [but once] the populations and their lights increased,… [and they surmounted] the damages generated by the distance from the centre of unity, and when the branch is already equal to the trunk, the public opinion and the general opinion of all people is that of absolute independence from Spain and from all other nations(33).

Juan O’Donojú (1762 -1821), New Spains last viceroy , signs the Treaties of Cordoba with the First Chief of the Imperial Army of the Three Guarantees: Augustine of Iturbide.

When in August of 1821 the new viceroy Juan de O’Donojú disembarked in Veracruz, he accepted the established fact and signed with Iturbide the Treaties of Cordoba, which recognized independence.

The 27th of September was the happiest and most glorious day in the national history of Mexico. The trigarant army made its triumphal entry into the capital amidst the joy of the population, and the 28th of September the Independence Act of the Mexican Empire was finally and formally proclaimed. This is how Humboldt’s prediction, Napoleon’s dream and Pradt’s wish became a reality: an empire, the Mexican Empire, would establish its limits from Oregon, the Mississipi and the West Indies to Panama. Three years later, in his memoirs, the Liberator of Mexico proudly remembered: “Six months were enough to untie the tightened knot that joined the two worlds. Without blood, without arson, without robberies nor depredations, without misfortunes and for once without weeping and without mourning, my fatherland was free and transformed from colony to a great empire(34).

Pacific and festive entry of Iturbide with the Trigarant Army into the capital the 27th of September 1821: Independence Day of the Empire of Mexico.

The fact that Mexico was built as an empire must be underlined. The planned system of government, accepted by everyone, was a constitutional monarchy, but the monarch acquired the title of Emperor in the same way that this had happened in Brazil. The huge dimensions of the territory were a valid argument to justify the denomination, as well as the indubitable influence of Napoleon the Great who, in 1804, established and elevated the French nation to the rank of a constitutional and monarchical empire. By his initiative, new possibilities permitted the establishment of national empires throughout the Western world. Finally, the chiefs of staff of the region of the Kingdom of Guatemala declared its independence and expressed their will to be integrated into the nascent Mexican Empire, on the 2nd of January 1822, with the incorporation of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and El Salvador.

In Iturbide’s plans the incorporation of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo are considered, with the aim of constructing an immense empire of four million square kilometres, which would be the master of the Gulf of Mexico and of the Caribbean Sea, to which would be added a vast shore on the Pacific Ocean, which would extend from the north of California to Panama. With a great vision, Iturbide maintained a constant communication with these provinces in order to fortify a union that could paralyze the dismemberment and put an end to the United States’ expansionism, already patently obvious.

The first reports received in the United States concerning the independence of Mexico and its author were faithfully transmitted to the Secretary of State by the agent extraordinary James Smith Wilcox. Despite the fact that he was an agent in the service of his government, Wilcox insisted on narrating as an eyewitness the situation that was lived in the Empire without prejudice or deceit (which those who would succeed him in this task wouldn’t do) in order that his country would immediately recognize the Government of Mexico: “Sir: The love of my country, the spring of every noble and generous action, induces me to communicate to you, for the information of the President, and for the benefit that may result to the Government and to the citizens of the United States, the following circumstantial and exact account of the happy revolution that has lately occurred in the kingdom of New Spain, which by the blessing of God, the intrepidity, talents and exertions of its patriotic chief, General Don Agustin Iturbide...” (35).
In his quality of eyewitness of these facts, who on the other hand had met the first Minister of Foreign Relations of Mexico, Wilcox shows himself emotional in his report; by praising the peaceful and patriotic manner of the movement he will even proclaim, to his chiefs’ surprise: “The more my admiration grows the more I feel tempted to exclaim that America has produced two of the greatest heroes who have existed: Washington and Iturbide(36).

Allegory of the crowning of H.I.H. Augustine I, celebrated in the Cathedral of Mexico the 21st of July 1822.

After such a great appraisal of the glory of Mexico, and to the United States' fear, Wilcox refers to the joy of the Mexican people in that which concerns its Liberator, and the reticence of the latter to accept the crown which, from the start already, was proposed to him. He finishes his report with an attachment of a copy translated into English of the Treaties of Cordoba, in which the independence of Mexico was sealed.

We must add to the above that contrary to the concept of nobility of the Old Regime, Iturbide established the primacy of a new nobility founded not upon the basis of heredity, but by virtue of merit and personal valour. For that, on the 21st of February 1822, he instituted the National and Distinguished Imperial Order of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a distinction with which the national identity was reaffirmed and the spirit of justice was accomplished, by conferring due recognition and rewarding the individual valour of Mexicans.

