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Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States
Portada Constitucion 1857.png
Original front of the 1857 Constitution
RatifiedFebruary 5, 1857
LocationMuseo Nacional de las Intervenciones
Author(s)1857 Constituent Congress
Signatories1857 Constituent Congress
PurposeNational constitution to replace 1824 Constitution

The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857 (Spanish: Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos de 1857) often called simply the Constitution of 1857 is the liberal constitution drafted by 1857 Constituent Congress of Mexico during the presidency of Ignacio Comonfort. It was ratified on February 5, 1857,[1] establishing individual rights such as freedom of speech; freedom of conscience; freedom of the press; freedom of assembly; and the right to bear arms. It also reaffirmed the abolition of slavery, eliminated debtor prison, and eliminated all forms of cruel and unusual punishment, including the death penalty.

Some articles were contrary to the interests of the Catholic Church, such as education free of dogma, the removal of institutional fueros (privileges) and the sale of property belonging to the church. The Conservative Party strongly opposed the enactment of the new constitution and this polarized Mexican society. The Reform War began as a result, and the struggles between liberals and conservatives were intensified with the implementation of the Second Mexican Empire under the support of the church.[2] Years later, with the restored republic, the Constitution was in force throughout the country until 1917.

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In 1824, Mexican liberals finally crafted the form of government they had been fighting to attain since the beginning of their revolution in 1810. With Agustín de Iturbide now out of the way, leaders began reorganizing the system along federalist-liberal lines. They envisioned an arrangement that allowed significant regional sovereignty, while keeping the central government comparatively feeble. During the autumn of 1823 through January, 1824, delegates from the various Mexican states gathered to indorse a national charter. On October 4, 1824, that document became part of Mexico’s first constitution, the Federal Constitution of the United States of Mexico. Among the signatories of that historic contract was Tejano delegate Juan José María Erasmo Seguín. The Constitution of 1824 owed much to its predecessors. It mirrored the United States Constitution of 1787, but it also drew from the 1812 Spanish Constitution of Cadiz. A liberal document, by Spanish standards, the Cadiz charter greatly influenced many state and federal officials. Undercutting Mexico City’s traditional influence, the 1824 Constitution sanctioned state participation in national matters but allowed for greater regional self-rule. Hypothetically, it removed distinctions between all races and castes. Mexican politicians learned, however, that it was easier to eliminate such divisions on paper than in hearts and minds. Allegedly, eradicating class differences, the 1824 Constitution nevertheless retained special privileges—or fueros—for clergymen and soldiers. While pledging freedom of speech, it incongruously recognized but one religion: Roman Catholicism. Despite those inconsistencies, most Mexicans believed their new constitution was a vast improvement over all previous legislation and augured a brighter future. Yet, others had no faith in the new government. The conservative centralistas asserted that Mexico could never achieve true unity unless, and until, the central government consolidated authority. Their liberal rivals—the federalistas—countered that unless the individual states seized the lion’s share of power, the wealthy , the church, and the military would strangle the infant republic in its crib. Federalists, moreover, supported American colonization for the economic growth it fostered; the centralists opposed it. Labels can create confusion. In American history, “federalists” were men like James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay who supported a powerful central government. Quite the opposite, Mexican federalists advocated strong state governments but a weak central regime. The two factions never organized into formal political parties. Rather, they were communities of interest with profound philosophical differences. In 1824, Mexicans were still trying to find their footing and forge a national identity. The centralists and federalists nurtured vastly different visions of what Mexico should be and each sought to define the national soul. Their altercations shaped Mexican politics for the next four decades and placed Texas on the path toward revolution. Back in Texas, American colonists read Mexican proclamations with mixed emotions. During the Spanish colonial period, the province of Tejas—which one disgusted official reviled as “more remote than Lapland”—had proven an administrative nightmare. It was, furthermore, a nightmare that the Mexican congress had inherited. On May 7, 1824, it addressed the problem by simply fusing the troublesome region with Coahuila to establish the hybrid state of Coahuila y Tejas. Yet, it neglected to stipulate a border, leaving the question of Texas’s southwestern limits wholly unanswered. Erasmo Seguín resisted the legislation and attempted to maintain a separate identity for Tejas. Yet, the citizens of Coahuila, who greatly outnumbered those in Texas, easily brushed aside Seguín’s opposition. On August 18, officials approved a federal colonization law. Respecting one of the major tenants of Mexican federalism, it allowed states considerable latitude in administering immigration within their own boundaries. The law did, however impose some restrictions. Foreigners, for example, could not reside within thirty miles of the coast; neither could they settle within sixty miles of the international (read United States) border. Mexican federalists may have supported American immigration, but they did not entirely trust the Americans. In the main, the Constitution of 1824 delighted American settlers—and for good reason. The heirs of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison could not help but approve that Mexico had adopted a constitutional republic. At first glance, the differences between the American Constitution of 1787 and the Mexican Constitution of 1824 seemed trivial. It was true that the Mexican congress, not the people, elected the president. Nor did the new constitution recognize separation of church and state, a principle Americans greatly valued. But these disparities were mere irritants, not deal breakers. Stephen F. Austin and his Anglo-American colonists placed their hopes in the promises of Mexican federalism—as did native Mexicans. During the years of Spanish rule, communal loyalty to a distant sovereign and a sanctioned religion provided a sense of political and cultural continuity. Yet, independence had undermined or, in some cases, entirely shattered those ties. Worse yet, nothing had emerged to take their place. Mexicans who lived beyond the boundaries of Mexico City identified with their own region—la patria chica they called it (“the little homeland”). The illiterate ninety-nine percent of the population found it difficult to even comprehend the concept of a nation-state. For them, federalism meant that each state would determine its own destiny without interference from a far-flung central government. As Anglo-American settlers interpreted the ruling, they had official sanction to recreate American culture and traditions inside Texas.



