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Santa-Anna’s 1835 Centralist Constitution: The Beginning of the End

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419.     MEXICO (Republic). CONSTITUTION. Bases y leyes constitucionales de la República Mexicana, decretados por el Congreso General de la nación en el año de 1836. Mexico: Imprenta del Águila, dirigida por José Ximeno, calle de Medinas núm. 6, 1837. [1-3] 4-127 [1, blank] pp. 12mo (14.3 x 10.1 cm), unbound and stitched, as issued. Title page moderately stained, a few leaves lightly dog-eared, final blank with a small stain, otherwise very good. With dark blue ink ownership stamp of Ramón G. Daza, February 19, 1879, Puebla, on the title page.

     Probably the first edition with both the constitution and the follow-up provisions, printed by Mexico’s official printer. The Constitution ends on p. 99; the remainder of the work is taken up with various laws in a section entitled “Artículos transitorios,” the most recent one of which is dated January 24, 1837. Sabin 48303. Streeter Sale 238. This constitution revoked the 1824 federalist constitution, abolished state legislatures, and appointed governors and other officials at Santa-Anna’s whim. It was one of the documents that caused the Texas Revolution because of the discontent it incited. Based on Santa-Anna’s desires, the “Siete Leyes” herein codified and passed on December 15, 1835, made him basically a dictator, and he used those powers to begin to crush various revolts that had broken out, including those in Texas and Zacatecas, which had revolted partly in response to Santa-Anna’s assumptions of broad powers. See Arthur H. Noll, From Empire to Republic: The Story of the Struggle for Constitutional Government in Mexico (Chicago: McClurg, 1903), p. 132: “The openly avowed opinion that Congress had power to change the Constitution at will, and without consulting the several State legislatures or the wishes of the people, was vigorously combated by several of the Mexican States. They asserted their purpose of taking up arms for the reestablishment of the Constitution of 1824. None of them were successful, however, save one, Texas.”

     “The change to centralism provided the pretext for the Anglo-American settlers in Texas to rise up and declare independence from Mexico” (Timothy E. Anna, Forging Mexico 1821-1835, University of Nebraska Press, 2001, p. 261). One of the more measured responses to this new constitution was that of Stephen F. Austin, who in his superb letter of January 7, 1836, to Mary Austin Holley, states in part: “By the last accounts the Central Government is established, and the Federal system totally destroyed. The Texans may, therefore, for the future, be considered as independent people, entirely separate from Mexico.”

     Under the Primera Ley are outlined the qualifications, rights, and responsibilities of Mexican citizens. Article 12 deals specifically with outsiders who have been introduced into the country and limits their freedoms until they have met certain qualifications, such as rendering them unable to acquire property until they have been naturalized. Texas colonists, however, are reserved special treatment: “Las adquisiciones de colonizadores, sujetarán á las reglas especiales de colonización.” That clause allowed numerous laws and decrees that affected Texas particularly and served to inflame the colony against Mexico and Santa-Anna. For example, on December 30, 1835, barely two weeks after the new Constitution was passed, Santa-Anna engineered a law that stated foreigners caught in arms on Mexican soil would be treated as pirates (i.e., summarily executed). He used that law to justify the massacres of both the Alamo survivors and Fannin’s command.

     This constitution was in force until the 1857 version, which was reminiscent of the original 1824 document. This is an important background document for understanding the Texas Revolution.


Sold. Hammer: $600.00; Price Realized: $720.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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