Life in Mexico, by Frances Calderon de la Barca

Letter the Twenty-Fourth

Revolution in Mexico — Gomez Farias and General Urrea — The Federalists — The President Imprisoned — Firing — Cannon — First News — Escape — Proclamation of the Government — Cannonading — Count C——a — Houses deserted — Countess del V——e — Proclamation of the Federalists — Circular of the Federalists — Scarcity of Provisions — Bursting of a Shell — Refugees — Dr. Plan — Young Lady Shot — Gomez Farias — Rumours — Address of Gomez Farias — Balls and Bullets — Visit from the ——— Minister — Arrival of Monsieur de ——— Expected Attack — Skirmish — Appearance of the Street — San Cosme — General ——— The Count de B——— More Rumours — Suspense — Cannonading — Government Bulletin — Plan of the Rebels defeated — Proclamation of the President — Of General Valencia — Maternal Affection — Fresh Reports — Families leaving the City — Letter from Santa Anna — Bustamante’s Letter when Imprisoned — Propositions — Refusal — Tacubaya — Archbishop — Fresh Proposals — Refusal — Second Letter from Santa Anna — Government Bulletin — Proclamations — An awkward Mistake–The Archbishop visits the President — Conclusion of the Revolution — Government Newspapers — Circulars.

Revolution in Mexico! or Pronunciamiento, as they call it. The storm which has for some time been brewing, has burst forth at last. Don Valentin Gomez Farias and the banished General Urrea have pronounced for federalism. At two this morning, joined by the fifth battalion and the regiment of comercio, they took up arms, set off for the palace, surprised the president in his bed, and took him prisoner. Our first information was a message, arriving on the part of the government, desiring the attendance of our two old soldiers, who put on their old uniforms, and set off quite pleased. Next came our friend Don M—— del C- — o, who advised us to haul out the Spanish colours, that they might be in readiness to fly on the balcony in case of necessity. Little by little, more Spaniards arrived with different reports as to the state of things. Some say that it will end in a few hours — others, that it will be a long and bloody contest. Some are assured that it will merely terminate in a change of ministry — others that Santa Anna will come on directly and usurp the presidency. At all events, General Valencia, at the head of the government troops, is about to attack the pronunciados, who are in possession of the palace. . . .

The firing has begun! People come running up the street. The Indians are hurrying back to their villages in double-quick trot. As we are not in the centre of the city, our position for the present is very safe, all the cannon being directed towards the palace. All the streets near the square are planted with cannon, and it is pretended that the revolutionary party are giving arms to the léperos. The cannon are roaring now. All along the street people are standing on the balconies, looking anxiously in the direction of the palace, or collected in groups before the doors, and the azoteas, which are out of the line of fire, are covered with men. They are ringing the tocsin — things seem to be getting serious.

Nine o’clock, P.M. — Continuation of firing without interruption. I have spent the day standing on the balcony, looking at the smoke, and listening to the different rumours. Gomez Farias has been proclaimed president by his party. The streets near the square are said to be strewed with dead and wounded. There was a terrible thunderstorm this afternoon. Mingled with the roaring of the cannon, it sounded like a strife between heavenly and earthly artillery. We shall not pass a very easy night, especially without our soldiers. Unfortunately there is a bright moon, so night brings no interruption to the firing and slaughter.

16th. — Our first news was brought very early this morning by the wife of one of our soldiers, who came in great despair, to tell us that both her husband and his comrade are shot, though not killed — that they were amongst the first who fell; and she came to entreat C——n to prevent their being sent to the hospital. It is reported that Bustamante has escaped, and that he fought his way, sword in hand, through the soldiers who guarded him in his apartment. Almonte at all events is at the head of his troops. The balls have entered many houses in the square. It must be terribly dangerous for those who live there, and amongst others, for our friend Señor Tagle, Director of the Monte Pio, and his family.

They have just brought the government bulletin, which gives the following statement of the circumstances:— “Yesterday, at midnight, Urrea, with a handful of troops belonging to the garrison and its neighbourhood took possession of the National Palace, surprising the guard, and Committing the incivility of imprisoning His Excellency the President, Don Anastasio Bustamante, the commander-in-chief, the Mayor de la Plaza, and other chiefs. Don Gabriel Valencia, chief of the plana mayor (the staff), General Don Antonio Mozo, and the Minister of War, Don Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, re-united in the citadel, prepared to attack the pronunciados, who, arming the lowest populace, took possession of the towers of the cathedral, and of some of the highest edifices in the centre of the city. Although summoned to surrender, at two in the afternoon firing began, and continued till midnight, recommencing at five in the morning, and only ceasing at intervals. The colonel of the sixth regiment, together with a considerable part of his corps, who were in the barracks of the palace, escaped and joined the government troops, who have taken the greatest part of the positions near the square and the palace. His Excellency the President, with a part of the troops which had pronounced in the palace, made his escape on the morning of the sixteenth, putting himself at the head of the troops who have remained faithful to their colours, and at night published the following proclamation:”

The President of the Republic to the Mexican Nation.