Having overthrown the dictatorship of Antonio López de Santa Anna in 1855, liberal leader Juan Nepomuceno Álvarez Hurtado held the presidency for a short period. According to the established in Plan of Ayutla convened the Constituent Congress on October 16 the same year, in order to establish headquarters in Dolores Hidalgo to draft a new constitution of liberal ideology. The following year, the incumbent president, Ignacio Comonfort, endorsed the call for moving the headquarters to Mexico City.[3]

The Congress was divided between two main factions. The larger being the moderate liberals whose plan was to restore the Constitution of 1824 with some changes. It included prominent figures like Mariano Arizcorreta, Marcelino Castañeda, Joaquín Cardoso and Pedro Escudero y Echánove. The opposition was the pure liberals,[4] who wanted to make a complete new version of the constitution. Among them were Ponciano Arriaga, Guillermo Prieto, Francisco Zarco, José María Mata and Santos Degollado. The discussions were heated and lasted over a year.[3]

President Comonfort interfered, through its ministers in favor of the moderate faction, which he preferred.[5] Despite opposition from the executive branch and to be minority, 'pure liberals ensured that their proposals were included: the prohibition of purchase of property by ecclesiastical corporations, the exclusion of the clergy in public office, the abolition of ecclesiastical and military fueros[a] (Juárez Law), and freedom of religion.

These reforms were contrary to the interests of the Catholic Church. During the course of sessions in Congress, an insurrection in favor of the clergy supported by conservative, the staunchest opponents of the Liberals, gathered force in Zacapoaxtla and Puebla. Comonfort sent federal troops, and the rebels were subjected.[6]

Finally, the Constitution was promulgated on February 5, 1857,[7] under the threats of the clergy that who swore the Constitution would be excommunicated.[8]


The Constitution of 1857 consisted of 8 titles and 128 articles, was similar to the 1824 Constitution, federalism and representative republic was again implemented, which consisted of 23 states, a territory and the federal district. Supported the autonomy of municipalities in which each state was divided politically. The most relevant articles were:

  • 2. Abolition of slavery. (Ratification, the Decree of Abolition of Slavery was made on September 15, 1829)[9]
  • 3. Free tuition (no limit in favor of dogma or religion).
  • 5. Freedom of vocation, a ban on contracts with loss of freedom for the sake of work, education or religious vows.
  • 7. Freedom of speech.
  • 10. Right to bear arms.
  • 13. Prohibition of privileges to individuals or institutions, elimination of special courts (Juarez Law).
  • 12. Titles of nobility are not recognized.
  • 22. Prohibition of punishment by mutilation, beatings, branding, flogging, beating with sticks, torture of any kind, excessive fines, or the confiscation of goods.
  • 23. Abolition of death penalty is reserved only for traitor to the homeland, highwaymen, arsonists, parricide and homicide with the aggravating circumstance of treachery, premeditation or advantage. As well as crimes of the military or piracy.
  • 27. No civil or ecclesiastical corporation has the capacity to acquire and manage real estate, except buildings to service or purpose of the institution (Lerdo Law).
  • 30. Definition of Mexican nationality.
  • 31. Obligations of the Mexicans.
  • 36. Obligations of citizens.
  • 39. The sovereignty of the nation comes from the people.
  • 50. Division of powers: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
  • 124. Prohibition on internal customs checkpoints.
  • 128. Inviolability of the Constitution.

