Sunday, June 7, 2015

Plan of Iguala: Plan Towards Independence

Agustin Iturbide
In February 1821, two leaders met in the town of Iguala in Mexico to discuss their plan for the autonomy or independence of what became the nation of Mexico. After a decade of fighting, the two decided to make a deal that would bring freedom and equality to the tired people. The result became known as the Plan of Iguala.

The Plan of Iguala or Plan de Iguala was made by the independence fighter leader Vicente Guerrero and the Spanish royalist commander Agustin de Iturbide on February 24, 1821. In its 24 articles, it laid out a plan for their vision of an independent and monarchial Mexico. The plan received support from most of the royalist as well pro-independence groups. Later on, it led to the Treaty of Cordoba that eventually led to the formal independence of Mexico. It served as the framework of the government that Iturbide himself led.

The background of the plan began about a decade before its conception. In 1810, the Hidalgo revolt led to a chaotic decade of struggle for Mexican independence from the 300 years old Spanish colonial rule under the name of Viceroyalty of New Spain. The revolt of Fr. Miguel Hidalgo, however, failed to win its goals due to indecisiveness and ragtag undisciplined army of his. Nevertheless, Fr. Hidalgo’s revolt inspired numerous patriots who continued the fight even after his death in 1811. Jose Maria Morelos wreaked havoc in Southern Mexico, giving the Viceroy and his government sleepless nights. But even with the demise of Morelos in 1815 failed to cease any insurgency. Small guerilla fighting units, some led by lieutenants of Morelos, continued to fight, one of the most prominent being Vicente Guerrero who operated in Oaxaca. To counter Guerrero, in 1820, the Viceroy of New Spain, Juan Ruiz Apodaca sent a man who contributed to the downfall of Morelos – Agustin de Iturbide.

Agustin de Iturbide, who later conceived the Plan de Iguala, had a common creole life. Born to a wealthy landowning family, Agustin de Iturbide belonged to the social strata of creoles or Spanish born in the colonies. He had a strong conservative ideology, which included strong loyalty to the Spanish crown and unwavering piety to the Catholic Church. He served the royalist army and fought in the side of the authorities during the Hidalgo Revolt. He earned rank and prestige when he commanded royalist forces to victory against Jose Maria Morelos. However, because of his creole background, some peninsulares hampered his chance of further promotion and even spread rumors that brought his disgrace. In 1817, the Viceroy dishonorably discharged Iturbide under the accusations of abuse of authority and corruption. After that, Iturbide became a broken man in Mexico City and held a grudge and deep resentment towards the colonial government and even the status quo. But in 1820, Iturbide had a military career comeback when Viceroy Apodaca gave him the task of subduing Vicente Guerrero’s revolt in Oaxaca.

Guerrero and Iturbide fought each other in the battlefield. Both men tried to defeat the other and achieved a decisive victory. The military situation fell to a status of stalemate. By this time, however, Iturbide had ulterior motives. He lied to the Viceroy in his reports concerning his campaign and began negotiating with Guerrero to end the dispute in a political manner in February 1821.

Iturbide had many reasons for doing it. He still resented the colonial government for his treatment for the past years. Another reason, Spain fell to the hands of liberals. King Ferdinand VII conferred power to the liberals in Madrid who began reform in the government and instilling liberal and secular ideas. The Liberals in Spain attacked the Catholic Church’s power and influences to the dismay of many conservatives both in the Peninsula and the colonies, like Mexico. Iturbide, who keenly stick to his conservative principles of loyalty to the King and piety to the Catholic Church, felt hurt and insulted by the actions of the Liberal government in Madrid, which also extended to that of Mexico City. And so, with these reasons, he started talks with Guerrero in the Mexican town of Iguala for achieving the goal of autonomy or independence for Mexico.

