Life in Mexico, by Frances Calderon de la Barca

Letter the Twenty-Fifth

Plan of the Federalists — Letter from Farias — Signing of Articles — Dispersion of the “Pronunciados” — Conditions — Orders of General Valencia — Of the Governor — Address of General Valencia — Departure of our Guests — The Cosmopolite — State of the Palace and Streets — Bulletin of the Firing — Interior of Houses — Escape of Families — Conduct of the Troops — Countess del V——e — Santa Anna — Congress — Anecdote — Discussion in Congress — Leprosy.

To-day is published the plan which was formed by the federalists for the “political regeneration of the republic.” They observe, that it is six years since the federal plan, adopted freely by the nation in 1824, was replaced by a system which monopolizes all advantages in favour of a few; that evils had now arrived at that height, in which the endeavours of a few men, however illustrious, could have no effect in remedying them; rendering it necessary for all Mexicans to unite in one combined and energetic force to better their situation; that salvation can only be hoped for from the nation itself, etc. They then proceed to lay their plan, consisting of ten articles, before the public.

The first restores the constitution of ‘24, the national interests to be reformed by a congress, composed of four deputies from each state. By the second, the reformed constitution is to be submitted to the legislatures of the states for approbation. By the third, they engage to respect the Catholic religion, the form of popular government, representative and federal, the division of powers, political liberty of the press, the organization of a military and naval force, and the equality of rights between all the inhabitants of the nation. By the fourth article, a provisional government is to be established in the capital, whose functions are to be limited exclusively to the direction of the external relations of the republic. By the fifth, this provisional government is to be vested in a Mexican, reuniting the requisites for this employment, as established in the constitution of ‘24. By the sixth, the republic promises to give back the ten per cent, added to the duties of consumption, to those who have paid it until now. By the seventh, in eight months after the triumph of the present revolution, all interior custom-houses are to be suppressed, and henceforth no contributions shall be imposed upon the internal circulation of goods, whether foreign or domestic. By the eighth, they promise to confirm all the civil and military employments of those who do not oppose this political regeneration. By the ninth, the army is to be paid with great punctuality. By the tenth, a general amnesty is promised to all who have committed political errors since the Independence; and the names of Farias and Urrea are followed by a goodly list of major-generals, colonels, etc.

There is also published a letter from Farias, indignantly denying the report of the federal party’s having threatened to seize the cathedral jewels and plate; accompanied by one from the archbishop himself, not only denying the circumstances, but expressing his satisfaction with the conduct of the federalist party in regard to all the convents which they had occupied, and the respect which they had shown towards all thing’s pertaining to the church.

On the night of the twenty-sixth, the articles of capitulation were signed on both sides; a letter from General Andrade having been received by General Valencia, to the effect that as General Urrea had abandoned the command of the troops and left it in his hands, he, in the name of the other chiefs and officers, was ready to ratify the conditions stipulated for by them on the preceding night. This was at three in the morning; and about eight o’clock, the capitulation was announced to the pronunciados in the different positions occupied by them; and they began to disperse in different directions, in groups of about a hundred, crying, “Vive la Federacion!” At a quarter before two o’clock, General Manuel Andrade marched out, with all the honours of war, to Tlanapantla, followed by the pronunciados of the palace.

This morning, at eleven, Te Deum, was sung in the cathedral, there being present, the archbishop, the president, and all the authorities. The bells, which have preserved an ominous silence during these events, are now ringing forth in a confusion of tongues. The palace being crippled with balls, and in a state of utter confusion, the president and his Ministers occupy cells in the convent of San Agustin.

The Federalists have marched out upon the following conditions: 1st, Their lives, persons, and employments, and properties are to be inviolably preserved. 2nd, General Valencia engages to interpose his influence with the government by all legal means, that they may request the chambers to proceed to reform the constitution. 3rd, All political events, which have occurred since the fifteenth, up to this date, are to be totally forgotten, the forces who adhered to the plan of the fifteenth being included in this agreement. 4th, A passport out of the republic is to be given to whatever individual, comprehended in this agreement, may solicit it. 5th, The troops of the pronunciados are to proceed to wherever General Valencia orders them, commanded by one of their own captains, whom he shall point out, and who must answer for any disorders they may commit. 6th, General Valencia and all the other generals of his army, must promise on their honour, before the whole world, to keep this treaty, and see to its exact accomplishment. 7th, It only applies to Mexicans. 8th, Whenever it is ratified by the chiefs of both parties, it is to be punctually fulfilled, hostilities being suspended until six in the morning of the twenty-seventh, which gives time to ratify the conditions.

