II. PUEBLA AND MEXICO—GENERAL DE LORENCEZ—GENERAL ZARAGOZA
The health-officers who boarded the steamer at Vera Cruz gave us unexpected and startling news. The French army had been repulsed with serious loss before Puebla. The direct route, by which the trip from Vera Cruz to Mexico via Orizaba—one hundred and ten leagues—could be made in four days,* was blocked by the contending armies. If we wished to proceed on our journey, we must do so via Jalapa, a much longer route. The discomforts of this road were, moreover, complicated by the fact that it was now infested by a large number of guerrillas,—one might as well say highwaymen,—who made it difficult for travelers to pass unmolested, unless through some special arrangement. This my companions were confident could easily be settled; but some days might be spent in negotiations, and the health-officers said that the yellow fever was raging as it had not raged for years. The presence of so many foreigners had added to its violence, and the French garrison could be maintained only by constant reinforcements.
* It can now be made by rail in ten hours.
Upon landing, our little party went directly to the house of Mr. Lelong, the hospitable French banker who in Vera Cruz represented the house of Labadie & Co. Here we remained five days, enjoying every comfort, while the necessary preparations were being made for our somewhat perilous journey to the capital. I then heard for the first time the details of the disaster brought upon the French by General de Lorencez's wilful blindness.
Confident in the elan of his picked troops, and, as one of his officers afterward told me, complacently holding up to himself the example of Cortez, who had conquered the land with as many hundreds as he had thousands, the French general, unable with so small a force to undertake a siege, determined to attempt the assault of the Cerro de Guadalupe. This fort dominated the place, and its possession must, in his opinion, insure the fall of Puebla.
The ill-advised attack was made on May 5,1862, with twenty-five hundred men. The place was topographically strong. It was defended by General Zaragoza with the very pick of the Mexican army under General Negrete, and was, moreover, supported by the well-manned battery of the Fort de Loretto. To attempt the assault of such a position without the support of artillery seemed madness; and when the general ordered his troops forward it was found that his field-battery, owing to the lay of the land, could not even be brought to bear upon the fort at sufficiently close range to reach it. One fifth of the corps of attack was thus uselessly sacrificed.
Some months after these events (September, 1862) I witnessed in the city of Mexico the public obsequies of General Zaragoza,* whom this exploit had naturally placed high in the esteem of his countrymen. Upon the elevated catafalque, drawn by a long line of horses draped in black trappings, lay the stately coffin. Tossed at its feet was the French flag; banners, hung everywhere, inscribed with devices recalling his signal service to his country, proclaimed him "the conqueror of conquerors" (el conquistador de los conquistadores). The French, it was asserted, had measured themselves with and conquered all the nations of the world, and Zaragoza had conquered the French!
* Much of the credit for the achievement was due to General Negrete, whose command bore the weight of the assault upon the Cerro de Guadalupe and prevented its capture.
This day is proudly recorded in the Mexican annals as the Cinco de Mayo. The historic importance of a battle is not always to be measured by the numbers of the contending forces, and although its far-reaching significance was at the time scarcely understood, this check must ever be remembered by future historians as the first serious blow struck by fortune at Napoleon III and his fated empire. The honor of France was now involved and must be vindicated. There was no receding upon the dangerous path. No French sovereign could dare to withdraw without avenging the first check met with by the French army since Waterloo, and thus was the Emperor rushed on to fulfil his own destiny. To-day the fire from the fort of Guadalupe casts a flash of lurid light upon the beginning of la debacle, and upon the last chapters written at Sedan. During the whole of that fatal day the doomed men marched, as they were ordered to march, upon the Mexican battery. They hopelessly fought, and died heroically; and when night came they beat an orderly retreat, carrying away with them most of their wounded.
General de Lorencez slowly fell back upon Orizaba, where he issued a proclamation* to the army, openly laying the responsibility of the disaster upon the false statements made to him by the French representative.
* See proclamation, published in Louet, "La Verite sur l'Expedition du Mexique," etc. "Reve d'Empire," p. 72.
The French army, which fell back upon Orizaba, was in a critical position. Its communications with the coast had been interrupted by the Liberal guerrillas, and it was completely cut off from the seaport and from France. The bridges were destroyed; the convoys of provisions were attacked and burned; anxiety was felt by the commissariat with regard to supplies. The garrisons left by the French on the way had been driven back and hemmed in in the unhealthful region, where the French regiments were fairly melting away, and no courier was permitted to bring news from the seat of war to the French fleet and to the garrison of Vera Cruz.
The rainy season was near at hand when communication was restored by the arrival at Vera Cruz of General Felix Douay, who landed with reinforcements on May 16.
The five days that we spent in Vera Cruz were anxious days for those who had assumed the responsibility of our little party. Never was there a worse time to travel over a road which at best was unsafe, and yet we could not remain where we were without danger.
I was not allowed to move out of the house and all I saw of the town was from the balcony whence, in the cool of the evening, I looked down upon the dull street. Every now and then a passing stretcher supporting a covered human form would remind us that we were in a plague-stricken city, and make us eager to start upon our way.
At last arrangements were completed, terms were made with a small guerrilla band whose chief undertook to see us safely through to Mexico, and on May 27 we began our journey.
The men of our escort, whom we met just out of the city, were a ruffianly-looking set. The chief had received an ugly saber-cut across his face, which added to the forbidding expression of a naturally repulsive physiognomy. They were well mounted, however, and seemed inclined to be civil. We were allowed only an arrota (twenty-five pounds) of luggage, and were supposed to have no money with us; but on the night before we left we sewed a few ounces of gold (sixteen-dollar pieces) in unlikely places of our underwear. Thus we left Vera Cruz a la grace de Dieu.
Well it was that we had made terms with this little guerrilla company, and we had ample opportunity of testing the truth of the saying, "There is honor among thieves." All along the road we met armed bands, varying in strength, until, at a village near Jalapa, we fell in with the well-known chief Antonio Perez and his famous plateados, two hundred strong, who had won their name and a somewhat doubtful distinction by their successful raids upon convoys of silver. Our escort fraternized with all, and they let us pass unmolested.
I was told that at this period scarcely a stage reached the capital without having been robbed. The passengers were often even despoiled of their clothing, so that newspapers were brought into requisition to serve as garments for the unfortunate victims. When such was the case the doors of the hotel were closed upon the arrival of the coach in the courtyard, and blankets or other coverings were brought down before the travelers could alight with any show of propriety.
To say nothing of our emotions, many and varied were our experiences on that never-to-be-forgotten nine days' journey. Generally we slept in cities or towns, where we were made more or less comfortable; but on one occasion, owing to an accident, we were belated and had to stop overnight at a miserable hamlet, where no accommodation could be procured save such as a native adobe house could afford. This consisted of one large room approached by a shed. In this room the man, his wife, his children, his dogs, pigs, and small cattle lived. A team of mules outside put in their heads through an opening and breathed over our cots. The English language cannot be made to describe the atmosphere and other horrors of that night. Cots had been improvised for Mrs. D—— and me, but there was no sleep for us, and we envied the men, who took their chances of malaria and preferred sleeping outside to sharing our shelter.
At last we reached the crest of the mountain from which we looked down upon the valley of Mexico, a huge basin encircled by mountains; and there at our feet lay the capital, with its two hundred thousand souls, its picturesque buildings, and the lakes of Chalco and Tezcuco, while to one side the huge snow-capped volcanoes, the Iztaccihuatl and the Popocatepetl, like two gigantic sentries, seemed to watch over the sacredness of this classical spot of Mexican history.
The capital was quiet and peaceful. It seemed utterly shut out from all the excitement created by the invasion, as though, really trusting in its remoteness, its barriers of mountains, its lakes and natural defenses, it defied the foreigner. Was it that Mexico was then so accustomed to transfer its allegiance from one military ruler to the other that even foreign invasion left it indifferent? Or was it the childlike faith in the unknown, the national Quien sabe? spirit, virtually carried out at this supreme crisis? However this may have been, very little of the outside conflict seemed as yet to have penetrated the minds of the people. The diplomatic corps entertained our little coterie, which included those Mexicans who were willing to mix with the foreign element.
Society danced and flirted, rode in the Paseo, and walked in the Alameda, just as though the Cinco de Mayo had been a decisive battle and General de Lorencez's army had been driven back to its ships.
The bull-fights once in a while gathered in the vast enceinte of the Plaza de Toros the society of the capital. During the winter of 1863 the young men of fashion of Mexico took the Plaza de Toros, and invited Mexican society to a performance. All who took part were amateurs, and it was a brilliant affair. The huge amphitheater, crowded with the well-dressed audience, was in itself a memorable spectacle, and as the sun went down, casting great shadows and oblique rays of light upon the gay assemblage, intent upon the fierce games of the picturesque performers in the arena, one unconsciously dreamed of the Colosseum and of the bloody sports of semibarbarous Rome.
Besides the ordinary bull-fight, there were many exercises of horsemanship and with the lasso that did credit to the skill of the young gentlemen. Moreover, as these men, who were all wealthy, rode their own spirited horses, the performance presented none of the most revolting features of the usual bull-fight, where the poor, miserable hacks, too jaded to obey the rein, are generally gored, and soon turn the arena into a slaughter-house, the sight of which it is impossible for an Anglo-Saxon to endure.
Our box was sent us by Don Jose Rincon Gallardo and his brother Don Pedro, who belonged to the elite of Mexican society and were among the prime movers in the affair. When Mexico fell into the power of the enemy, these young men joined the Liberal army in defense of their native land, and later we will find the first at Queretaro earning honorable distinction amid events the memory of which can never fade from the pages of history.
