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CHAPTER IX:
THE MEXICAN PRESIDIO AT TUBAC

A. 5. The Problems of Independence

While the momentum of the Spanish colonial system carried the frontier provinces along peacefully and enjoyably for approximately a decade, numerous very serious problems faced independent Mexico if peace and prosperity were to be preserved past the period of grace when the momentum was used up.

a. Attrition in Officers. One of the problems faced by Mexico, and particularly in the frontier companies, soon became the replacement of skilled and experienced officers. While Mexico was extremely fortunate in having its pre-independence officer corps nearly intact, it had to solve the problem of replacement beginning immediately. There had been a few officers who remained loyal to their king and returned to Spain, creating vacancies which had to be filled. Next there was the fact that however much the creoles may have resented the Peninsular-born officers constantly sent to New Spain to fill high positions, those officers had supplied a significant 542proportion of the top commanders. With independence they came no longer, so those top command posts had to be filled by promoting junior officers-one of the goals of the revolution. Institution of republican forms of government siphoned more well-known officers off into the national and state legislatures, along with bishops and similar experienced leaders. These promotions and departures created vacancies for junior officers, and their promotions created gaps in the lower ranks for which new officers of less experience and frequently less ability had to be recruited. There had, moreover, always been a stream of emigration from Spain or other colonial possessions to New Spain which included a significant number of upper class Spaniards whose gentlemanly class status allowed them no career outside the armed forces, big business or the church. The Sonoran provincial elite had been founded by just such Spanish emigres and reinforced by later additions such as the García Condes and Narbonas. Now as Mexico barred loyal subjects of the Spanish king in order to safeguard its newly won independence, it necessar-ily shut off this traditional source of officers.

The net effect of this attrition of trained officers, while it may have been democratizing was also a gradual deterioration of quality in the presidial officer corps. As officers of the Elías Gonzalez family moved into command positions at the provincial level in keeping with their socio-political status in the provincial elite, they left vacant the presidial commands where their socio-political prominence 543had been won and from which they had run the province at a secondary level for decades. As good republicans as their successors may have been, they lacked the long experience in presidial management possessed by the members of the provincial elite. They lacked the virtually inbred military abilities of the elite officers and certainly the cultural inheritance of military technique and social graces and command presence which were taught the infants born into the provincial elite group almost automatically as part of their familial and group culture.

In other words, post independence commanders and subalterns were simply not as effective as their predecessors and the top-flight officers were spread thinner and thinner.

b. The Problem of Succession. The real miracle of the revolution which created the United States of America was that which provided an orderly method of peaceful succession in political office by electoral procedures. The miraculous quality of this method of succession is acutely accentuated by a comparison with the unhappy and anything but peaceful experience of the French and Mexicans in attempting to solve the same problem of transferring political power from one man to another or from one political party to another

This problem was very acute in Mexico at the national level. The first solution after independence was a five-man regency which lasted from the end of September of 1821 (Bancroft 1885:IV:735) until mid-May of 1822 (ibid., IV:770-773). 544Next came a substitute monarchy with Agustín de Iturbide as emperor. This attempt at solving the problem of succession endured less than a year for Iturbide was forced to abdicate an March 19, 1823 (ibid., IV:800).

Adopting the forms of republican government after the overthrow of Iturbide, the Mexican political leaders were unsuccessful in achieving the reality of peaceful electoral succession. Although experienced officers were spread thinner and thinner on the frontier, there were entirely too many high ranking officers in the vicinity of the City of Mexico who thought they were capable of ruling if not actually entitled to do so. The juxtaposition of such ambitions and the means to effectuate them in the form of troops all too often precipitated changes in governments or abortive attempts to change governments which absorbed the attention of the government in power in putting down revolts and preventing them from tackling other problems facing the country.

These caudillos also, in effect, increased the number of officers and troops in the central areas of the country far above the colonial levels, thus weakening the frontier forces and preventing their effective reinforcement.

Most of the states suffered the same problems of determining political succession without resort to arms that the nation suffered, and Sonora was foremost among those plagued by men on horseback. A brief resume of the rapid rise and fall of national governments will make the point sufficiently for purposes of this report.

