The French Mexican Expedition, 1861-1867

A.) The Diplomatic Pre-History of the War

Mexico had lived through a CIVIL WAR 1858-1861 which had ended with a victory of the liberals lead by BENITO JUAREZ over the conservatives. Juarez declared a moratorium on the payments of foreign debts. In December 1861 the British, French and Spanish navies jointly occupied VERACRUZ in order to press the Mexican government to resume its payments. Soon the British and Spanish forces withdrew, while France (ruled by Napoleon III.) entered into an alliance with the Mexican conservatives who just had been defeated in the Mexican Civil War.

B.) The Military Course of Events

After suffering an initial defeat by republican forces on May 5th 1862 at Puebla, the French expeditionary force took the city in July, compelling the republican administration to evacuate Mexico City. A Mexican assembly (at Napoleon III.'s suggestion) invited Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph von Habsburg to accept the crown as Emperor of Mexico (1863); he is known in history as EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN. He arrived only in 1864.
Maximilian turned out to be a liberal, alienating his Mexican conservative allies by refusing to revoke liberal reform laws. When the US Civil War ended, the republicans began to draw support from the US. In 1866, France began to withdraw its troops. Many conservative Mexicans switched sides, now supporting the republicans. On February 19th 1867 the republicans resumed fighting; Maximilian surrendered on May 15th; he was executed on June 19th.

War of the Reform in Mexico 1858-1861, from Armed Conflict Events Data; the article also covers the subsequent French interference
Biographies of Emperor Maximilian, from Austrian Mint
Cinco de Mayo, from Inside Mexico, has details on the republican victory at Puebla on May 5th 1862
Belgisch Vrijwilligerskorps in Mexico 1864-1867 (Belgian Volunteer Corps in Mexico, 1864-1867), from Het Belgisch Leger 1830-1914, in Dutch
Article Maximilian of Mexico, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS Edouard Manet. The Execution of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. 1867-1868, from Olga's Gallery

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 19th 2004

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