It was a curious, easy life in the midst of what to us now would seem perilous conditions. No man, in those days, ventured out of an evening to pay a call without being well armed, and our little anteroom assumed, after eight o'clock, the appearance of an arsenal. Nor were these precautions unwarranted. To give but one instance: The secretary of the Prussian legation, a nephew of the minister, Baron Wagner, having excited certain animosities, was more than once waylaid and attacked in the street after dark. He was a fine specimen of the Teutonic race, a tall, powerful man, and generally carried brass knuckles. After the first attack he made it a point at night to walk in the middle of the street, so as to avoid too close a proximity with corners and dark angles of doorways, regarding them as possible ambushes. As he was fully prepared, he more than once escaped without harm. But one night, when, for some unknown reason, he carried a revolver, he was assaulted from behind. Before he could cock his weapon and turn to face his would-be assassins, he had received several stabs in the back, and was left as dead upon the street. He lay for weeks between life and death.
This had happened in the spring of 1862. A short time after my arrival, having just recovered, he called to take leave of my family before returning to Germany. His faith in the superiority of brass knuckles over the revolver, in case of sudden attack, was not to be shaken.
Many and strange were the stories told me when I arrived in that land destined by nature to be a paradise, but of which the inhabitants were then making a Tartarus. To the horrors then perpetrated by robbers or highwaymen, justice could be done only by the pen of a Poe.
Kidnapping was not infrequent, and the cruel ingenuity displayed by the bandits to keep safely their victim pending the negotiations for a ransom was often blood-curdling. I might fill a small volume with such anecdotes, but the terrible fate of two hacendados, kidnapped in the interior of the country, may suffice to give an idea of the tax which living in Mexico at that time might levy upon the emotions of a young girl fresh from Paris.
The two unfortunate men had been captured by one of those small bands which in war-times were called guerrillas, but which we should ordinarily call banditti. They were dragged from place to place about the country by their captors, who kept them under strict surveillance. One evening, as they were approaching a town, the prospect of a riotous night spent over pulque and monte at some fonda excited the imagination of the men, and, as no one would consent to be deprived of the anticipated pleasure for the sake of mounting guard over the prisoners, it was decided that the miserable victims should be, for safe-keeping, buried up to their necks in the earth. Surely they could not escape, and would be there next morning awaiting the return of their captors. And so they no doubt would have been, but for the coyotes, which, allured by the easy prey delivered up to them by the devilish ingenuity of those human fiends, came during the night and devoured the heads of the helpless victims. Who can ever realize the mental and physical anguish in the midst of which those two wretched lives came to an end?
Sometimes there was a touch of weird humor in the manner in which such outrages were perpetrated. One night a wealthy family in Mexico drove home in their carriage from a party. They stopped at their porte-cochere, which was opened by their servant, and closed tight behind them as they drove in. Two men, however, had fastened on to the carriage behind. They overpowered the portero as he barred the door, while the noise of the carriage rolling on the flags of the patio smothered the sound of the scuffle. They opened the door to their accomplices, and easily overcame family and servants, all of whom were bound hand and foot. Then the robbers ransacked the premises, and having packed all the valuables into the carriage, one of them took the coachman's clothes, mounted on the box, and coolly drove off in style—carriage, horses, and all.
In a wild, sparsely populated country like Mexico in 1862, where communication was difficult, where the police of even large cities, when not in direct sympathy with the malefactors, were overawed by them, and where forty years of civil war had hardened men to the sight of blood, it is not to be wondered at if impunity had multiplied such occurrences and destroyed all sensibility with regard to human suffering.
Much excitement was created both in France and in the United States, during the French intervention, by the relentless spirit with which the conflict was conducted between the opposing parties, and by the wanton destruction of life and property which characterized the struggle. But when one realizes that the Mexican armies at that time were on both sides to a great extent made up of such predatory material, and that even their officers were frequently little more than chiefs of guerrillas, who rallied sometimes under one flag, sometimes under the other, but in either case were always ready for rapine, the brutal character of the conflict can scarcely excite surprise.
III. THE SIEGE OF PUEBLA—GENERAL FOREY—GENERAL ORTEGA
The news of the check sustained by the French at Puebla—a check to which the precarious condition of the army lent all the proportions of a serious defeat—was made public in France by means of a despatch sent from New York on June 14. The army was at once raised to twenty-five thousand men. The command-in-chief of this increased force was given to General Forey. He entered upon his official duties on October 25,1862.*
* General Forey commanded the Fourth Division at the battle of Alma, in the Crimean war; at Sebastopol he commanded both the Third and the Fourth, to which was intrusted the siege work.
The new commander-in-chief, like those whom he was superseding, was under precise orders from the home government to be guided by M. de Saligny. Notwithstanding the disastrous consequences of his misrepresentations, the French minister, strangely enough, still retained his hold upon the Emperor and his advisers.
General Forey's instructions, given in a note from Napoleon dated July 3, 1862, were to bring about, through General Almonte, the convocation of an assembly of notables to decide upon the "form of government and the destinies of Mexico." Should the Mexicans prefer a monarchy, "it was in the interest of France to support them, and to indicate the Archduke Maximilian as the candidate of France."*
* "La Verite sur l'Expedition du Mexique, d'apres les Documents Inedits d'Ernest Louet," etc. Edited by Paul Gaulot. Part I, "Reve d'Empire," p. 91, 4th ed.(Paris).
On February 18, 1863, after wasting four precious months, at an enormous cost of money and prestige, General Forey appeared before Puebla.* The procrastination of the French commander had given the Mexican government time to elaborate the defense. General Zaragoza had died, in the full blaze of his glory, in the month of September. His successor, General Jesus Gonzalez Ortega, had now under his command a fairly organized army of twenty-two thousand men. The main trouble was the scarcity of arms. The guns were mostly old rejected muskets, and I was told that during the siege unarmed bodies of men waited to use the arms of the slain or wounded. But the place had been strongly fortified; this time it was to be war in earnest.
* General Forey explained his extraordinary procrastination by complaining that the minister of war had failed to supply him with a sufficient amount of ammunition. See Colonel Loizillon, "Lettres sur l'Expedition du Mexique," p. 101.
The town was built in blocks. Each block, fortified and defended by the besieged, must be fought for and carried by assault, at terrible cost of life on the part of the French, whose close ranks were fired upon with murderous effect from the roofs and windows on both sides of the streets.
The episodes of the contest recall those of the siege of Saragossa, when the Spaniards so fiercely resisted the French forces; only at Puebla the cruel struggle lasted two whole months.* To quote a French officer, it was "a noble defense, admirably organized."
* From March 18 to May 10, 1863. See Colonel Loizillon, "Lettres sur l'Expedition du Mexique," Paris, 1890.
The pulse of the capital now quickened under the influence of Puebla's sacrifice to the national honor. Every now and then a thrill of vindictive patriotism ran through the city and clamored for revenge. Already, before the celebration of the anniversary of the national independence (September 16, 1862), wild rumors of a contemplated wholesale slaughter of foreigners had run through the town, arousing among us fears of an impending catastrophe. The news had one day been brought us that the 16th was the date fixed for these new Sicilian Vespers, and all were warned to be watchful. The day, however, passed without any further demonstration of ill will than a few shots, and cries of "Mueran los Franceses!"
Much of this excitement had, of course, been fostered by the stirring proclamations of the government, issued with a proper desire to arouse into something like patriotic enthusiasm the apathy of a people accustomed to submit to the inevitable. There was no telling, however, to what extremes might resort a populace composed of Indians and half-breeds, should it once become fully alive to the situation. To such a people geographical discrimination seemed a nicety; the issue was between them and the foreigners, and the words "French" and "foreigner" were at that time generally used as synonymous.
This was not all. When the fort of San Xavier was taken, and when began the frightful hand-to-hand fight in Puebla, the result of which was a foregone conclusion, the government announced its intention to defend the capital. The level of the lakes of Chalco and Tezcuco is above that of the city, and the flooding of the valley was regarded as an effective means of defense. This, of course, meant pestilence. The president resolutely declared that, should arms fail, the people must prolong the defense of the capital with their "teeth and nails"; and although there was no practical response among the people, a general and very genuine uneasiness pervaded the whole community.
It was a Mexican custom on Good Friday to burn Judas in effigy on the Plaza Mayor. Judas was a manikin made in the shape of the person who happened to be most unpopular at the time. It was quite admissible to burn Judas under different shapes, and sometimes these summary autos da fe were multiplied to suit the occasion and the temper of the people. At the same time, rattles were sold on the streets, and universally bought alike by children and adults, by rich and poor, to grind the bones of Judas, and the objectionable noise—second in hideousness only to that of our own sending off of fire-crackers on the Fourth of July—was religiously kept up all day. In the year of our Lord 1863 Judas was burned in Mexico on the Plaza Mayor under the shapes of General Forey, Napoleon III, and last, but not least, M. Dubois de Saligny, who especially was roasted with a will amid the wild execrations of the populace.
President Juarez had bent his whole energy upon the raising of an army of relief. He succeeded in getting together some ten thousand men, the command of whom he gave to General Comonfort. This had been no easy task. A general leva had been ordered, and all were mustered into the army who could be provided with arms. Of uniforms there was, of course, no mention. It was a supreme and desperate effort.
A convoy of supplies for the relief of General Ortega was also prepared, which it was hoped General Comonfort might succeed in throwing into the besieged city. He utterly failed, however; and his raw recruits having been routed at San Lorenzo* by General Bazaine (May 8), further resistance became hopeless. Puebla was lost. General Ortega faced the situation with a dignity worthy of his courageous defense of the town. He spiked his guns, blew up his magazines, disbanded the garrison, and, with his officers, surrendered on May 19.
