The 1869 Mexican elections took place in August 1869 for the purpose of choosing the President and Congress of the United States of Mexico. It was the first election to be held after passage of the 1864 Presidential Election Amendment allowed for the direct election of the President. The result was the election of Senator Omar Kinkaid of the Continentalist Party.
Incumbent President Arthur Conroy had been pursuing increasingly radical reforms during his two terms in office. This aroused the opposition of most of his fellow Continentalists, including Senate Majority Leader Oscar Barkley of Jefferson and Senator Kinkaid of California. Both Barkley and Kinkaid were the beneficiaries of financial support from wealthy businessmen, the former from petroleum magnate Monte Benedict, and the latter from Bernard Kramer of the newly-formed transportation consortium Kramer Associates. At a meeting of the Continentalist caucus in July 1869, Conroy declined to run for a third term, instead supporting the candidacy of his Secretary of State, Lorenzo Días of Durango. However, Kramer and Benedict had agreed beforehand to support Kinkaid's candidacy, and Kinkaid won easily in the first ballot. Conroy reacted to Kinkaid's victory by saying, "I knew Kramer had power, but I did not realize its extent."
The opposition Liberty Party held its own convention that same month, which was also divided between two candidates, Senator Carlos Concepción of Chiapas and Governor Henry Colbert of Mexico del Norte. Colbert was one of the few Libertarians who had favored continuing the Rocky Mountain War after public opinion turned against it, and afterwards he called for the return of the "lost provinces" of Mexico del Norte that had been ceded to the Confederation of North America in the Hague Treaty.
Concepción was the leader of the radical wing of the Libertarians, and was the first nationally prominent Mexicano politician. He had dismissed Conroy's reforms as self-serving, claiming that "under the guise of reformism, this man had managed to solidify his class's control over the nation." Concepción believed that Conroy's reforms would allow a Mexicano from Chiapas to gain sufficient support to win the election. However, he had no support among the leaders of the Liberty Party, who eventually united behind Colbert. After winning the nomination, Colbert gave a speech in which he spoke of "the fulfilment of our territorial destiny" by expanding into South America and the Caribbean.
Due to Conroy's electoral reforms, the leaders of both parties failed to allow for the fact that the elections would take place only two weeks after the nominating conventions, and as a result the elections were poorly-organized. Kinkaid was able to take advantage of generous funding by Kramer and Benedict to have hundreds of thousands of pictures of himself plastered over walls in every city and town in Mexico, and to hire a small army of speakers to deliver election speeches throughout the nation. Colbert was forced to rely on advertisements in leading newspapers and a hastily-organized volunteer election campaign.
|State||Kinkaid votes||Kinkaid %||Colbert votes||Colbert %||Total votes|
|Mexico del Norte||192,554||47.4||213,960||52.6||406,514|
Although Kinkaid won a majority of the votes, his lead was smaller than his financial backers expected. The election results brought into the open the fact that party affiliation was strongly correlated with ethnicity in the U.S.M. The Anglos, Hispanos, and Indians heavily favored the Continentalists, while the majority Mexicanos overwhelmingly voted Libertarian. This also gave the results a strongly geographical character, with Anglo-Hispano majorities in California and Jefferson outweighing Mexicano majorities in the other four states. At the time, Kinkaid chose to ignore the troubling implications of his two-state electoral majority. At a press conference on 3 November 1869, he told reporters, "Mexico needs a president who will rise above party and faction, and judge each issue on its merits. I intend to be that kind of leader."
Sobel's sources for the 1869 Mexican elections are Harper Reichart's The Quiet Messiah: Arthur Conroy of Arizona (Mexico City, 1952); Ferdinand Marcos' Henry Colbert (New York, 1956); and the 4 November 1869 issue of the Mexico City Journal. Election results are from the U.S.M. Statistical Abstract, p. 112.
This was the Featured Article for the month of February 2019.
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