“Fellow–Citizens:— The seduction which has spread over a very small part of the people and garrison of this capital; the forgetfulness of honour and duty, have caused the defection of a few soldiers, whose misconduct up to this hour has been thrown into confusion by the valiant behaviour of the greatest part of the chiefs, officers, and soldiers, who have intrepidly followed the example of the valiant general-in-chief of the plana mayor of the army. The government was not ignorant of the machinations that were carrying on; their authors were well known to it, and it foresaw that the gentleness and clemency which it had hitherto employed in order to disarm them, would be corresponded to with ingratitude.

“This line of policy has caused the nation to remain headless (acéfala) for some hours, and public tranquillity to be disturbed; but my liberty being restored, the dissidents, convinced of the evils which have been and may be caused by these tumults, depend upon a reconciliation for their security. The government will remember that they are misled men, belonging to the great Mexican family, but not for this will it forget how much they have forfeited their rights to respect; nor what is due to the great bulk of the nation. Public tranquillity will be restored in a few hours; the laws will immediately recover their energy, and the government will see them obeyed.

“ANASTASIO BUSTAMANTE.”

“Mexico, July 16th, 1840.”

A roar of cannon from the Palace, which made the house shake and the windows rattle, and caused me to throw a blot over the President’s good name, seems the answer to this proclamation.

17th. — The state of things is very bad. Cannon planted all along the streets, and soldiers firing indiscriminately on all who pass. Count C——a slightly wounded, and carried to his country-house at Tacubaya. Two Spaniards have escaped from their house, into which the balls were pouring, and have taken refuge here. The E—— family have kept their house, which is in the very centre of the affray, cannons planted before their door, and all their windows already smashed. Indeed, nearly all the houses in that quarter are abandoned. We are living here like prisoners in a fortress. The Countess del V——e, whose father was shot in a former revolution, had just risen this morning, when a shell entered the wall close by the side of her bed, and burst in the mattress.

As there are two sides to every story, listen to the proclamation of the chief of the rebels.

Señor Valentin Gomez Farias to the Mexican People.

“Fellow–Citizens:— We present to the civilized world two facts, which, while they will cover with eternal glory the Federal army and the heroic inhabitants of this capital, will hand down with execration and infamy, to all future generations, the name of General Bustamante; this man without faith, breaking his solemnly-pledged word, after being put at liberty by an excess of generosity; for having promised to take immediate steps to bring about a negotiation of peace, upon the honourable basis which was proposed to him, he is now converted into the chief of an army, the enemy of the Federalists; and has beheld, with a serene countenance, this beautiful capital destroyed, a multitude of families drowned in tears, and the death of many citizens; not only of the combatants, but of those who have taken no part in the struggle. Amongst these must be counted an unfortunate woman enceinte, who was killed as she was passing the palace gates under the belief that a parley having come from his camp, the firing would be suspended, as in fact it was on our side. This government, informed of the misfortune, sent for the husband of the deceased, and ordered twenty-five dollars to be given him; but the unfortunate man, though plunged in grief, declared that twelve were sufficient to supply his wants. Such was the horror inspired by the atrocious conduct of the ex-government of Bustamante, that this sentiment covered up and suffocated all the others.

“Another fact, of which we shall with difficulty find an example in history, is the following. The day that the firing began, being in want of some implements of war, it was necessary to cause an iron case to be opened, belonging to Don Stanislaus Flores, in which he had a considerable sum of money in different coin, besides his most valuable effects. Thus, all that the government could do, was to make this known to the owner, Señor Flores, in order that he might send a person of confidence to take charge of his interests, making known what was wanting, that he might be immediately paid. The pertinacity of the firing prevented Señor Flores from naming a commissioner for four days, and then, although the case has been open, and no one has taken charge of it, the commissioner has made known officially that nothing is taken from it but the implements of war which were sent for. Glory in yourselves, Mexicans! The most polished nation of the earth, illustrious France, has not presented a similar fact. The Mexicans possess heroic virtues, which will raise them above all the nations in the world. This is the only ambition of your fellow-citizen,

“VALENTIN GOMEZ FARIAS.

“God, Liberty, and Federalism.

“Mexico, July 17th, 1840.”

Besides this, a circular has been sent to all the governors and commandants of the different departments, from the “Palace of the Federal Provisional Government,” to this effect:

“The Citizen José Urrea, with the greater part of the garrison of the capital, and the whole population, pronounced early on the morning of this day, for the re-establishment of the Federal system, adopting in the interim the Constitution of 1824, whilst it is reformed by a Congress which they are about to convoke to that effect; and I, having been called, in order that at this juncture I should put myself at the head of the government, communicate it to your Excellency, informing you at the same time, that the object of the Citizen Urrea, instead of re-establishing the Federal system, has been to re-unite all the Mexicans, by proclaiming toleration of all opinions, and respect for the lives, properties, and interests of all.

“God, Liberty, and Federalism.