The Plan of Iguala or Plan de Iguala became the result of Guerreo and Iturbide’s convention. Announced on February 24, 1821, it contained the following articles:

1. The Mexican nation is independent of the Spanish nation, and of every other, even on its own Continent.
2. Its religion shall be the Catholic, which all its inhabitants profess.
3. They shall be all united, without any distinction between Americans and Europeans.
4. The government shall be a constitutional monarchy.
5. A junta shall be named, consisting of individuals who enjoy the highest reputation in the different parties which have shown themselves.
6. This junta shall be under the presidency of his Excellency the Count del Venadito, the present Viceroy of Mexico.
7. It shall govern in the name of the nation, according to the laws now in force, and its principal business will be to convoke, according to such rules as it shall deem expedient, a congress for the formation of a constitution more suitable to the country.
8. His Majesty Ferdinand VII shall be invited to the throne of the empire, and in case of his refusal, the Infantes [princes] Don Carlos and Don Francisco de Paula.
9. Should his Majesty Ferdinand VII and his august brothers decline the invitation, the nation is at liberty to invite to the imperial throne any member of reigning families whom it may select.
10. The formation of the constitution by the congress, and the oath of the emperor to observe it, must precede his entry into the country.
11. The distinction of castes is abolished, which was made by the Spanish law, excluding them from the rights of citizenship. All the inhabitants of the country are citizens, and equal, and the door of advancement is open to virtue and merit.
12. An army shall be formed for the support of religion, independence, and union, guaranteeing these three principles, and therefore it shall be called the army of the three guarantees.
13. It shall solemnly swear to defend the fundamental bases of this plan.
14. It shall strictly observe the military ordinances now in force.
15. There shall be no other promotions than those which are due to seniority, or which shall be necessary for the good of the service.
16. This army shall be considered as of the line.
17. The old partisans of independence who shall immediately adhere to this plan, shall be considered as individuals of this army.
18. The patriots and peasants who shall adhere to it hereafter, shall be considered as provincial militiamen.
19. The secular and regular priests shall be continued in the state in which they now are.
20. All the public functionaries, civil, ecclesiastical, political, and military, who adhere to the cause of independence, shall be continued in their offices, without any distinction between Americans and Europeans,
21. Those functionaries, of whatever degree and condition, who dissent from the cause of independence, shall be divested of their offices, and shall quit the territory of the empire, taking with them their families and their effects.
22. The military commandants shall regulate themselves according to the general instructions in conformity with, this plan, which shall be transmitted to them.
23. No accused person shall be condemned capitally by the military commandants. Those accused of treason against the nation, which is the next greatest crime after that of treason to the Divine Ruler, shall be conveyed to the fortress of Barrabas, where they shall remain until the congress shall resolve on the punishment which ought to be inflicted on them.
24. It being indispensable to the country that this plan should be carried into effect, in as much as the welfare of that country is its object, every individual of the army shall maintain it, to the shedding (if it be necessary) of the last drop of his blood.

But the plan had been summed up with the Three Guarantees, namely: 1) The Roman Catholic Church would remain the only religion of Mexico; 2) Mexico would be an independent empire under a constitutional monarchy; 3) equality among all races.

The Plan had moderate elements. It combined the wishes of the liberals as well as the conservatives. The liberal elements included equality and citizenship to all races, the creation of a constitution, and most importantly, Mexico would become independent. But the Plan also had conservative elements, namely: the retention and protection of the Catholic Church along with their properties and privileges; the government of Mexico would be a constitutional monarchy under an Emperor who should be a prince related to Ferdinand VII or at least a European; and the protection of property of all individuals.

Support for the plan had been overwhelming. Because of its moderate approach, the plan earned the support of many creoles and peninsulares, both conservative and liberal. Peninsulares and conservatives welcomed the articles of the Plan that protected the properties and individuals in Mexico regardless of race. Liberals, creoles, and pro-independence leaders and fighters supported the plan even though it fell short to their desire of a complete liberal and secular Mexico. Nevertheless, they saw the declaration of independence as a start and the pursuit of their other goals should come later. In addition, many of the rebels felt tired and morale and enthusiasm for the struggle had been diminishing. Harsh conditions of fighting and living underground for many years had been difficult and tiresome and many just wanted to end the fight but still achieving some gains, which they saw in the Plan of Iguala. Many conservatives and peninsulares felt the same. Living in a constant danger and also sick of government anti-insurgency campaign and brutal strategies made them tired and think of the Viceroy’s government as usually repressive and inept. Within the government of the Viceroy himself faced also the problem of desertion and defection. Because of the contents of the Plan which stated that government officials who supported the Plan would be retained, many switched sides to the rebels. In the military, many military units joined the rebels. Many officials in the military like Anastasio Bustamante and Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana joined Iturbide’s new army called the Ejercito de Last Tres Garantias or the Army of the Three Guarantees. Both men, Bustamante and de Santa Ana, became Presidents of Mexico. The growth of Iturbide’s army and support towards the plan expanded the territories they control. By May of 1821, they controlled over the whole of Mexico except for Veracruz and the capital, Mexico City.

