Maximilian in Mexico - A Woman's Reminiscences of the French Intervention 1862-1867
by Sara Yorke Stevenson
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Every effort was made by his lawyers and by the foreign representatives whom he had summoned to his side to obtain from the republican government a mitigation of the sentence. The Queen of England, the government of the United States, begged for mercy. Baron Magnus, Baron Lago, and M. de Hoorickx, in the names of the European monarchs allied to the prince by ties of relationship, moved heaven and earth to influence the president. Princess Salm-Salm cleverly used every means in a woman's power to accomplish the same end. In vain.

President Juarez could well afford to be magnanimous; but under the existing social conditions in Mexico, who, knowing all the facts, could blame if stern justice was allowed to take its course?

When Maximilian remained to carry on the civil war on factional lines, after the French, recognizing their mistake, had retired from the country, he placed himself, if taken, within the reach of the law. The people were then rising in arms, ready to drive out the empire. By his own act he deprived himself of the only excuse which he could logically offer for his presence in the country, namely, that in good faith he had accepted a crown offered him by what might be regarded as the suffrage of the nation, under conditions with the creating of which he had nothing to do. He was now only the factional leader of a turbulent and defeated minority.

Moreover, only a few months before, when General Miramon's brilliant coup de main of January 27, at Zacatecas, had come near to delivering into his hands the president of the republican government, Maximilian's instructions to his lieutenant, in anticipation of such a contingency, were to bring the republican leaders to trial, if caught, according to his too famous decree, but to refer the execution of the sentence to his imperial sanction. His official letter to this effect had fallen into the hands of President Juarez after the defeat of General Miramon at San Jacinto, which so speedily followed. It is open to doubt whether, in such an event, General Marquez, then all-powerful, would have allowed the Emperor to display mercy.

All hope of obtaining a commutation of the sentence now at an end, the energies of his friends, were turned toward effecting his escape. Three officers were bribed by Prince Salm-Salm, and steps were taken to provide the necessary disguise and conveyance for the party. The plan was to make for the Sierra Gorda, whence Tuzpan could be reached. From this point the party could proceed to Vera Cruz, then still holding out against the Juarists. The Austrian frigate Elizabeth, under Captain von Groeller, was at anchor in the port, awaiting the prince's pleasure.

The project had been seriously complicated by the positive refusal on the part of Maximilian to fly without Generals Miramon and Mejia. All details, however, were at last satisfactorily settled, and the night of June 2 was fixed for the attempt. On this night the officers whose good will had been secured were to be on guard, and the plot seemed easy of execution. But once more the innate in decision of Maximilian's character interfered. For some trivial cause he postponed the venture, and thus lost his last opportunity. Too many were in the secret for it to remain one. Some one made disclosures, which reached the ears of the authorities, and led to the complete isolation of the prince from his followers; and although another effort was afterward made, the surveillance was now so close, and the conditions had grown so difficult, that it also came to naught.

On June 15 tidings of the Empress Charlotte's death reached Queretaro. General Mejia, who was the first to hear it, broke it to Maximilian. While it stirred the very depths of his nature, this false information proved a help to him in his last moments. The bitterness of leaving his unfortunate wife in her helpless condition was thus spared him. "One tie less to bind me to the world," he said.

The execution had been fixed for June 16. At eleven o'clock on that day sentence was read to the condemned, who were told that it would be carried into effect at three o'clock on the same afternoon.

Maximilian received the intelligence calmly, and devoted the following hours, which he deemed his last, to dictating letters to Dr. Basch and to his Mexican secretary, Senor Blasio.* He then confessed to Padre Soria and heard mass in General Miramon's chamber, where the condemned men received the last sacraments, after which he signed his letters and took leave of those about him. In removing his wedding-ring and handing it to Dr. Basch, he said: "You will tell my mother that I did my duty as a soldier and died like a Christian." After this he quietly awaited death.

* One of these letters, written to Senor Don Carlos Rubio, reads as follows:

"Full of confidence, I come to you, being completely without money, to obtain the sum necessary for the carrying out of my last wishes. It will be returned to you by my European relatives, whom I have constituted my heirs.

"I wish my body taken back to Europe near that of the Empress; I intrust the details to my physician, Dr. Basch; you will supply him with funds for the embalming and transportation, and for the return of my servants to Europe. The settlement of the loan will be made by my relatives either through any European house that you may name or by drafts sent to Mexico. The physician above alluded to will make all necessary arrangements.