545After the fall of Iturbide the reinstalled national congress on March 31, 1823, appointed an executive triumvirate of Generals Nicolás Bravo, Guadalupe Victoria and Pedro Celestino Negrete (Bancroft 1885:V:2). The task of formulating a permanent form of government was completed with the publishing of a national constitution on October 4, 1824 and the election of a constitutional president (ibid., V:17).

The elected president, Guadalupe Victoria, and vice-president Nicolás Bravo took office on October 10, 1824 (ibid., V:27). This first elected administration struggled through three years with fair success, but in December of 1827 the vice-president revolted against the president (ibid., V:38-39). The rebels were easily defeated, the vice-president impeached and the rebel leaders exiled (ibid., V:40).

Cabinet minister Manuel Gomez Pedraza won the 1828 election (ibid., V:41). The defeated candidate, Vicente Guerrero, revolted (ibid., V:42) and Gomez Pedraza resigned his right to the presidency and sailed for London in March of 1829. Guerrero took office in April, the new constitution having been successfully ignored and precedent set for rule by revolution rather than constitutional election (ibid., V:44). Guerrero's presidency did not last long for his vice-president Anastacio Bustamante proceeded to revolt on December 4, 1829 (ibid., V:88), assuming formal office on January 1, 1830 (ibid., V:94). Hardly had the new administration executed the ex-president when it in turn had to begin putting down new revolutions (ibid., V:103), which it did with an actual improvement in the financial and industrial condition of the country (ibid., V:106 fn 14). On January 2, 1832, however, the Vera Cruz garrison demanded dismissal of the government ministers (ibid., V:107), bringing back into the field of national politics Antonio López de Santa Anna who had been living quietly on his estates. Shortly thereafter Tampico troops revolted, followed by forces in San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas and Jalisco (ibid., V:111). Bustamante resigned on September 19 (ibid., p V:115), after a series of defeats for his government's forces, and congress appointed an ad interim president General Melchor Muzquiz, who began functioning on August 19th (ibid., V:116). Taking command of government troops in person, Bustamante won a resounding victory on September 18 (ibid., V:117), but even in victory he evidently read the signs of ultimate defeat since he resigned the next day. Santa Anna went over to the offensive from Vera Cruz (ibid., V:118), and Gomez Pedraza, who had returned to Mexico once before and been re-expelled, returned again and won immediate support from several states (ibid., V:120). Bustamante gave up the losing struggle and on December 23, 1832, a peace treaty between the contending factions recognized Gomez Pedraza as legally president until the expiration of his constitutional term on April 1, 1833 (ibid., V:123).

This was the chronicle of futile struggles for personal power at the national capital during the period of grace on the northern frontier, the sad tale of wastage of national 547military and financial resources on a lavish scale in internecine party warfare of Mexican against Mexican. In these political wars the power needed in Sonora and the other frontier states to hold the Indian frontier was dissipated. The closing months of Bustamante's rule at the capital city saw the wholesale defection of hitherto Peaceful Apaches from the frontier posts and the swift conversion of the northern frontier from prosperity to war-wracked ruin.

The political struggle at the national center continued long after the vindication of Gomez Pedraza. In the election of February, 1833, López de Santa Anna and Valentin Gomez Farias, secretary of the treasury in Gomez Pedraza's brief cabinet, were elected to the presidency and vice-presidency (ibid., V:127). The vice-president was inaugurated on April 1, 1833 (ibid., V:129) due to the absence of Santa Anna,, who did not assume authority until May 16th (ibid., V:131). The energetic reforms proposed by the vice-president aroused opposition among extremists who resorted to armed force as was becoming habitual, so on June 3 Santa Anna took the field, leaving administration again to Gomez Farias (ibid., V:132). After the extremists were defeated through little action on his part, Santa Anna took office again June 18 but turned it back to the vice-president on July 5 (ibid., V:134). In October Santa Anna once again took office after defeating rebel forces, only to turn it back to Gomez Farias on December 16 (ibid., V:136) and reclaim it April 24, 1834 (ibid., V:137). Gomez Farias abided by constitutional forms even though he 548had evidence that the president planned to do away with them, which he proceeded to do by ruling as dictator without a congress, cabinet or even state legislatures (ibid., V:141). On January 28, 1835, Santa Anna again surrendered executive office, this time to General Miguel Barragan (ibid., V:143). Barragan had to deal with the military problem raised by revolt of the North American immigrants in Texas, and died in office on March 1, 1836. José Justo Corro was elected by the congress on February 27, during Barragan's final illness, to become acting president (ibid., V:178).