Mexico City prepared its defenses, but military officials became disillusioned by the inability of the Viceroy to halt any defections and growth of the size of the rebels. Because of this, they deposed Viceroy Apodaca and replace him with General Francisco Novella. Mexico City continued to a bastion of Spanish royalist factions.

The Treaty of Cordoba became the formal embodiment of the Plan de Iguala. In August, the liberal Madrid government sent Juan O’Donaju to Mexico as the new captain general and viceroy. In O’Donaju’s mind, the situation for maintaining Spanish ruled had already sailed away a long time ago. And as a liberal, he already concluded that Spain must let go Mexico. He just needed to secure the safe withdrawal of Spanish forces in the Viceroyalty. On August 23, 1821, O’Donaju met Iturbide in Cordoba, Mexico, there they discussed the eventual withdrawal of Spanish troops, path towards independence, and the recognition of someone in the Spanish side of the provisions of the Plan de Iguala. Iturbide and O’Donaju signed the Treaty of Cordoba or the Convention of Cordoba on August 24, 1821. It included the following articles:

1. This kingdom of America shall be recognised as a sovereign and independent nation; and shall, in future, be called the Mexican Empire.
2. The government of the empire shall be monarchical, limited by a constitution.
3d. Ferdinand VII, catholic king of Spain, shall, in the first place, be called to the throne of the Mexican Empire, (on taking the oath prescribed in the 10th Article of the plan,) and on his refusal and denial, his brother, the most serene infante Don Carlos; on his refusal and denial, the most serene infante Don Francisco de Paula; on his refusal and denial, the most serene Don Carlos Luis, infante of Spain, formely heir of Tuscany, now of Lucca; and upon his renunciation and denial, the person whom thp cortes of the empire shall designate.
4. The emperor shall fix his court in Mexico, which shall be the capital of the empire.
5. Two commissioners shall be named by his excellency Senor O'Donnoju, and these shall proceed to the court of Spain, and place in the hands of his Majesty king Ferdinand VII, a copy of this treaty, and a memorial which shall accompany it, for the purpose of affording information to his Majesty with respect to antecedent circumstances, whilst the cortes of the empire officer him the crown with all the formalities and guarantees which a matter of so much importance requires; and they supplicate his Majesty, that on the occurrence of the case provided for in Article 3, he would be pleased to communicate it to the most serene infantes called to the crown in the same article, in the order in which they are so named; and that his Majesty would be pleased to interpose his influence and prevail on one of the members of his august family to proceed to this empire, inasmuch as the prosperity of both nations would be thereby promoted, and as the Mexicans would feel satisfaction in thus strengthening the bands of friendship, with which they may be, and wish to see themselves, united to the Spaniards.
6. Conformably to the spirit of the "Plan of Iguala," an assembly shall be immediately named, composed of men the most eminent in the empire for their virtues, their station, rank, fortune, and influence; men marked out by the general opinion, whose number may be stifficiently considerable to insure by their collective knowledge the safety of the resolutions which they may take in pursuance of the powers and authority granted them by the following articles.
7. The assembly mentioned in the preceding article shall be called the 11 Provisional Junta of Government."
8. Lieutenant-General Don Juan O'Donnoju shall be a member of the Provisional Junta of Government, in consideration of its being expedient that a person of his rank should take an active and immediate part in the government, and of the indispensable necessity of excluding some of the individuals mentioned in the above Plan of Iguala, conformably to its own spirit.
9th. The Provisional Junta of Government shall have a president elected by itself from its own body, or from without it, to be determined by the absolute plurality of votes; and if on the first scrutiny the votes be found equal, a second scrutiny shall take place, which shall embrace those two who shall have received the greatest number of votes.  sdct
10. The first act of the Provisional Junta shall be the drawing up of a manifesto of its installation, and the motives of its assemblage, together with whatever explanations it may deem convenient and proper for the information of the country, with respect to the public interests, and the mode to be adopted in the election of deputies for the cortes, of which more shall be said hereafter.
11. The Provisional Junta of Government after the election of its president, shall name a regency composed of three persons selected from its own body, or from without it, in whom shall be vested the executive power, and who shall govern in the name and on behalf of the monarch till the vacant throne be filled.
12. The Provisional Junta as soon as it is installed, shall govern ad interim according to the existing laws, so far as they may not be contrary to the "Plan of Iguala," and until the cortes shall have framed the constitution of the state.
13. The regency immediately on its nomination, shall proceed to the convocation of the cortes in the manner which shall be prescribed by the Provisional Junta of Government, conformably to the spirit of Article No. 7 in the aforesaid "Plan."
14. The executive power is vested in the regency, and the legislative in the cortes; but as some time must elapse before the latter can assemble, and in order that the executive and legislative powers should not remain in the hands of one body, the junta shall be empowered to legislate; in the first place, where cases occur which are too pressing to wait till the assemblage of the cortes, and then the junta shall proceed in concert with the regency; and, in the second place, to assist the regency in its determinations in the character of an auxiliary and consultative body.
15. Every individual who is domiciled amongst any community, shall, on an alteration taking place in the system of government, or on the country passing under the dominion of another prince, be at full liberty to remove himself, together with his effects, to whatever country he chooses, without any person having the right to deprive him of such liberty, unless he have contracted some obligation with the community to which lie had belonged, by the commission of a crime, or by any other of those modes which publicists have laid down; this applies to the Europeans residing in New Spain, and to the Americans residing in the Peninsula. Consequently it will be at their option to remain, adopting either country, or to demand their passports, (which cannot be denied them,) for permission to leave the kingdom at such time as may be appointed before-hand, carrying with them their families and property; but paying on the latter the regular export duties now in force, or which may hereafter be established by the competent authority.
16. The option granted in the foregoing article shall not extend to persons in public situations, whether civil or military, known to be disaffected to Mexican independence; such persons shall necessarily quits the empire within the time which shall be allotted by the regency, taking with them their effects after having paid the duties, as stated in the preceding article.
17. The occupation of the capital by the Peninsular troops being an obstacle to the execution of this treaty, it is indispensable to have it removed. But as the Commander-in-Chief of the imperial army fully participating in the sentiments of the Mexican nation, does not wish to attain this object by force, for which, however, he has more than ample means at his command, notwithstanding the known valour and constancy of the Peninsular troops, who are not in a situation to maintain themselves against the system adopted by the nation at large, Don Juan O'Donnoju agrees to exercise his authority for the evacuation of the capital by the said troops without loss of blood, and upon the terms of an honorable capitulation.