* San Lorenzo is a village and hacienda through which the main road to Puebla passes about sixty-six miles from Mexico.
The news fell like a knell upon the capital. As far as we were concerned, there seemed to be just then only a choice of evils. Either the government would await in Mexico the impending issue, and we must be exposed to all the unspeakable horrors of which Puebla had just been the scene, or the President and his administration would abandon the city, and an interval must follow during which we must be left exposed to mob law, or, should Marquez first take possession of the city, perhaps to pillage and bloodshed.
Meanwhile Congress had indefinitely adjourned, after conferring full and extraordinary powers upon Juarez. The president issued a proclamation announcing his firm resolve to continue the war. After this he prepared to leave the city and to retire to San Luis.
That night, while sitting in our drawing-room, we heard the dull, steady tramp of men marching, otherwise noiselessly, down the Calle de San Francisco toward the plaza; and looking out of the window, we saw the debris of the defeated Liberal army making its way through the city. A strange, weird sight they presented in the moonlight—these men whose sole equipment consisted of a musket and a cartridge-box slung over their white shirts. Most of them wore only loose calzoneras, and many, according to the Mexican custom, were accompanied by their women. Apparently undrilled, or, at least, tramping on with scarcely an attempt at order, and seen in the half-shadow cast by the houses upon the moonlit street, their loose ranks reminded one more of the immigration of some ancient barbaric horde than of the march of a modern army.
I shall never forget the impressions of that night. The picturesqueness of the scene was not lessened by the element of personal interest that attached to it. What did this portend—this ragged remnant of a defeated army hurrying through the capital in the dead of night? Were the French approaching, driving it before them? Was it intended to garrison the city, and here to make the last stand in defense of the republic and of Mexican liberty? Or, on the contrary, was it beating a retreat into the interior of the country, making way for the advent of the foreigner and monarchy and priest rule?
The next day (May 31, 1863) an unusual stir was noticeable in the city. The air was all aglow with excitement. Horsemen were galloping in the streets leading pack-mules, and the sleepy town seemed full of bustle and animation. As we stood at our balcony, we saw many acquaintances, apparently equipped for a journey, speeding past, with a wave of the hand as a last farewell; and soon the attache of the American legation dropped in with a message from Mr. Corwin to the effect that President Juarez and his government were leaving the city.
The exodus of the previous night was thus explained. The remnants of General Comonfort's and General Ortega's armies had fallen back to serve as an escort for the government in its flight. The city was now without an administration, without a police, without an army. It was left unprotected, at the mercy of the mob or of the invader, and the serious question before us was how best to protect ourselves pending the arrival of the French forces.
The foreign representatives, fearing that the vanguard might be formed of the Mexican contingent under Marquez, and knowing the pitiless ferocity of the "Leopard," as the chieftain was called,* petitioned General Forey to send one of his divisions to take immediate possession of the capital. Meanwhile the foreign residents organized and formed themselves into mounted patrols, and although only seven hundred strong, they managed to maintain fair order.
* His name was Leonardo, from which came the sobriquet Leopardo.
Here and there ominous incidents occurred to show the necessity of such vigilance. A Frenchman was lassoed, and dragged through the streets by a small mob; another was shot in the head in front of our house, and, bleeding, took refuge in our patio. Upon inquiry, I was told that he had cried, "Vive la France!"
No one thought of retiring on that memorable night. From time to time a stray shot, a few shouting drunkards, or some other unwonted noise in the street, would excite our apprehension; then again, occasionally, some friend, passing with a patrol before our door, would step in and report that so far all was quiet.
Late that night, when at the window, listening in the stillness then reigning over the city, a distant but strangely familiar sound fell faintly upon my ear—very faintly; but never did the finest harmony born of Wagner's genius so fill a human soul with ecstasy. There was no mistaking it: it was a French bugle. The French were entering Mexico. We were safe, and now might go to bed.
IV. THE FRENCH IN THE CITY OF MEXICO—THE REGENCY
The next morning the town was swarming with red trousers, the wearers whereof were seeking quarters. From our balcony we saw, standing at the corner of the Calles de la Profesa and Espirito Santo, a little group of officers talking together in that half-earnest, half-distrait manner so characteristic of men newly landed in a town, whose interest in every trifle gets the better of the topic under immediate consideration.
By their uniforms and demeanor we could judge that one was a general and the others were officers of various rank. As we appeared at the balcony there was a perceptible flutter among them, and some of them began to ogle us as only Frenchmen could whose eyes had not rested upon a white woman for several months. This incident, trifling as it seems, was to become the key-note of our future Mexican existence. The group of officers in quest of suitable quarters turned out to be General Bazaine and his staff, some of whom afterward became our warm friends.
We now found another source of apprehension. The apartment we had rented, at the corner of the Calle de San Francisco, opposite the Iglesia de la Profesa, was larger than necessary for our small family, and a very spacious room looking upon Mexico's fashionable thoroughfare had been left unfurnished and unoccupied by us. It was obvious that we should be required to give it over for the use of some officer of the invading army, and the matter was naturally not without interest.
Early in the morning of June 5, a carriage drove up, and some middle-aged officers of the administration, in green-and-silver uniforms, applied for quarters. One of them was the paymaster-in-chief of the army, M. Ernest Louet. He was a worthy man, who afterward became a frequent visitor, although his general appearance and peculiar, peak-shaped skull, undisguised by any hirsute covering, were not likely favorably to impress frivolous feminine minds.*
* M. Louet, after the Franco-Prussian war, visited Marshal Bazaine in his Spanish retreat, and obtained from him all the documents relating to the intervention and the empire of Maximilian then in his possession. It was his intention to use them as the basis for an authentic history, which, however, he did not live to publish. The task thus begun by M. Louet was subsequently completed by M. Paul Gaulot, in 1889, under the title, "La Verite sur l'Expedition du Mexique, d'apres les Documents Inedits d'Ernest Louet, Payeur-en-Chef du Corps Expeditionnaire," and divided into three parts: "Un Reve d'Empire," "L'Empire de Maximilien," and "Fin d'Empire."
We drew a forlorn picture of the rooms, which, as a fact, were utterly unsuited to his purpose. He left without even looking at them, and we had a reprieve.
The unfinished condition of the apartments, as well as an abundant expenditure of tact and diplomacy on our part, saved us from other applicants, and we were beginning to flatter ourselves that we should escape this much-dreaded imposition when, late in the afternoon, two young naval officers called, accompanied by orderlies and pack-mules. They presented billets de logement, requesting to be given possession. We tried to discourage them, assuring them that the rooms contained no conveniences of any kind, not even furniture: but the young men were evidently easily satisfied; they politely but firmly insisted—their only wish, they said, being to camp under cover.
This annoyed us, and we showed them scant courtesy, not even attempting to disguise the fact that they were most unwelcome. Fate was, however, kind to us when it sent us these men. They turned out to be perfect gentlemen, and completely won us over by their unvarying good breeding under shabby treatment. Before long we were, and remained, the best of friends. As for their orderlies, they soon made love to our Indian maidens, and there is every reason to believe that the interlopers obtained all necessary comforts, after all. So all went well enough in the two menages.
Indeed, an entente cordiale between the population of Mexico and the French army was rapidly established. In a few days the place assumed an unwonted aspect of cheerfulness and festivity. The French officers, who for over a year past had led a life of hardship, were now bent upon pleasure. They fell gracefully into the Mexican mode of life, and took kindly to the havanera, the bull-fights, the Paseo, and the style of flirtation preferred by the Mexican women. For this they soon coined a French word, noviotage,* and thus expressed the semi-Platonic love-making of indefinite duration and undefined limits which with the natives usually culminates in marriage, after a prolonged term of years, but which with foreigners seldom culminated at all, for lack of time. They "played the bear,"** and ogled their chosen one from the street or at the Alameda, or followed her carriage on horseback at the Paseo, according to the most approved Mexican methods; and in exchange for small favors received, they cast a glow of sparkling cheerfulness upon the dull city of Montezuma.
* Derived from novio, "betrothed lover."
** The Mexicans call hacer l'oso the mode of courtship by which the lover, on horseback, passes under his chosen one's window, up and down, casting longing glances at her—the worse the weather the more ardent the love.
General Forey made his triumphant entrance on June 10. It was a magnificent sight, and one not easily forgotten. As the victorious veteran troops,—many of whom had seen the Crimea, Syria, and Italy,—in their battered though scrupulously neat uniforms, marched through the Calle de San Francisco, laden with their cumbersome campaign outfit, the whole population turned out to see them, and the balconies and windows on the line of march were lined with eager and interested faces.
This was no ordinary pageant. It was serious work, and full of the deepest meaning. These survivors of an army of thirty thousand men had arduously fought their way to this triumph for sixteen months. No one will probably ever know how many of their comrades had dropped on the roadside; and the weather-beaten faces, bronzed by long exposure to the tropical sun, the patched clothes, the long line of ambulances following in the rear, told a story in which little room was left for the imagination. The sight kindled genuine interest and aroused the sympathy of the crowd, and something very like spontaneous enthusiasm thrilled through the air on their passage.
The keys of the city had been solemnly offered to General Forey by General Salas, amid the acclamations of the people. The next day M. de Saligny presented a list of thirty-five citizens destined to form a junta. These were to select three men to act as regents pending the final decision of the people with regard to a permanent form of government. The junta was empowered to add to its numbers two hundred and fifteen citizens, supposed to be taken from all classes, who, with the thirty-five appointed by the French, would compose the assembly of notables upon whom must devolve the carrying out of the farce which it was intended must take the place of a popular expression of the will of the country.
