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Mexican Constitution of 1857

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Mexican Constitution of 1857

Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States

Original front of the 1857 Constitution
Created 1856–1857
Ratified February 5, 1857
Location Museo Nacional de las Intervenciones
Author(s) 1857 Constituent Congress
Signatories 1857 Constituent Congress
Purpose National 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) was a 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.


Having overthrown the dictatorship of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna on 1855, 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. This faction included prominent figures like Mariano Arizcorreta, Marcelino Castañeda, Joaquín Cardoso and Pedro Escudero y Echánove. Their opposition were 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]

The president Comonfort had interference through its ministers in favor of the moderate faction, since this was the ideology with which he sympathized.[5] Despite opposition from the executive branch and to be minority, pure ensured that their proposals were included. The liberal reforms more discussed were: 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 —staunchest opponents of the Liberals— gathered force in Zacapoaxtla and Puebla. President 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 penalties for mutilation, beatings, and torture of any kind.
  • 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 to 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:

The admitted states since the Constitution of 1824 were::[11]

Order Name Order Name
Nuevo León
San Luis Potosí

It's created the state of::

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

Are admitted as states:

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. On March 1857 the Archbishop Lazaro de la Garza y Ballesteros, stated that Catholics could not swear allegiance to the Constitution.[3]

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.[18]


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.[18]

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[19] 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 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"; This curious event was 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



  • 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

In Spanish

  • 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
  • texto en la web consultado 3 de noviembre de 2009
  • TENA RAMÍREZ, Felipe (1997) Leyes fundamentales de México 1808-1992 México, ed.Porrúa 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, texto en la web consultado el 23 de octubre de 2009

External links

  • Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la UNAM Constitución Política de la República Mexicana de 1857 accessed October 23, 2009
  • Archivo General de la Nación Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos de 1857 accessed October 23, 2009
  • Instituto de Investigaciones Legislativas del Senado de la República, El federalismo mexicano (elementos para su estudio) accessed November 22, 2009
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