The president may exclaim, “One such victory more, and I am undone!” Orders are issued by General Valencia to the effect, that until the Federalist troops have marched out of the city, no group passing five in number will be permitted in the streets; that until then, there is to be no trading through the streets; that at three o’clock the eating-houses may be thrown open, but not the taverns till the next day; and that the police and alcaldes of the different wards are held responsible for the accomplishment of these orders, and may make use of armed force to preserve order.

The governor enforces these orders with additions. People must turn in at nine o’clock, or give an account of themselves — must give up all their guns, carbines, etc., to the alcalde, under a heavy penalty; and none, excepting military men, may go on horseback from five in the evening until six in the morning, during five days.

General Valencia makes a pathetic address to his soldiers, and foretells that henceforth all mothers, wives, and old men, will point them out as they pass, saying, “There go our deliverers!” and adds — “I grow proud in speaking to you.” “Inhabitants of this beautiful capital!” he says again, “the aurora of the 15th of July was very different from that of the 27th; that prognosticated destruction, this rises announcing happiness. Never again will you hear the crash of cannon but to celebrate the triumphs of your country, or to solemnize your civic functions.“ May your words be prophetic, and especially may you yourself assist in their accomplishment.

29th. — Our guests have left us, all but Monsieur ——— who, although recovered, cannot yet be moved. All money, plate, and jewels in our charge, are restored to their rightful owners; and the Spanish colours, which have never been hoisted, return to their former obscurity. I reopen the piano, uncover and tune the harp, and as we have been most entirely shut up during thirteen days of heavenly weather, feel rejoiced at the prospect of getting out again. As yet, I have not seen the state of things in the city, but the “Cosmopolite” of to-day says — “I should wish to have the pen of Jeremiah, to describe the desolation and calamities of this city, which has been the mistress of the new world. In the days of mourning that have passed, we have not been able to fix our eyes on any part of it where we have not encountered desolation, weeping, and death. The palace has become a sieve, and the southern bulwark is destroyed; that part of the portal which looks towards the Monterilla is ruined; the finest buildings in the centre have suffered a great deal; innumerable houses at great distances from it have been also much injured by stray balls. Persons of all ages, classes, and conditions, who interfered in nothing, have been killed, not only in the streets, but even in their own apartments. The balls crossed each other in every direction, and the risk has been universal. The city has been in the dark during these days, without patrol or watch; and many malefactors have taken advantage of this opportunity to use the murderous poniard without risk, and with the utmost perfidy. At the break of day horrible spectacles were seen, of groups of dogs disputing the remains of a man, a woman, and a child.” The “Cosmopolite” goes on to insist upon the necessity of forming a new ministry and of a reform in the two houses.

August 1st. — Have just come in from a drive through the city. The palace and houses near it are certainly in a melancholy condition. The palace, with its innumerable smashed windows and battered walls, looks as if it had become stone blind in consequence of having the smallpox. Broken windows and walls full of holes characterize all the streets in that direction, yet there is less real damage done than might have been expected, after such a furious firing and cannonading.

To read the accounts published, and of the truth of which we had auricular demonstration, one would have expected to find half the city in ruins. Here is the sum total of the firing, as published:— “On the 15th, firing from two o’clock till the next day. On the 16th, continual firing till one o’clock. Suspension till four o’clock. Firing from that hour, without intermission, till the following day. 17th, firing from morning till night. 18th, firing from before daybreak till the evening. 19th, continual firing. Constant emigration of families these last four days. 20th, continual firing all day. Skirmish at the gate of San Lazaro. 21st, firing continued, though less hotly, but in the night with more vigour than ever. 22nd, day of the Junta in the archbishop’s palace. Firing began at eleven at night, and lasted till morning. 23rd, firing till midday. Parley. 24th, formidable firing, terrible attack, and firing till morning. 25th, firing till the evening. 26th, firing from six in the morning till two o’clock. Capitulation that night.”