Don Theodosio Lares was elected its president. This junta, in a secret meeting at which two hundred and thirty-one members were present, deliberated upon the form of government to be chosen for the Mexican nation and on July 10, at a public meeting, presented a report in which the republican system was denounced as the cause of the greatest evils which had of late years been the scourge of the country, and monarchy was advocated as the only remedy.
Four articles were voted upon, with only two dissenting voices: (1) The nation adopts as a form of government a constitutional monarchy, hereditary under a Catholic prince. (2) The sovereign will take the title of Emperor of Mexico. (3) The imperial crown of Mexico is offered to his Royal Highness Prince Ferdinand Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, for himself and his descendants. (4) In the case where, owing to unforeseen circumstances, the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian should not take possession of the throne offered him, the Mexican government trusts in the good will of his Majesty Emperor Napoleon III to designate another Catholic prince to whom the crown shall be offered. A regency, composed of General Almonte, General Salas, and Archbishop Labastida, was forthwith established, under the protection of the French.
It was obvious to all that the performance was enacted for the "benefit of the gallery." Gossip even told how the French had paid for the very clothes worn by some of the so-called "notables" upon that occasion. Nevertheless, the monarchy, by the will of the people, was voted in, and a commission was appointed, consisting of the most distinguished among the reactionary leaders, to wait upon Maximilian of Austria, and to offer him the throne on behalf of the Mexican nation.
But although the part played by the French in this comedy was thinly disguised, every one in the capital was now in a good humor. After the severe strain of the past year, the onerous burdens which had been imposed upon the people by the Liberal government in order to carry on the war,—the forced loans raised from the wealthy, the leva by means of which the poor were seized upon and pressed into the army,—a sudden reprieve had come. All responsibility now seemed lifted off the Mexican people and assumed by the French; and the revival of trade under the impulse given by the influx of pleasure-loving foreigners, who freely spent their money, was regarded as an earnest of the prosperity to come. No one seemed disposed to be over-critical as to methods, if only peace and plenty could be assured.
It would seem, however, that Napoleon's instructions to General Forey had not been exactly carried out. According to these, and in order to retain full control of political operations, the general was himself to appoint the provisional government, with General Almonte at its head. After this, tranquillity having been established in the country, he was to call for a popular vote to decide upon the form of government to be adopted and to constitute a national congress.*
*See official letters, November 1, December 17, 1862, February 14, 1863.
The French government had repeatedly declared to England and to the world that "no government would be imposed upon the Mexican people." Had it been honest when signing the provisions of the treaty of London, and later those of the convention of La Soledad, the armed expedition had now reached its end. Indeed, quite enough had already happened to show the French statesmen how illusory had been the promises of the Mexican refugees and the representations of Messrs. de Saligny and Jecker; and now, once more and for the last time, the opportunity was offered Napoleon gracefully to withdraw with the honors of war from the fool's errand on which he had so recklessly embarked.
The French army was now in Mexico. The commander-in-chief and the French minister might dictate their terms to the enemy from his fallen capital, and then retrace their steps homeward.
But this was not to be; unwilling to recognize his own error, Napoleon III preferred attributing to the mismanagement of his agents the difficulties that had sprung up on every side, and he resolved to persevere in his original intention. As for General Forey, whether his dullness of perception failed to grasp the true drift of his master's mind, or whether he was unable to steer his way through the tortuous policy which he was called upon to further, he seemed to regard his mission as fulfilled. After he had established the native provisional government, he complacently rested in the enjoyment of his new title of Marshal of France, apparently overlooking the fact that outside of the capital the national party held the country as absolutely as ever. He issued a decree confiscating the property of all Liberals who did not lay down their arms, and allowed the regency, which was composed of three clerical leaders,—General Almonte, of whom Marshal Bazaine was wont to say that he meant well, but il se prend trop au serieux, General Salas, a conservative old fossil unearthed for the occasion, and Archbishop Labastida,—to foreshadow an era of reaction and retrogression.
A decree (1863) intended to stop the exporting of gold, and another confiscating the property of political adversaries, created so much uneasiness that the French government was obliged to interfere and enforce their repeal. An ordinance compelling every one to kneel in the street upon the passage of the eucharist created loud dissatisfaction among the liberal-minded; and ordinances forbidding work on Sunday without the permission of the parish priest, and suspending work in the erection of buildings upon land formerly belonging to the clergy, had eventually to be repealed.
Religious processions had been forbidden by the Liberal government. One of the first mistakes made by the commander-in-chief was to allow the clergy to celebrate in June the Fete-Dieu, that should have been celebrated in May, but had been omitted, as Juarez was then in possession of the city. Not only did General Forey consent to this, but he and his officers attended the procession, an act which excited the sarcasm of the Liberals and gave substance to the fear that the French protectorate meant reaction.
The priests and clericals fully believed that their turn to govern had come. They actually notified the tenants of former clergy property not to pay rent to their landlords, as the sales of such property had been the work of Satan, and were now to be annulled, and that if they paid their rent they must eventually be called upon to pay it over again to the church, the rightful owner.
Meanwhile Maximilian's faith had been shaken by the refusal of England to guarantee the empire. When, in the autumn of 1861, the negotiations secretly carried on with regard to the establishment of a Mexican monarchy had at last assumed a tangible form, and serious propositions had been made to the Archduke Maximilian by M. Gutierrez de Estrada (the representative of the reactionary party in Mexico, acting at the instigation of Napoleon III), the archduke, with the approval of his brother Emperor Francis Joseph, had acquiesced under two principal conditions: "(1) The support, not only moral, but material and efficient, of the two great powers (France and England); (2) the clearly expressed wish of the Mexican people."*
* See note drawn up under his supervision by his secretary, the Baron de Pont, bearing date September 27, 1861, published in "La Verite sur l'Expedition du Mexique," loc. cit., pp. 8, 9, and compare M. de Keratry, "L'Empereur Maximilien," etc., pp. 8, 9. It has been said that the project was submitted to Maximilian three years before the treaty of Miramar was signed (see Charles d'Hericault, "Maximilien et le Mexique," p. 23), and I heard it asserted, while in Mexico, that the Mexican empire was not wholly unconnected with the peace of Villafranca, after which the archduke had retired to his castle on the Adriatic. However this may be, the above shows that official, though secret, negotiations were opened with regard to Maximilian's future empire even before the treaty of London was signed (October 31, 1861), and that, in entering into the triple alliance, England was being led by her wily ally further than she meant to go.
French diplomacy had failed in its efforts to secure British concurrence. Maximilian now showed himself unwilling to regard the invitation of the junta assembled in the capital as sufficient to constitute a claim to the imperial crown. He insisted upon a similar expression of feeling from the other large centers of population in the country, and stated his readiness to accept the trust "when the vast territory should have been pacified." This meant the conquest of the country, neither more nor less.
Napoleon apparently did not hesitate. Trusting in the love of warlike achievement so strong in the French people, he pushed ahead along his dangerous path. That even now he clung to the practicability of his original plan is shown by the almost naive manner in which, on September 12,1863, he wrote to General Bazaine that "the PRINCIPAL object at present was to pacify and organize (!)" the country by calling upon all men of good will to rally around the new order of things and by preventing the enactment of reactionary measures. He then still hoped and believed that the return to France of the outlay caused by the expedition could be guaranteed by means of a great loan raised in Mexico—WHEN, organized and restored to prosperity. He constantly urged upon his agents the organization of the finances of the country and of the Mexican army.
Immediately upon the arrival of the French, Napoleon had sent a financier, M. Budin, to put order into the country's resources. M. Budin was a commonplace, middle-aged little man, of mediocre ability, whose personality was not calculated to impress one with an idea of intellectual force. I was told, by those who were in a position to judge of his ability as a specialist, that, although a first-class administrative officer, he was lacking in initiative, and was in no way qualified to extricate Mexico from financial difficulties. His attainments were those acquired in the daily routine of an upper clerk's well-defined duties, and his mind was of narrow scope, ill fitted to adapt itself to the entirely new problems set before it. He had been Paymaster of the French army during the Crimean and the Italian wars, and afterward receveur-general de la Savoie. He brought with him a mining engineer and a staff of custom-house and revenue officers.
He did not distinguish himself, one of his earliest acts being to urge the promulgation of the above-mentioned decree sequestrating the property of all who were then opposed to the new order of things. He also reinstated the old method of administering justice, which was a disappointment to the progressive element. To be sure, Maximilian, upon his arrival, treated him coldly, and did not help him to make a success of his mission. His place was successively filled by M. de Maintenant and by M. Corta, who were not more successful in bringing the revenues of the empire up to its requirements. M. de Bonnefons, a fourth financier, sent in 1865, fell ill and was compelled to return to France. The year following his arrival, he, in turn, was replaced by M. Langlais.
On July 16, 1863, the Emperor had promoted General Forey to the rank of marshal, and had thus softened the recall of his incompetent, though faithful, servant.
The newly made marshal celebrated this promotion by a ball, at which a trifling incident occurred which made an impression upon me, and which, no doubt, General Forey remembered for some time. He was a very heavy man, of full habit, tall, with a short neck and red complexion, all the more ruddy by contrast with his gray hair and mustache. While waltzing past the general, I saw the light chair upon which he sat suddenly give way with a loud crash under his ponderous weight, and down came the commander-in-chief hard upon the floor. Rumors of his probable downfall were already reaching us, and the appositeness of the situation appealed to us. I jokingly whispered to my partner, a young officer on his staff: "Mon general, vous avez fait la culbute." We both thoughtlessly laughed, and were caught in the act by his Excellency at the moment when, helped to his feet, unhurt, by the bystanders, he was endeavoring to veil under an assumption of increased dignity his consciousness of the absurdity of the accident. He flushed up angrily, and, I was afterward told, never quite forgave the young man for his share in our disrespectful mirth.