Anastacio Bustamante came back to win election as president in 1837 after his return from exile (ibid., V:179) and began an eight-year term on April 19th (ibid., V:180). As usual, revolts soon broke out all over the republic (ibid., V:182), but the situation became serious in 1840 when the president was surprised in bed on July 15 and held prisoner for a time by the perpetual revolutionary General Urrea from Sonora and ex-president Gomez Farias (ibid., V:220). This coup d'etat failed, but Generals Paredes y Arrillaga and López de Santa Anna again rose against the elected government, so President Bustamante again resigned and went into exile once again early in October of 1842 (ibid., V:235). Antonio López de Santa Anna took over as provisional president October 9th (ibid., V:236) with ex-president Gomez Pedraza as minister of interior and foreign relations. On the 28th of that same month he turned over the administration to the president of the council (ibid., V:254) so he could retire 549to his estate again to avoid executive responsibility. Manipulating affairs from behind the scenes, Santa Anna secured his indirect election to the presidency on January 2, 1844, although he stayed in seclusion on his estate for another six months (ibid., V:259), entering the capital only an June 3d (ibid., V:260). He departed again after the death of his wife later in August (ibid., V:261 fn 32). By the end of that year opposition piled up to the point that a temporary president General José Joaquín Herrera, was installed, (ibid., V:273). The dictator was arrested in flight toward the coast and exile early in January of 1845 (ibid., V:277), but shared the benefits of a general amnesty on May 24th (ibid., V:279) and sailed for Cuba on June 3d (ibid., V:280).

In the fall of 1845 a new election put General Herrera in office as constitutional president, inaugurated on September 16th (ibid., V:288). In the face of popular clamor for war against the United States over Texas, Maríano Paredes y Arrillaga raised the familiar standard of revolt, proclaiming his candidacy on December 15th. He won widespread support, and the constitutional president surrendered office December 30th, Paredes entering the capital city on January 20 1846 (ibid., V:292).

No sooner did Paredes achieve supreme power than new disputants appeared (ibid., V:296), and on July 28 he left the troublesome government in the hands of vice-president Bravo and set out for the fighting front, only to be arrested by the army, which also deposed the vice-president and 550installed General José Maríano de Salas as supreme executive (ibid., V:299-300).

The wheel now turned full circle, and exiled Antonio López de Santa Anna was sent for. He landed at Vera Cruz with the connivance of blockading United States ships (ibid., V:301) in midAugust and on September 28th left the capital for the front in command of 3,000 men (ibid., V:303). December 23 he was chosen ad interim president with Gomez Farias as vice-president and acting chief executive (ibid., V:304). Gomez Farias' energetic war-financing measures roused revolt again (ibid., V:305), but this ended with the vice-president's retirement and Santa Anna's arrival at the capital on March 21, 1847 (ibid., V:306).

The great demagogue remained in the presidency only until April 2 when he turned it over to General Pedro María Anaya and took command of the army (ibid., V:524). On May 20 López de Santa Anna returned and traded places with Anaya (ibid., V:525). Finally the vicious play was interrupted by the president of the Supreme Court, Manuel de la Peña y Peña who took office as provisional president on September 26th in defiance of Santa Anna's attempt to personally order the succession (ibid., V:527). A congress which managed to assemble at Querétaro after the City of Mexico fell to the United States Army named Pedro M. Anaya president November 9th and he took office on the 12th (ibid., V:534) for a term specifically limited to January 8, 1848, when Peña y Peña returned to office (ibid., V:535). Thus it was Manuel de la Peña y 551Peña who ultimately signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with the United States on February 2, 1848 (ibid., V:540).

