Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sobel Wiki: Continental Destiny

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on the Continentalist Party, one of the two major parties of the United States of Mexico's first party system.

In writing about the union of the State of Jefferson with the Republic of Mexico in 1820, Sobel claims that the settlement Andrew Jackson arrived at was the best that could have been expected at the time. He contrasts the actual settlement with the one that Jackson's fellow Continentalists expected, and the one that the opposition Libertarians would have preferred: "Had his own party had its way, the new nation would have quickly become a totalitarian state controlled by the white Jeffersonian minority. Under Liberal (sic) leadership, the Mexicans would have controlled the nation, and the U.S.M. of 1850 might have resembled New Granada, Brazil, or the Argentine in its lack of progress and stability." Elsewhere, he writes, "Jackson knew that to have a nation of Mexicans controlled by a numerically smaller, though more energetic group like the Jeffersonians, would do damage to the best qualities of both peoples. In such a situation all Mexicans would be reduced to the status of a permanently occupied people. In time, this would lead either to rebellion or despair, and in either case, the Jeffersonians would be the losers. Jefferson itself had too small a population to put down repeated insurrections, while a population of Mexicans without hope would be an insurmountable burden to the new state."

And yet, Jackson's actual settlement wasn't very different from the one his fellow Continentalists wanted. The vast majority of the Mexican population were reduced to second-class citizens, with no civil rights to speak of. Even upper-class Mexicans were excluded from participation in the national government unless they could speak English, which meant that the U.S.M. was indeed controlled by the numerically smaller Jeffersonians. A sign of just how completely the Jeffersonians controlled the Mexican government is that the two political parties that had developed in Mexico, the Federalists and Clericalists, vanished. It was Jefferson's two parties, the Continentalists and the Libertarians, that controlled Mexican politics.

And in the end, the U.S.M.'s Anglo elite did have to put down repeated insurrections, and the U.S.M. did become a totalitarian state. The distinction Sobel tries to draw between Jackson's U.S.M. and what the Continentalists wanted is practically nonexistent.

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