The First Civil War, 1830-1842

Liberal Projects

Real War 
    Grounded Networks 
   Control Networks 
A Note on Then and Now 
What They Called "Civil War"  
   Liberal Projects 
      J.R. Poinsett  
      Levi Woodbury  
      Francisco Morazán  
      V. Gómez Farías   
      Wm. Lyon Mackenzie  
   Conservative Demagogues 
      Andrew Jackson  
      A. L. de Santa Anna 
   Fight Scenes  
      El Gallinero  
      Puebla & Charleston   
      Guanajuato & Bravo  
      Loot & development  
      Texas & Florida  
  Grounded Reaction 
      Guatemala & Carrera  
      Lower Canada  
      The Huasteca, & North  
      The Costa Grande   
Outcomes, and Vision
The people called "liberals" thought that they challenged an old, coercive order. Their ideas, and the kinds of men they were, came forward in country after country, appealing to the principle that free individual efforts, working in the market-place of goods, or of ideas, would automatically produce good outcomes, without anyone dictating the result. 

In fact, liberal programs involved more conflict, and more of "conservative" coercion, than the theory anticipated. 

Take Francisco Morazán, starting out in Honduras.  He was an upstart, but from a local merchant family, who worked as a government clerk and secretary, besides developing his own interests in the mahogany trade.  Conservatives accused him of dishonesty.  As aide and lieutenant, he then sought individual glory in the factional wars that the provinces of Central America suffered after they won their independence from Spain.  Though the whole isthmus was supposed to be a single nation, there were quarrels over the location of a capital, over the degrees of autonomy to be enjoyed by the separate states, and increasingly over ideological projects advanced by men who were fighting for status. 

It was not always clear whether the military career came first, or the liberal ideology.  If these young men had read about the French Revolution, they had also read about Napoleon.  They might nod impatient assent to the notion that Napoleon had betrayed the ideals of the Revolution, but that seemed not to worry them. 
Morazán, after fighting through El Salvador and into Guatemala, got himself named President of the Federation.  From that position, he sponsored other liberals as governors of the separate states.  In Guatemala, for example, Mariano Gálvez now advanced a typical "liberal" program: 
  • legal reform, such as extending the jury system and written records to local courts
  • "scientific" health measures, such as burials within regulated public cemeteries
  • church reform -- transforming convents into public schools and hospitals, and exiling clerics who led the conservative resistance
  • civil marriage and divorce
  • colonization measures, to introduce "enlightened" settlers from Europe.
"Colonization" would work by giving land grants to foreign companies that offered to bring people in.  The land had to come from what local people thought their own.  In forest areas, the companies would get the right to harvest valuable timber.  Of course, it would be easier to do a quick job of the harvesting, than a careful job of colonization. 

This program won the enmity of villagers and conservative landholders alike, leading eventually to the successful rebellion of Rafael Carrera, and to Morazán's final defeat. 

Liberal programs had wide appeal.  In many parts of the continent, mere privilege, and ordinary social mobility within the control networks, had not been enough -- Naturally, there was competition all along the spectrum of individual operators.  There was supposed to be, even if the ideal was one of "peaceful," commercial conflict.  In theory, would be superseded by The Morazán career was only one example, among many throughout America, of individuals who had some position within respectable society, who supposedly owed some "gratitude" to the flexibilities within conservative society, but who pushed alternative ideas.  They included also: Such leaders saw themselves as fighters against the reaction that took over Europe after the defeat of Napoleon.  Calling their opponents the "servile" lackeys of imperialism, they campaigned to expel Spaniards and Britons from the New World.  When Britain and the United States were competing for political influence within a country like Mexico, local liberals tended to side with the United States. Many, who conceded the aggressive character of U.S. expansionism, would still make an exception for U.S. political democracy, judging it a sound model for national development..

Liberal ideologists argued that society should become more open, less coercive, a world where individual operators might acquire new property, and project new ideas.  They were trying to open up a space in which new operators could fight the established, privileged "aristocrats."  Those liberals with some money could act as if they were the ones persecuted by the great landowners and capitalists of this world.  Talking as if they were themselves "the people" or "the nation" or "the citizens," they could fight for a world in which leadership would go to the winners in individual competition.

Traders and trappers, of all nationalities, swarmed out from Santa Fe, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Hudson Bay.  Speculators, promoters, ranchers, and even plain farmers took up free or cheap tracts that were being offered to settlers and developers, not only by the United States, but also by British authorities in Canada, by Mexican authorities in Texas, New Mexico, and California, and by Guatemala in Central America.

At the same time, much "liberal" activity depended on "conservative" methods.  The large trading organizations, such as the Hudson's Bay Company to the north, or John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company, were part of the international system that connected the criollo and indigenous worlds back to European commerce.  They were pursuing trade under speculative, dangerous conditions, supposedly accepting the responsibility for their own protection. Notably during the 1820s and 1830s, when U.S. Army units had penetrated little into the Upper Missouri region, much of the interior sheltered a symbiosis between corporate influence and indigenous culture, independent of any nation-state.

But the companies often avoided risk, resorting to old techniques of security and military control.

Furthermore, pressure for new policy came from people who said that they believed in a liberal market-place, but who wanted government to exclude some "undesirables" from that free competition.  They singled out two opposite groups for hostility:  any subjects of the mother country who lingered on in America, and any indigenous people who denied the sanctity of individual property rights.  In Mexico and Central America, the connection between the two extremes struck deep into social philosophy.  Both the Catholic church and the indigenous communities acted as "corporations" when they held land -- in contrast to the ranchers and merchants who thought that individual property-holding would stimulate progress.

The strategy that emerged was simple:

This basic strategy was pursued by Francisco Morazán and Mariano Gálvez in Central America, by Jean-Pierre Boyer in Haiti, by Lorenzo Zavala and Valentín Gómez Farías in Mexico, by Stephen Austin and Mirabeau Lamar in Texas, and by the supporters of Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison in the United States.

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