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Liberals and Conservatives, 19th Century

    One needs to remember that newly-independent Mexico had emerged from a political system based on divine-right monarchy and a legal class system. Different classes had different rights, enforceable by law. Much of this was based upon medieval Christian theology, particularly Thomism. Groups had rights and an individual had rights as a member of a group. The group could be the family, a craft guild, the nobility, the army, the Church, los indios (the Indians), the community or municipio, and a number of others.Whereas the institution of the monarchy disappeared with Independence, many of the attitudes and practices of the colonial period did not. Certainly the upper class, the army, and the Church had vested interests in preserving the status quo. They benefitted. They also believe that this was the way things *ought* to be. The military privilege (fuero militar) meant that civilians could not take an army officer to court for any reason unless the army agreed. Similarly, clergy and others in religious orders were above civilian law.

    Most people in any society at any time tend to go along with the status quo. It is convenient and it is what they know. As a general rule, people resist change. And they may not understand the issues or that the existing system harms them in the long run.

    The Liberals argue in favor of Equality Before the Law; that is, that there should be a set of uniform laws which *everyone* had to obey. There should be   no privilege. Liberals also tend to argue for equality of opportunity. If there were equality before the law, they tended to believe that this would provide equality of opportunity. Some Liberals went beyond that. As did Thomas Jefferson, they argued in favor of free public education as a means of insuring equality of opportunity. The idea was to create a system whereby industrious people could rise to the top. Put another way, rank in society would not be based on who your father was but on who you were.

    Mexican liberals disagreed on some issues such as religion. The radical faction believed in complete separation of church and state. The moderate faction was willing to declare Christianity as the religion of Mexico. Conservatives, on the other hand, believed that organized religion was what kept chaos from occurring and, thus, that Christianity had to be protected and promoted by the government (state).

    Now, having written this, I hasten to point out that we are talking about disagreements among elite groups. Most people were trying to figure how how to survive from day to day and were involved in the ordinary affairs of human existence. Unless they got dragooned into an army or had an army march across where they were living, they tried to ignore politics. They couldn't effect change and knew it. Mexican geography and the lack of very many roads meant that what happened in place X might not even been known in place Y.