Print this pageHistorical Text Archive © 1990 - 2016
By Billy Taylor
General Félix Zuloaga was born in Alamos, Chihuahua in 1813. Zuloaga was a military man and politician; he belonged to the liberal party during his early political career, but he later became a conservative. He would lead the conservative party in an effort to overthrow the government of Mexico in the mid 1850s.
When he turned twenty years old he took his first step towards his leadership in Mexico. He entered the National Guard and the corps of engineers in the same year. He served during a very controversial time. He served during the riots against the secessionist of Yucatán in 1842. He did a very good job serving during the riots; therefore he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. General Félix Zuloaga had the very important job of directing the construction of the defenses of Monterrey and Saltillo before the war against the United States. Zuloaga played a very important part in the War from Texas against France and later in the campaign against the United States.
Zuloaga became strong as a military leader. He was well respected by the conservatives in Mexico. Zuloaga was regarded as a person with strong beliefs. He was said to look out for the people that were treated unfairly. In 1848, he retired but he came out of retirement after he was recalled to active service. Zuloaga then became a colonel and went south to fight in the revolution of Ayutla in 1854.
Overthrow of Constitution in 1857
Zuloaga was a friend of Ignacio Comonfort. Comonfort was a liberal moderate president of Mexico. Zuloaga played a big role in influencing Comonfort to declare that the Constitution of 1857 was not a good constitution and convincing Comonfort that the constitution was very radical.
Zuloaga had the support of many of the military and civilians in Mexico. Zuloaga was appointed to be President in 1859. The reactionaries put him in power. General Miguel Miramón in 1859 replaced Zuloaga. In 1860, Zuloaga wrote a manifesto in order to get back into the presidency. In 1861, Zuloaga was named to be president of the Republic once again.
Félix Zuloaga was a strong leader of "conservatives--especially ranking army officers, Church officials, aristocrats, and big landowners--who challenged the Constitution by supporting a revolt that became known as the War of Reform" (Miller 235). General Zuloaga, with the support of the conservatives, denounced the constitution and called for a new constitution. This plan to overthrow the Constitution was the Plan of Tacubaya.
They marched to the Congress and overthrew Congress. They placed the Head of Supreme Court of Mexico, Benito Juárez, an Indian, under arrest. Benito Juárez tried to take the outright leadership or presidency of Mexico, which was seen wrong to Zuloaga. Juárez was one of the main reasons that Zuloaga tried to overthrow the government of Mexico. After being placed under arrest, Juárez escaped to Guanajuato. Juárez tried to declare himself the president of Mexico since the Head of the Supreme Court was supposed to be next in line for the Presidency. He had eleven states backing him as the new president. This caused Mexico to have two presidents and two governments. General Zuloaga was the head of the conservative government. Benito Juárez was the President of the liberals. "Mexico now had two presidents and the makings of a horrible civil war" (Suchlicki 85).
Zuloaga spent the next few months trying to make sure that he was the more legitimate leader of Mexico. He tried to get the United States to recognize him as the President of Mexico. He also tried to get the major countries in Europe, like France, Britain, and Prussia, to recognize the conservatives as the rightful rulers of Mexico. These European powers agreed with Zuloaga and the Conservatives, while the United States after holding out on making a decision said they felt Juárez and the liberals were the rightful rulers of Mexico.
The liberals set up their government in Veracruz with Juárez as their leader. They were able to receive military assistance from many different countries. The liberals had a much different view that Zuloaga and the conservatives of what Mexico's government should do. They wanted "complete separation of Church and state, secularization of all male religious orders, reduction of the number of officials religious holidays, suppression of all religious corporations, limitation of religious processions, and confiscation of Church property" (Suchlicki 85).
While this was going on with the liberals the conservatives was putting together an agenda of their own. Zuloaga pushed for Mexico to pledge alliance to the pope. "In Mexico City the Zuloaga administration declared the Reform Laws null and void, swore allegiance to the Holy See, took communion in public, and planned military campaigns" (Meyer 383). He also focused on winning the respect of the major powers of the world, like the United States and Europe. It was clear that Zuloaga and the conservatives had the support of the military. It also seemed clear the liberals may have had more of the support of the general population.
General Zuloaga was a very important actor in this revolution by the conservatives. His supporters rewarded his efforts with the appointment. Although he accepted the position, Zuloaga felt he was not cut out to be President. The liberals were able to gain outright control in the mid-1860s and Zuloaga was forced into exile to Cuba, since he was the leader of the conservatives. He was able to return to the country in 1873 where he gave up his life in politics and began a somewhat successful tobacco business. He died on February the 11th in 1898.
Krauze, Enrique, (1997) Mexico Biography of Power, Harper Collins Publishers.
Meyer, Michael C, (1987) The Course of Mexican History, Oxford University Press.
Suchlicki, Jaime, (2001) Mexico—From Montezuma to the Fall of the PRI, (2nd ed.) Brassey's Washington, D.C.
Hamnett, Brian, (1999) A Concise History of Mexico, Cambridge University Press
Miller, Robert Ryal, (1985) Mexico: A History, University of Oklahoma Press