Agustín de Iturbide was the first leader of independent Mexico. Born in 1783 in Valladolid, now Morelia, he began his career as a soldier in the Spanish royalist army. With this army he fought against the first independence movements in the country, fighting figures like Miguel Hidalgo .
However, after being assigned to finish off Vicente Guerrero’s troops, the situation in the metropolis (with a liberal Constitution) made him change his positions. At first its purpose was to create a government in Mexico of a monarchical nature, with Fernando VII occupying the throne.
Given the refusal of the Spanish to this approach, developed in the Plan of Iguala, Iturbide and his followers proclaimed an empire. He held the provisional leadership and later proclaimed himself emperor. Months later the liberals and republicans of Mexico, led by Santa Anna, rose up against Iturbide proclaiming the Plan of Veracruz.
The support given by the supporters of the Bourbons to the fight against Iturbide forced him to abdicate in March 1823. Iturbide had to go into exile, while Congress sentenced him to death.
A year later, apparently unaware of that sentence, he returned to the country. He was captured as soon as he disembarked and shot on July 19, 1824.
Agustín Cosme Damián de Iturbide y Arámburu, full name of the future emperor of Mexico, was born on September 27, 1783 in Valladolid, present-day Morelia. The son of a Spanish father, he soon entered the Tridentine Seminary, although at the age of 15 he left his studies.
His first job was at the paternal ranch and in 1800 he enlisted in the army in his city of birth. Very young, in 1805, he married and with the dowry received he acquired his own farm.
Conjuration of Valladolid
Promoted to the rank of lieutenant, in 1809 he was one of those in charge of repressing the so-called Valladolid Conspiracy, one of the first movements in search of greater independence from Mexico .
Two years later he did not want to join Miguel Hidalgo in his uprising against the Spanish; in fact, he fought the rebels until 1816.
Iturbide was ascending throughout this stage and his victory against Morelos in 1815 earned him the rank of colonel. However, an accusation of corruption in Guanajuato, a province of which he was commander-in-chief, cost him the removal from office by the viceroy.
Despite being acquitted of the charges against him, the military man returned to his properties in Michoacán. The following year he went to Mexico City, although without participating in politics.
Conspiracy of the Professed
The events that took place in Spain (with the triumph of the Liberals) were reflected in the colony. The conservatives feared that the measures that were being taken in the metropolis would reach New Spain, while the liberals looked for a way to take advantage of the events to achieve greater autonomy.
It was the first who took the first step. In this way, they met in what is known as the Conspiracy of the Professed. In this they decided not to obey the new Spanish Constitution, that of 1812, and to remain faithful to the old and conservative laws.
Among the plans they drew up was the option of becoming independent from Spain to avoid liberal influence, while maintaining obedience to the Crown.
To do this, they looked for a soldier who could take charge of the situation; the chosen one was Agustín de Iturbide, who was appointed general commander of the south in November 1820.
Iturbide then headed south, with the command of fighting Vicente Guerrero’s men. However, one of their purposes was to try to get him to unite to achieve independence, despite ideological differences.
Embrace of Acatempan
On the side of the Conservatives were the landowners and some bishops and, with their help, a powerful army was placed at Iturbide’s disposal.
This did not prevent Guerrero from winning the first battles, which caused the future emperor to advance his plans and write to the independence leader to propose an alliance.
The plan that he proposed was to create an independent Mexico, although the Crown would remain in the hands of one of the infants of Spain. In fact, he informed him that some representatives had already left to negotiate with Fernando VII.
At first, Guerrero’s response was very skeptical. For his side, the motto was “independence and freedom”, being willing to continue the war until it was achieved.
A second letter from Iturbide managed to get both leaders to meet in Chilpancingo on February 4, 1821. After the negotiations, the so-called “embrace of Acatempan” was offered, which served to seal an agreement.
The troops of Guerrero and those of Iturbide joined thereafter, the command falling in this second. On February 24, 1821 they proclaimed the Plan of Iguala, with 24 points in which they tried to satisfy both conservatives and liberals.
According to the Plan, Mexico would declare itself independent, with a political system of a moderate constitutional monarchy. The intention was to provide the throne to Fernando VII or one of his brothers, as well as establish Catholicism as the only religion. The first, according to what was signed, was to create a Governing Board.
Iturbide communicated the decision to the viceroy of New Spain and other important personalities. The response was to declare the independentistas outlawed.
Treaties of Córdoba
Faced with this response, Iturbide’s reaction was to seek the understanding of the Spanish Crown. On March 16, he sent a letter to Fernando VII to expose the situation and offer him the throne.
He also sent another letter to the Spanish courts, criticizing the Mexican liberals – theoretically their allies – but noting their willingness to defend independence by arms.
The arrival from Spain of a new captain general to Mexico, Juan de O’Donoju, was a fact that turned events around. O’Donojú was against the absolutism of Fernando VII and he soon realized that New Spain was almost totally in the hands of the independentistas.
In this way, the new captain general ordered the royalists to cease hostilities. Later, on August 24, 1821, he met with Iturbide. Both signed the Treaties of Córdoba; in these, Mexico declared itself independent and became a moderate constitutional empire.
The Spanish courts denied the effectiveness of the Treaties of Córdoba in February 1822. In Mexico, before that Spanish declaration was known, a Constituent Congress of the Empire was convened.
In that Congress, Iturbide was sworn in as provisional leader. However, the differences soon began; In May, the confrontation between Congress and the regent was unsustainable.
For Iturbide, the outbreak of a revolt in Celaya that same month was favorable, since it accelerated events. Congress had no choice but to vote in favor of the military man and prepare the oath he was to take as emperor.