He was most unpopular. His whole conduct, since his arrival in Mexico, had been characterized by weakness, indecision, and lack of judgment, and he had shown himself in every respect unequal to the difficult task before him. Colonel Loizillon says that, on the way to Puebla, when the generals assembled in council of war differed, instead of deciding the question the commander-in-chief would adjourn, beseechingly saying: "Mon Dieu, tachez donc de vous entendre"* ("Gentlemen, DO try to come to an understanding"). He had allowed himself to be deceived by the French minister to Mexico with the glaring facts before his eyes. As a military chief, his procrastination had given the Mexicans the time they needed fully to organize their defense; and had it not been for General Bazaine's energy and military capacity in urging and successfully carrying out the attack upon the fort of San Xavier, the siege of Puebla, already prolonged far beyond the limits of all likelihood, might have cost the French a still greater expenditure of time and human life. Indeed, it was the openly expressed opinion of many French officers that to famine was principally due the fall of Puebla. "Sans cela nous y serions encore," they would say.
* "Lettres sur l'Expedition du Mexique," p. 101.
General Forey's elevation had been due mainly to the fact that he was one of the men who had served Napoleon in 1851 in the coup d'etat. Indeed, many of the Emperor's most glaring failures were due to the same cause,—i.e., loyalty to individuals,—which led him to place in responsible positions men of small merit and of less principle who had stood by Caesar and his fortunes.
In France the effect of the general's incapacity had been serious. The delay that had occurred in bringing about a result announced as easy of accomplishment had furnished sharp weapons to the opposition. It had forced the government to ask the Chamber of Deputies for large appropriations to conduct the war upon a serious scale. It was no longer a military parade from Vera Cruz to Mexico to present the French flag to the enthusiastic gratitude of the Mexicans: it was a fighting army of thirty-five thousand men to be maintained across the seas at the expense of France.
The French leaders may be said to have displayed, in their Mexican venture, the same lack of administrative efficiency and of military organization, the same insufficient knowledge of and preparation for the task to be performed, as so conspicuously appeared at the very outset of the Franco-Prussian War. It is impossible to read the accounts of the various campaigns since published without recognizing the presence, in victory over an unorganized enemy, of the elements of the later failure when the same men were arrayed against the strongly organized German forces.*
* It is interesting, in this connection, to find that the same conditions existed in France at the time of the Crimean war. General Bosquet, one of the heroes of that expedition, in his letters constantly denounced the administration for its lack of preparation. Under date of January 14, 1854, he says: "Imagine that they have not yet made any preparation. The cavalry has neither horses nor men; neither has the artillery. No orders have been given about harness, or about any new material." And in another letter, written on the eve of his departure for the seat of war, he repeats the same complaints. Marshal St. Arnaud, the commander-in-chief, wrote from Gallipoli to the Emperor that the army lacked the very necessaries of life: "One cannot make war," he said in a note dated May 27, "without bread, shoes, kettles, and water-cans."
With characteristic patriotism, the Chamber voted the appropriations necessary to vindicate the honor of the French flag; but the government was condemned to hear many unpleasant truths.
As for M. de Saligny, he had turned the French legation into a business office, in which the guaranty of France was traded upon to cover the most doubtful transactions. Napoleon had at last recognized his true character, and now—too late, alas!—recalled him from his post. "De gre ou de force, quand memo il aurait donne sa demission," he had written to General Bazaine.*
* November 1, 1863. See Louet, loc. cit., "Un Reve d'Empire," p. 208.
But this unforeseen contingency greatly disturbed the French minister in his operations. His accomplices, the clerical leaders and others, worked for him, and moved heaven and earth to have his recall reconsidered. They failed; but to make up for his disappointment the Mexican National Assembly voted him a national reward of one hundred thousand dollars. Although Marshal Forey had not yet left the country, General Bazaine remonstrated with General Almonte, who, however, resented his interference.
Both M. de Saligny and Marshal Forey enjoyed too much playing the leading role to depart willingly. They lingered on, much to the amusement of the onlookers, until General Bazaine grew impatient at the awkwardness of his own position. The ridiculous side of the complication was seized upon by the wags of the army; bets were taken, and a song the refrain of which was, "Partiront-ils, partiront-ils pas," was popularly sung everywhere, the innumerable verses of which showed the inexhaustible interest taken in the subject.*
* Plus rapide que l'eclair Un bruit circule en ville; La joie, la gaiete sont dans l'air; On s'aborde, on babille; Soldats et pekins Se serrent la main En disant, 'Quelle chance!' Tout bas on redit, Forey, Saligny Sont rappeles en France," etc.
THE EMPIRE OF MAXIMILIAN I 1864-65
I. MARSHAL BAZAINE
In October, 1863, the reins of power, so loosely held by General Forey, at last passed into firmer hands. General Bazaine took command of affairs. It was high time. The Juarists, profiting by the long respite afforded them, were reorganizing in the interior, and were threatening. The daily stage was attacked on its way to the coast as often as not. Highwaymen tore up the rails of the Paso del Macho Railroad, attacked the train, and killed passengers. Detachments of banditti, called by courtesy guerrillas, everywhere infested the roads, even at the very gates of the capital. A picnic was given to us at this time, by some officers of General Bazaine's staff, at a wild, beautiful spot, where the ruins of a graceful aqueduct, built by the Spaniards, formed the principal attraction. It was less than a twenty-mile ride, yet it was deemed unsafe to go without a strong escort, although we and the officers who gave the affair formed, with their orderlies, a large cavalcade.
General Forey's policy in letting the regency have its way, and in countenancing reactionary legislation of an aggressive character, had discouraged the honest partizans of order. The clergy now openly declared that Maximilian was pledged to the holy see for the restoration of the confiscated property of the clergy to its original owners. The archbishop, newly landed, did all that was in his power to encourage such a belief and to guide the regency to an uncompromising surrender to the holy see.* As the security of immense transactions in clergy property was involved, serious uneasiness was felt.
* Compare M. de Keratry, loc. cit., p. 31.
General Bazaine handled all these complications with firmness and skill. He compelled the regency to repeal the decrees most objectionable to the thinking portion of the community. He enforced the maintaining of all bona-fide transactions in clergy property, but advocated the revision of such contracts as might be proved fraudulent, and urged a concordat proposing that the state provide for the support of the clergy. His orders were to rally around him the Liberal chiefs, and he strove by a wise, tactful policy to conciliate men of all shades of opinion. His vigorous military action soon established order in the territory surrounding Mexico. With the concurrence of General Almonte, who earnestly wished the welfare of his country, he reduced Archbishop Labastida to terms, if not to silence.
Having done this, he took the field, concentrated his army from the various distant points where the different corps had been ordered in view of the campaign which he was preparing, and within six weeks defeated, by rapid and well-concerted blows, Generals Doblado, Negrete, Comonfort, and Uraga, who at that time, thanks to General Forey's procrastination, were holding the country with. the rallied forces of the Liberal party.
From Morelia to San Luis, from Mexico to Guadalajara, the French flag waved over every stronghold. The conquered cities received the conquerors coldly, but acknowledged the archduke (of whom, we were told by the officers, many did not even know the name) just as resignedly as for over forty years of civil war they had been wont to acknowledge the victor's chosen presidential candidate.
This campaign was little more than a race, and it was said that the French conquered the country with their legs far more than with their bayonets.
In February, 1864, the general, uneasy at the turn which political affairs were taking in the capital, returned with an escort as suddenly as he had departed. It was high time. In his absence, Mgr. Labastida, not giving due consideration to the change of leadership that had taken place at the French headquarters, had so far forgotten himself as to fulminate, in the name of the church, against the French. But upon the return of the commander-in-chief he reconsidered his action, and publicly "gave them his blessing."*
* M. de Keratry, loc. cit., p. 33.
General Bazaine was at this time the most popular man in the army. Hitherto eminently successful in all his military undertakings, he had risen from the ranks, having won his honors step by step upon the battle-field, at first by his courage, later by his remarkable military ability.
He was a plain-looking man, short and thick-set, whose plebeian features one might search in vain for a spark of genius or a ray of imagination; and yet under the commonplace exterior dwelt a kindly spirit, an intelligence of no mean order, and, despite a certain coarseness of thought and expression too common among Frenchmen, a soul upon which the romance of life had impressed its mark in lines of fire.
The story went that, when a colonel, he had in Spain come across a little girl of great beauty and personal attractions, who seemed to him out of place amid her surroundings. He picked up the little wild rose as it grew on the roadside, and conceived the notion of transplanting it into good, rich soil, and of giving it its share of sunshine. He took the child to Paris, where he left her in a convent to be educated.
The soldier continued his brilliant career in the Crimea, Italy, Syria, and Africa; and when, after some years, he returned to Paris, he found the little girl grown into a beautiful and attractive woman, whose heart was full of warm gratitude for her benefactor. He fell in love with her, and, breaking through all rules of French matrimonial usage, married her.
Her charm won for her many friends in the circle which his position entitled her to enter; her attractions exposed her to temptations which her early training had ill fitted her to meet; and her death, which occurred under peculiarly distressing circumstances soon after his promotion to the command of the army in Mexico, was a cruel blow. The news of his loss reached the general while away from the capital on the brilliant campaign which added the greater part of the country to the projected empire (November, 1863). After a funeral mass, which he heard with his officers, he retired to his tent, and, alone, fought that hardest of all battles, and conquered his own heart. In a few days he returned to his duty, and no one ever knew what had passed in his innermost soul.