Augustine I was proclaimed emperor the night of the 18th of May 1822, same day of the imperial proclamation of Napoleon the Great. As him, the Liberator of Mexico enjoyed from three irrefutable legitimacies: Constitutional, Pontifical, and Popular. In our pictures we see Napoleon I during his crowning as King of Italy, by Appiani; to the right, Augustine I in imperial coat. In this painting as in so many other of Mexican workmanship we observe the evident Napoleonic influence upon the inspiration of the artists of that epoch.

The libertarian epoch would find its end on a night of May 1822, when it was known that the Spanish Courts didn’t recognize the independence of Mexico, by refusing the Treaties of Cordoba and faced with Ferdinand VII’s disdain. To this, we have to add the ban that this monarch made to his relations against accepting the Mexican crown, while Metternich extended the same proscription to the House of Austria; history then took a fair and unexpected turn. The people and the army, united as they would never be again in the future, converged on the Palace of Iturbide on the night of the 18th of May, repeating the same shout that the crowds had cried out in Puebla since August the 2nd 1821: “Long live Augustine the First, Emperor of Mexico”.

The Congress gathered to deliberate, and by majority decided to name the Liberator first Constitutional Emperor of Mexico. A few days later, the decision would be ratified, this time unanimously.

On the 21st of July 1822, amidst the celebrations and the delight of a thankful nation, he will be crowned with the title of Augustine the First, by the Divine Providence, Constitutional Emperor of Mexico. Iturbide, just as Napoleon, never had the personal desire nor the need to take on the Crown of the Mexican Empire; he had refused it consistently. However, the latter was imposed on him by the people by virtue of the same reason that Francisco Bulnes states, along with so many other national and foreign historians: “Iturbide was Emperor by the unanimous will of people… He was the national pride become flesh”. (37)

The words that Iturbide will pronounce in his famous civic speech of the 27th of September 1821 acquired then a still greater sense at the moment of his crowning. They were a hope but at the same time a warning, in the purest style of the farewell of Fontainebleau: “Mexicans: you are already in a situation to salute the Independent Fatherland, as I announced it to you in Iguala… You know now the means to be free; it depends on you to choose to be happy”.



We must all obey to our destiny;
Everything is written in the skies

Arms of the Empire Français (1804), preceding those of the Imperio Mexicano (1821).

The terrible voice that resounded in Dolores, as Lucas Alamán told it, was extinguished by the noble cry of the genius who proclaimed the true Liberty at Iguala: Iturbide, by following Napoleon as the dominant spirit of his time, guaranteed the equality of all Mexicans under the Law, he suppressed slavery and racial inequality, he established a division of powers when he could easily have retained the power in his own person, he installed the basis for a democracy through the plebiscite or the internal consultation in the provinces when these had never been considered, he proposed an upright electoral system for the latter, thus setting the basis that only the spirit of faction subsequent to his death has refused to see in Mexico, contrary to those abroad. Besides, he founded a moderate constitutional monarchy, bringing forward the events in this aspect and in all of the above to Europe and Spain itself, which claimed to be liberal.

Lorenzo de Zavala does justice by indicating that the will of Iturbide, just as that of Bolivar: “was to propose as a model the extraordinary man who had just disappeared in Saint Helena(38). If there was ever a man in Mexico who was able to conceive and to achieve a politics in accordance with the historical moment and the legitimating of the Latin-American peoples, that man was the Hero of Iguala. William Spence Robertson, who as a typical American wasn’t precisely an apologist of the Liberator-Emperor of Mexico, happens to avow that the latter profits from titles that allow him to occupy a place among the most remarkable men of his epoch, and classes him at the high level of a galaxy of his contemporaries: John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, Metternich, Simon Bolivar, George Canning, José de San Martin, Chateaubriand, the Czar Alexander I and, of course, Napoleon himself. (39)

Fraternization of the epoch between Mexico and France: Augustine I Liberator, and Napoleon I in his work cabinet, by Jacques-Louis David.

