Foundation by HamiltonEdit
Political parties first appeared in Jefferson after the adoption of the Lafayette Constitution in 1793. Alexander Hamilton, who had worked to establish the constitution, believed that Jefferson had a "continental destiny" to expand to the west and south, taking control of the Spanish lands of New Spain. Hamilton also supported economic development, particularly the expansion of cotton cultivation in Jefferson. During the course of the Trans-Oceanic War of 1795 - 1799, Hamilton put these ideas into operation, leading a Jeffersonian army against the presidios of the Province of Tejas until the state of Jefferson controlled all of New Spain north of the Rio Grande and east of the Pecos River. By the time the war ended, Hamilton and his supporters had grouped themselves together into the Continentalist Party, while their opponents, who opposed expansion and supported the ideals of the North American Rebellion, formed the Liberty Party.
Hamilton's program was popular enough among Jeffersonians that he and the Continentalists remained in control of the Jeffersonian government for the next twenty years. When the Mexican Civil War entered its most brutal phase after 1815, Hamilton convinced the Jeffersonians to intervene on the side of the Clericalists. The Jeffersonian army was called up in July 1816, and sent into Mexico under the command of General Horatio Conyers. After Conyers was killed in battle, command of the army fell to Colonel Andrew Jackson, who continued the invasion. Jackson was able to join up with the Clericalist leader Simón Figueroa, and the two armies entered Mexico City on 6 February 1817. Jackson supported Figueroa's claim to the presidency of Mexico, but after three months of Clericalist reprisals against the deposed Federalists, Jackson had Figueroa imprisoned and declared himself provisional president.
Following Hamilton's death in 1818, Jackson was chosen by Continentalist leader James Monroe to replace him, and the two men, along with Josephus Carter, won an overwhelming victory in the October elections. A coup attempt in Mexico City in February 1820 led Jackson to convene a constitutional convention in Mexico City for the purpose of drafting an instrument of government uniting Mexico and Jefferson. The Mexico City Constitution was ratified by the convention in September 1820, thereby establishing the United States of Mexico.
The English-speaking Jeffersonians, or Anglos, dominated the politics of the U.S.M. for the first sixty years of the country's existence. As a result, the Jeffersonian political parties took root throughout Mexico, displacing the Clericalists and Federalists. In the first elections under the new constitution, the Continentalists under Jackson won 18 out of 24 seats in the Senate, the upper house of Congress, and 68 out of 100 seats in the lower house, the Assembly.
With the achievement of Hamilton's goal of Continental Destiny, Jackson reoriented Continentalist policy to the new task of ruling the U.S.M. The Figueroa purge of 1817 had wiped out much of Mexico's traditional pure-blooded Spanish ruling class, the criollos, leaving the Anglos of Jefferson free to take their place. Jackson devoted his three terms as President of Mexico to cementing Anglo rule of the U.S.M. Jackson allied the Anglos with the surviving criollos and the mixed-race mestizos, whom he referred to collectively as Hispanos. Together, Anglos and Hispanos ruled the settled peasant Indians, known as Mexicanos, of the states of Chiapas and Durango.
Jackson was also determined to impose the Jeffersonian institution of Negro slavery on Mexico, attempting unsuccessfully in 1824 to enslave all of Mexico's free Negroes, and in 1826 to enslave any Mexican with more than one Negro grandparent. Jackson's other policies included a largely successful effort to enlist the support of the nomadic Indian tribes of Mexico del Norte and Arizona, and to develop Mexican agriculture and mining with the help of loans from the French.
Jackson's prestige as the founder of the U.S.M. was such that he was easily able to defeat his Libertarian challenger, Governor Leslie Folger of Jefferson, in the 1827 Mexican elections. However, Jackson's hostility towards the British Confederation of North America and his opposition to industrialization alienated important Anglo interests, and the Libertarians were able to take advantage to mount a serious challenge to Jackson in the 1833 elections under the leadership of Senator Miguel Huddleston, a Hispanicized Anglo who had settled in Durango. Jackson was able to defeat the Libertarians and win a third term in 1833, but Huddleston's leadership and political acumen allowed him to build the Liberty Party into a power to be reckoned with.
