First Mexican Empire | History, Facts, Causes & End (1821–1823)

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First Mexican Empire | History (1821–1823)

First Mexican Empire: Sovereign state that was constituted after the declaration of the Independence of Mexico, in 1821.

Date 1821 – 1823
Location Central America and Southern North America
Capital Mexico City
Idiom Spanish
Form of Government Constitutional Monarchy
Religion Catholic
Currency Mexican Imperial Peso

What was the First Mexican Empire?

The First Mexican Empire was the sovereign State that was constituted after the declaration of the Independence of Mexico, in 1821.

This empire lasted only 17 months, since it was proclaimed on August 24, 1821 and dissolved on April 8, 1823.

The only monarch of the First Mexican Empire was the Creole General Agustín de Iturbide, who adopted the name of Agustín I. Iturbide’s reign ended when his opponents, led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna and Guadalupe Victoria, took up arms against he.

Iturbide abdicated and went into exile in Europe. When trying to return to the country, a year later, he was arrested and shot in Tamaulipas, on July 19, 1824.

Political Organization of the First Mexican Empire

The adoption of a constitutional monarchy was foreseen in the Plan of Iguala, proclaimed by Iturbide on February 24, 1821. According to this document, the crown of Mexico had to be offered to Fernando VII or to some other member of the Spanish royal family.

In the Treaties of Córdoba, signed on August 24 of the same year, an article was added that clarified that in the event that Fernando VII rejected the offer, the Mexican Congress would appoint an emperor. This could be as much a member of some European dynasty, as any Mexican.

Faced with the refusal of Fernando VII, intense debates took place in Congress, in which republicans, moderate monarchists and absolutist monarchists coexisted, who maintained that the emperor should belong to the Bourbon dynasty.

Finally, the Congress was elected by Iturbide, who adopted the name of Agustín I. The monarch remained in charge of the Executive Power while the Congress retained the Legislative Power for itself.

Mexico was the only Spanish-American nation to adopt a monarchical regime after independence. The other American state was Brazil, which became independent from Portugal in 1822.

Territorial Organization of the First Mexican Empire

The First Mexican Empire comprised almost all the territories that had made up the Viceroyalty of New Spain, with the exception of the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo and the Captaincy General of Guatemala.

According to a law promulgated on November 17, 1821, it was divided into 21 provinces.

On January 5, 1822, the provinces that until 1821 had been part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala (Chiapas, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) adhered to the Treaties of Córdoba. With this incorporation, the First Mexican Empire grew to 4,925,283 km² and was organized into 24 provinces. In this way, Mexico reached the largest territorial extension in its entire history.

Protagonists of the First Mexican Empire

The main protagonists of the First Mexican Empire were the following:

  • Juan O’Donojú (1726-1821): Spanish military man of Irish descent who in 1821 was appointed Superior Political Chief of New Spain. He negotiated with Iturbide the signing of the Treaties of Córdoba, which recognized the independence of Mexico under a constitutional monarchical regime.
  • Vicente Guerrero (1782-1831): Mexican politician and military man, one of the heroes of the wars for Independence. In 1821 he supported the Plan of Iguala, which led to the proclamation of Independence. In 1823 he supported the insurrection led by Santa Anna, which ended the First Empire. In 1829 he acceded to the presidency of the Republic.
  • Agustín de Iturbide (1783-1824): Mexican politician and military man who at the beginning of the War of Independence fought in the royalist army. But after Fernando VII was forced to swear the Spanish Constitution of 1812 he changed his position and was the architect of the Independence of Mexico. Through the Plan of Iguala, Iturbide proclaimed the Empire, of which he would end up being its only monarch, until his abdication in 1823.
  • Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794-1876): Mexican politician and military man, who between 1810 and 1820 fought the insurgents who were fighting for independence. In 1821 he joined the Plan of Iguala and joined the independence cause. In 1823, he managed to overthrow Iturbide and end the First Mexican Empire, after which the Republic was proclaimed.

First Mexican Empire: Portrait of Augustine I, Emperor of Mexico

Portrait of Augustine I, Emperor of Mexico.

End of the First Mexican Empire

In August 1822, a conspiracy was discovered that sought to end the Empire and proclaim the republic. As several deputies were involved, Iturbide dissolved Congress and replaced it with the National Constituent Board.

But the opposition of some of the heroes of the War of Independence, such as Guadalupe Victoria, Nicolás Bravo and Vicente Guerrero, forced him to reopen Congress and offer an amnesty to the rebels. The emperor thought that with these measures he could pacify the country.

However, on December 2, General Santa Anna proclaimed the Plan of Veracruz, in which he declared himself a supporter of the republic. Santa Anna ratified his rebellious position on February 1, 1823, by announcing the Casa Mata Plan, in which he demanded that the Empire of Agustín I be dissolved.

Santa Anna‘s rebellion was supported by Vicente Guerrero and Guadalupe Victoria, and spread all over the country.

Iturbide abdicated on March 19, 1823 and embarked for Italy. The Congress then recovered all its functions and on April 8 declared the empire dissolved. He also accused Iturbide of being a traitor to the country and sentenced him to death.

Amid tensions between centralists and federalists, an interim junta made up of Nicolás Bravo, Pedro Celestino Negrete and Guadalupe Victoria took over power. The latter soon after became the first president of the Mexican Republic.

The Central American provinces took advantage of the transition from the Empire to the Republic to emancipate themselves from Mexico and form the United Provinces of Central America.

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