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of government could not exist unless based upon the virtue and intelligence of the people. With a population, ignorant and debased, they hastened from a despotism to the opposite extreme. Twenty-five years of revolution and misrule tell to the world how much the leaders erred. The people were ready for a change, but not so great a change; the grand results should have been produced gradually, as they were fitted to enjoy them.
The constitution was proclaimed on the 4th day of October, 1824, and the states of Mexico were declared to be united into a Federal Republic. Victoria, who had devoted himself to the cause of freedom, and made more sacrifices than any of the leading men, was installed as first President in January, 1825. But so active was the spirit of evil, that the new President was hardly seated in the chair of state, before “pronunciamentoes” were proclaimed against his government. The early troubles, however, were not serious, and for about three years the country enjoyed comparative tranquillity and quiet. It was at this time that the two polítical parties of the country were organized, which have contributed largely to bring ruin and misrule upon the country. They were not influenced by pure and patriotic motives, but by the selfish consideration of personal aggrandizement. These parties took the names of the Escoceres and the Yorkinos, or the Scotch and York lodges. The former advocated a strong national government with central power, and the latter a confederated republic, after the example of the United States. Victoria's administration did not close without the bursting
of the storm which had been long brewing. In December, 1827, General Bravo raised the standard of rebellion against Victoria, and although this revolt was soon put down, the seeds had been widely sown. Gomez Pedraza was the successor of Victoria. He was elected over Guerraro, who was his competitor. The new administration was soon involved in difficulties. The Yorkinos, who pretended to be the republican party, were not willing to abide by the decision of the people in the late election, and, in consequence, “pronounced” against the new President. Santa Anna now appeared upon the stage, and headed this movement. It soon became popular, and resulted in Pedraza being driven from the country, and Guerraro placed in the Presidential chair, who was declared to be duly elected. Bustamente was made vicepresident.
Guerraro, like his predecessor, was doomed to misfortune and shortlived power. Bustamente soon "pronounced” against him, overthrew him, and seated himself in the chair of state. The country enjoyed comparative quiet and peace for three years, until 1832, when Santa Anna raised his voice in opposition to the government, deposed Bustamente, and re-called Pedraza to serve out the unexpired three months of the term for which he was originally elected.
In 1833, Santa Anna made himself President, and from that time
to the period of his late exile was the master spirit of the country, and nearly all the time he was in it held the reins of government, as president, dictator, or absolute tyrant. He was not, however, exempt from the troubles which marked the course of his predecessors. His enemies were numerous and powerful, and stirred up revolution against him. “Pronunciamentoes” followed each other in quick succession, and it required all his energy and address to keep his seat. To make himself secure, he usurped power. In 1836, he overthrew the federal constitution, by establishing in its stead a strong central government. This new declaration was known as the “plan of Toluca." All state governments were abolished, and the whole power of the country was given to the central government at the city of Mexico. In 1841, the plan of Toluca" was followed by another“ pronunciamento," which resulted in the plan of Tacubaya," by the 7th article of which Santa Anna is declared dictator. In accordance with the last “plan,” a congress assembled which formed a kind of government instead of that guarantied by the federal constitution, and which it declared void. The instrument which this congress proclaimed, was styled “Basis of political organization for the Mexican republic.” Mexico was, in fact, no longer a republic, but had sunk back into a worse state than she was before she threw off the Spanish yoke. After this new organization of the government, the same troubles continued to exist; and down to the time of the war between that country and the United States, revolutions were constantly taking place.
And what has Mexico gained by her revolutions ? What has she gained by all her years of toil and suffering, by the blood she shed, and the misery of her people? She has gained absolutely nothing. In exchange for the shackles of old Spain she parted with whatever of security to person and property she knew under the Spanish viceroys. It is true, Mexico is nominally free, and on paper passes as a republic; her statesmen style their people the “magnanimous Mexican nation,” and talk about God and liberty.” The people nominally enjoy the elective franchise, but the privilege of voting is a farce to them, and they know no more what it means than they know of our constitution. Their boasted freedom exists only in name, and when the parade and show of their pretended free institutions are looked into, the truth will soon appear. It will be found to be the worst possible form of despotism. The great body of the people have no more to do with the government than have the Laplanders with theirs, and they are as debased, ignorant and superstitious.
