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Chapter XXVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5


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At the end of the letter the inglorious conclusion of the great Mexican enterprise is thus plainly stated: "To sum up, I see by your letter that you have quite understood what were my intentions, which are to leave Mexico as soon as possible, while protecting our dignity and French interests as much as possible."

A note, jointly signed by Marshal Bazaine, Castelnau, and M. Dano, the French Minister, was presented to Maximilian on the 8th December, strongly urging him to abdicate. But the Austrian officers and friends whom he had around him persuaded him that it was beneath the dignity of a Prince of so great a lineage to abandon an enterprise seriously undertaken at the first frowns of Fortune, and to skulk out of the country at the heels of the departing French army. They might well say to him: " You came not here as a conqueror, but as a benefactor; not, so far as you knew, against, but in compliance with, the will of the Mexican people; not forced on them by the sword, but elected by their free vote. If all along you have been deceived, and now are sacrificed and betrayed, those who deceived you will have to answer for it to God and at the bar of history; for yourself, the blood of the Hapsburgs that runs in your veins precludes you from recoiling from danger at the price of dishonour." Moreover, in Mexico itself there were found men whose better impulses were aroused by this spectacle of " a good man struggling with the storms of fate." A part of the Conservative party, with Miramon and Marquez at their head, joined him at this time, and placed a considerable body of troops at his disposal. Unfortunately, most of the bishops, and the clergy following their example, still held aloof. But the adhesion of Miramon shed a ray of hope over the future, and Maximilian determined to continue the resistance.

In November and December, 1866, the French troops were all concentrated at Mexico and Vera Cruz; in January the embarkation was commenced, and by the 5th February it was completed. Surely, if the promises of the French Emperor three years before are compared with this performance, it may be said that the injunction of the Psalmist, " Put not your trust in princes," never received more signal testimony to its soundness.

Left to himself, Maximilian showed no lack of courage or energy. Early in January, 1867, he had sent Miramon with 6,000 men into the northern provinces, to repel the advancing Juarists. But the imperialists were utterly defeated (January 27) in the battle of San Jacinto; Miramon fled to Potosi, whence he proceeded, with the remains - about 3,000 men - of his beaten army, to the fortified town of Queretaro, a place distant about 130 miles from the capital, in a north-westerly direction. Here he found another imperialist general, Mejia. No place of strength was now left to the Emperor, besides the capital, but Puebla, "Vera Cruz, and Queretaro. The population everywhere retained a passive attitude, waiting to see on Which side the fortune of arms would incline. It would seem that Maximilian ought in prudence to have adopted one of two courses - either to strengthen himself as much as possible in Mexico, and there await attack; or gather together all his remaining forces, including the fifteen hundred faithful Austrian? who formed his body-guard, and boldly assume the offensive. Maximilian, however, adopted - as vacillating men usually do - a middle course; he could not endure the thought of waiting in Mexico till he was attacked, and yet he deemed it rash to hazard all upon an aggressive movement; so he marched from Mexico with 6,000 men to join Miramon at Queretaro, leaving his best support, the Austrian Legion, to protect his capital. He entered Queretaro on the 19th February. Here he was soon after surrounded and besieged by the forces of the Liberals, under Escobedo and other leaders. The imperialists made a number of brilliant sorties with uniform success; yet they could not compel the Juarists to relinquish the siege. Provisions began to fall short, and the Emperor (March 17) sent Marquez, chief of the staff, out of the place, at the head of 1,200 men, with orders to return with fresh supplies of men, food, and money. Marquez cut his way out through the enemy's lines, but never returned to Queretaro. After the 24th March there was no more meat in the place. During April and the early days of May the garrison still held out, but short rations and the necessity for continual fighting and constant watchfulness had terribly reduced their strength. On the 14th May, a council of war was held presided over by the Emperor, at which it was decided that a general attack should be directed the following day against the lines of the besiegers, there being now no choice between raising the siege by force and dying of hunger. On that night, whether by treason or negligence, Juarist soldiers obtained admission into the town, which at daybreak was in the full possession of the enemy. Maximilian, Miramon, and Mejia were made prisoners.