Two years later a ball was given at the quartier-general. Bazaine, who had lately been promoted to the rank of marshal (1864), had stopped for a moment to say a few words, when one of his guests, a young Mexican girl who was waltzing by, suddenly stopped near us, having torn her dress. Pins were produced, the damaged ruffle was repaired, and the girl passed on. "Who is this?" asked the marshal, evidently much struck with her appearance. "It is extraordinary," he muttered, "how much she reminds me of my wife." He looked distrait, and shortly after excused himself, and wandered off in the direction Mlle. de la Pena had taken.
The courtship was a short one. Maximilian, in order to facilitate a union which he deemed to be in the interest of his government, gave the young girl as a dowry the palace of San Cosme,* valued at one hundred thousand dollars; and thus was May united, to December. Two children were born to the marshal, one of them in Mexico,** and never was father prouder of his young wife and of her offspring than was the marshal.***
* A suburb west of Mexico.
** Maximilian was his godfather,
*** When, after the Franco-Prussian war, the marshal, having been made a sacrifice to France's wounded pride, was court-martialed, and, amid the imprecations of his countrymen, was imprisoned in the Fort de Ste. Marguerite, his young wife and her cousin contrived the perilous escape of the old man. By means of a rope procured for him by them he lowered himself from the walls of the fortress. Mme. Bazaine was awaiting him in a small boat, the oars of which were held by her cousin. A ship was near by, ready to sail, on which they sought refuge in Spain. And so it was that a fallen marshal of France passed from a state prison into exile, where he ended a life in which fame and romance had an equal share.
II. A BED OF ROSES IS A GOLD-MINE
The difficult task intrusted to General Bazaine had been triumphantly performed.
The adhesion of the main part of Mexico to the empire was secured. Oajaca and Guerrero, in the south, still held out, under General Porfirio Diaz, and in the north Chihuahua and Durango had not submitted; but enough of the Mexican territory was pacified to answer immediate purposes. European criticism and the scruples of Maximilian must be satisfied by this appearance of a popular election and a quasi-universal suffrage. For forty years Mexico had not been so quiet. The defeated and demoralized Liberal forces were scattered, and the Juarez government, retreating toward the extreme northern frontier at Monterey, seemed to have nothing left save its eternal rights.
On May 28, 1864, Maximilian of Austria and the Archduchess Charlotte reached Vera Cruz on the Austrian frigate Novara. They were escorted by the French man-of war Themis, By some unfortunate contretemps, the deputation that had left the capital with much pomp and flutter in order to greet them was not there. They arrived as ordinary passengers, the people evincing little curiosity and less cordiality, as we have seen. Vera Cruz is in itself not calculated to cheer the newcomer, and their first impression of their venture was a painful one.
In due time, however, things righted themselves. General Almonte and his suite appeared upon the scene, and all the necessary pageant was brought into play to soothe the wounded feelings of the new sovereigns. They landed on the following day at six o'clock in the morning. The early hour interfered with any effective popular demonstration, and their reception, as they proceeded to Loma Alta, at that time the terminus of the railroad, was by no means a brilliant one. At this point they took carriages and drove on, escorted by a body of cavalry commanded by General Galvez and Colonel Miguel Lopez. Near the Cerro del Chiquihuite the imperial carriage broke down, and the young sovereigns had to accept that of General de Maussion. It was in the midst of a terrible tropical storm, which put out the torches with which their escort lighted the way, that the imperial cortege entered Cordoba. Here, however, they were met by a crowd of torch-bearing Indians, whose enthusiasm made up for the gloom and disappointments which had hitherto marked their arrival.
The rest of the journey was a well-prepared ovation. The priests, now eager to come to the fore, had ordered out the Indian population. The action of Maximilian in going to Rome, and in piously securing the papal blessing before sailing to take possession of his new dominions, had been received by the ultra-clerical party as a hopeful symptom of returning papal ascendancy under the coming reign.*
* On April 19, 1864, Maximilian and the archduchess had repaired to Rome in order, said the official papers, to "implore the benediction of the august chief of the church, and to place their future effort under the aegis of his paternal intercession and of his powerful authority." The sermon preached by Pius IX in the Sistine Chapel on April 29, in which the Holy Father encouraged the new sovereigns to accomplish the designs of Providence in a mission which was but a part of a "grand scheme of Christian propagandism," linked the empire to the clerical party.
At this time Napoleon III could no longer be unaware that the recognition of the liberty of religious worship, of toleration, and of the reform laws promulgated by Juarez, was a necessity of the situation, and that the church could not be reinstated as in the past. His representatives in Mexico knew that the reactionary platform was not only an unsafe one, but an impossible one for the empire to stand upon in Mexico; and they were endeavoring to extricate themselves from the consequences of their faux pas with as much dignity and consistency as circumstances would admit. The awkwardness of the situation was, therefore, only added to by this demonstration of piety and filial obedience on the part of the new Mexican rulers. Yet it had the effect of rallying the clergy for the time being, who did their best to increase their claims by a public display of devotion to the empire.
The new sovereigns might well imagine that they were the elect of the people when, followed by a multitude of Indians, they entered the capital.
It was under the scorching rays of a hot June sun that they made their formal entry into the city of Montezuma.* Never had such a sight been seen since the days of the Aztecs. The lavish ingenuity of the French—anxious, for obvious reasons, to make the occasion a telling one—vied with the interested patriotism of the clerical party to excite the enthusiasm of the people, and to produce an impression upon the Austrian travelers. Triumphal arches of verdure, draped with flags and patriotic devices, were raised along the principal avenues leading to the Plaza Mayor and to the palace. As far as the eye could reach, the festively decked windows, the streets, and the flat roofs of the houses were crowded with people eager to catch a glimpse of the new sovereigns. As they slowly approached in the official landau, the crowd was so dense as to be with difficulty held back.
* June 12, 1864. The Archduchess Charlotte was born in Brussels on June 7, 1840, and she was then twenty-four years old. The archduke was born at Schonbrunn on July 6, 1832, and was therefore not quite thirty-two years of age.
It was a singular spectacle. They seemed so tall and fair, these two young people of another race, as they smilingly advanced through the swarthy multitude of their small, ragged subjects, bowing in acknowledgment of their acclamations! Involuntarily one thought of visiting angels, or, better still, of the fair god Quetzalcohuatl, whom the Mexican legend of olden times brought from the East to rule over and to civilize the natives of this land by bringing them plenty. The analogy spontaneously occurred to every thoughtful onlooker, and spread like lightning throughout the city.
Dramatic as it might be, the situation was not without its comic touches. Some one in the imperial entourage had the unfortunate idea of imitating for the Emperor's body-guard the sky-blue-and-silver uniform of Napoleon's tall Cent-Gardes. It is hard to imagine anything more amusing than the caricature thus produced of the French picked regiment, which saw the light for the first time on that occasion.
It was at first difficult to establish among the republican Mexicans the rigid etiquette of the Austrian court, and some unsuccessful attempts to do so were fruitful of heartache on both sides. For instance, when Senora Salas, the wife of the regent, was first introduced to her young sovereign, the poor little old lady amiably advanced, prepared to give her the national abraso—a graceful greeting which closely simulates an embrace. In Mexico its significance in good society was very much that of a shake of the hand with us. Much to her consternation, the tall Empress stepped back and drew herself up to her full height at what she regarded an undue liberty, while tears of indignation came into her eyes. Whereupon the poor senora was dissolved in tears, and the incident came near to disturbing the good feeling that every one hoped might at once be established between the sovereigns and their Mexican court.
For a brief space we all felt as though a new era were indeed about to dawn upon this Western land. There is no doubt that at this time the empire seemed a fact, and that, with the exception of a certain number of outlying districts, the country was fast rallying around its banner. It represented order and stability, while the Liberals occupied the position of anarchists.*
* See Masseras, "Un Essai d'Empire au Mexique," p. 9, where he quotes a letter addressed by Senor Zamacona to President Juarez, and bearing date June 16, 1864.
General Bazaine did all in his power to inaugurate brilliantly the advent of the empire. A splendid ball was given to the young sovereigns at the quartier-general—such a ball as is seldom seen outside the great European capitals. The general's aides-de-camp had been put in charge, and all that unlimited funds and a large experience of such matters could accomplish was done to make the occasion the memorable feature of a memorable historic event.
The great patio of the palace of San Cosme was floored and roofed over to serve as a ball-room. At the back of the great arcade surrounding it, the arches and pillars of which were draped with French and Mexican flags, was banked a profusion of plants and flowers, upon which was cast the light of myriads of candles and colored lanterns. In the middle of the huge improvised ball-room the great fountain played, and its sparkling waters were seen through masses of tropical vegetation. Here and there enormous warlike trophies reminded the spectator that he was the guest of a great army. The artillery had supplied groups of heavy cannon, stacked on end, and huge piles of cannon-balls, while at intervals trophies of flags and drums, of guns and bayonets, tastefully grouped about the French and the Mexican coats of arms, broke with striking effect the expanse of wall above the arcades.
When the imperial cortege entered the crowded ball-room, the quadrille d'honneur was danced by their Majesties, the general-in-chief, and the more distinguished members of their respective suites, after which the Emperor and Empress were respectfully escorted by the general to their throne, set under a crimson-velvet canopy resting upon French cannon.
They were so young and so handsome in their imperial pomp! By them stood Princess Zichy, tall and distinguished, in a simple white-tulle gown and natural flowers, with a wealth of such diamonds as are seldom seen on one person—a homely woman, but interesting to us as the daughter of the Metternichs. Her husband, Prince Zichy, was the most striking figure in the imperial party. He wore the full state costume of a Hungarian Magyar; and his many orders, hanging around his neck and upon his breast, as well as the marvelous hilt, belt, and jeweled sheath of his ancestral sword, stood out finely upon his black-velvet costume, and made him a conspicuous figure even in an assemblage where the ordinary evening dress was almost unseen.
