|General Santa Anna|
Like many, all of this had an impact on the worldview of Gutierrez de Estrada. The United States was expanding and growing more powerful. Gutierrez advised strengthening Mexico’s position by becoming more closely allied with the nations of Europe and Central America. However, no long-term policy was ever possible because of the chronic instability in Mexico City. No government could ever get much done since, no sooner had one strongman gained the presidency than he was overthrown by another and so on and so on in seemingly endless succession. Gutierrez felt this particularly when he was sent as ambassador to Great Britain to prevent the British from recognizing the Republic of Texas and to oppose American annexation of Texas (the event which ultimately sparked the disastrous Mexican-American War). However, Gutierrez was unable to get anywhere in this mission because he had barely arrived in Britain when the government that sent him was overthrown and replaced by another. The conservative President Anastasio Bustamante offered him the position of Foreign Minister but Gutierrez turned it down, being thoroughly disgusted with the state of affairs in Mexico and convinced that only a firmly established monarchy could save his country from the chaos of republicanism.
He had, during his many years of exile lobbying, suggested numerous princes for the Mexican throne, one of them being the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian. When the French Emperor Napoleon III finally came around to the idea, he enlisted Gutierrez in persuading the young Hapsburg to accept the Mexican Crown. This Gutierrez did with his usual determination, pleading, promising and impressing upon the Archduke that he was the only man who could save Mexico from total ruin and disaster. With the victory of the liberal party in Mexico Gutierrez was joined by other Mexican monarchists such as the venerable General Juan Almonte who joined in the chorus. When Maximilian at last let it be known that he would consent it was Jose Maria Gutierrez de Estrada that spoke for the Mexican delegation that came to Miramar to formally offer him the throne. His words were intense and powerful:
“Prince: The powerful hand of a generous monarch [referring to Napoleon III] had hardly restored liberty to the Mexican nation, when he dispatched us to Your Imperial Highness … Without you, Prince -believe it from these lips which have never yet served the purpose of flattery- without you, all our efforts to save the country will be in vain … May it please Your Imperial Highness to fulfill our prayers and accept our choice. May we be enabled to carry the joyous tidings to a country awaiting them in longing anxiety.
“These are the sentiments which in the name of our grateful country we lay at the feet of Your Imperial Highness. We offer them to the worthy scion of that powerful dynasty which planted Christianity on our native soil. On that soil, Prince, we hope to see you fulfill a high task, to mature the choicest fruits of culture, which are order and true liberty. The task us great, but greater is our confidence in Providence.”
|Gutierrez offers Maximilian the Crown of Mexico|
As we know, Maximilian said he would accept if a referendum showed that the Mexican people truly desired him and this the French forces quickly organized. Once that was done Gutierrez again led the formal delegation in offering Maximilian the crown, which he finally accepted. Gutierrez was the first to drop to his knees, take the hand of the Archduke and shout, “God save His Majesty Maximilian I! God save Her Majesty Charlotte, Empress of Mexico!” The others quickly joined in the cheer. On their way to Mexico the Imperial couple stopped in at Rome to call on Pope Pius IX and stayed at the palace which was Gutierrez’ home in exile. When the Pontiff returned the visit Gutierrez had tears running down his face as Pius IX stepped inside his home. The loyal Mexican did not accompany his new sovereign back to his homeland, saying that with the establishment of the monarchy the great work of his life was accomplished and that he wished to retire.
Emperor Maximilian still named him as his personal representative to the courts of Europe. However, the ever more reactionary Gutierrez was sometimes disturbed by the news that reached him from Mexico. Like many in the staunchly conservative camp, he was inclined to believe that Maximilian was being far too soft on his republican enemies and did not go far enough in restoring the preeminent position of the Catholic Church in Mexico. Nonetheless, he was confident that he had done all he could do and that the future of Mexico would be brighter for his many years of effort. Because of that it is, perhaps, fortunate that he did not live to see the monarchy he worked so hard to restore come crashing down. Jose Maria Gutierrez de Estrada passed away in Paris in 1867, shortly become the Second Mexican Empire came to an end and Emperor Maximilian met his own tragic fate.