Jackson suffered from age and illness in his third term, and his development projects were curtailed due to the Panic of 1836. Jefferson's domination of the U.S.M. was reduced by risiing citizenship rates among Mexicanos, and by the discovery of gold in California in 1838. When Jackson chose to retire in 1839, the Continentalist caucus in Congress nominated John Mason, a Jeffersonian planter who had traveled to California shortly after the gold discovery and made a quick fortune in the gold fields. Mason's campaign was little more than an echo of the Libertarians under Huddleston, and the 1839 Mexican elections resulted in a narrow victory in both the Senate and the Assembly for the Liberty Party.
Huddleston's victory, along with the fall in cotton prices, which had never recovered from the Panic of 1836, left the Jeffersonian Continentalists dispirited and adrift. Their fortunes had reached a low ebb at their state convention in Henrytown during the week of 5 May 1843, when former Secretary of Agriculture Homer Brown was reduced to making an unconvincing prediction of rising cotton prices. However, on the convention's third day, Assemblyman Pedro Hermión of Lafayette gave a rousing speech in which he warned of the existential threat posed by the newly-unified C.N.A.
"At first glance it appears North America is a large place," Hermión said, "with room enough for all. But the C.N.A. and the U.S.M. are both inhabited by aggressive and expansionist peoples. Within a few years this great expanse will seem small indeed, as we meet in the waters of the Gulf and along the Jefferson-Vandalia border. At this point the scorpions will meet in combat, with only the one victor. I mean that victor to be Mexico, and I believe only the Continentalist Party, revived and restored, can lead the nation to such a destiny!"
In fifteen minutes, Hermión had given the Continentalist Party a new program, and a new leader. He began making plans for the upcoming 1845 Mexican elections, and after gaining a Senate seat the following year, took command of the party from his office in Mexico City. Hermión's task was made easier, and Huddleston's harder, by the growing clashes between Mexican and North American miners in the disputed Broken Arrow region between Vandalia and Mexico del Norte. By the time of the elections in August 1845, armed bands from both nations were attacking each other, and Hermión was warning of "the coming struggle for the continent." On election day, the Continentalists increased their numbers in the Senate from seven to fourteen, and on 5 September Hermión was elevated to the presidency.
News soon reached Mexico City that a clash between the armed forces of the two nations had occurred the day before Hermión's inauguration, and that the war Hermión had foreseen had finally come. Over the next six years, Hermión employed a defensive strategy, allowing the harsh terrain and fierce Indian tribes of the northern Rockies fend off a series of invasion attempts. However, Governor-General Henry Gilpin sought to deliver a crushing blow by sending two armies numbering 140,000 men west from Vandalia, meaning to seize the Californian goldfields, and the state capital of San Francisco. The result was the Battle of Williams Pass, a months-long struggle through the winter months of 1850 and 1851 that devastated the armed forces of both nations.
When news reached Mexico City of the hopeless slaughter in the mountains, public opinion turned against the war, and against Hermión's conduct of it. The President survived a series of assassination attempts, until he was killed in the Capitol Building on 19 June 1851 after delivering an address to Congress promising to pursue the war to victory. The Senate chose Hermión's former Secretary of State, Senator Raphael Blaine, to serve as Acting President until the August elections, and the Continentalist caucus nominated him for president. The anti-war mood of the nation led to a Libertarian victory, with the Liberty Party winning 15 Senate seats and 52 Assembly seats, and the Libertarian nominee, Assemblyman Hector Niles of California, became President.
Reform and Corporate ControlEdit
Niles was able to negotiate a peace treaty with the North Americans in 1855, at the cost of ceding some territory in Mexico del Norte. He was immediately attacked by the Continentalists for concluding "a questionable peace with a dastardly foe," as Benito Calzón put it. Hermión's death had made him a national hero, and the Continentalists ran on his memory in the 1857 elections. Governor Arthur Conroy of Arizona, who had been Hermión's political advisor, was able to win the nomination with the support of the Jefferson cotton planters, and on election day the Continentalists won back control of the Congress, winning 14 Senate seats and 59 Assembly seats.