His use of diplomacy through his own person or even via written speech remains marvellously stated in his Three Guarantees, in the elaboration of the Plan of Iguala and in the signature of the Treaties of Cordoba, in such manner that they arouse admiration among the men of his time. They would with no doubt amaze Napoleon in Saint-Helena as much as the academic historians of our time. (40)

Some have wanted to compare Napoleon to Louis XIV, as well as Iturbide to Napoleon, with the objective of diminishing the merit of both. However, such a comparison, far from diminishing the glory of one as of the other, contributes in fact to give them a greater aspect. Napoleon and Iturbide created from nothing: they forged a new order, they created institutions and an autonomous system without inheriting them from anyone, they built upon ruins, edified upon the rubble and extinguished ashes that were still burning, by stamping their glory and their personal seal as much in the work of their hands as upon that of those who collaborated in its establishment.

Because of all this, the United States, contrary to England and the rest of America, did not celebrate the work and the genius of the Liberator of Mexico: they saw it with fear and contempt. Iturbide reminded them of Napoleon in every sense, according to the results of the conversations between Thomas Jefferson and President James Monroe, because they knew that such a man, both as a First Chief, as Regent or as Emperor, would be not only an obstacle for the expansionist plans that they were concocting against Mexico and Cuba; he appeared to them also as a threat to their territorial integrity and their system of government. (41)

The Napoleonic Empire, and what is more, the Napoleonic era, was the epoch of libertarian movements. It reflected as well the fierce fight between the permanence of the worst that there was in the European feudal system and the best ideals of the Enlightenment. The Old Regime prevailed upon the man who had the courage to erase it, but its victory was ephemeral: even from the rock that was his prison and his scaffold, even after his death, the visionary spirit of a single man had triumphed indeed, because he had wounded to the death despotism and tyranny, by indicating for the people the path to follow. Liberty couldn’t be erased. Even in exile, Napoleon was convinced that after his passing, the democratic ideals of the French Revolution would triumph and that his name would be the symbol itself of the fight for the rights of man. Those who were the victors couldn’t avoid the propagation of his ideas, and of his remembrance; those who followed him, both in the Old as well as in the New Worlds, adopted his institutions, his symbols, and embraced the spirit, even after the sun had set in Saint-Helena, as they were the best guarantee of order, peace and progress, even today.

El Emperador Napoleón I.