“VALENTIN GOMEZ FARIAS.”

“National Palace of Mexico, 15th July, 1840.”

18th. — There is a great scarcity of provisions in the centre of the city, as the Indians, who bring in everything from the country, are stopped. We have laid in a good stock of comestibles, though it is very unlikely that any difficulties will occur in our direction. While I am writing, the cannon are roaring almost without interruption, and the sound is anything but agreeable, though proving the respect entertained by Farias for “the lives, properties, and interests of all.” We see the smoke, but are entirely out of the reach of the fire.

I had just written these words, when the Señora ——— who lives opposite, called out to me that a shell has just fallen in her garden, and that her husband had but time to save himself. The cannon directed against the palace kill people in their beds, in streets entirely out of that direction, while this ball, intended for the citadel, takes its flight to San Cosme! Both parties seem to be fighting the city instead of each other; and this manner of firing from behind parapets, and from the tops of houses and steeples, is decidedly safer for the soldiers than for the inhabitants. It seems also a novel plan to keep up a continual cannonading by night, and to rest during a great part of the day. One would think that were the guns brought nearer the palace, the affair would be sooner over.

Late last night, a whole family came here for protection; the Señora ——— with ——— nurse, and baby, etc. She had remained very quietly in her own house, in spite of broken windows, till the bullets whizzed past her baby’s bed. This morning, everything remains as it was the first day — the president in the citadel, the rebels in the palace. The government are trying to hold out until troops arrive from Puebla. In an interval of firing, the —— Secretary contrived to make his way here this morning. The English Minister’s house is also filled with families, it being a little out of the line of fire. Those who live in the Square, and in the Calle San Francisco are most exposed, and the poor shopkeepers in the Parian are in a state of great and natural trepidation. I need not say that the shops are all shut.

19th. — Dr. Plan, a famous French physician, was shot this morning, as he was coming out of the palace, and his body has just been carried past our door into the house opposite.

The Señorita ——— having imprudently stepped out on her balcony, her house being in a very exposed street, a pistol-ball entered her side, and passed through her body. She is still alive, but it seems impossible that she can recover. The Prior of San Joaquin, riding by just now, stopped below the windows to tell us that he fears we shall not remain long here in safety, as the pronunciados have attacked the Convent of La Concepción, at the end of the street.

My writing must be very desultory. Impossible to fix one’s attention on anything. We pass our time on the balconies, listening to the thunder of the cannon, looking at the different parties of troops riding by, receiving visitors, who, in the intervals of the firing, venture out to bring us the last reports — wondering, speculating, fearing, hoping, and excessively tired of the whole affair.

Gomez Farias, the prime mover of this revolution, is a distinguished character, one of the notabilities of the country, and has always maintained the same principles, standing up for “rapid and radical reform.” He is a native of Guadalajara, and his literary career is said to have been brilliant. He is also said to be a man of an ardent imagination and great energy. His name has appeared in every public event. He first aided in the cause of Independence, then, when deputy for Zacatecas, showed much zeal in favour of Yturbide — was afterwards a warm partisan of the federal cause — contributed to the election of General Victoria; afterwards to that of Pedraza — took an active part in the political changes of ‘33 and ‘34; detests the Spaniards, and during his presidency endeavoured to abolish the privileges of the clergy and troops — suppressed monastic institutions — granted absolute liberty of opinion — abolished the laws against the liberty of the press — created many literary institutions; and whatever were his political errors, and the ruthlessness with which in the name of liberty and reform he marched to the attainment of his object, without respect for the most sacred things, he is generally allowed to be a man of integrity, and even by his enemies, an enthusiast, who deceives himself as much as others. Now in the hopes of obtaining some uncertain and visionary good, and even while declaring his horror of civil war and bloodshed, he has risen in rebellion against the actual government, and is the cause of the cruel war now raging, not in the open fields or even in the scattered suburbs, but in the very heart of a populous city.

This morning all manner of opinions are afloat. Some believe that Santa Anna has started from his retreat at Manga de Clavo, and will arrive to-day — will himself swallow the disputed oyster (the presidential chair), and give each of the combatants a shell apiece; some that a fresh supply of troops for the government will arrive to-day, and others that the rebels must eventually triumph. Among the reports which I trust may be classed as doubtful, is, that General Urrea has issued a proclamation, promising three hours’ pillage to all who join him. Then will be the time for testing the virtues of all the diplomatic drapeaux. In the midst of all, here comes another.

Address of His Excellency, Señor Don Valentin Gomez Farias, charged provisionally with the government of Mexico, and of the General-in-Chief of the Federal army, to the troops under his command.”

