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The Allied Intervention in Mexico

The Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1131, p. 160.

February 15,1862


...But, with that audacity which seems to be the common characteristic of Transatlantic Republics, Mexican Governments of every party have been foremost in pillaging, insulting, threatening, and even taking the lives of foreign residents. No international obligations have been allowed to stand in the way of the President for the time being, or of his creatures. Europeans have been mercilessly fleeced, as such, by forced loans. Consuls have been ill-treated, and their national archives ransacked. Promises have been made but to be broken. Solemn stipulations have been recklessly violated, and at length, under the seeming connivance of the party in power, the design was openly entertained of ridding the country of all foreign residents, and, of course, of confiscating and appropriating all their property within reach. Several causes contributed to indispose the leading European Powers to call Mexico to account. The extreme jealousy of the United States of any interference with the affairs of the New by the Powers of the Old World—the mutual distrust by the latter of each other's ultimate designs—the fear lest some complication of practical policy in the Western Hemisphere might eventuate in hostilities in the Eastern, and the expense of reducing Mexican anarchy, prevailed to lengthen out the patient endurance of European Governments. Outrage became at last intolerable, at least in the judgment of the allies, and, after considerable negotiation, England, France, and Spain agreed to a convention by which they pledged themselves to united action for the purpose of wringing satisfaction and redress from the lawless Republic.

Any one of the allied Powers could have reduced Mexico to reason with the utmost ease; but it seems to have been thought that any one of them operating singly might turn success to a selfish account. The convention, therefore, must be regarded as a document intended to impose restraint upon the assailants, and not made necessary by the strength of the assailed. Each of the contracting Governments renounces all intention of permanent conquest, and the redress that they seek they engage to seek in common, and not separately, or at each other's expense. Spain has been somewhat suspiciously eager for the fray. Her forces were first on the scene of action, and the port of Vera Cruz and the fortress of San Juan d'Ulloa are already in the occupation of the allies. Mexican Generals, however, although capable of surrendering strongholds without a blow, are equally capable of offering a show of desperate resistance where it is plainly of no avail. The latest intelligence prepares us to expect that intestine feuds will be momentarily buried, and exhausted Mexico will defy the arms of the three allied Powers. So affairs stood when information from that quarter was last dispatched.

Meanwhile, however, a novel aspect of the case has turned up for discussion. The design seems to have been somewhere entertained of putting an end to Mexican confusion by converting the Republic into a Monarchy, and placing the Archduke Maximilian, of the house of Austria, on the throne. Happily, as we think, the conditions laid down by this illustrious scion of an Imperial house as indispensable to his acceptance of the honour are such as will be found impracticable. Not that we regard Monarchy as an institution wholly unsuited to Mexico, especially in her present state, nor that we associate with the Austrian Archduke all the faithlessness which has characterised the family of which he is a member. Had the project originated in Mexico, or received the undoubted sanction of the nation, we can well believe that it might have eventuated in a permanent settlement of Mexican affairs, and a rapid development of the unbounded resources of that splendid territory. But for any such arrangement to have been the outcome of European intrigue, aiming at not so much what is thought best for Mexico, but what may be most convenient for European diplomacy, would be fatal to its success. Royalty forced upon the people of Mexico might possibly overawe them, but would not engage their hearty allegiance; and one can easily imagine what would be the inevitable fate of the new kingdom in the course of a few years, whether the Confederate States of America establish their independence or whether the United States be again restored to an unbroken Federation. Mexican institutions must represent Mexican sentiments, or the country will inevitably and speedily be absorbed by her powerful and anti-monarchic neighbour.

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