Saturday, June 13, 2015

Plan of Casa Mata

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (1853)
The initial years of independence of Mexico saw chaos and turbulence. Emperor Agustin I had been criticize for his excess, starting with his grand coronation. His acts of subduing opposition and finally abolishing the Congress led to the creation of yet another plan in Mexican history – the Plan of Casa Mata.

Mexican declared their independence from Spain on September 28, 1821. Crowds cheered in the streets of Mexico City as Agustin de Iturbide and company formally declared the birth of the Mexican Empire. In February 1822, a Congress convened to decide who would be the Emperor as stated in the Plan of Iguala, the plan that ended Spanish rule in the country. By May, the Congress had no choice but to proclaim Agustin de Iturbide as the new Emperor and ruler of Mexico.

The reign of Emperor Agustin I fell out of grace from the Mexicans months after his coronation.  Iturbide’s coronation in the National Cathedral substantially cost a lot from the already dismal state public coffers. Later on, questions of corruption and abuses of power by Emperor Agustin I rattled across Mexico. His final fall from grace came on October 1822, differences between the liberal dominated Congress and the conservative Emperor Agustin became irreconcilable. Congress failed to write a constitution, which Mexico needed, and set up a plan for the recovery of both government finance and the economy that stood in a state of ruins after a decade of fighting. In the eyes of Emperor Agustin, the Congress failed to live up to their duties and responsibilities. Hence, he decide to dissolve the Congress.

Reaction from the dissolution of Congress led to another period of internal conflict for Mexico. Liberals felt appalled by the act. They saw as the death of representation and a start of an absolute monarchy. Many province felt their interest had been attacked because they saw representation in the government under the form of the Congress. Without the Congress, many provinces rose up in rebellion. Once supporters of Iturbide, like Guadalupe Victoria and Vicente Guerrero, voiced their opposition to Emperor Agustin. But the most prominent rebellion came from the major Mexican port of Veracruz. On December 2, 1822, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna announced his opposition to the Emperor and declared later that month the establishment of the Mexican Republic.

Antonio Lopez de Santa had been also a supporter of Iturbide in 1821. Born on February 21, 1794 in Jalapa, Veracruz, he came from a wealthy creole family. He served in the army at a young age and saw military experience of the brutal repression of rebels in Texas during the Mexican War of Independence. In 1821, with the creation of the Plan of Iguala, Colonel Santa Anna supported the moderate plan and joined Iturbide’s forces. When Mexico won its independence, Iturbide promoted Santa Anna to the rank of General but cut short in giving him command of Veracruz. Santa Anna remained in Veracruz protecting it from a small bastion of Spanish remnant forces in San Juan Ulua. After the dissolution of the Congress, Santa Anna, gifted of taking opportunities in movements during significant shift of events, voiced concerns over the implications of the act.  On November 1822, Emperor Agustin, using reports of abuse and corruption by Santa Anna, ordered him to leave Veracruz and proceed to Puebla. Santa Anna on the other hand, saw it as a prerogative to dismissal or even arrest or assassination. Fearing of the consequences of going to Puebla, on December 2, 1822, he decided to take another course, which was rebellion.

The Plan of Veracruz became the significant event during Santa Anna’s initial rebellion. On December 6, Santa Anna along with another former supporter of Emperor Agustin, Guadalupe Victoria, issued the Plan of Veracruz. In its long articles, it called the reinstatement of the Congress.

Imperial reaction came swift. By the middle of December, Imperial General Jose Antonio Echavarri arrived in Veracruz to stop Santa Anna and Victoria. On December 21, Santa Anna suffered a defeat in Jalapa. He then retreated back to the port of Veracruz and prepared for an attack from Echavarri. On January 30, 1823, imperial forces of Echavarri launched a massive assault to Veracruz under the direct orders of Emperor Agustin. Santa Anna’s forces fought bravely and gallantly and secured a victory to the rebels. In humiliation and in fear of execution after his defeat, Echavarri decided to defect and negotiated with Santa Anna and Victoria, which resulted to the Plan of Casa Mata.

The Plan of Casa Mata laid out another moderate plan for the return of a Congress. Signed by Santa Anna, Victoria, Echavarri and others on February 1, 1823, in its 11 articles it indicated:

1. It being indisputable that sovereignty resides exclusively in the nation, Congress shall be installed at the earliest possible moment.
2. The convocation shall be made on the basis prescribed for the first ones.
3. In view of the fact that among the deputies who formed the disbanded Congress, there were some who because of their liberal ideas and firmness of character won public appreciation, while others did not fulfill properly the confidence placed in them, the provinces shall be free to reelect the former, and to replace the latter with individuals more capable of the performance of their arduous obligations.
4. As soon as the representatives of the nation shall be united, they shall fix their residence in the city or town that they think best in order to begin their sessions.
5. The bodies that compose this army, and those that may adhere to this plan in the future shall swear to sustain at all costs the national representation and all its fundamental decisions.
6. The leaders, officers, and troops who are not willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the country shall be allowed to go where they wish.
7. A committee shall be named to take copies of the plan to the capital of the Empire to place them in the hands of His Majesty the Emperor.
8. Another committee with a copy shall go to Veracruz to propose to the governor and official bodies there what has been agreed by the army, to see if they will adhere to it or not.
9. Another to the chiefs of the bodies of this army which are besieging El Puente and are in the cities.
10. Until an answer is received from the Supreme Government concerning the agreement by the army, the provincial deputation of this province shall be the one to deliberate on administrative affairs, if the former resolution should meet with its approval.
11. The army shall never harm the person of the Emperor, since it considers that his position shall be decided by the national representation. The former shall station itself in the cities, or wherever circumstances demand, and shall not be broken up on any pretext until the Sovereign Congress so disposes, since the latter shall be sustained by the army in its deliberations.

The plan called for a new Congress, composed of new members if necessary. Also, it still showed reverence and respect towards the Emperor. It did not called for his abdication or his death like most believed. Lastly, many Mexicans saw the Plan of Casa Mata promoting the idea of local autonomy as stated in Article 5. Many provinces sought to maintain and continue local autonomy, which the central government under Emperor Agustin tried to lessen. 

The effects of the Plan came swift. Many provinces supported it quickly because it promoted giving power to local councils. In Mexico City, the Emperor did not know how to react, whether to go against it or support, most especially it maintained its honor. Nevertheless, seeing confusion he decided to abdicate of March 19, 1823. Following his abdication, a Congress was set up and the creation of a constitution began. In 1824 a constitution that embodied the ideas of federalism had been promulgated. By then, many province had already become virtually separate states of their own.

The Plan of Casa Mata created a huge impact in Mexican history. It saw the rise of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. It unexpectedly ended the reign of Emperor Agustin de Iturbide. It laid out the foundations of the creation of a federal Mexico.

See also:

"The Eagle: The Autobiography of Santa Anna." in Mexican History: A Primary Source Reader. Edited by Nora Jaffary et. al. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westview Press, 2010.

Benson, Nettie Lee. "The Plan of Casa Mata." in The Hispanic American Historical Review, Volume 25, Issue 1. February 1945.

Russell, Philip. The History of Mexico: From Pre-Conquest to Present. New York, New York: Routledge, 2010.

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