"Thanking you in advance for any favor, I send you farewell greetings, and wishing you happiness,

"I am yours, "Maximilian." "Queretaro, 16 June, 1867."

Compare S. Basch, "Maximilien au Mexique," p. 296.

The appointed hour passed, however, without being summoned to execution. After prolonged suspense, at four o'clock in the afternoon news arrived that a reprieve of three days had been granted by the president, in order that the condemned might make their last dispositions.


This unexpected delay* naturally aroused hopes among the friends of the doomed men. These hopes, it is said by those closest to him at that time, were not shared by Maximilian. He continued his preparations with the calm dignity that had not once forsaken him; but he sent a telegram to the national government, asking that the lives of Generals Miramon and Mejia, "who had already undergone all the anguish of death, be spared," and that he might be the only victim. The request was denied.**

*It is stated by Domenech that this reprieve was granted at the request of Baron Magnus, who hoped that delay might bring some chance of life to the condemned.

** He also wrote to President Juarez, under date of June 19, as follows:

"M. Benito Juarez: About to die for having tried whether new institutions could put an end to the bloody war which has for so many years disturbed this unhappy land, I should gladly give my life if the sacrifice could contribute to the peace and prosperity of my adopted country. Profoundly convinced that nothing durable can be produced from a soil drenched with blood and shaken by violence, I pray you solemnly—with that sincerity peculiar to the hour at which I have arrived—I beg of you, let my blood be the last spilled, and pursue the noble course which you have chosen with the perseverance (I recognized it even when in prosperity) with which you defended the cause that now at last triumphs through your efforts. Reconcile factions, establish a durable peace based upon solid principles."

See Dr. Basch, "Maximilien au Mexique," p. 303.

After making this supreme effort on behalf of his generals, he employed his remaining hours in dictating letters, and when night came he slept soundly.

On the morning of his execution (June 19) he arose at three o'clock, and dressed carefully. At four o'clock Padre Soria came, and once more gave him the last sacraments; an altar had been erected for this purpose in a niche formed by a passageway to his cell.

This religious duty having been performed, he gave instructions to Dr. Basch, sending greetings and last tokens to friends. At a quarter before six he breakfasted; and when, on the stroke of six, the officer appeared who was to lead him to execution, he was ready, and himself called his companions in death. Three hacks had been provided for the condemned. The prince entered the first with the priest, and, escorted by the soldiery, the mournful procession moved through a dense crowd to the place of execution.

On arriving at the Cerro de las Campanas, where a month before he had made his last stand, the fallen Emperor looked about him for a friendly face, and finding only his servant, the Hungarian Tudos, he asked, "Is no one else here?" It is said, however, that Baron Magnus, the Prussian minister, and the Consul Bahnsen were present, although out of sight.


The good priest weakened under the ordeal; he felt faint, and the prince held his own smelling-bottle to his nose.

Followed by Generals Miramon and Mejia, Maximilian walked toward the open square, where an adobe wall had been erected, against which they were expected to stand. About to take his position in the middle, Maximilian stopped, and turning to General Miramon, said: "A brave soldier should be honored even in his last hour; permit me to give you the place of honor"; and he made way for him.

An officer and seven men had been detailed to do the deadly work. The prince gave each of the soldiers a piece of gold, asking them to aim carefully at his heart; and taking off his hat, he said: "Mexicans, may my blood be the last to be spilled for the welfare of the country; and if it should be necessary that its sons should still shed theirs, may it flow for its good, but never by treason. Long live independence! Long live Mexico!"*

* "Que me sangre sea la ultima que se derrame en sacrificio a la patria; y si fuese necessario algunos de sus hijos, sea para el bien de la nacion, y nunca en traicion de ella." Other versions of his last words have been given, but that given above seems the most authentic, not only from intrinsic probability, but from the fact that it was given, shortly after the execution, by the Mexican Dr. Reyes, who was present, to Dr. Basch. Loc. cit., p. 308.

He then laid his hands on his breast, and looked straight before him. Five shots fired at short range pierced his body; each of them was mortal. He fell, and as he still moved, the officer in charge pointed to his heart with his sword, and a soldier stepped, forward and fired a last shot.

The physician who afterward examined the remains, preparatory to embalmment, could not find a single bullet; all had gone through the body, and it was his opinion that death must have been almost instantaneous, and that the movements observed were convulsive.*

* Dr. Basch says: "The head was free from wounds. Of the six shots received in the body, three had struck the abdomen, and three the breast almost in a straight line. The shots were fired at shortest range, and the six bullets so perforated the body that not a single one was found.