The glitter of all this court life, the revival of trade, the abundance of money so freely brought and spent in the country, dazzled the people, and a golden dust was thrown into the eyes of all, which for a brief period prevented them from seeing the true drift of political events. Indeed, the brilliancy of the scene was not entirely due to flash-light. The revenues derived from the customs of Tampico and Vera Cruz were at this time materially increasing. An official report, read to the French Chamber in 1865, showed that the revenues from those ports, which for three months in 1864 had been $96,000 and $900,000 respectively, had for the same period in 1865 risen respectively to $431,000 and $1,645,000.
Large concessions for railroads had been asked for and granted under solid guaranties—the line from Vera Cruz to Mexico to an Anglo-French company, pledged to complete it in five years, and another concession for three lines, for the carrying out of which $4,500,000 had been subscribed. Telegraph lines were being established; coal, petroleum, and gold- and silver-mines were being exploited, or were in a fair way to be.
The good management of the regency under General Almonte's frugal administration had accumulated a balance of 15,000,000 francs in the treasury—a small surplus which must have been encouraging to the Emperor upon his arrival. Moreover, the loan of 200,000,000 francs, so readily taken up abroad, had given a substantial foundation for hopeful anticipation, and it seemed as though France might possibly get out of her rash venture with honor and profit.
The mirage that had lured Napoleon to these perilous shores now appeared materially nearer, and its outlines seemed more vivid and attractive than ever before.
But it was an easy matter to create an empire as the result of an armed invasion of an unwilling land, it was quite another thing to organize it upon a permanent basis. As Prince Napoleon—familiarly known as Plon-Plon—very wittily remarked later, "One can do anything with bayonets, except sit upon them." ("On peut tout faire avec des baionnettes, excepte s'asseoir dessus.") For over two years Napoleon III endeavored to make Maximilian perform the latter feat—with what result we all know only too well.
The details of Maximilian's court once settled, and the code of etiquette to be used adopted, the new sovereign started forth upon a tour of the provinces, to present himself to the loyalty of his subjects. The Empress remained as regent, to govern under the guidance of the Commander-in-chief. Ovations had everywhere been prepared, and a semblance of popularity, so dear to Maximilian's heart, was the result. But immense sums were expended, and more precious time was wasted.
Upon his return, Mexican society turned out en masse to do him honor. We all sallied forth in a monster cavalcade by the Paseo de la Vega to meet him some miles out of the city, and escort him back to the palace. All this was pleasant and exciting, but wise heads saw that this was no time for idle pleasure, and some impatience was manifested at this pageantry.
Then began a series of administrative experiments. Many projects were mapped out with a view to placing Mexico abreast of the most advanced countries of the civilized world.
Among other premature efforts made at this time, when the young Emperor gave fullest flight to his dreams, was a Department of the Navy. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate how whimsical was the mind of the Austrian ex-admiral and how slight was his grasp of the situation. Long-postponed issues, involving vital questions of policy and of administration, were awaiting his decision, and he busied himself with frivolities and with impossibilities. These early days gave the keynote of his three years' reign.
Captain Destroyat, a French naval officer, was made secretary of the navy. As the Mexican government did not own a canoe, and as there was at that time no serious likelihood of its ever owning a battle-ship, this sinecure caused no little merriment among us, and many were the practical jokes of which the hapless cabinet officer was the victim.
His quarters were situated one block below our house, in the Calle de Espiritu Santo. This street, owing to a depression in the level and to bad drainage, was usually flooded, during the rainy season, after every severe aguacero. So impassable did it then become that even men were compelled to engage the services of a cargador to carry them across "pickaback." When came the first shower after his new dignity had been conferred upon Captain Destroyat, his comrades, bent upon fun, purchased a toy flotilla, which they floated, flying the Mexican flag, down the street. In mock dignity the tiny ships came to an anchor before his door, much to every one's merriment, excepting, it was whispered, to that of the powers that were, who found a sting in the harmless levity.*
* The new Navy Department, although substantial advances were made to it by the French treasury for the purpose of guarding the coast against smugglers, did little to justify its existence. Two years later, when Empress Charlotte arrived in Vera Cruz, about to sail for Europe on that the fruitless errand from which she was never to return, there was not one rowboat flying the Mexican flag ready to convey her to the steamer which was lying in port at anchor. A boat belonging to a French man-of-war was placed at her disposal, but the unfortunate woman, then embittered by the treatment received at the hands of the French government, flatly refused to be taken, even over so short a distance, under the French flag; and the incident gave rise to a painful scene. As the Empress was then on her way as a suppliant to the court of the Tuileries, there is every reason to believe this illogical and almost childish sensitiveness was one of the first symptoms of the cerebral derangement that was so soon to become evident. Other exhibitions of an impaired judgment were related which then seemed incomprehensible.
Maximilian has been uniformly blamed by French writers for frittering away the first precious months of his reign in dreams, or in the settlement of minor details, the triviality of which was in glaring contrast with the gravity of the issues before him. True as this criticism may be in theory, it is perhaps to be regretted—if we consider his Majesty's youth and inexperience, and his absolute ignorance of the conditions which he was called upon to face, as well as of the capabilities and personal history of the men with whom he was to deal—that he did not longer continue to allow others, who had painfully earned a clearer knowledge of the situation, to rule in his name. The French, after a long series of preliminary blunders, were just beginning to understand the country when the Emperor arrived and attempted independently to acquire the same lesson, at the expense of the nation, of his party, and of his allies.
It soon became obvious that the young monarch was not equal to the task which he had undertaken, and a feeling of disappointment prevailed. Unendowed with the force and clearness of mind necessary in an organizer, he nevertheless insisted upon all administrative work passing through his own imperial bureau. At the head of this bureau he placed an obscure personal favorite, a Belgian named Eloin, who had risen to favor through his social accomplishments. This man did not speak one word of Spanish, hated the French, despised the Mexicans, and was more ignorant than his master himself of American questions in general, and of Mexican affairs in particular.
While in office he used his power to repress much of the impulse given to enterprise by the French. His narrow views were responsible for a jealous policy which excluded all that he could not personally appreciate and manage. He and the Emperor undertook to decide questions upon which they were then hardly competent to give an intelligent opinion. The Mexican leaders were made to feel that they had no influence, the French that they had no rights. A chill was suddenly felt to pervade the official atmosphere. As a prominent member of the Belgian legation once remarked:
"To eat priest for breakfast and Frenchman for dinner, when one has been called to the throne by the clergy, and must rely upon France for sole support, may be regarded as a dangerous policy." After doing much mischief, M. Eloin was sent abroad upon a mysterious mission. It was rumored that he had gone to watch over his master's personal interests abroad.*
* On December 28,1864, Maximilian entered a protest against the family compact exacted from him by his brother, the Emperor Francis Joseph, on April 9, a few days before his departure from Miramar and communicated to the Reichsrath on November 16th. In this curious document he stated that it was upon the suggestion of the Emperor of Austria that the throne of Mexico had been offered to him; that after the negotiations were closed, when his withdrawal must have brought about the most serious European complications, the Emperor Francis Joseph, accompanied by his most intimate councilors, had come hastily to Miramar to force from him an absolute renunciation of his birthrights; that, having given his word to the Mexican delegation sent to offer him a throne, he had signed this unqualifiable compact, but that experienced diplomats and expert jurists, after studying the question, were of the opinion that a document exacted under such conditions was null and void; and that the diets, with the consent of the two interested emperors, were alone competent to decide upon such rights. In this case the diets had not even been consulted.
This protest, the text of which is published in M. Domenech's "Histoire du Mexique" (vol. iii, p. 204), excited the suspicion that Maximilian had not relinquished his European ambitions, and that the role of Liberal ruler which he played upon the Mexican stage was played partly to an Austrian audience.
A few months after this (May 3, 1865) M. Eloin was sent abroad, ostensibly to treat of a new loan; he was no financier, and it is likely that his mission was a confidential one, the political nature of which comes out clearly in the intercepted letter, under date of September 27, 1866, which was published in the United States. (See p. 243.)
Indeed, the presence of the personal friends and countrymen of the sovereigns who had accompanied them in their voluntary exile caused a note of discord in the general harmony of the first days of the empire, indicative of the cacophony which was soon to follow. Prince and Princess Zichy and Countess Collonitz soon returned home, but a number of men remained to occupy lucrative and confidential positions about the person of the monarch.
It was natural that, so far away from their native land, these would-be Mexican rulers, stranded among a people with whose customs and mode of thought they had no sympathy, and of whose traditions they knew nothing, should cling to the little circle of trusted friends who had followed them in their adventure. It was natural also that the Mexicans, seduced by the vision of a monarchy in which THEY hoped to be the ruling force by virtue of their share in its inception and its establishment, should feel a keen disappointment upon finding foreigners, whom they themselves had been instrumental in placing at the head of affairs, not only overshadowing them, but usurping what they deemed their legitimate influence. It was likewise natural that the French, who had put up all the stakes for the game, and who had sacrificed lives, millions, and prestige in the venture, should look to a preponderant weight in the councils of an empire which was entirely of their creating. All this was the inevitable consequence of such a combination as that attempted in Mexico; but apparently it was one which had entered into no one's calculations, and for which no provision had been made. The imperial dream of Napoleon III had been too shadowy to include such humanities.
The original "king-makers" soon became a troublesome element in Maximilian's administration. His policy naturally led him to seek supporters among the progressive Mexicans, and to devise the honorable retirement of his early allies from the active management of affairs.
