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Comonfort, Ignacio

By Kindra Cowan

Ignacio Comonfort was born in the city of Puebla on March 10th, 1812. He came from a poor uneducated family but Comonfort was able to educate himself. He studied at the Carolina College in the city of Natal. During his studies his father died, forcing him to return home to take the responsibility of being the head of the family's household. In 1831, he became an artillery captain. Comonfort fought against the dictator Anastasio Bustamante with Santa Anna. Within one year he was promoted to Artillery Captain of the National Guard and infantry colonel in the militia of his capital on July 29th, 1833. Comonfort fought under the leadership of Santa Anna and in 1852 was appointed to be the administrator of the Aduana Maritima of Mazatlán. In 1853 he was no longer the administrator because Santa Anna announced himself as dictator of Mexico. Santa Anna suppressed individual rights, sold territory to the U.S and finally demanded to be called Serene Highness. Many Mexicans like Juan Alvarez and Comonfort came together to rebel against Santa Anna. Comonfort joined Juan Alvarez to overthrow Santa Anna and proclaimed the Plan of Ayutla. One of the demands of The Plan of Ayutla was that Santa Anna must withdraw from presidency. Santa Anna fled into exile from Mexico and Juan Alvarez was elected President. Comonfort's chance to rise in the political scene rose when Alvarez appointed him to be Mexico's minister of war. During Alvarez presidency, congress summoned for a new constitution and Comonfort was put in charge. During the amending of the constitution on December 10th Alvarez renounced his presidency and on December 11th Comonfort was named president.

During his presidency he established three laws. "Comonfort wanted this constitution to declare personal rights, freedom of education, press, industry of commerce of labor and of association. The three laws he established was the "Juárez Law of 1855, which suppressed all the privileges of the clergy and army, and declared all citizens equal in the eyes of the law. In 1856, the Lerdo Law which obliged civil and ecclesiastical corporations to sell all unoccupied houses and land to their tenants, to allow these propertied to produce greater wealth in favor of more people. The last law he passed was the Iglesias Law of 1857 which regulated the collection of parish rights"( SEP, Dept. of Education, 2). Finally, congress proclaimed the new constitution on February 1857."

During these three years Comonfort had fight to stay president. "Many liberals who called themselves puros felt that Comonfort was a moderado, a weak liberal who was a dictator and a traitor to the goals of Ayutla"(Oliff,65). Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, a cabinet minister, opposed him. The puros were plotting to get rid of Comonfort. They would talk with other liberals to turn them against Comonfort. Lerdo told these other liberals that Comonfort was playing into the hands of the British and the French. The proposals were goals of Miguel Lerdo de Tejada and other puros. Lerdo's main goal was to remove Comonfort from office and place Lerdo as president. Comonfort knew about this plan and became an even stronger president and fought these attacks. Comonfort tried to compromise, but Lerdo de Tejada refused and because of Comonfort's courage Lerdo de Tejada backed down and resigned on January 3rd, 1857.

Not only were liberals against Comonfort, but also conservatives. "After the constitution was signed many conservatives denounced and refused to obey it"(Mabry, 3). Comonfort knew that the liberal ideas would lead to social conflict. Comonfort said, "The new code was not according to the will of the country and contained germs of disorder and lack of unity"( www.libreopinion.com, 3). Angered conservatives plotted against Comonfort and in Dec. 1857 came the revolt of Félix Zuloaga. During the revolt Comonfort knew that he would lose his presidency if he did not side with the conservatives. Comonfort's position changed and he asked the conservatives for support in governing without the constitution. The conservative party refused and Comonfort thought as a last result to declare himself as a constitutional president with angered the conservatives even more. Comonfort tried to make peace with the conservatives, but nothing helped. On December 17th , the constitution was suspended and vice president Juárez was arrested. With the suspension of the constitution, Felix Zuloaga proclaimed the Plan of Tacubaya. The Plan contained six proposals:

  • from this date let govern the 1857 constitution;
  • Ignacio will continue the one in charge of the top command, with faculties omnimodas;
  • will summon an extraordinary congress that forms a constitution according to the national will;
  • 0nce the constitution is approved by the vote of the town, will be promulgated, and if the town does not approve it, it will return to congress so that it reforms it according to the vote of the majority;
  • the president will name an advice composed of representatives of the states;
  • will stop in the exercise of their functions the authorities that do not seconded this plan"( www.libreopinion.com, 3).
  • Comonfort now began to back down against Zuloaga knowing he would try to take over. In his retreat from Zuloaga, Comonfort helped Juárez escape and his family flee from Mexico. After helping Juárez escape he to had a plan to leave Mexico with his family. On January 21st, 1858 he resigned from the presidency or as some say, "He abandoned his presidency and fled into exile"(SEP, Dept. of education,3). For the next three years from 1858 to 1861, he lived in the United States. In 1861, Juárez was reelected and many conservatives fled into exile. Comonfort decided to return to Mexico. In 1863 he offered his service to fight against the French Intervention that began in April of 1862. Comonfort was elected to be the General Chief of the army. Comonfort fought bravely against the French and won many battles. On November 13th 1863, Comonfort was killed near San Juan de la Vega when he and his unit were attacked by guerillas.

    The Comonfort Presidency was a short-lived one. He was neither a liberal nor a conservative. He played both sides of the political field in order to try to keep things in control throughout Mexico. He failed because he honestly did not have what it takes to be president. He was a great military leader, but not a politician. He climbed the military ladder very quickly and he was noble and brave on the battlefield. The major downfall in his presidency was the Constitution of 1857. The constitution pleased neither the liberals, conservatives, nor the church. Comonfort had no support from either political party and was not strong enough in the eyes of politics. Ignacio Comonfort's courage and leadership belonged on the battlefield and that is where he did justice for Mexico.

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    Sources

    Mabry, Donald (2001). Historical Text Archive. The Reform, the French Intervention and the Restored Republic Online. 6 March 2003.

    Mexican Archive Project (1994). Benson Latin American Collection. Ignfacio Comonfort Papers. Online. 6 March 2003. www.lib.utexas.edu/ benson/Mex_Archives/Comonfort/html

    Oliff, Donathon C. (1981). Reforma Mexico and the United States: A search for Alternatives to Annexation, 1854-1861. University, Alabama.

    The War of Three Years. Online. 6 March 2003. www.libreopinion.com/reducto/galeria/guerra3A/introduccion.html

    SEP, Department of Education. The 1857 Constitution and the Reform Laws. Online. 6 March 2003. www.elbalero.gob.mx/kids/histroy/html/sxix/constitu.html