Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mirow on Latin American Constitutions, Part 3

In my last post, I discussed various aspects of the Constitution of Cádiz from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. These developments are found in the first four chapters of the book. Before describing the second half of the book, I would like to begin here by reaching into the last portion of Chapter 4 because it serves as bridge to the remaining portion of the work. The example I want to share today briefly concerns the early development of Mexican constitutionalism. The effects of the Constitution of Cádiz in Mexico are a well-known illustration of how the text and ideas of the Spanish Constitution blossomed and adapted to a new country in the Americas. There are some tremendously good studies of this process including Rafael Estrada Michel’s Monarquía y Nación entre Cádiz y Nueva España (Porrúa, México, 2006) and Ivana Frasquet’s Las Caras del Águila: Del Liberalismo Gaditano a la República Federal Mexicana (1820-1824) (Universitat Jaume I, Castellón, 2008).

Because of a powerful Viceroy appointed in 1810, Mexico's leadership was a reluctant and half-hearted participant in the changes that should have followed the promulgation of the Constitution in 1812. Greater enforcement of the Constitution was expected under a new viceroy appointed in 1813, but the Constitution of Cádiz was revoked throughout the empire in 1814. Mexico’s Constitution of 1814 was the product of this political uncertainty. José María Morelos took the title of Generalísimo in 1813 and called for a constituent congress to write a provisional and independent constitution. The resultant Constitution of Apatzingán reflected a variety of sources: the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution of Massachusetts of 1780, the Constitution of Pennsylvania of 1790; the French Constitutions of 1791, 1793, and 1795, and the Constitution of Cádiz. This mix of constitutional sources was common in the period. Morelos was captured and executed.

The re-imposition of the Constitution of Cádiz in Mexico in 1820 led to experiences of popular participation in constitutional government. Over 500 cities in Mexico reported the promulgation of the Constitution of Cádiz. The establishment and re-establishment of representative structures under the Constitution were particularly important in the political and constitutional development of the country. In 1821, Agustín Iturbide pressed for independence and sought a Mexican empire governed by the Spanish king, Fernando VII. By treaty, Iturbide was permitted to rule with hopes that the newly independent nation would be led by Fernando VII under the Constitution of Cádiz until a new constitution was drafted. Even in this uncertain world of Mexican independence, the Constitution of Cádiz served to provide rules of decision and constitutional guidance. When his generals rose against him, Iturbide abdicated and his oath to uphold the Constitution of Cádiz evaporated. Individual provinces of Mexico declared independence in 1823 but often under the Constitution of Cádiz. In November, 1823, a new Constituent Congress of Mexico was installed. Miguel Ramos Arizpe, who had considerable experience at the Cortes of Cádiz, was a driving force as the chair of the drafting committee for the new constitution, the federalist Mexican Constitution of 1824. Thus, the Constitution of Cádiz served as an important text in the drafting this early constitution for an independent Mexico.

The independence processes for each country of Latin America took their own, sometimes related, paths. Mexico serves as one important illustration and even in this very abbreviated description of events, I have taken a detour from my plan to describe the remainder of my book. I hope to fulfill my promise in the next post.

Continued.

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