The First Civil War, 1830-1842
WHAT THEY CALLED "CIVIL WAR":
A Note on Then and Now
What They Called "Civil War"
A. L. de Santa Anna
Puebla & Charleston
Guanajuato & Bravo
Loot & development
Guatemala & Carrera
Huasteca, & North
Outcomes, and Vision
|Practical leaders, in that Civil War between liberals and conservatives,
gave little abstract loyalty to either side. They were "demagogues."
Take Andrew Jackson and Antonio
López de Santa Anna:
As criollo military leaders, they spoke for the interests of
governing classes that had won independence from the mother countries of
Santa Anna revealed this political strategy best in his shifting military
As "demagogues," they used populistic, patriotic rhetoric
to defend actions that served --
the particular interests of themselves or their backers.
the disciplinary authority of persons in control positions.
Jackson revealed it in social maneuvers, such as his veto of the bill
to recharter the Bank of the United States, in 1832. The Bank itself,
operating under government authority, was the closest thing the country
had to a central bank. To Jackson, it was a monster:
There are no necessary evils in government. . . . If it
would confine itself to equal protection, and as Heaven does its rains,
shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor,
it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems
to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these principles. . . .
To his opponents, this language was itself demagoguery, stirring up class
conflict. They missed the fact that Jackson was operating from a position
that was both more conservative and more innovative than their own:
Many of our rich men have not been content with equal protection
and equal benefits, but have besought us to make them richer by act of
Congress. By attempting to gratify their desires we have in the results
of our legislation arrayed section against section, interest against interest,
and man against man, in a fearful commotion which threatens to shake the
foundations of our Union.
The manipulations of Jackson and Santa Anna produced social results.
By taking advantage of what came their way, by giving heed to varied interests
-- even when they scorned rival leaders -- each of the two was acting
as mediator among competing elements in the society. Their indifference
to abstract ideas was itself an alternative "idea" fed into any conflict
situation -- especially when backed by talk of force. Their careers
traced out an interplay between liberal innovation and conservative rule,
in itself a summary of what was being done by the control networks of their
He was not only a slave-owner, but the kind of planter who had operated
a store for his neighborhood, where he provided credit -- a real
banking function, under personal rather than corporate control.
Though he sometimes ranted against "all banks," one result of the veto
was to weaken top-level controls over the banking system, leaving it for
"second-level" banks to elaborate their own controls.
When his officials needed to impose "voluntary" regulation on banks, they
found ways to do it by executive action.
Each man represented the form that "Landed-Industrial" consensus
would take in his country, in a period when the early knots were being
tied, between an expansionist U.S. economy and a constricted Mexican economy.
The era of "secured independence" began, for Mexico
and the United States, with two ideological compromises that stated, together,
a single criollo strategy for the continent:
On economic questions, both Jackson and Santa Anna were reacting to changes
at work in a once-traditional society. Both were willing to bully any mere
"shop-keeper" class, but there was an imbalance in how they proceeded,
come the 1830s.
in the United States, when Congress adopted the Missouri Compromise,
(precipitated in part by the continental boundary treaty with Spain),
dividing the nation's frontier territories between those open and those
closed to slavery
in Mexico, when former royalist officers (led by Agustín de Iturbide)
agreed with a few resistance leaders (including Guerrero) on the Plan
de Iguala, to create a nation independent from Spain, yet conservative
in its respect for Army and Church..
Jackson and Santa Anna were involved in these developments:
Secretary of State John Quincy Adams had taken advantage of Jackson's 1818
raid into Florida, in order to pressure Spain into selling Florida and
extending a boundary from Louisiana to the Pacific. Debate in Congress
over Jackson's high-handedness added a personal counter-point to the larger
debate over dividing the newly-acquired territories between free-labor
Santa Anna, who had been a royalist officer in Veracruz, shifted soon into
the Iturbide camp, for independence. Iturbide, as emperor of Mexico,
found that Santa Anna's obedience to Mexico City was an uncertain quantity.
The Veracruz leader soon joined the movement that deposed Iturbide and
established a republic.
Each grand arrangement -- Missouri, and Iguala -- recognized the force
exerted by a military, landowning class that depended on a conservative
institution, whether that institution was slavery or the Catholic Church.
At the same time, each accepted the notion that crude military initiatives
might push economic and political development. Some alliance between
the conservative and the rational -- between institutions and innovation
-- was common to the new American societies.
While neither Santa Anna nor Jackson may have realized what they were doing,
in any grand historical perspective, they were pushing their two countries
toward an interlock, as "backward country" and "outside investor."
Santa Anna, sacking the silver interests of Zacatecas, would undermine
a potential nucleus of economic development, making Mexico all the more
vulnerable to outside interests.
Jackson, transferring funds out of the Bank of the United States, would
leave other business interests a freer hand. Those other interests
had the greater dynamic potential.
The two were to meet once when Santa Anna, captured by Texans, was sent
off to Washington for Jackson to badger (politely, of course, as he would
any opposing gentleman). For all the inequality of the situation,
the two communicated easily. By the patterns of their careers, they
were already joined in temperament: military politicians who defended
central authority, even while they professed to support states' rights.
By their opportunism and inconsistency, they were ideal vehicles through
which cautious criollos could seek some kind of social discipline.
A common behavior pattern appeared in both careers:
Jackson and Santa Anna: the Parallel
|The Santa Anna version
||Type of action
||The Jackson version
|Federalism, vs centralism
||Conventional discourse, used without
regard to actual commitment
||Republicanism, vs "aristocracy"
|Pledges of support to Iturbide & to Nicolás Bravo, to Guerrero
& Gómez Farías
||Quick, unreliable promising
||Oath to Spanish crown 1789.
Consent, given JQAdams 1819, to not exacting Texas from Spain
||Emotional defense of certain
individual social victims
||Rachel Jackson. Margaret Eaton.
|"Reduction" of indigenous communities in Veracruz
||Brutality toward non-elite allies
||Confiscations from Creek allies
|Long delay before supporting conservatives vs Gómez Farías
||Pressure on conservatives to beg
||Warning to S.C. politicians on their need for help versus slaves
|Refusal to become conservative leader when patronized by Arista
||Demand for personal loyalty
||Use of Florida case as litmus versus J.C.Calhoun
|New Army officers, & some business promoters
||Practical defender of some upwardly
||New landowners in Southwest; "2nd" level of bankers
|Silver taken from Zacatecas
||Readiness to "mine" capital
||Deposits withdrawn from Bank of the United States
This was the free individual leader in a hierarchical society:
quick to define liberty in terms of personal prestige, careless of alliances,
demanding when it came to control over underlings.
Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson . . . (1977-1984)
Robert V. Remini, "Andrew Jackson Takes an Oath of Allegiance to Spain,"
Tennessee Historical Quarterly (1995)
Enrique González Pedrero, País de un solo hombre: el México
de Santa Anna (1993- )
Gilberto Bermúdez Gorrochotegui, ""Haciendas del General Santa Anna
registradas en al Archivo Notarial de Jalapa," La Palabra y el Hombre
Site Map | About
Copyright 1999 The Intermountain History Group, firstname.lastname@example.org.
All rights reserved.