Saturday, April 17, 2010

Monarchist Profile: Jose Maria de Salas

Jose Mariano de Salas was born on May 11, 1797 and joined the Royal Spanish Army in Mexico (then New Spain) in 1813 as a cadet in the Puebla Infantry Regiment and he saw his first action with the royalists putting down anti-Spanish rebels. Later he fought alongside Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the capture of Jalapa in Veracruz. In 1821, when General Agustin de Iturbide issued his Plan of Iguala calling for an independent Mexican Empire, Salas enthusiastically embraced the cause. During the rebellion that arose after the Plan of Montano was issued in 1827 he fought in defense of President Guadalupe Victoria and two years later he fought to repel the invasion of Spanish General Isidro Barradas at Tampico.

Through all of this Salas was becoming aware of how chaotic republican rule could be and like many he began to support the idea that it would take a strong-man to keep order. The most prominent candidate on-hand was General Santa Anna. In 1832 Salas was promoted to lieutenant colonel and he supported Santa Anna as President of Mexico. When Texas rose in rebellion against Santa Anna, Salas joined his Army of Operations in Texas to put down the rebels and was given command of the Permanente Jimenez Battalion. When Santa Anna attacked the Texan forces at the Alamo on March 6, 1836 Salas was second-in-command of the third assault column of about 400 men from the Jimenez, Matamoros and San Luis battalions under Colonel Jose Maria Romero that attacked the mission from the east. Salas later fought against the Texan forces of Colonel Fannin near Goliad and after the epic Mexican defeat at San Jacinto he helped cover the retreat of the army back to Matamoros.

A few years later, in 1840, Salas helped put down a mutiny at the National Palace and in 1844 he was exiled from Mexico for his continued loyalty and support of the recently-deposed dictator General Santa Anna. De Salas soon returned, however, and in a switch for him led an uprising in 1846 in Mexico City to restore the government regime that had favored states’ rights over centralized control. From August 5 to December 23, 1846 Salas was President of Mexico and he restored the states rights constitution of 1824 (the original republican constitution and ironically the one the Texans at the Alamo had been fighting for prior to the declaration of independence). He called Congress back into session and given his experience he knew that war was all but inevitable with the United States and he ordered the enlargement of the militia and the raising of addition war funds to prepare for this eventuality.

In December Salas handed the presidency over to his old chief General Santa Anna and the following year was promoted to General of Division. When war with the United States did come Salas was deputy commander of the northern army and he was taken prisoner by the Americans at the battle of Contreras on August 20, 1847. Ultimately, Mexico lost the war and following the peace agreement Salas was released and named military governor of the state of Queretaro. During the Reform Wars he briefly served as President of Mexico again, holding power until the return of the conservative leader Miguel Miramon. One Miramon returned Salas effectively acted as his vice-president and was the commander of the Mexico City garrison during the war.

All of this trouble had convinced many Mexicans that a monarchy was needed, one led by an impartial outsider with no ties to the existing power struggles. With the intervention of the French the opportunity for such a change presented itself. In the summer of 1863 a regency for the Mexican Empire and General Salas, General Juan Almonte and Archbishop Antonio de Labastida were chosen to hold power while a monarch was chosen. It was this triumvirate that sent the delegation to Miramar to offer the Mexican throne to Archduke Maximilian of Austria. The Archduke accepted and on June 12, 1864 Maximilian and Carlota entered Mexico City as Emperor and Empress. Emperor Maximilian made Jose Mariano de Salas one of his generals in the Imperial Mexican Army but, by that time, the veteran soldier was too old for service in the field. Salas died on December 24, 1867 after seeing his Emperor executed and the empire he had fought so long and hard for collapse and Mexico return to the political chaos of squabbling presidents and dictators.


  1. Sheesh, boss, I am learning more about Latin American history (and Mexican history in particular) from reading this website than I ever did in my undergraduate days. Rather as Tea at Trianon is enlarging my understanding of non-royal history. And yet I suppose that the relevant material could have been found easily enough, well before the Internet, by any student who put his mind to the task (even if he lacked Hispanophone skills).

    My ignorance reminds me of James Reston's epigram "Americans will do anything for Latin America except read about it". (Although I am not, in fact, American.)

    How many State Department honchos, as of 2010, can speak Spanish? Can speak Brazil-type Portuguese, if it comes to that? Or do they operate under the delusion that the bald eagle's strength would be seriously compromised if they stopped yelling at the Mexican Trade Minister (or whoever) in English? (Yeah, that's a really good idea when he comes from a country that's right next door and has a 19 per cent birthrate ... )

    I have heard it maintained that in the entire Pentagon bureaucracy of 1964 there was not a single Vietnamese-speaker. While I do not know if this allegation is accurate, I am not the only foreigner to have encountered it.

  2. Part of it is a willingness to look but information on the types I tend to write about is also not as readily available as some might think. In Mexico, I am often amazed by the lack of knowledge, the lack of almost any reference at all, about Emperor Agustin de Iturbide. Most might have heard of him, they may know the name, but that's about it because of the many, many generations of indoctrination that have gone on to convince the masses that the monarchists were unimportant at best and villainous at worst. There is also alot of history there that most in the US would rather forget.

    What frustrates me on the subject of Vietnam is the plethora of information about 'the war' but almost nothing about what happened before that. I can sympathize with those Vietnamese who often complain that Vietnam is "a country, not a war". What upsets me is that the one thing all modern sources, US, South and North Vietnamese agree on is their disdain for the old monarchy because all of the feuding successor regimes realize that unless they vilify, in that case the Nguyen dynasty, the people might begin to wonder if it might not have been better to stick with what they already had, perhaps a modified version of the traditional system, rather than spending decades killing each other over what western model they were going to replace it with.

  3. Well, I myself certainly knew nothing about the Vietnamese monarchy except for a vague newspaper-induced consciousness of Emperor Bao Dai during my early childhood. He was invariably derided as a "playboy". Unlike John Fitzgerald Kennedy and William Jefferson Clinton, one presumes.

    As for Mexico, I very much doubt if I'd known of Iturbide's existence before encountering your site. (Incidentally I erred, with my previous post, in saying that the birthrate in that country was 19 per cent; it's actually 3.4 per cent or thereabouts. Still well above the Western average.)

    There's a recently released documentary about Daniel Ellsberg - of Pentagon Papers fame - which has useful insights into certain aspects of Vietnamese history, although not about Vietnamese monarchical history. What blows me away is that, by all accounts, the Pentagon Papers consisted largely of boringly written chronicles that could've been cut-and-pasted from a half-dozen competent monographs (available at any collegiate library) on 1940-1964 Indo-Chinese politics. These desperately needed to be kept secret? Hello?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...