Many Mexicans regarded conclusion of peace with the United States as treason despite the apparent impossibility of carrying on the struggle, and personally ambitious men as usual revolted, but this time the government won (ibid., V:548-549)!

In 1848 ex-president José Joaquín de Herrera was re-elected to the presidency and Peña y Peña returned to the leadership of the supreme court on June 3, 1848 (ibid., V: 550). Herrera vigorously pursued badly needed internal reforms in all areas of Mexican life, and carried through his administration successfully until election of a constitutional successor, Maríano Arista, who assumed office on January 15, 1851 (ibid., V:596-597). During 1852 opposition to Arista appeared throughout the nation and on January 5, 1853, he resigned, turning the government over to a new Chief Justice, Juan Bautista Ceballos (ibid., V:613).

After dissolving congress, Ceballos faced the usual rebellion and Manuel María Lombardini was chosen by the powerful party opposition as provisional president (ibid., V:621). On March 17, however, the state votes for president were opened, and Antonio López de Santa Anna was restored to power (ibid., V:624). Under his new administration the Treaty of Mesilla or the Gadsden Purchase was concluded December 30, 1853 (ibid., V:652) and the political turmoil in the City of Mexico ceased to plague Tubac.

552This constant struggle for political power heightened the effects of independence on the attrition among skilled officers in the frontier provinces. Whereas during colonial times a brilliant officer could hope for action on the frontier which would bring him to royal notice and promotion-even though there was a strong tendency even then to prefer assignments in or near the capital city for social reasons-during republican times this situation radically altered.

The truly momentous political decisions were made at the capital, whether by force of arms or peaceful maneuvering. In any event the ambitious officer was drawn to the capital as a moth to the flame. The provinces offered him little or no opportunity for advancement or national fame-these were won by success in the constant struggles for power at the centre (although the national struggle was duplicated on a smaller scale in nearly every state). This continuous resort to arms to resolve the succession in office in effect produced multiple armed forces where only one had existed in colonial times, so that more officers and troops were actually deployed in or near the capital than before, to the detriment of the frontier commands.

The problem of succession in office in the State of the West and later Sonora was hardly less acute than that at the centre, and pulled able officers and large numbers of troops into the vicinity of Hermosillo and Ures where contests were generally decided.

553There was the difference that local commanders in Sonora were close enough to the scene of conflict usually to share somewhat in decisions on succession even in the frontier post. Ambitious officers were no more willing to accept the results of popular or legislative elections in Sonora than in the City of Mexico if they had sufficient troops under their control to make an issue of any selection which left them slighted. Thus officers who were not sucked into the vortex of combat at the national capital could not escape being drawn into the provincial conflicts, even if they happened to desire nothing more than to be left alone to fight the Indian enemy on the frontier.

Contestants for state office required troops to win, so they repeatedly levied upon the frontier garrisons under their control (Bancroft 1889:404), tying up regular troops in the struggles for power and preventing their employment against hostile Indians. Thus frontier posts suffered a serious deterioration in leadership, a diminution in manpower and frequent interference from higher echelons.

c. The Problem of Finances. One of the immediate effects of independence was a disruption of the flow of funds to and from the frontier provinces. In colonial times taxes had flowed into the royal coffers and been redistributed by the king's ministers in accordance with their estimates of requirements. Under that system the Frontier Provinces had not fared badly inasmuch as royal ministers were always motivated 554to expand or at least try to maintain intact the royal geographic patrimony. After independence, the tax collection system lost in efficiency when control passed to politicians who were not always as thorough and impartial about collections as the agents of the king had been. Further, the funds which flowed into the City of Mexico were not budgeted for expenditure in the frontier provinces with the generosity of colonial times. For one thing, the purse strings were controlled by elected representatives who were answerable to constituents who had an understandable desire to receive full value for their taxes, and who were seldom as aware of the importance to them of a well-defended frontier as the king's ministers had been. In addition, the intermittent struggles over succession in high office not only were costly in themselves, but created frequent opportunities for dishonest manipulations and outright robbery from the public monies, so that the taxes which flowed into the capital tended never to leave it again, at least for the frontier military posts.