Among other things, included a chapter on individual guarantees, and judicial proceedings to protect those rights known as amparo. (created, used and endorsed by the Republic of Yucatán, now, state of Yucatán)[10]

Despite the Texas case, some Deputies proposed a law granting certain rights to foreign colonization arguing that the country needed to be settled, the law was rejected.[3]


At the time of the promulgation of the constitution, the nation was composed of 23 states and one federal territory. Nuevo León merges with Coahuila adopting the latter name, besides, ratified the creation of a new state and admitted three of the four territories as free states of the federation.

Map of Mexico under the Constitution of 1857 The 23 states of the federation were:

States admitted by the Constitution of 1824 were::[11]

Order Name Order Name
Nuevo León
San Luis Potosí

New state created::

Order Name Date of Admission
to the Federation
Installation date
of the Congress
27-10-1849[12] 30-01-1850

States admitted in 1857:

Order Name Date of Admission
to the Federation
Installation date
of the Congress
09-12-1856[13] 01-06-1857
09-12-1856[14][15] 19-07-1857

The only federal territory was: Baja California, Mexico City was called state of Valley of Mexico, but only if the powers of the Federation to move to another site. On February 26, 1864, Nuevo León was separated from Coahuila and regained its status as free state.[17]


On December, 1856, Pope Pius IX spoke out against the new Constitution, criticizing the Juarez Law and Lerdo Law. In March 1857 the Archbishop José Lázaro de la Garza y Ballesteros, stated that Catholics could not swear allegiance to the Constitution on pain of excommunication.[3][18]

Justice Minister Ezequiel Montes met in the Holy See with Cardinal Secretary of State. The pope accepted the Ley Juárez and disposals of Lerdo Law, but demanded the ability to acquire political rights. The negotiations were interrupted by the resignation of President Comonfort.[3]

It began to gestate a coup, General conservative Felix Maria Zuloaga promoted through several writings his repudiation to the Constitution. On December 17, 1857 was proclaimed the Plan of Tacubaya which aimed to repeal the Constitution and convene a new Constitutional Congress; in other words, a coup against the Congress and the Constitution. Several ministers of Presidential Cabinet resigned. President of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, Benito Juárez, and the President of Congress, Isidoro Olvera, were taken prisoner.

On December 19, President Ignacio Comonfort adhered to the plan saying: "I just change my legal title of president, by those of revolutionary miserable".[3] States of México, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Tlaxcala and Veracruz annexed to the Plan Tacubaya. This last state changed side, through a revolution and switched to the Liberal side; the event was a major strategic blow against Comonfort. Without alternative, Comonfort had to resort to the pure and released Juarez and other political prisoners. On January 11, 1858, Comonfort decided to resign, with a guard went to Veracruz, and on February 7 sailed to the United States. Benito Juárez took office on January 21, 1858.[19]


Alegoría de la Constitución de 1857, Petronilo Monroy, 1869.
Alegoría de la Constitución de 1857, Petronilo Monroy, 1869.

The Conservatives refused to recognize Juarez and was forced to move the Liberal government to Guanajuato. Felix Zuloaga established a Conservative Government in Mexico City; through the promulgation of Five Laws (Spanish: Cinco Leyes) repealed the liberal reforms. Thus began Reform War.

States of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Colima and Veracruz supported the liberal government of Benito Juarez and the constitution of 1857. States of México, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Chihuahua, Durango, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, Chiapas, Sonora, Sinaloa, Oaxaca and Yucatán supported the conservative government of Zuloaga.[19]

After the Liberal government won the Reform War, President Juarez and his government added to the Constitution of 1857, the Reform Laws that had been enacted in Veracruz. Because of the war, the Constitution remained without effect on almost all the country until January, 1861, when the Liberals returned to the capital. On 1862, as a result of Franco-Mexican War and the establishment of Second Mexican Empire, the validity of the Constitution was again suspended. On 1867 the government of Juarez overthrew the Empire, restore the Republic[20] and the Constitution took effect in the country again.

Repeal and the Constitution of 1917

On February 5, 1903 in protest against the regime of Porfirio Díaz a liberal group placed on the balcony of the newspaper's offices El hijo de El Ahuizote a great black curly for mourning with the legend "The Constitution is dead," a precursor of many that eventually trigger the Mexican Revolution on 1910, that overthrew Diaz and end with the enactment of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1917 during the government of Venustiano Carranza.


  • ^a The fueros were privileges that kept the military and clergy to forbade members of these two groups were judged by the law, which effectively put them above the law and that no matter what kind of crime they committed, could not be judged, or in the best cases judged by special courts.