1) Louis Napoléon III, Idées Napoléoniennes.
2) When the French people proclaimed Napoleon Emperor, France was so tired of the disorders and the continuous changes that the majority didn’t hesitate to invest the one who was at the head of the State with the dignity of hereditary power. Napoleon didn’t have any reason to have such an ambition. In the same way that opinion wished in the first place to reduce the executive power when it considered it hostile, in that same manner it asked it to be increased, when it noticed, with satisfaction, that the executive power was, in that case, tutelary and salubrious.
3) Once settled, the system worked very well in countries as Italy and Switzerland, but was a failure in Spain.
4) Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach, México: su tiempo de nacer (1750-1821), México, Fondo Editorial Banamex, 2001, pp. 33-5.
5) David Brading, Auge y ocaso del Imperio español, México, Editorial Clío, 1995, p. 12.
6) During the Consecration of Napoleon (an event that is followed by Simon Bolivar), the priest is the master of the ceremonies. On this occasion, Napoleon gave to his chaplain the title of Baron of the Empire along with a pension of 50 thousand francs. Two months later, he made him bishop of Poitiers. In 1805, Pradt accompanied the Emperor to Italy and officiated in Milan at the mass during which Napoleon was crowned king of that country.
7) Montesquieu, Del espíritu de las leyes, México, Porrúa, p. 250.
8) Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach, México en 1821: el abate Pradt y el Plan de Iguala, México, Ediciones Caballito / Universidad Iberoamericana, 1984, pp. 70-71.
9) In this sentence, Pradt only directly cite the great man exiled in Saint-Helena, when he said: « If there’s anything worse than the tyranny of a single man, it’s the tyranny of many men ».
10) Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, prologue and notes by Edmundo O’Gorman, México, UNAM, 1945, p. XXXVIII.
11) Instrucciones Catequistas de la Doctrina Cristiana. R.P. Fr Antonio de Jesús María, Definidor general, Misionero Apostólico, y Escritor general en su Religión de Trinitarios Descalzos. Madrid: Imprenta de Repullés, Plazuela del Ángel. 1818. pp 110 y 111.
12) Luís Ruora Aulinas. El drama de los afrancesados.¿Patriotas o traidores? Clío, 2007.pp 67-72.
13) Mariano Cuevas. Historia de la Nación Mexicana. Editorial Porrúa, 1987, p 391.
14) Cuevas, Ibidem, p. 395. Let us observe that farther than its first sense, the word “gato” (cat) is used in the colloquial Mexican vocabulary to designate the servants.
15) Jacques Houdaille Gaëtan Souchet D'Alvimart: The alleged envoy of Napoleon to Mexico, 1807-1809.
The Americas, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Oct., 1959), pp. 109-131.
16) Le Moniteur Universel, París, diciembre 14, 1809.
17) Carlos Alvear Acevedo. Historia de México. Editorial Jus. 1994, pp. 209-211.
18) Causa instruida contra el Generalísimo D. Ignacio de Allende y Unzaga, 10 de mayo-29 de junio de 1811. Documentos históricos mexicanos, Colección Genaro García, INHERM, V: 60-61.
19) Luís Ruora Aulinas, op cit, p. 71.
20) “La Confédération Napoléonienne. El Desempeño de los conspiradores militares y las sociedades secretas en la Independencia de México” Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach en La revolución de independencia. Lecturas de historia mexicana. (Compilación de Virginia Guerrea). México: El Colegio de México, 1995, pp. 130-155.
21) Barry O’Meara, A Voice of Saint-Helena, Vol. I, p. 211. London, 4th Edition, 1822.
22) Montholon. History of the Captivity, Vol II. , pp. 471-472.
23) Emilio Ocampo, La última campaña del Emperador, Editorial Claridad, Buenos Aires, 2007. páginas 198 y 199.
24) Archivo General de Indias; Estado, 31 (50).
25) Cuevas, op cit, p. 473.
26) Herbert E. Bolton General James Wilkinson as Advisor to Emperor Iturbide. The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (May, 1918), pp. 163-180.
27) Rafael Heliodoro Valle. Iturbide: Varón de Dios. Artes de México, No. 146, año XVIII, 1971, p. 95.
28) Parte de virrey Apodaca, Conde de Venadito, sobre la situación de las Provincias Internas y proyectos de extranjeros contra ellas. 1819. Archivo General de Indias, Estado, 33(34).
29) La última campaña del Emperador, p. 343.
30) Enrique Sada Sandoval. Iturbide: ¿Libertador de México? Acequias. Universidad Iberoamericana. México. Año 5, Otoño 2001, No. 17, pp. 56-57.
31) About this quotation by Abad y Queipo with Calleja, it is told that once embarked in Veracruz in direction to Cadiz, he was heard saying that “the only one to be able of achieving the Independence of the New Spain was Colonel Iturbide”. And some years after that, when he learned that Iturbide was commanding the liberating movement, he believed the king’s cause to be lost. Mariano Cuevas. El Libertador: Documentos selectos de Don Agustín de Iturbide. Editorial Patria, México, 1947, p. 25.
32) Fray Juan de Quatemoctzin Rosillo de Mier, Manifiesto sobre la inutilidad de los provinciales de las religiones en América, Puebla, Imprenta de D. Pedro de la Rosa, 1821.
33) Jaime del Arenal Fenochio. Agustín de Iturbide. Colección: Grandes protagonistas de la Historia Mexicana. Editorial Planeta DeAgostini. México. 2002, p. 77.
34) S.M.I. Don Agustín I de Iturbide. A statement of some of the principal events in the public life of Agustín de Iturbide, written by himself. With a preface by the translator, and an appendix of documents. London: John Murray, Albermarle-Street. MDCCCXXIV, pp. 17 y 18.
35) James Smith Wilcox to the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Mexico, October 25, 1821. American State Papers, Index to Foreign Relations, Vol. VI.
36) Ibidem.
37) Enrique Sada Sandoval., op cit, p 58.
38) Enrique González Pedrero. País de un solo hombre: El México de Santa Anna. Vol. I: La Ronda de los contrarios. Fondo de Cultura Económica, México, 1993, p. 167.
39) William Spence Robertson. Iturbide of Mexico. Durham, N.C. Duke University Press, 1952, p. 314.
40) Among these we find Timothy E. Anna, Brian Hamnett, Nettie Lee Benson, Jaime del Arenal Fenochio, Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach and Juan Balansó, among many others.
41) For this precise reason, they reserved to themselves the tutelage of the American continent as their own exclusive and private property, conspiring in Mexico against the Emperor just as they had previously done it in Argentina and in Chile against the liberator José de San Martin; just as they would do with Bolivar: the other great Liberator, admirer of Iturbide and Napoleon’s follower, who they would lead to his death, not without making him witness the death in life of his glory: the Great Colombia.