“Companions in arms:— No one has ever resisted a people who fight for their liberty and who defend their sacred rights. Your heroic endeavours have already reduced our unjust aggressors almost to complete nullity. Without infantry to cover their parapets, without artillery to fire their pieces, without money, without credit, and without support, they already make their last useless efforts. On our side, on the contrary, all is in abundance (sobra), men, arms, ammunition, and money, and above all, the invincible support of opinion; — while the parties which adhere to our pronunciamento in all the cities out of the capital, and the assistance which within this very city is given by every class of society to those who are fighting for the rights of the people, offer guarantees which they will strictly fulfil to all the inhabitants of the country, natives as well as foreigners. Our enemies, in the delirium of their impotence, have had recourse to their favourite weapon, calumny. In a communication directed to us, they have had the audacity to accuse you of having attacked some property. Miserable wretches! No, the soldiers of the people are not robbers; the cause of liberty is very noble, and its defence will not be stained by a degrading action. This is the answer given to your calumniators by your chiefs, who are as much interested in your reputation as in their own. Soldiers of the people! let valour, as well as all other civic virtues, shine in your conduct, that you may never dim the renown of valiant soldiers and of good citizens.

“Valentin Gomez Farias.”

“José Urrea.”

We hear that two shells have fallen into the house of Señor ——— who has a pretty wife and a number of children, and that his azotea is occupied by the federalist troops. Fortunately, these grenades burst in the patio of his house, and no one was injured. The chief danger to those who are not actually engaged in this affair, is from these bullets and shells, which come rattling into all the houses. We have messages from various people whom we invited to come here for safety, that they would gladly accept our offer, but are unwilling to leave their houses exposed to pillage, and do not dare to pass through the streets. So our numbers have not increased as yet.

You may suppose, that although this is Sunday, there is no mass in the churches. The Prior of San Fernando, who has just sent us round some colossal cauliflowers and other fine vegetables from his garden, permits us to come to his convent for safety, should anything occur here, . . . I am afraid he would lodge the women-kind in some outhouse.

I had written thus far, when we received a visit from the Baron de ——— ——— Minister, who, living in a very exposed situation, near the palace, requests us to receive his secretary of legation, M. de ——— who is dangerously ill of typhus fever, as the doctors, no doubt warned by the fate of poor Dr. Plan, fear to pass into that street which is blocked up by troops and cannon. Some people fear a universal sacking of the city, especially in the event of the triumph of the federalist party. The Ministers seem to have great confidence in their flags — but I cannot help thinking that a party of armed léperos would be no respecters of persons or privileges! As yet our position continues very safe. We have the Alameda between us and the troops; the palace, the square, and the principal streets being on the other side of the Alameda; and this street, a branch of the great Calle de Tacuba, stretching out beyond it. I write more to occupy my thoughts than in hopes of interesting you; for I am afraid that you will almost be tired of this revolutionary letter. As a clever Mexican, the Marquis of ——— says — “Some years ago we gave forth cries (gritos) — that was in the infancy of our independence — now we begin to pronounce (pronuncianos). Heaven knows when we shall be old enough to speak plain, so that people may know what we mean!”

Sunday Evening. — Monsieur de ——— has arrived, and is not worse. We have unexpectedly had twelve persons to dinner to-day. The news to-night is, that the government troops have arrived, and that a great attack will be made by them to-morrow on the rebels in the palace, which will probably bring matters to a conclusion. Some of our guests are sitting up, and others lying down on the sofa without undressing. I prefer being comfortable, so goodnight.

20th. — We were astonished this morning at the general tranquillity, and concluded that, instead of having attacked the rebels, the government was holding a parley with them, but a note from the English Minister informs us that a skirmish has taken place between the two parties at one of the gates of the city, in which the government party has triumphed. So far the news is good.

Our street has a most picturesque and lively appearance this morning. It is crowded with Indians from the country, bringing in their fruit and vegetables for sale, and establishing a temporary market in front of the church of San Fernando. Innumerable carriages, drawn by mules, are passing along, packed inside and out, full of families hurrying to the country with their children and moveables. Those who are poorer, are making their way on foot — men and women carrying mattresses, and little children following with baskets and bird-cages — carts are passing, loaded with chairs and tables and beds, and all manner of old furniture, uprooted for the first time no doubt since many years — all are taking advantage of this temporary cessation of firing to make their escape. Our stables are full of mules and horses sent us by our friends in the centre of the city, where all supplies of water are cut off. Another physician, a Spaniard, has just been shot!

Every room at San Cosme and in all the suburbs is taken. In some rooms are numbers of people, obliged to sleep upon mats, too glad to have escaped the danger to care for any inconvenience. A quantity of plate and money and diamonds were sent here this morning, which we have been hiding in different parts of the house; but they say that in cases of pillage the plunderers always search the most impossible places, pulling up the boards, brick floors, etc., ripping up the mattresses, and so on; so I believe there is no use in concealing anything. Near us lives a celebrated general, on whose political opinions there seems much doubt, as he has joined neither party, and has become invisible ever since this affair commenced. He is a showy, handsome man, with a good deal of superficial instruction, and exceedingly vain of his personal advantages. I am quite sure that, having allowed him to be a fine-looking man, he would forgive me for saying that his character is frivolous, and that his principles, both moral and political, are governed entirely by that which best suits his own advantage.