I can say with safety that the name of freedom has rather been a curse than a blessing to this people, as they neither knew how to enjoy liberty, nor prepared themselves for its enjoyment. They are now, and ever have been since the revolution, in a most deplorable state. Anarchy is sown broad-cast over the land. Murders are an every-day occurrence, and robbery, which is followed as a gentlemanly calling, is
carried to almost as great extent, as it is by the banditti and highwaymen of Europe. The "Give me your money or your life” associations exist in every part of the country, and their members infest all the highways. They despoil their victims at the city gates, and laugh at the police, most of whom are in their pay. There is neither security to person nor property, unless protected by iron bars and thick walls. No gentleman in Mexico thinks of moving from his own threshold without being armed to the teeth, and were you to meet a Mexican gentleman and his family travelling from his country-house into town, you would think, from the number of his escort, that a prince of the royal blood was passing along,
Since the Spaniards were driven from the country, every thing like enterprise has been going backward, and a stranger at once perceives an entire want of energy. Every thing seems going to ruin-there is no life-no improvement. Decay is written every where. It is seen in the public buildings, which are tumbling down in ruins, and at which the people gape and stare, without making any exertion to rebuild them. It is seen in the sinking bridges, once fine noble structures laid in cement, and in the once elegant paved country roads, now almost impassible for want of repairs. In some parts of the country they have allowed whole towns and villages to fall into ruins, and they quietly content themselves in mud huts built in the shadows of their former homes. In every part of the country one notices fine structures half finished, which were begun during the time of the “viceroys.” In this half-finished state they are likely to remain.
When the Spaniards took possession of Mexico they found a beautiful world, and it is not strange that this new clime was so inviting, and held such an important place in the consideration of the Spanish government. No wonder it was an El Dorado to them, since in all the beauties and riches of nature it so far excelled the old world. Nature seems to have been lavish of her rich and choice gifts, which have literally descended in showers upon the land. In geographical position, it is not surpassed by any country on this continent. Washed by two seas, it has a gradual slope towards the shore of each from an elevation of more than twelve thousand feet. On each declivity, upon the same parallel of latitude, it has all the climates of the world, from the burning sun of the tropics on the coast, to the eternal snows of the mountains which overlook the valley of Mexico. The productions of every clime grow here in great abundance, the delicious fruits of the tropics uniting upon the same hill-side with the productions of the more temperate regions.
In point of climate, Mexico cannot be excelled. An eternal spring bends its blue and cloudless sky over this earthly paradise the livelong year, and flowers, rich, beautiful and rare, are blooming around you, loading the air with their sweet fragrance from summer until summer comes again. For many weeks together there will hardly be a cloud to obscure the brilliancy of the sky, and upon the high table-lands the air is so pure that the stars shine almost as brightly at midsummer, as they do in this latitude in mid-winter. In these elevated regions I noticed that there is no twilight which deserves the name. As soon as the sun has bathed its bright face in the western sea, the shades of night draw around without the presence of that lovely season which the poets call eventide. It is dark almost as soon as the sun has gone down; no lingering of day—no gradual drawing of the robes of night. There is only one step from daylight to darkness.