Independence had been laid out. O’Donaju would lead the withdrawal of Spanish garrisons in Mexico City. He would also be a part of the provisional junta ruling Mexico. In addition, with O’Donaju’s cooperation to the eventual independence of Mexico, Iturbide agreed to providing him pension and for him to stay in Mexico because O’Donaju would be criticized heavily and even killed for being the man who let go Mexico for Spain.

Implementation of the Treaty of Cordoba began in September, On September 14, 1821, O’Donaju went to Mexico and ordered the troops to stand down and they began to their withdrawal. As the highest commanding general, O’Donaju led the troops in their exit from the once capital of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Iturbide granted the leaving Spanish troops safe passage out of Mexico. Meanwhile, on September 27, on his 38th birthday, Agustin de Iturbide along with his Army of the Three Guarantees marched triumphantly to Mexico City. And with the provisional junta, with Iturbide and O’Donaju as members, formulated the declaration of independence which was eventually declared on September 28, 1821. They then sent agents to Spain to look for a new Mexican Emperor. Later on, with the rejection of the offer of the throne of Mexico by Ferdinand VII and other princes, Agustin de Iturbide became the first Emperor of Mexico.

The Plan de Iguala or the Plan of Iguala forged Mexico’s path to final independence. Moderate in its composition, it secured the interest of multiple factions who sought peace from a decade of turbulent fighting and chaos. Eventually, with the huge support on the plan, Spanish officials in Mexico resided to the faith of the loss of the Viceroyalty of New Mexico. With the Treaty of Cordoba, the plan became a reality. The Plan of Iguala started Mexico’s path towards a new chapter in her history.

See also:

Bibliography:
Richmond, Douglas. "Iturbide, Agustin de." in Concise Encyclopedia of Mexico. Edited by Michael Werner. Chicago, Illinois: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2001.

Beezley, William & Meyer, Michael. The Oxford History of Mexico. New York, New York: Oxford Unviersity Press, 2010.

Joseph, Gilbert & Timothy Henderson (eds.). The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics. United States: Duke University Press, 2002.

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

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