As President, Conroy pursued many of the reforms advocated by the Libertarians, establishing a railroad control commission, and passing a Harbors Act to improve ports along the Pacific and Gulf coasts. He also attempted to improve diplomatic relations with the C.N.A. and the Germanic Confederation. After winning re-election in 1863, Conroy's reform agenda became more ambitious, winning passage of the Presidential Election Amendment in 1864 to provide for direct election of the president. The following year, Conroy won passage of two more Constitutional amendments, reapportioning Assembly seats and streamlining the legislative process.
Conroy's reforms won him the opposition of two rising business magnates, Bernard Kramer of the San Francisco-based Kramer Associates, and the Jeffersonian petroleum baron Monte Benedict. In 1866 both men called for Mexican expansion to the south, and for the building of an inter-oceanic canal through Guatemala. By the time of the 1869 Mexican elections, the two men had joined forces to take control of the Continentalist Party, gaining the presidential nomination for Kramer's man Senator Omar Kinkaid, and spending lavishly to win Kinkaid the election.
Kinkaid was unconcerned about the control exerted on the Mexican political system by his patrons. When Kramer funded a coup d'etat in Guatemala in March 1870, Kinkaid quickly recognized the new government, and raised no objections when K.A. was awarded a concession to build a canal. However, popular opposition to Kramer and Benedict was growing, especially among radical Mexicanos who had been enfranchised by Conroy's electoral reforms. In the 1875 Mexican elections, the Liberty Party split between the radical Mexicano Senator Carlos Concepción of Chiapas, who founded the Workers' Coalition, and the more moderate Governor Thomas Rogers of Arizona. When Kinkaid won a second term through corporate funding, Concepción launched a guerrilla movement called the Moralistas aimed at overthrowing the national government and seizing control of Mexico from the Anglos.
Kinkaid was shaken out of his complacency by the Moralista movement, and he began to take up Conroy's reforms and sought to distance himself from Kramer and Benedict. Kinkaid was able to pass some reforms with the assistance of Rogers and the Libertarians, but the Moralista attacks grew worse, while Kramer and Benedict used their influence to block further reforms. Finally, Kinkaid was assassinated by a thrown bomb during a parade on 7 December 1879.Kinkaid's successor, Senator George Vining of Jefferson, created a secret police force called the Constabulary to combat the Moralistas, placing Pedro Hermión's son Benito Hermión in command. Hermión succeeded in containing the Moralistas, and the attacks subsided until the summer of 1881, when Constabulary agents raided the Workers' Coalition's national convention in Palenque, Chiapas, killing dozens of delegates. This set off a general uprising among the Mexicanos, in the midst of which Vining suffered a fatal heart attack on 12 September 1881. Prompted by Kramer and Benedict, Benito Hermión made himself dictator of Mexico.
When Hermión was eventually deposed by Kramer's successor, Diego Cortez y Catalán, in 1901, democratic government was restored to Mexico. Although the newly-elected President, Anthony Flores, was a former Continentalist Senator who had been exiled by Hermión, he chose not to revive the Continentalist Party, instead creating a new United Mexican Party.
Sobel's sources for the Continentalist Party are Soames Greeley's The Continentalists: The Leadership and the Doctrines (London, 1939); Mortimer Dow's The Giants of Mexico: The Political Maneuverings of Kramer and Benedict in the Industrial Era (Mexico City, 1950); David Cristman's The Origins of Political Parties in Jefferson (Mexico City, 1960); and Herbert Brinkerhoff's Mexico's Political Revolution (New York, 1964) and The Price of a Man: Oil and Produce in Mexican Politics (Mexico City, 1970).
This was the Featured Article for the week of 18 May 2014.