But nature has not alone given to this country a cloudless sky and spring-like climate, but she has stored the earth with riches, which not even the wildest 'speculators can calculate. Deeply veined in her almost inaccessible mountains lie buried, gold, silver, and precious stones. The soil of Mexico is rich and productive, and requires only an active and enterprising population to bring forth in greater abundance than any other country upon this continent. Agriculture has made no advances, it is not known as a science. The whole routine of farming is rude and thriftless in the extreme, and if it was not for the natural richness of the soil, would not support the population. The wealthiest landholders are very deficient in all the implements of husbandry. They use the same kind of plough that was used in the time of Moses, to which are fastened two or four poor lazy oxen. Besides the ploughman, there is one man with the team armed with a long pole shod with iron, whose duty it is to stir up the animals. I have seen as many as thirty of these teams in one field, and sometimes almost doubted in my own mind whether they moved. One modern plough, drawn by two good horses, would do more work in one day, than ten of these ancient implements. Their hoes, spades, shovels, and, in truth, all instruments used in farming, are made of wood, and sharpened with iron to prevent their wearing out.
The face of the country is different in appearance from most other parts of North America. From the waters of the Gulf of Mexico on the east, there is a gradual slope until you rise to the summit of the great Cordillera ridge of mountains which bounds the valley of Mexico, and on the western side there is the same slope to the shore of the Pacific ocean. The country is properly divided, both by its climate and by its geographical position, into three great divisions, viz., the Tierra Calliente, or the hot country,--the Tierra Templada, or the temperate region,-and the Tierra Frizada, or the frozen region. The first, or the Tierra Calliente, extends from each sea upward until you reach the height of about three thousand feet. This is the region where tropical fruits and other productions of warm climates are grown in greatest abundance, and where the weather is hot the whole year round. The Tierra Templada, or temperate region, extends from the Tierra Calliente upwards, and embraces all the elevated table-lands which abound
in Mexico. The Tierra Frizada embraces the region of perpetual snow. As you go north, these table-lands increase in width until they are finally merged into the vast sandy deserts of New Mexico and California. In the Tierra Templada, the extremes of heat and cold are never felt, the thermometer ranging from 60° to 80° all the year. Here all the fruits and grains of the temperate zone are raised; crops follow crops in quick succession, and the labours of the husbandman are never ended." Upon these high table-lands, the air is very rare and respiration difficult. All strangers find great difficulty in breathing when first they go into these elevated regions.
In Mexico there is not the same change of seasons that we have in the United States. The variations of spring, summer, autumn and winter, are unknown, and the year is divided into two seasons only, the rainy and the dry season. The rainy season usually begins in April or May, and some years rain will fall every day for three or four months. The remainder of the year no rain descends, and the weather is dry and clear. During the rainy season, the rain does not fall all day, but begins about mid-day and rains very hard for two or three hours, when the sun will again appear, and the clouds break away. I have been told by the inhabitants that they have known periods of nearly two years when not enough rain would fall to wet the ground to the depth of two inches. A perpetual spring reigns in the valley of Mexico. There, there is no sear and yellow leaf-no perceptible change in the foliage; the new leaf pushes the old one off with a gentle force, and comes so gradually that you are hardly aware of its approach.
Mexico is deficient in rivers and creeks, and water is scarce all over the country. The want 8f regular rains during the year will always be a great draw-back upon its agricultural interests. The ground for cultivation is watered almost wholly by irrigation from the mountain streams, or raised from the rivers. Good timber does not abound until you reach the elevation of four or five thousand feet, when fine pine timber is found, and all the mountain sides are covered with it nearly up to the region of perpetual snow. From Vera Cruz to Jalapa, about seventy miles, and which is the Tierra Calliente, on the east slope very few large trees are found. The country is either covered with bushes, known here as chapparel, or spread into prairie land. The foliage in this region is very thick and luxuriant, much more so than can be found any where out of the tropics. Northern Mexico differs in appearance from both central and southern Mexico. From the Rio Grande, the country, for nearly two hundred miles, is almost a perfect level until you reach the Sierra Madre mountains. This is a bold chain of rugged mountains which forms an admirable western barrier to the valley of the Rio Grande.
The population of Mexico is truly a mixed and motley people. When the Spaniards conquered the country, they found a distinct race, whose