The Count de B—— secretary to the French Legation, mounted his horse last evening, and, like a true young Frenchman, set off to pay a visit to a pretty girl of his acquaintance, passing through the most dangerous streets, and particularly conspicuous by his singular dress, good looks, and moustaches. He had not gone far before he was surrounded by some dozen of léperos with knives, who would, no doubt, have robbed and despatched him, but that in tearing off his sarape they discovered his uniform, and not being very skilled in military accoutrements, concluded him to be an officer on the part of the government. They being on the federalist side, hurried with their prize to the palace, where he was thrown into prison, and obliged to remain until some of the officers came to see the prisoner, and recognized him, much to their astonishment.

We are now going to dine with what appetite we may, which is generally pretty good.

Ten o’clock, P.M. — We ventured out after dinner to take a turn in the direction opposite the city, and met various parties of ladies, who, as they cannot use their carriages at present, were thankful to escape from their temporary and crowded dwellings, and were actually taking exercise on foot; when we were encountered by people full of the intelligence that the great attack on the palace is to be made this evening, and were advised to hurry home. We were also assured that a party of léperos, headed by their long-bearded captain, an old robber of the name of Castro, had passed the night before our door. Before we could reach home the firing began, and we have passed several hours in a state of great suspense, amidst the roaring of the cannon, the shouting of the troops, the occasional cries of those who are wounded, and, to make everything appear more lugubrious, the most awful storm of thunder and rain I almost ever heard. The Señora de ——— ‘s brother is a captain in the government service, and he and his regiment have distinguished themselves very much during these last few days; consequently she is dreadfully uneasy to-night.

The gentlemen seem inclined to pass the night in talking. We think of lying down, and sleeping if we can. I hope nothing will happen in the night, for everything seems worse in the darkness and consequent confusion.

21st. — After passing a sleepless night, listening to the roaring of cannon, and figuring to ourselves the devastation that must have taken place, we find to our amusement that nothing decisive has occurred. The noise last night was mere skirmishing, and half the cannons were fired in the air. In the darkness there was no mark. But though the loss on either side is so much less than might have been expected, the rebels in the palace cannot be very comfortable, for they say that the air is infected by the number of unburied dead bodies lying there; indeed there are many lying unburied on the streets, which is enough to raise a fever, to add to the calamitous state of things.

The government bulletin of to-day expresses the regret of the supreme magistrate at seeing his hopes of restoring peace frustrated, and publishes the assurances of fidelity which they have received from all the departments, especially from Puebla, Queretaro, and Vera Cruz, in spite of the extraordinary despatches which had there been received from Farias, desiring them to recognize Urrea as Minister of war, and Don Manuel Crecencio Rejon as Minister of the interior; “which communications,” says the commandant of Queretaro, “produced in my soul only indignation and contempt towards their miserable authors.”

The account of the yesterday’s affair is as follows. “The pronunciados in the palace, knowing that the infantry which was to come from Puebla to the assistance of the government, was expected to arrive yesterday, endeavoured to surprise it near the gate of Saint Lazarus, with a column of infantry of two hundred in number, and some cavalry; but the brave Colonel Torrejon, with eighty dragoons, beat them completely, killing, wounding, and taking many prisoners, and pursuing them as far as the archbishop’s palace. The supreme government, appreciating the distinguished services and brilliant conduct of the aforesaid colonel, have given him the rank of general of brigade.”

The president in to-day’s proclamation, after declaring that “the beautiful capital of the republic is the theatre of war,” says “that nothing but consideration for the lives and properties of the inhabitants has been able to restrain the enthusiasm of the soldiers of the nation, and to prevent them from putting forth their whole force to dislodge the rebels from the different points of which they have possessed themselves.” The president adds, “that this revolt is the more inexcusable, as his administration has always been gentle and moderate; that he has economized the public treasure, respected the laws, and that citizens of whatever opinion had always enjoyed perfect tranquillity under his rule — that constitutional reforms were about being realized, as well as the hopes of forming by them a bond of union between all Mexicans.” He concludes by reproaching those revolutionary men who thus cause the shedding of so much innocent blood.

The commander-in-chief, General Valencia, writing perhaps under some inspiring influence, is more figurative in his discourse. “Soldiers of Liberty!” he exclaims; “Anarchy put out its head, and your arms drowned it in a moment.” This would have been a finer figure in the days of the great lakes. And again he exclaims — “Mexicans! my heart feels itself wounded by the deepest grief, and all humanity shudders in contemplating the unsoundable chaos of evils in which the authors of this rebellion have sunk the incautious men whom they have seduced, in order to form with their dead bodies the bloody ladder which was to raise them to their aggrandizement! Already the Mexican people begin to gather the bitter fruits with which these men who blazon forth their humanity and philanthropy have always allured them, feeding themselves on the blood of their brothers, and striking up songs to the sad measure of sobs and weeping!” These tropes are very striking. All is brought before us as in a picture. We see anarchy raising his rascally head above the water (most likely adorned with a liberty cap), and the brave soldiers instantly driving it down again. We behold Gomez Farias and Urrea rushing up a ladder of dead bodies. And then the Lucrezia Borgia kind of scene that follows! — alluring their victims with bitter fruit (perhaps with sour grapes), drinking blood, and singing horridly out of tune to a running bass of sobs! The teeth of humanity are set on edge only by reading it. Well may his Excellency add — “I present them to the nations of the world as an inimitable model of ferocity and barbarity!”