As “every bullet has its billet,” they must all have lodged somewhere. Of course, nothing else is talked of as yet, and every one has his own personal experiences to recount. Some houses have become nearly uninhabitable — glass, pictures, clocks, plaster, all lying in morsels about the floor, and air-holes in the roofs and walls, through which these winged messengers of destruction have passed. Ladies and children escaped, in many instances, by the azoteas, going along the street from one roof to another, not being able to pass where the cannon was planted. The Señora ——— with her six beautiful boys, escaped in that way to her brother’s house, in the evening, and in the very thick of the firing. I was in her drawing-room to-day, which has a most forlorn appearance; the floor covered with heaps of plaster, broken pictures, bullets, broken glass, etc., the windows out, and holes in the wall that look as if they were made for the pipe of a stove to fit into.

The soldiers of both parties, who have occupied the roofs of the houses, behaved with great civility; their officers, on many occasions, sending to the family with a request that they would complain of any insolence that might be shown by their men. But no civility could ensure the safety of the dwellers in these houses.

The poor nuns have been terribly frightened, and have passed these stormy nights in prayers and hymns, which those who live near their convents say were frequently heard at midnight, in the intervals of firing.

I went to see the Countess de V——e, and she showed me the great hole in the wall by her bedside, through which the shell made its entrée. The fragments are still lying there, so heavy that I could not lift them. All the windows at the head of that street are broken in pieces. The shops are reopened, however, and people are going about their usual avocations, pretty much as if nothing had happened; and probably the whole result of all this confusion and destruction will be — a change of ministry.

Santa Anna, finding that he was not wanted, has modestly retired to Manga de Clavo, and has addressed the following letter to the Minister of War:

“The triumph which the national arms have just obtained over the horrible attempts at anarchy, communicated to me by your Excellency, in your note of the 27th, is very worthy of being celebrated by every citizen who desires the welfare of his country, always supposing that public vengeance (la vindicta pública) has been satisfied; and in this case, I offer you a thousand congratulations. This division, although filled with regret at not having participated on this occasion in the risks of our companions in arms, are rejoiced at so fortunate an event, and hope that energy and a wholesome severity will now strengthen order for ever, and will begin an era of felicity for the country. The happy event has been celebrated here, in the fortress, and in Tepeyahualco, where the first brigade had already arrived (and whom I have ordered to countermarch), with every demonstration of joy. I anxiously desire to receive the details which your Excellency offers to communicate to me, so that if the danger has entirely ceased, I may return to my hacienda, and may lay down the command of those troops which your Excellency orders me to preserve here.

“With sentiments of the most lively joy for the cessation of the misfortunes of the capital, I reiterate to your Excellency those of my particular esteem.

“God and Liberty.


“Perote, July 29, 1840.”

The houses of Congress are again opened. The Ministers presented themselves in the Chamber of Deputies, and a short account of the late revolution was given by General Almonte, who, by the way, was never taken prisoner, as was at first reported. He had gone out to ride early in the morning, when General Urrea, with some soldiers, rode up to him and demanded his sword; telling him that the president was arrested. For all answer, Almonte drew his sword, and fighting his way through them, galloped to the citadel. Urrea, riding back, passed by Almonte’s house, and politely taking off his hat, saluted the ladies of the family, hoped they were well, and remarked on the fineness of the weather. They were not a little astonished when, a short time after, they heard what had happened.

Madame de C—— and her daughter were out riding when the firing began on the morning of the revolution, and galloped home in consternation.

7th. — A long discussion to-day in Congress on the propriety of granting extraordinary powers to the president; also a publication of the despatches written by Gomez Farias during the revolution. He speaks with the utmost confidence of the success of his enterprise. In his first letter, he observes, that General Urrea, with the greater part of the garrison and people of the capital, have pronounced for the re-establishment of the federal system, and have, by the most fortunate combination of circumstances, got possession of the palace, and arrested the president. That troops have been passing over to them all day, and that the triumph of the federalists is so sure, he has little doubt that the following morning will see tranquillity and federalism re-established. The different accounts of the two parties are rather amusing. It is said that Gomez Farias is concealed in Mexico. . . .

8th. — Paid a visit to-day, where the lady of the house is a leper; though it is supposed that all who are afflicted with this scourge are sent to the hospital of San Lazaro. . . .

We rode before breakfast this morning to the old church of La Piedad, and, on our return, found a packet containing letters from London, Paris, New York, and Madrid. The arrival of the English packet, which brings all these nouveautes, is about the most interesting event that occurs here.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01