General Almonte from the first was set aside with empty honors.* In 1866 he was appointed to replace Senor Hidalgo as representative of Mexico to France. General Miramon and General Marquez were likewise sent away in honorable exile; and by degrees the more conspicuous among the reactionary leaders were put out of the way.
* He was made great marshal of the court, minister of the imperial household, and high chancellor of the imperial orders.
In March, 1864, Maximilian, about to sail from Miramar, had addressed a letter to President Juarez. In this curious document he spoke of himself as "the chosen of the people," and invited him to attach himself to the empire. He even offered him a distinguished place in its administration. This, of course, was haughtily declined by the President. But persevering efforts were made to win over, by promises of preferment, the leading men of the Liberal party. Some declined in noble terms, but others succumbed to the temptation, and for a while a decided tendency was shown to rally around the new order of things. Yet these conditions, favorable as they were, added to the complications of the situation. In a very short time, what with the difficulties arising from the nationalized clergy property, and with the personal disappointment of many of those who had made the empire, Maximilian found the men upon whose invitation he had come to Mexico turning away from him. Moreover, the influence of M. Eloin's policy had inaugurated the long series of misunderstandings between the court and the French quartier-general, which ultimately led to complications at first by no means unavoidable. "Non es emperador, es empeorador," was the pun popularly repeated by Mexican wags.* Six months had not elapsed since the regent Almonte had turned over to the young Emperor the quasi-consolidated empire conquered by Marshal Bazaine, and thinking men already foresaw the end. Never did the tide of success turn so rapidly.
* "Ce n'est pas un empereur; c'est un empireur." Compare Masaeras, "Un Essai d'Empire au Mexique," p. 42 (Paris, 1879).
In October, 1864, Comte de Thun de Hohenstein had been sent to Paris to negotiate for the transportation of some four thousand Austrians for the army of Maximilian in Mexico. Belgians were also rapidly enlisting under Colonel Van der Smissen; and shortly afterward Austro-Belgian auxiliary troops, numbering, from first to last, some eight thousand men, were transferred to Mexico.* These soon developed into an additional source of difficulty.
* See Galignani, October 14, 1864.
The officers of the Austrian contingent had not forgotten the yet recent encounters with the French army at Solferino and Magenta, and, no doubt at first unconsciously, an unconciliatory spirit was manifested in every difference which arose between the French and their present allies.
Comte de Thun, the commander of the Austrian corps, felt more than restless under Marshal Bazaine's authority. Eventually, in 1865, Maximilian, whose confidence he enjoyed, further complicated the situation by establishing alongside of the War Department a military cabinet, through which the Austro-Belgian contingents were independently administered. This broke up all chance of uniform action in military matters. It placed the auxiliary troops beyond the jurisdiction of the French commander, who, under the terms of the treaty of Miramar, was to be regarded as the commander-in-chief.
The same lack of unity that existed between the imperial army and the French was also found to exist between the foreign mercenaries and the Mexican troops.
To the natives these foreigners, although countrymen of their sovereigns, were interlopers and rivals. Their very presence defeated the object of their Emperor's futile attempt at a show of Mexican patriotism. The position of the French was a well-defined one. They were there for a purpose, spent their money freely, fought their battles victoriously, and would some day go back to France. But the Mexicans hated these foreigners, and the confidential offices held by impecunious Belgians and Austrians in the government and about the person of the chief executive added to the instinctive suspicion with which their permanent residence in the country was regarded.
Under the then existing conditions, where so many irreconcilable interests were in presence, it is not to be wondered at if little harmony prevailed amid the various conflicting elements gathered together by fate for the enactment of this fantastic scene.
The attitude of the United States toward the empire had been unmistakably emphasized on May 3, 1864, by the departure of our minister, the Hon. Thomas Corwin, who left, ostensibly on leave of absence, as soon as the approach of the new sovereigns was heralded.
His was an interesting personality. Tall, stout, and somewhat awkward in his gait, his double chin was lost between the exaggerated points of the stiff white collar so characteristic of our American statesmen at that time. His kindly smile and natural charm of voice and manner, however, soon attracted and held those who at first found him unengaging. With all his attainments he had preserved unspoiled a certain natural modesty, which led him to attribute his advancement to accident or fate. He once told me that he owed all his success in life to the fact that, as a country boy in Ohio, while driving his father's cart downhill at daybreak, he fell asleep and was jolted off his seat, breaking his leg. During the weeks of enforced seclusion that followed he taught himself to read, and developed a studious turn of mind, which, his leg having been permanently weakened by the accident, led him to seek a situation in a lawyer's office. From these humble beginnings he rose to the place he then occupied as one of our foremost orators and, since 1861, as minister to Mexico,* so that, he merrily added, he owed his fortune to a broken leg. Such men, however, are in no need of accidents to rise; Mr. Corvin could not help doing so from the innate buoyancy of his brilliant personality.
* He now left American affairs in the charge of his secretary of legation, his son William Corwin.
On April 4 the Senate and House of Representatives at Washington had passed a unanimous resolution in opposition to the recognition of a monarchy in Mexico, as an expression of the sentiment of the people of the United States. Secretary Seward, in forwarding a copy of the resolution to Mr. Dayton, our minister to France, had, however, instructed him to inform the French government that "the President does not at present contemplate any departure from the policy which this government has hitherto pursued in regard to the war which exists between France and Mexico."*
* See "Diplomatic Correspondence," 1865, Part III, p. 357.
Notwithstanding the small encouragement which such an attitude gave him, one of the earliest acts of Maximilian was to send Senor Arroyo to seek an interview with the head of the United States government, with a view to the recognition of the empire. Senor Arroyo was not even granted an audience. In July, 1865, another attempt was made by Maximilian with the same object in view.
Among the chamberlains of the Emperor at that time was a son of General Degollado, a Liberal leader who had been killed at Las Cruces, while fighting for the republic against General Marquez in 1861. Young Degollado had lived in Washington, and there had married an American woman. His attainments were mediocre and his personality was colorless, but his wife was ambitious and energetic. She was eager to see her husband come to the front, and, setting aside family traditions, did her best to encourage the imperial court in the idea that the United States government, if properly approached, might be brought to consider the recognition of the empire. She was a good-looking, pleasant woman, who readily made friends, and the couple were put forward as likely to bring the undertaking to a favorable conclusion.
It had at first been suggested that an envoy extraordinary be sent in full official pomp to Washington. General Almonte had been spoken of for the mission, and Mr. and Mrs. Degollado were to have accompanied him as members of the embassy. Senor Ramirez, the minister of state and a moderate Liberal of high standing and ability, realized, however, that the imperial government, in following such a course, must publicly expose itself to a slight. He therefore urged upon Maximilian a modification of the plan, and it was arranged that Mr. and Mrs. Degollado should go in a semi-official manner to prepare the ground and to feel the way.
Mrs. Degollado was much excited over the prospect, and even seemed sanguine of success. It was hinted that Mr. Corwin, then in Washington, was lending himself to certain intrigues designed to facilitate the negotiations.
The Emperor's agents arrived in Washington on July 17, 1865. M. de Montholon, who since 1864 had been minister of France to Mexico, endeavored to obtain an audience for "the chamberlain of Maximilian" as bearer of a letter from the Emperor of Mexico to the President.* But the mission proved a failure, and only added one more to the many abortive attempts made during those four years to "solve the unsolvable problem."**
* "Diplomatic Correspondence," 1865, Part III, p. 484.
** According to Prince Salm-Salm, yet another attempt was planned in the fall of 1866, in which he and his wife were intended to be the principal actors, and were to be sent to Washington armed with a fund of $2,000,000 in gold. He states that the news of the Empress's illness, and the consequent failure of her mission abroad, prevented the carrying out of the scheme.
On January 1, 1865, President Juarez issued from Chihuahua a proclamation in which he confessed defeat, but in dignified tones asserted the righteousness of the national cause, in which he put his trust, and appealed to the nobler ideals of his countrymen.
At that moment, to the superficial observer, and in the capital, the empire seemed an accomplished fact. The country at large, although by no means pacified, was nominally under imperial rule. Almost alone, in the south, General Porfirio Diaz held his own at Oajaca, and remained unsubdued.
General Courtois d'Hurbal, who had been sent against him, had so far been unable to deal with him. The commander-in-chief resolved once more to take the field in person. As a result, Oajaca shortly afterward was taken, and General Diaz, at last forced to surrender, was made prisoner, and transferred to Puebla for safe-keeping.*
* He, however, boldly managed his escape a few months later, and again took the field at the head of a band of fourteen men. These increased in number, snowball fashion, as other guerrillas gradually rallied around the distinguished chief; and, at the head of an army, he reappeared in Oajaca. After defeating the Austrians, in whose keeping the state had been left, he reentered the city in October, 1866.
In the course of these and other vicissitudes General Diaz conducted himself not only as a patriot, but as a soldier. It was generally to him that the French turned when called upon by circumstances to trust to a leader's word or to his humanity. Yet General Forey, in the Senate, March 18, 1866, declared him a brigand in time whose summary execution would be warranted, as indeed would that of all the Mexican generals.
From Mexico to the coast the country was quiet, and things were apparently beginning to thrive. But if to the residents of the capital the national government was a mere theoretical entity, in the interior of the country, and especially in the north, the small numbers of the French scattered over so vast an expanse of territory were obviously insufficient to hold it permanently. In order to please Maximilian, they traveled from place to place, receiving the allegiance of the various centers of population;* their battalions multiplied their efforts, and did the work of regiments. But the predatory bands now fighting under the republican flag were, like birds of prey, ever hovering near, concealed in the sierras, ready to pounce upon the hamlet or the town which the French must perforce leave unprotected, and wreaking terrible vengeance upon the inhabitants.