Reform War: History, Causes & Effects

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The War of Reform (Mexico Civil War) | History of Reform War

Reform War: Armed conflict that confronted Mexican liberals and conservatives between 1858 and 1861.

La Reforma (Spanish)

Data
Date 1858-1861
Place Mexico
Belligerents Liberals vs. Conservatives
Outcome Liberal Victory

What was the Reform war?

The Reform War, or the 3 Years’ Civil War, was an armed conflict that occurred in Mexico between 1858 and 1861.

In this Reform civil war two political parties clashed:

  • Liberals: Who fought to carry out the program of the Constitution of 1857. They were led by Benito Juárez and General José Nemesio Degollado, who commanded the liberal army.
  • Conservatives: They opposed liberal reforms as they did not want to alter the structures inherited from the colonial era. They were led by General Miguel Miramón.

The Reform War or War of the Reform began as a result of the approval of the Constitution of 1857. It affirmed liberal principles, such as the separation of the State and the Catholic Church, and the suppression of the military and ecclesiastical fueros.

In December 1857, the Conservatives signed the Plan of Tacubaya, whose objective was to repeal the Constitution and take power. A series of conspiracies followed one another during which the president of the republic, Ignacio Comonfort, was deposed and went into exile. He was replaced by Benito Juárez, who fled to the city of Guanajuato, where he headed an itinerant government. Meanwhile, the Conservatives organized a parallel government, based in Mexico City.

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The war itself began with the Battle of Celaya, in the State of Guanajuato, on March 8, 1858, and culminated with the Battle of Calpulalpan, in the State of Mexico, on December 22, 1860, in which the Conservatives were totally defeated.

After this victory, on January 11, 1861, the Liberals victoriously entered Mexico City.

Reform War: History, Causes & Effects

Mexican soldiers after participating in a battle during the Reform War.


Causes and Effects of the War of Reform in Mexico

Causes of the Reform War (Mexican Civil War)

The main causes of the War of the Reform were the following:

  • The differences between the two main Mexican parties, with different ideologies and political thoughts, that tried to structure the republic after the Independence of Mexico.
  • The sanction of the so-called Juárez Law, promulgated on November 23, 1855, which eliminated privileges that the previous legislation granted to the military and especially to the Church.
  • The Lerdo Law, promulgated on June 25, 1856, which established that the army and the church could only acquire those goods that were necessary to carry out their specific tasks. The law also obliged both institutions to sell their land and other real estate.
  • The extension of the liberal ideals of equality, liberty and private property of the land that contrasted with the colonial models that the conservatives defended.
  • The promulgation of the Plan of Tacubaya, signed by the conservatives on December 17, 1857, which had as its objective the repeal of the liberal Constitution promulgated in February.
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Consequences of the Reform War (Mexico Civil War)

Among the consequences of the War of the Reform, the following stand out:

  • The approval of liberal laws that structured a modern state, based on the ideals of freedom and equality and separated from the Catholic Church.
  • Large number of deaths in combat and economic disasters produced by armed confrontations and military campaigns.
  • The unleashing of a serious economic crisis, which forced the Mexican government to suspend payments on its foreign debt in 1861. This led to a conflict with Spain, Great Britain and France, which culminated in the second French intervention. This began with the landing of Veracruz and the battle of Puebla and lasted until 1867.
  • The proclamation of the Plan of Ayala, in 1911, in the context of the Mexican Revolution, where justice was demanded for the peasants from whom lands had been taken from them in accordance with the provisions of the Lerdo Law.

Major Battles of the Reform War (Mexico Civil War)

The main armed conflicts of the reform war were:

Name Date Outcome
Battle of Celaya March 8, 1858 Conservatives victory
Battle of Salamanca March 10, 1858 Conservatives victory
Battle of Atenquique July 2, 1858 Victoria de los conservadores
Taking of Guadalajara September 14, 1858 Liberal victory
Battle of Ixtlahuaca September 18, 1858 Liberal victory
Battle of Ahualulco September 29, 1858 Conservatives victory
Battle of Guadalajara December 14, 1858 Conservatives victory
Battle of Tacubaya April 11, 1859 Conservatives victory
Battle of Tlatempa July 5, 1859 Liberal victory
Battle of Loma de las Ánimas November 1, 1859 Liberal victory
Battle of Peñuelas June 15, 1860 Liberal victory
Battle of Silao August 10, 1860 Liberal victory
Battle of Calpulalpan December 22, 1860 Liberal victory
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Protagonists of the Reform War

The main protagonists of the War of the Reform were the following:

  • Benito Pablo Juárez García (1806-1872): Mexican lawyer and politician of indigenous origin. Of liberal ideas, he was president of Mexico between 1858 and 1872.
  • José Nemesio Degollado o Santos Degollado (1811-1861): Commander of the liberal army, he fought alongside Benito Juárez.
  • Félix María Zuloaga (1813-1898): Mexican military and politician, elected by the conservatives as provisional president during the period when there were two governments in Mexico.
  • Leonardo Márquez (1820-1913): Mexican military man, who served the conservative party against the forces of Santos Degollado.
  • Tomás Mejía (1820-1867): A member of the Conservative Party who, after the Reform War, supported the French intervention. He was shot by the forces of Juárez in 1867.
  • Jesús González Ortega (1822-1881): Military and liberal politician, Minister of War and Navy during the presidency of Benito Juárez.
  • Manuel Garcia Pueblita (1822-1865): Liberal political military. In 1854 he participated in the Ayutla Revolution against the dictatorship of Santa Anna. He led the liberal forces in the battle of Ixtlahuaca.
  • Ignacio Zaragoza (1829-1862): Liberal military man who stood out in the fight against the conservatives, especially in the battle of Calpulalpan.
  • Miguel Miramón (1832-1867): Political and military leader of the conservative party, he stood out as head of the army in the fight against the liberals. He was shot by the forces of Juárez in 1867.

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