This morning General ——— sent a few lines from the citadel, where he and the president are, in which he speaks with confidence of speedily putting down the rebels. C——n returned many affectionate messages, accompanied by a supply of cigars. They say that the greatest possible bravery is shown by the boys of the Military College, who are very fine little fellows, and all up in arms on the side of the government. A strong instance of maternal affection and courage was shown by the Señora G—— this morning. Having received various reports concerning her son, who belongs to this college; first that he was wounded; then that the wound was severe; then that it was slight — and being naturally extremely uneasy about him, she set off alone, and on foot, at five o’clock in the morning, without mentioning her intention to any one, carrying with her a basket of provisions; passed across the square, and through all the streets planted with cannon, made her way through all the troops into the citadel; had the satisfaction of finding her son in perfect health, and returned home, just as her husband and family had become aware of her absence.

General Valencia is said to have a large party amongst the soldiers, who are in favour of his being named president. It is said that he was seen riding up and down in the lines in a most spirited manner, and rather unsteady in his saddle. Some rumours there are that Santa Anna has arrived at Perote; but, as he travels in a litter, he cannot be here for some days, even should this be true. There seems no particular reason to believe that this will end soon, and we must remain shut up here as patiently as we can. In the intervals of firing the gentlemen go out, but they will not hear of our doing so, except sometimes for a few minutes in the evening, and then either firing or thunder sends us back. Various people, and especially the Countess C——a, have invited us to their country places; but, besides that we are in the safest part of the city, and have several guests, C——n does not think it right for him to leave Mexico. They say that house-rents will rise hereabouts, on account of the advantages of the locale in cases of this sort.

Amongst other announcements, the government have published, that the rebels have demanded that the jewels, together with the service of gold and silver belonging to the Holy Cathedral Church, shall be given up to them, and threaten to seize the whole by force, should their demand not be acceded to within two hours. “It is very probable that they will do so,” adds the bulletin; thus adding a new crime to all they have committed.

It is now evening, and again they announce an attack upon the palace, but I do not believe them, and listen to the cannon with tolerable tranquillity. All day families continue to pass by, leaving Mexico. The poor shopkeepers are to be pitied. Besides the total cessation of trade, one at least has been shot, and others plundered. A truce of two hours was granted this afternoon, to bury the dead, who were carried out of the palace. Two of our colleagues ventured here this morning.

22nd. — The government bulletin of this morning contains a letter from Santa Anna, dated Mango de Clavo, 19th of July, informing the president, with every expression of loyalty and attachment to the government, that according to his desire he will set off this morning in the direction of Perote, “at the head of a respectable division.” Various other assurances of fidelity from Victoria, from Galindo, etc., are inserted, with the remark that the Mexican public will thus see the uniformity and decision of the whole republic in favour of order, and especially will receive in the communication of his Excellency, General Santa Anna, an equivocal proof of this unity of sentiment, notwithstanding the assurances given by the rebels to the people, that Santa Anna would either assist them, or would take no part at all in the affair. It must be confessed, however, that his Excellency is rather a dangerous umpire.

The Governor Vieyra published a proclamation to-day, declaring “Mexico in a state of siege.” It seems to me that we knew that already! Upon the whole, things are going on well for the government. Parties of pronunciados have been put down in various places. The wounded on both sides have been carried to the hospital of San Andrés. A battery is now planted against the palace, in the Calle de Plateros, where they are at least near enough to do more execution than before.

One circumstance worthy of notice has been published to-day. The rebels, as you may recollect, declared that they had permitted the president to leave the palace, on condition of his taking conciliatory measures, and that he had agreed to favour their pretensions. Now here is Bustamante’s own letter, written in the palace, when surrounded by his enemies; a proof, if any were wanting, of his exceeding personal bravery, and perfect coolness in the midst of danger. There is something rather Roman in these few lines:

“Ministers, — I protest that I find myself without liberty and without defence, the guards of the palace having abandoned me. Under these circumstances, let no order of mine, which is contrary to the duties of the post I occupy, be obeyed. Since, although I am resolved to die before failing in my obligations, it will not be difficult to falsify my signature. Let this be made known by you to the Congress, and to those generals and chiefs who preserve sentiments of honour and fidelity.

“National Palace, July 15th, 1840.

“Anastasio Bustamante.”

The following propositions are made to the government by the rebels:

“Article 1st. It not having been the intention of the citizen José Urrea, and of the troops under his command, to attack in any way the person of the president of the republic, General Anastasio Bustamante, he is replaced in the exercise of his functions.