Meantime, Marquez had entered Mexico, and summoned to his standard the troops composing the garrison, including the Austrians and Belgians of the body-guard, besides a number of Frenchmen, who from one cause or other had not quitted the country along with the main body of their countrymen. But instead of hastening to the relief of the Emperor, Marquez led his army in the direction of Puebla, which was then surrounded and pressed hard by the troops of Porfirio Diaz, intending to raise the siege. On the way he learnt that the place had fallen, and immediately retraced his steps. Before he could reach Mexico he was attacked by the Juarists, at San Lorenzo (April 8), and after three days of irregular fighting was defeated. With the broken remains of his army he succeeded in escaping to Mexico, where he assumed supreme power with the title of Lieutenant-General of the Empire.

The fate of the fallen Emperor was not long delayed. The representatives of all the foreign Powers at Washington, having no other means of obtaining access to Juarez, entreated the intervention of the United States to save at least the life of Maximilian. Mr. Seward intervened accordingly, but does not appear to have done so with urgency. The Juarists observed the form and ceremony which are usual with civilised nations; they appointed, with no indecent hurry, a day for the trial of the fallen Emperor, and he had the advantage of the zealous services of two distinguished Mexican advocates. The trial, by court-martial, was held at Queretaro, and on the 13th June, 1867, Maximilian was condemned. The prolonged resistance of Mexico, where Marquez commanded in his name, perhaps contributed to seal his fate. Another cause may be found in the fury with which many of the Mexicans were inspired by the military executions of which Marshal Bazaine had made their friends the victims under the decree, or law, of October, 1865. We have it on the testimony of Prince Salm-Salm, First Aide-de- Camp and Chief of the Household of Maximilian, that Bazaine himself prepared the draft of this decree, and persuaded the Emperor, much against his will, to sign it. The same authority states that the Emperor intended the decree to be put in force only against robbers and brigands; and that, to ensure this, he ordered that no executions should take place under it except with his special confirmation; and that the persons executed with such confirmation were exclusively persons of that character. But Prince Salm-Salm thinks it very probable that Marshal Bazaine put the decree in force when and against whom he pleased, and without consulting the Emperor; upon whom, nevertheless, the vindictive hatred aroused by the summary executions would naturally be concentrated. On the 19th June the sentence was carried into execution. Maximilian faced the firing party with calmness and fortitude, and met his death like a hero. Miramon and Mejia displayed an equal courage. The following particulars, taken from the "Diary" of Prince Salm-Salm, will be read with interest. The Emperor had attended mass and received the last sacraments early in the morning, and had afterwards been brought in a fiacre, attended only by the priest, Father Soria, and his Hungarian servant Tudos, to the place of execution, a rocky hill outside of the town called Cerro de La Campana. Miramon and Mejia were placed beside him. " An officer and seven men now stepped forward, until within a few yards before each of the three condemned. The Emperor went up to those before him, gave each soldier his hand and a Maximilian louis d'or (twenty pesos), and said, 'Muchachos (boys), aim well, aim right here,' pointing with his hand to his heart. Then he returned to his stand, took off his hat, and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. This and his hat he gave to Tudos, with the order to take them to his mother, the Archduchess Sophia. Then he spoke with a clear and firm voice the following words: -

" ' Mexicans! persons of my rank and origin are destined by God either to be benefactors of the people or martyrs. Called by a great part of you, I came hither for the good of the country. Ambition did not bring me here; I came animated with the best wishes for the future of my adopted country, and for that of my soldiers, whom I thank, before my death, for the sacrifices they made for me. Mexicans! may my blood be the last which shall be spilt for the welfare of the country; and if it be necessary that its sons should still shed theirs, may it flow for its good, but never by treason. Viva independence! Viva Mexico!'

" Looking around, the Emperor noticed, not far from him, a group of men and women who sobbed aloud. He looked at them with a mild and friendly smile, then he laid both his hands on his breast, and looked forward. Five shots were fired, and the Emperor fell on his right side, whispering slowly the word ' Hombre.' All the bullets had pierced his body, and each of them was deadly; but the Emperor still moved slightly. The officer laid him on his back, and pointed with the point of his sword on the Emperor's heart. A soldier then stepped forward, and sent another bullet into the spot indicated."

The resistance of Marquez could not be prolonged after the Emperor's death, and Mexico opened its gates to the Juarists on the 20th June. The Liberals used their victory with moderation. No excesses were committed; no vindictive executions ordered; the Europeans who had become prisoners of war were well treated, and finally set at liberty. Juarez was definitively re-elected President of the Mexican Republic in October of the same year.

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Pictures for Chapter XXVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5

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Naval review at Spithead
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International Exhibition at Paris, 1867
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