José Joaquín De Herrera: Biography

José Joaquín de Herrera (1792-1854) was a federalist politician and officer in the Mexican army. He ascended to the presidency at the end of the year 1845, after the conflicts against Santa Anna. He was president of Mexico three times. He became the first constitutionally elected president.

During his mandate, the intervention of the United States and Mexico was unleashed, causing a war between the two countries. Herrera’s government was characterized by the rapid recovery of the country after the conflict, both materially and politically.

Apart from the intervention and later the war, he had to deal with other political conflicts within his country. His pacifist personality caused discontent among various political groups in Mexico. Nearing the end of his term, he built the first railway in the country.


Early years

José Joaquín de Herrera was born with the name of José Joaquín Antonio Florencio de Herrera y Ricardos on February 23, 1792 in Xalapa, Veracruz. He was a descendant of a noble family from Spain from Melilla. He joined the Mexican Army in 1809 for the fight for independence.

His parents settled in Perote, along with his five siblings. José Rafael, his father, ran a post office there. Herrera’s upbringing was in the hands of both his father and María Gertrudis, his third wife; his mother, Ana Apolinaria, died when Herrera was only 3 years old.

At 19 he was already a captain in the Crown regiment. From a very young age he became a cadet and entered the royal army. He retired from his position as a lieutenant colonel to open a store in Perote. However, the following year he finally joined the forces of Agustín de Iturbide .

Political career

In February 1822, the new Congress met and elected Herrera as the representative of the State of Veracruz, Herrera being brigadier general. Herrera allied with other Creole moderators in order to develop a federalist system similar to that of the United States.

Herrera was briefly jailed for conspiracy when Iturbide declared himself emperor and the congress was dissolved. After the fall of Iturbide, Herrera had the position of Secretary of War and Navy.

In 1823 he served again as secretary of war in the mandate headed by Guadalupe Victoria . The following year he resigned after Santa Anna took steps to abolish the 1824 constitution. At that time, Herrera had support from both liberals and conservatives.

In 1826 he married María Dolores Alzugaray in Veracruz, with whom he had his two children.

Herrera became interim president in 1844 after the overthrow of Santa Anna and his successor Valentín Canalizo. He participated in the coup “The Three Hours” with the intention of creating alliances between factions to eliminate Santa Anna.

First term

His first mandate lasted only 9 days, from September 12 to 21, 1944. He was appointed interim president in replacement of Santa Anna.

The presidency was to be in the hands of General Valentino Canalizo, Santa Anna’s successor. This did not happen, because at the time of his appointment, he was not in Mexico City. Herrera replaced him as interim president until his arrival in the Mexican capital.

Second term

Herrera handed over power to Canalizo. After the fall of Santa Anna, the Senate appointed him to be interim president again. From December 7, 1844, he held the presidency until December 30, 1845. He appointed federalists and centralists to occupy important positions.

Almost immediately, the Herrera government faced a diplomatic crisis that threatened its existence in power: the annexation of Texas to the United States. In March 1845, the Herrera regime severed diplomatic relations with the United States as a result of its offer to annex Texas to Mexican territory.

Herrera announced that the union between Texas and the United States would constitute an immediate act of war. However, Herrera hoped to avoid a confrontation with the United States; rather, he preferred peaceful negotiation.

By avoiding going to war, followers of Santa Anna put pressure on Herrera. Finally, the president was captured by a group of rebel soldiers. Herrera was released, won the elections, and became constitutional president on September 15, 1845.

War between the United States and Mexico

The United States continued with the pressure and claimed part of Mexican states that were not in the Texas entities; like Coahuila, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas and New Mexico.

The United States sent troops to the territory of Texas and a group of them was captured by the Mexican Army. On May 13, 1846, the United States officially declared war on Mexico.

Herrera with difficulty managed to gather 6,000 men. Mariano Paredes Arrillaga was the general in charge who was sent north to fight with the Americans. However, Paredes refrained from going north and returned to the capital to overthrow Herrera.

Herrera delivered a speech to the Mexican people in defense of his Texas policy. Without support from the Army, he had to resign when Paredes’ troops approached the capital.

During the war between the United States and Mexico, Herrera was again a deputy from Veracruz. In 1847 he replaced Santa Anna as commander of the army, after the defeat of Santa Anna at the Battle of Huamantla.

In 1848, faced with so much pressure, he accepted the presidency after the war between Mexico and the United States had ended.

Causes of the war between the United States and Mexico

Following the annexation of Texas to the United States, James K. Polk, the US president, sent politician John Slidell on a secret mission to Mexico to negotiate the disputed Texas border.

The intention of the US government was to settle once and for all the US claims against Mexico to buy New Mexico and California. The United States government was willing to pay up to $ 30 million for the two states.

At that time Herrera was in prison; However, he was aware of Slidell’s intentions to dismember the country, for which the Mexican refused to accept it.

When Polk learned that his plan had failed, he ordered troops under General Zachary Taylor to occupy the disputed area between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. Polk began preparing war messages to Congress.

That night, the Mexican army crossed into the Rio Grande and attacked Taylor’s troops, killing several of them.

Third term

On May 30, 1848 Herrera was elected president again, but he quickly rejected the position. A congressional group asked him to accept the presidency; the argument was that if he stayed in power the civil war would not take place.

He then accepted and established his government in Mixcoac; Mexico City was still taken by the United States. His mandate lasted until January 15, 1851.

After the war, the country faced precarious conditions, there was a cholera epidemic and there was even an indigenous uprising in the areas of Misantla and Yucatán.

On the other hand, the Herrera administration faced numerous challenges, including the rebellion of General Mariano Paredes. Paredes opposed the Guadalupe Hidalgo peace treaty.

The politician Juan de Dios Cañedo was assassinated and supporters of Santa Anna immediately blamed Herrera.

President Herrera granted a concession to build the railroad that ran from Mexico City to Veracruz; it was the first in Mexico. He also created a telegraph line between Mexico City and Puebla. In 1851 he handed over the position to Mariano Arista and retired to private life.

End of his presidency and last years

Thanks to the Guadalupe Hidalgo treaty , Mexico received 15 million dollars for the territories of Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California and western Colorado. With the payment of the territories by the United States, Herrera canceled part of the English debt and built public works that sought to pacify the country.

Days after the delivery of the presidency, Herrera was forced to pawn a jewel to alleviate his financial situation. The fact of having sold the jewel evidenced its honorable character. President Arista appointed him Director of Monte de Piedra, the national pawn shop, where he worked until 1853.


Herrera died at the age of 61 on February 10, 1854 in the city of Tacubaya. He was buried without honors in the San Fernando pantheon, where other Mexican political leaders were buried.


While in office as president, he proposed reforms that improved the military, but alienated its leadership . On the other hand, it significantly simplified the command structure and changed the promotion process to reward merit. Also, he clarified the powers of state rulers and military commanders.

He tried, without success, to reform the popular civil militias; measures that conservatives perceive as an attempt to establish a counterweight to the regular army.


  1. José Joaquín de Herrera, writers from The University of Texas Arlington, (nd). Taken from
  2. José Joaquín Antonio Florencio de Herrera y Ricardos, writers, (nd). Taken from
  3. José Joaquín de Herrera, writers for, (nd). Taken from
  4. American-Mexican war, writers, (nd). Taken from
  5. José Joaquín de Herrera, wikipedia in English, (nd). Taken from

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