A Brief Political History of Mexico - The Constitution of 1824

Dec 05, 2022

        The Mexican Constitution

We could spend scores of pages discussing the fascinating history and evolution of the current Mexican republic, how it gained its independence from Spain, and the struggles the newly independent country faced after establishing its first government.  There is no need to delve too deep into these subjects here since there are already countless books written on them in both Spanish and English, but if you are interested in reading more, I have provided a link to a longer yet concise history here in English and another here in Spanish

The relevant history of Mexico for our purposes here will be divided into three parts: the Constitution of 1824, the Constitution of 1857, and the Constitution of 1917.  Each marks a significant milestone in Mexican history and will shed some important light on how and why each form of government was created, abolished, and restructured.

The Mexican Constitution of 1824

The 1824 Constitution was created by the Second Constituent Congress, which after several drafts and debates among federalists, confederalists, and centralists, landed on a comprise between the three.  This first version of the Mexican Constitution contained 171 articles and had three main influences: 1) the Constitution of Cádiz, which was the first Spanish Constitution, 2) the United States Constitution, specifically the creation of a three-branch government, and 3) the Constitution of Apatzingán of 1824, which established a republican system of government. The 1824 Constitution further established a federalist form of government, proclaimed Catholicism as its official religion, and gave freedom to the press. 

 In late 1836, the then interim President José Justo Corro issued what were called the Seven Constitutional Laws, which replaced the 1824 Constitution and the federalist system with a centralist form of government, converting the states into “departments.”  They also created significant unrest between the former states, and led to Texas, Yucatan, and Tabasco declaring their independence from Mexico.  Five years later, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the real promoter of the Seven Constitutional Laws, took up the Presidency. Santa Anna’s centralist government gave him extraordinary executive and judicial powers, and he also appointed members of a new legislative body, which drafted the Bases Orgánicas, the new centralist Constitution.  Despite his having appointed this new legislative body, members were not as loyal to Santa Anna as he would have liked, so Santa Anna attempted to dissolve the body, which ended up in his being deposed and replaced by José Joaquin de Herrera. Later in 1846, the Constitution of 1824 was restored, leading to the Second Federal Republic of Mexico.  This would not last, however. After the Mexican American war, the two warring nations would sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo whereby Mexico ceded 930,000 square miles to the United States. The treaty established the Rio Grande River as the Texas border between the United States and Mexico and the territory now known as California, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and most of New Mexico and Arizona. The next few years saw a revolving door of failed attempts at establishing order and eventually led to the Santa Anna dictatorship in 1853. His dictatorship was short-lived, however, and he resigned his position in 1855 after the Plan of Ayuntla triggered the Revolution of Ayuntla, an uprising led by General Juan Alvarez, who also served a brief stint in the presidency.  A new constitution was enacted in 1857, which contained 128 articles and was similar to the 1824 Constitution.

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