At the end of May the foundations of the operation of the Crown were established. Likewise, a commission made up of deputies studied how the ceremony should be.
They drew up a regulation of 63 articles, copied from those of the Spanish court. Mexicans were considered subjects and, instead of speaking of absolute monarchy, this was declared constitutional.
With everything prepared, on May 21, 1822 Iturbide swore before God to defend the Catholic religion, as well as to obey the decrees of Congress and to respect individual and political freedoms. After this, the imperial crown was placed on him by the president of Congress.
Conspiracies to overthrow him
From the beginning of his reign, Iturbide had clashes with Congress and with various political sectors, from the Republicans to the supporters of the Bourbons. This led the emperor to try to reduce the powers of the deputies, to the point of closing the Chamber.
Trying to find support, he created a National Institutes Board, which allowed him to accumulate more power than he should theoretically give him his position.
The atmosphere was quite tense and Iturbide was losing supporters. Many of the followers of the Plan of Iguala entered the Scottish Masonic lodge, after feeling betrayed by the emperor.
Important voices, such as that of Felipe de la Garza, began to demand a republican government, even using force to establish it.
De la Garza, along with many personalities from Nuevo Santander, addressed Iturbide demanding that Congress be reopened. Upon receiving the letter with the demands, the emperor accused them of leading a rebellion and the signers were arrested.
Finally, on October 31, the Constituent Assembly was dissolved, leaving all power in the hands of Iturbide.
The real rebellion came from Veracruz. There, a young general who had fought alongside Iturbide began to change sides, after being accused of corruption and conspiring with the remaining Spaniards in San Juan de Ulúa. It was Antonio López de Santa Anna.
The emperor ended up removing Santa Anna from all his military and political positions and ordered him to go to Mexico City.
The orders were disobeyed and, days later, in early December 1822, Santa Anna proclaimed a series of points in Veracruz against the imperial government.
The first objectives of this plan were to replace the government system with one that defended equality and justice. For this, he stated that it was necessary to elect a representative government in the form of a republic.
Santa Anna was joined by Guadalupe Victoria on December 6, 1822. Victoria was a former insurgent leader who retained great prestige in the nation. Both shaped the Plan of Veracruz, with 17 main articles. The most important was to declare the coronation of Iturbide null and void.
Battle of Xalapa
Santa Anna’s next step was in the military sphere. On December 21 he tried to go to Xalapa, but was easily rejected. Three days later Guadalupe Victoria and her troops joined him, and then Victoria took command of the uprising.
Iturbide was slow to react. Historians attribute it to the fact that he was in the capital at the christening of his son. Meanwhile, the rebels were recruiting more volunteers.
At the beginning of 1823 Vicente Guerrero and Nicolás Bravo joined the revolt, although they were defeated at first. However, the insurrection was gaining ground in various areas of the country.
The turning point came at the end of January. Although the imperial army was proving to be more powerful than the rebel forces, three of Iturbide’s most capable generals (including Echávarri, who had defeated the insurgents in several battles) reached an agreement with the rebels. On February 1, the Casa Mata Plan was signed.
Casa Mata Plan
Some historians attribute Echávarri’s change of side to the fact that he belonged to the same Masonic lodge as Santa Anna. In any case, the Casa Mata Plan demanded the reopening of Congress and that the sovereignty of the nation be restored.
In late February, when the Guadalajara military joined the Plan, Iturbide had no choice but to try to negotiate. In addition to the garrison of that city, almost all the provinces joined the Casa Mata Plan. Given this, it was agreed to elect the members of the new Congress.
The fact that the Casa Mata Plan went to the different provincial councils led to the establishment of almost a federal system, reducing power to the central government.
Iturbide played one last card when he negotiated with a Comanche chief, exiled from the United States, the support of his 20,000 soldiers. In the end, the proposal turned out to be false.
In this way, increasingly isolated, the emperor convened Congress on March 4. At that meeting, he promised to comply with the general will and decree a total amnesty. It was all in vain.
Iturbide marched towards Tacubaya, but the demonstrations against him continued to grow, to the point of preventing him from leaving his residence. On March 19, 1823, he surrendered and abdicated by letter.
The abdication did not mean that the situation calmed down immediately. Clashes between the so-called liberating army and the few loyal to the emperor still continued.
When Congress met, it appointed a triumvirate to replace Iturbide. Likewise, on April 7, the coronation was declared null and void and the validity of the Iguala Plan and the Córdoba Treaties were rejected.
Already on March 29, Iturbide had begun his path to exile. In principle, I was going to start from Veracruz, but finally they had to do it from Antigua. On May 11 he embarked for Italy with his entire family.
Return and death
From Europe, Iturbide closely followed what was happening in Mexico, although with the logical communication problems caused by distance. In this way, many experts consider that their plan to return to the country was marked by the delay in receiving the latest news.
In February 1824 the former emperor announced that he wanted to return to Mexico and warned of the existence of plans by the Spanish to recover the territory. What he did not learn was that in April, Congress sentenced him to death if he ever set foot on Mexican soil, declaring him a traitor.
Thus, on May 4 Iturbide headed back to Mexico. He arrived on July 14, disembarking in Soto La Marina. Upon arrival, he was arrested. As Congress had indicated, Agustín de Iturbide was shot on July 19, 1824. The last words Iturbide spoke were the following:
«Mexicans !, in the very act of my death, I recommend the love of the country and the observance of our holy religion; she is the one who will lead you to glory. I die for having come to help you, and I die with pleasure, because I die among you: I die with honor, not as a traitor: my children and their posterity will not be left with this stain: I am not a traitor, no.
- More, Magdalena. Independence / Abdication of Iturbide. Obtained from bicentenario.gob.mx
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