“2nd. Using his faculties as president of the republic, he will cause the firing to cease on the part of the troops opposed to the citizen Urrea; who on his side will do the same.

“3rd. The president shall organize a ministry deserving of public confidence, and shall promise to re-establish the observance of the constitution of 1824, convoking a congress immediately, for the express purpose of reform.

“4th. Upon these foundations, peace and order shall be re-established, and no one shall be molested for the opinions which he has manifested, or for the principles he may have supported, all who are in prison for political opinions being set at liberty.”

Almonte, in the name of the president, rejected these conditions, but offered to spare the lives of the pronunciados, in case they should surrender within twenty-four hours. The chiefs of the opposite party hereupon declared the door shut to all reconcilement, but requested a suspension of hostilities, which was granted.

A—— is going to drive me out during this suspension, in an open cab, to call on the C——a family. The ——— s have left their house, their position having become too dangerous. Another letter from General Almonte this morning. Nothing decisive. The streets continue blocked up with cannon, the roofs of the houses, and churches are covered with troops, the shops remain closed, and the streets deserted. People are paying ounces for the least morsel of room in the suburbs, on the San Cosme side of the city.

23rd. — Yesterday the archbishop invited the chiefs of the pronunciados to a conference in his archiepiscopal palace, in order that he might endeavour, in his apostolical character, to check the effusion of blood. The conference took place, and the rebels requested a suspension of hostilities, whilst the prelate should communicate its results to the president, which was granted by the general-in-chief. But the pronunciados broke the truce, and endeavoured to surprise the president and Almonte in the citadel, passing over the parapets in the Calle de Monterilla. They were repulsed with slaughter, and a fierce cannonading was kept up all night. They have now requested a parley, which is granted them. . . .

In the midst of all, there is a communication from the Governor of Morelia, giving an account of the routing of a band of robbers who had attacked an hacienda.

We went to Tacubaya, and met with no other danger but that of being drenched wet; as a daily watering of the earth, short, but severe, now takes place regularly. The new propositions of the pronunciados are these:

1st. “The forces of both armies shall retire to occupy places out of the capital.

2nd. “Both the belligerent parties shall agree that the constitutional laws of 1836 shall remain without force.

3rd. “A convention shall be convoked, establishing the new constitution, upon the basis fixed in the Constitutive Act, which will begin to be in force directly.

4th. “The elections of the members of the convention, will be verified according to the laws by which the deputies of the Constituent Congress were directed.

5th. “His actual Excellency, the President, will form a provisional government, he being the chief, until the foregoing articles begin to take effect.

6th. “No one shall be molested for political opinions manifested since the year ‘21 until now: consequently the persons, employments and properties of all who have taken part in this or in the past revolutions shall be respected.

7th. “That the first article may take effect, the government will facilitate all that is necessary to both parties.”

The government have refused these second propositions; and at the same time made known to the Mexican world that various deserters from the opposite party assure them, that the pronunciados, including the principal chiefs, are occupied in destroying everything within the palace — that the general archives and those of the Ministers are torn in pieces, and that the despatches are taken to make cartouches, and so on. They end by accusing them of being all united with the most noted robbers and public highwaymen, such as a Ricardo Tea, a Jose Polvorilla, a Roman Chavez, a Juan Vega, a Rosas, a Garcilazo, and others. I put down the names of these Mexican Dick Turpins and Paul Cliffords, in case we should meet them some beau jour.

More forces have arrived from Puebla and Toluca. Santa Anna is expected to reach Puebla to-night, and again General Valencia holds out an invitation to repentance to the “deceived men in the palace.”

25th. — A letter is published to-day from Santa Anna to General Victoria, assuring him that whatever personal considerations might have detained him in his country-seat, he accepts with pleasure the command of the division going to Perote, and will in this, as in all things, obey the orders of the supreme government. Firing, with short intervals, continued all yesterday, during the night, and this morning. Two mortars are placed in front of the old Acordada, in the direction of the palace, but as yet they have not been used. There are a crowd of people examining them.

Things remain nearly in the same position as before, except that there are more deserters from the revolted party. A proclamation was issued by Urrea, accusing the government of all the evils that afflict the city, and of all the bloodshed caused by this civil war. Amongst other things, they complain of the death of Dr. Plan, who was shot in the Calle de Seminario, and, according to them, by the government troops. General Valencia answers this time without figures, and with good reason, that the responsibility of these misfortunes must be with those who have provoked the war.

In the bulletin of to-day, the government praise their own moderation in having taken off the duties from all provisions entering the capital, in order that the price might not become too high, an advantage in which the pronunciados themselves participate — mention their exertions to supply the city with water, and their permission given to the pronunciados to send their wounded to the hospital of San Andrés. They deny that the government has any share in the evils that afflict the whole population, their endeavour having ever been to preserve tranquillity and order; “but when a handful of factious men have taken possession of part of the city, no choice is left them but to besiege and combat them until they surrender, and not to abandon the peaceful citizens to pillage and vengeance.” They declare that they might already have subdued them, and are only held back by the fear of involving in their ruin the number of innocent persons who occupy the circumjacent houses. The policy of this moderation seems doubtful, but the sincerity of the president is unimpeachable. They continue to observe upon the absurdity of this handful of men pretending to impose laws upon the whole republic, when already the body of the nation have given unequivocal proofs that they have no desire that the questions relative to their political institutions should be decided by the force of arms.