This financial situation merely increased the desire of capable officers to migrate to the centers of decision-making in the states or the City of Mexico. They were motivated not only by ambition but by financial necessity! It required a very dedicated officer or a dullard to remain in the frontier posts such as Tubac. The plight of the troops was even worse as they sometimes went long periods without pay in the 1830's and 1840's, and their arms steadily deteriorated without adequate 555repairs or replacements, and their provisions concurrently diminished in quantity and quality.

The only surprising feature of the whole situation was that the momentum of colonialism carried the frontier through more than a decade without serious hostilities from the southern Athapascans, and that the frontier military units did not deteriorate more rapidly than was the case.

One of the effects of the deterioration in government financing was to terminate the effectiveness of the Apache reservation system originated by Viceroy Galvez. The cost of the food, liquor, clothing, arms, munitions and other rations and gifts issued to the Peaceful Apaches to keep them satisfied was tremendous. This subsidy program was one of the first casualties of the independent Mexican government, subject as it was to budgetary control by politicians committed to local interests and self-interest rather than a concept of the public good which allowed them to pour large sums into maintaining peace on the distant frontiers.

The frontier commanders who recognized the necessity for maintaining the ration system if peace were to be preserved managed to scrounge Apache rations out of their other allotments, but the colonial system jerked and strained, and late rations of poor quality did not keep the Apaches happy. Even so the Peaceful Apaches coasted along for a considerable period following habits developed during a long period of pacification, making out as best they could and undoubtedly hoping for improvement. Only gradually as conditions worsened 556without any realistic prospect for improvement did the Peaceful Apache bands reluctantly return to raiding as an economic necessity, thus accelerating the deterioration of the frontier settlements.

The year 1832 seems to have been the critical turning point when the habits of colonialism were finally abandoned in a widespread defection of Peaceful Apache bands (Velasco 185O:238).

d. The Problem of Ethnic Self-Determination. Another Indian tribe created a military problem for independent Mexico, and for Sonora in particular, which was no less serious than Apache hostilities although it was somewhat more sporadic.

The Yaqui Indians on the Yaqui River almost at the eventual line of partition between Sinaloa and Sonora had stopped the military forces of colonial Spain cold in the early years of the seventeenth century. Still undefeated, they had requested Jesuit missionaries who arrived in their country in 1617 and quickly reformed Yaqui society on strongly theocratic lines. Thereafter this proud people settled down to mission village life and the acquisition of many selected traits of Hispanic culture, with almost no resort to arms through the colonial period. Even though the Yaqui missions were secularized upon the expulsion of the Jesuit Order from New Spain, the reformulation of Yaqui culture and socio-political forms had been achieved in so thoroughgoing a manner that 557this enclave of perhaps 50,000 people remained a separatist subordinate subcultural society, with a considerable degree of actual self-government within the colonial system, and fairly effective protection of their homeland against non-Indian settlement and exploitation.

When the Spanish monarchy disappeared with independence, and republican Mexicans cast covetous eyes toward the Yaqui country, tribal war drums began to beat and a collective Yaqui cry for ethnic political independence went up.

Avaricious Mexicans eager for personal profit moved in on the Yaquis, incapable of assessing the long-term cost to themselves and their new country of their preoccupation with personal goals. By 1825 the Yaquis had received sufficient proofs of their likely fate under republican Mexican rule.  They struck for independence.

The Yaqui revolt was the first adverse result of independence in Sonora and marked the beginning of the deterioration of the military, economic, and political situation in that state and its northern frontier. The military threat of Yaquis sitting across Sonora's southern borders and capable of cutting it off from the rest of the Republic except by sea added a burden to the independent nation which had not existed in colonial times, and which could not be ignored whether these Indians were engaged in open warfare or biding their time for another attempt. Sixty bloody years passed before the Mexicans eventually defeated the Yaquis decisively-558long after Tubac and the rest of the Gadsden Purchase area had passed from Mexican sovereignty. In other words, the Yaqui problem remained near the fore of the military problems which resulted in the deterioration of Tubac and the other frontier posts over the years from 1825 right up to 1854. This problem was by no means decreased by the propensity of several unscrupulous Sonoran politicos to embroil the Yaquis in their internecine struggles for power.

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