See also


  1. ^ "Día de la Constitución Mexicana" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2003-08-11.
  2. ^ Martin Quirarte. "Visión panorámica de la historia de México". Librería Porrúa Hnos y Cia, S. A. 27a. edición 1995. México, D. F. Pág. 170-171.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Tena Ramírez, Felipe Op.cit. capítulo "La Constitución de 1857"
  4. ^ Reyes Heroles, Jesús Op.cit. p.200 : "On December 14, 1838 a popular movement emerged in Mexico City that invades the National Palace acting against the constituted authorities and according to Bocanegra, under the slogan of ¡We want tailless Constitution and pure Federation!. From this comes, by the same author, the title of pure, which met the radical sector of the Mexican liberals (according to the book in 1858, was popular advises that pure going forward, the moderate did not move and conservative went backward)".
  5. ^ "El Liberalismo Moderado en México" (in Spanish).
  6. ^ Valadés, Diego; Carbonell, Miguel Op.cit. "Fernado Zertuche Muñoz" p.865-867
  7. ^ "El Congreso Constituyente a la Nación al proclamar la nueva Constitución Federal" (in Spanish).
  8. ^ "El clero, intolerante, amenaza a quienes juren la constitución" (in Spanish).
  9. ^ "El presidente Vicente Guerrero expide un decreto para abolir la esclavitud" (in Spanish).
  10. ^ "El Juicio de Amparo" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  11. ^ "Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos" (in Spanish).
  12. ^ "Portal Estado de Guerrero" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  13. ^ "Portal Gobierno del Estado de Tlaxcala" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2009-12-27.
  14. ^ "Portal Ciudadano de Baja California" (in Spanish).
  15. ^ "el Comentario" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2010-08-10.
  16. ^ "Gobierno del Estado de Yucatán" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2010-04-11.
  17. ^ "Información turística INEGI" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2011-07-22.
  18. ^ Paul Vanderwood, "Betterment for Whom? The Reform Period: 1855-1875" in The Oxford History of Mexico, Michael C. Meyer and William H. Beezley, eds. New York: Oxford University Press 2000, p. 373.
  19. ^ a b El Colegio de México, Op.cit. p.597-598
  20. ^ "La República Restaurada. Una década en busca de un nuevo Estado" (in Spanish).

Further reading

  • Brian Hamnett, "The Comonfort presidency, 1855-1857," Bulletin of Latin American Research (1996) 15#1 pp 81–100 in JSTOR
  • Frank A. Knapp, Jr., "Parliamentary Government and the Mexican Constitution of 1857: A Forgotten Phase of Mexican Political History," Hispanic American Historical Review (1953) 33#1 pp. 65–87 in JSTOR
  • Scholes, Walter V. "Church and State at the Mexican Constitutional Convention, 1856-1857" The Americas, vol. 5, no. 1.
  • Scholes, Walter V. Mexican Politics during the Juárez Regime 1855-1872 (University of Missouri Press, 1957)
  • Sinkin, Richard N. The Mexican Reform, 1856-1876:A Study in Liberal Nation-Building (University of Texas Press, 1979)

In Spanish

  • Cosío Villegas, Daniel. La constitución de 1857 y sus críticos. Mexico City: SepSetentas 98, 1973.
  • Guerra, François-Xavier, México: del antiguo régimen a la revolución. Vol. 1. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica 1988.
  • El Colegio de México (2009) Historia general de México, versión 2000 capítulo "El liberalismo militante", Lilia Díaz, México, ed.El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Históricos, ISBN 968-12-0969-9
  • Reyes Heroles, Jesús (2002) Los caminos de la historia, edición de Eugenia Meyer, México, ed.Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, ISBN 978-968-36-9350-1 texto en la web consultado 3 de noviembre de 2009
  • Rabasa, Emilio. La constitución y la dictadura: Estudio sobre la organización política de México. Mexico City: Porrúa 1974.
  • Ruiz Castañeda, María del Carmen. La prensa periódicoa en torno a la Constitución de 1857. Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales, UNAM 1959.
  • Tena Ramírez, Felipe (1997) Leyes fundamentales de México 1808-1992 México, ed.Porrúa ISBN 978-968-432-011-6 texto en la web consultado el 23 de octubre de 2009
  • Valadés, Diego; Carbonell, Miguel (2007) El proceso constituyente mexicano: a 150 años de la Constitución de 1857 y 90 de la Constitución de 1917, "El congreso constituyente de 1856-1857: el decenio de su entorno" Fernando Zertuche Muñoz, México, ed.Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, ISBN 978-970-32-3930-6 texto en la web consultado el 23 de octubre de 2009

External links

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