While the pronunciados declare on their side that “information of pronunciamentos everywhere” has been received by them; the government remarks that eleven days have now elapsed, which has given full time for all the departments to declare themselves in favour of those who call themselves their representatives; but on the contrary, nothing has been received but assurances of fidelity, and of support to the government cause. I believe that the English packet will be detained till the conclusion of this affair, but should it not be so, you need not feel any uneasiness in regard to us. Our house is full of people, money, jewels, and plate — our stables of horses and mules. Amongst the diamonds are those of the Señora L—— which are very fine, and there are gold rouleaus enough to set up a bank at San Agustin. Santa Anna seems in no hurry to arrive. People expect him to-morrow, but perhaps he thinks the hour has not come for him.

26th. — The proclamation of the governor of the department of Jalisco is published to-day, in which he observes: “The nation cannot forget that this Urrea, who has brought so many evils upon his country, this faithful friend of Mr. Carlos Baudin, and of the French squadron which invaded our territory, for whom he procured all the fresh provisions which they required, is the same man who now escapes from prison, to figure at the head of a tumultuous crowd, whose first steps were marked by the capture of his Excellency the President.” Firing continues, but without any decided result. It is a sound that one does not learn to hear with indifference. There seems little doubt that ultimately the government will gain the day, but the country will no doubt remain for some time in a melancholy state of disorder. Bills are fastened to-day on the corners of the streets, forbidding all ingress or egress through the military lines, from six in the evening till eight in the morning. Gentlemen who live near us now venture in towards evening, to talk politics or play at whist; but generally, in the middle of a game, some report is brought in, which drives them back to their houses and families with all possible haste. Señor ——— a young Spaniard who is living with us, returning here late last night, was challenged by the sentinels at the corner of the street, with the usual “Quien viva?” to which, being in a brown study, he mechanically replied, “Spain!” Fortunately, the officer on duty was a man of common sense and humanity, and instead of firing, warned him to take better care for the future.

Last night the archbishop paid a visit to the president, in the convent of San Agustin, to intercede in favour of the pronunciados. The mortars have not yet played against the palace, owing, it is said, to the desire of the general-in-chief to avoid the further effusion of blood.

The tranquillity of the sovereign people during all this period, is astonishing. In what other city in the world would they not have taken part with one or other side? Shops shut, workmen out of employment, thousands of idle people, subsisting, Heaven only knows how, yet no riot, no confusion, apparently no impatience. Groups of people collect on the streets, or stand talking before their doors, and speculate upon probabilities, but await the decision of their military chiefs, as if it were a judgment from Heaven, from which it were both useless and impious to appeal.

27th. — “Long live the Mexican Republic! Long live the Supreme Government!” Thus begins the government bulletin of to-day, to which I say Amen! with all my heart, since it ushers in the news of the termination of the revolution. And what particularly attracts my attention is, that instead of the usual stamp, the eagle, serpent, and nopal, we have to-day, a shaggy pony, flying as never did mortal horse before, his tail and mane in a most violent state of excitement, his four short legs all in the air at once, and on his back a man in a jockey-cap, furiously blowing a trumpet, from which issues a white flag, on which is printed “News!” in English! and apparently in the act of springing over a milestone, on which is inscribed, also in English — “100 to New York!

“We have,” says the government, “the grateful satisfaction of announcing, that the revolution of this capital has terminated happily. The rebellious troops having offered, in the night, to lay down arms upon certain conditions, his Excellency the Commander-in-Chief, has accepted their proposals with convenient modifications, which will be verified to-day; the empire of laws, order, tranquillity, and all other social guarantees being thus re-established,” etc. Cuevas, Minister of the Interior, publishes a circular addressed to the governors of the departments to the same effect, adding, that “in consideration of the inhabitants and properties which required the prompt termination of this disastrous revolution, the guarantees of personal safety solicited by the rebels have been granted, but none of their pretensions have been acceded to; the conspiracy of the fifteenth having thus had no other effect but to make manifest the general wish and opinion in favour of the government, laws, and legitimate authorities.” A similar circular is published by General Almonte.

Having arrived at this satisfactory conclusion, which must be as agreeable to you as it is to us, I shall close this long letter, merely observing, in apology, that as Madame de Stael said, in answer to the remark, that “Women have nothing to do with politics;" — “That may be, but when a woman’s head is about to be cut off, it is natural she should ask — why?” so it appears to me, that when bullets are whizzing about our ears, and shells falling within a few yards of us, it ought to be considered extremely natural, and quite feminine, to inquire into the cause of such phenomena.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/travel/life_in_mexico/letter24.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:05