"The three wounds in the chest were mortal: one had reached the heart, the two ventricles; the second had cut the great arteries; the third had gone through the right lung. From the nature of the wounds the death-struggle must have been very brief, and the poetic words attributed to the Emperor, giving anew the word of command to 'fire,' could not have been pronounced. The motions of his hands must have been the convulsive motions which, according to physiological laws, accompany death caused by sudden hemorrhage."

The bodies of the two generals were given to their families. That of Maximilian, inclosed in a common coffin, was placed in the chapel of the convent of the Capuchins, and delivered up to the doctor.

As President Juarez insisted upon an official request, made in due form by the Austrian government, before delivering the remains, much delay occurred in the carrying out of the unfortunate prince's wishes with regard to them.

At last, on November 1, the coffin containing the body of Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, Archduke of Austria, Prince of Hungary and Bohemia, Count of Hapsburg, Prince of Lorraine, Emperor of Mexico, was handed over to Admiral Tegetthoff, who had been sent on a special mission to receive it, and left the capital with a cortege composed of his staff and an escort of one hundred cavalry.

On November 26 the Novara, with all that remained of the Emperor, left the Mexican shore, where only three years before he had landed in all the pride of power and the hopefulness of ambitious youth. The news of his execution sent a painful thrill through the civilized world. By one of those r cruel ironies which fate seems to affect, it reached France on the day of the formal distribution of prizes at the International Exposition. Paris, in its splendor, was throwing open its gates to all the nations of the earth; the crowned heads and leaders of Europe had accepted the hospitality of Napoleon III; and all outward appearances combined to make this the most brilliant occasion of his reign. But the flash-light and noise of French fireworks were unable to drown in men's hearts the dull echo of those distant shots fired on the Cerro de las Campanas. Nemesis was near, and only a short time after Queretaro, Sedan, Metz, and Chiselhurst were inscribed in gloomy sequence upon the pages of history.



Mexicans: The cause sustained by D. Benito Juarez with so much valor and constancy had already succumbed, not only before the national will, but before the very law invoked by him in support of his claims. To-day this cause, having degenerated into a faction, is abandoned by the fact of the removal of its leaders from the country's territory.

The national government has long been indulgent, and has lavished its clemency in order that men led astray or ignorant of the true condition of things might still unite with the majority of the nation and return to the path of duty. The desired result has been obtained. Men of honor have rallied around the flag and have accepted the just and liberal principles which guide its policy. Disorder is now only kept up by a few leaders swayed by their unpatriotic passions, by demoralized individuals unable to rise to the height of political principle, and by an unruly soldiery such as ever remains the last and sad vestige of civil wars.

Henceforth the struggle must be between the honorable men of the nation and bands of brigands and evil-doers. The time for indulgence has gone by: it would only encourage the despotism of bands of incendiaries, of thieves, of highwaymen, and of murderers of old men and defenseless women.

The government, strong in its power, will henceforth be inflexible in meting out punishment when the laws of civilization, humanity, or morality demand it.

Mexico, October 2, 1885.


Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico: Our Council of Ministers and our Council of State having been heard, we decree:

Article I. All individuals forming a part of armed bands or bodies existing without legal authority, whether or not proclaiming a political pretext, whatever the number of those forming such band, or its organization, character, and denomination, shall be judged militarily by the courts martial. If found guilty, even though only of the fact of belonging to an armed band, they shall be condemned to capital punishment, and the sentence shall be executed within twenty-four hours.

Article II. Those who, forming part of the bands mentioned in the above article, shall have been taken prisoners in combat shall be judged by the officer commanding the force into the power of which they have fallen. It shall become the duty of said officer within the twenty-four hours following to institute an inquest, hearing the accused in his own behalf. Upon this inquest a report shall be drawn and sentence shall be passed. The pain of death shall be pronounced against offenders even if only found guilty of belonging to an armed band. The chief shall have the sentence carried into execution within twenty-four hours,—being careful to secure to the condemned spiritual aid,—after which he will address the report to the Minister of War.

Article III. Sentence of death shall not be imposed upon those who, although forming part of a band, can prove that they were coerced into its ranks, or upon those who, without belonging to a band, are accidentally found there.

Article IV. If from the inquest mentioned in Article II facts should appear calculated to induce the chief to believe that the accused has been enrolled by force, or that, although forming part of the band, he was there accidentally, he shall abstain from pronouncing a sentence, and will consign the prisoner, with the corresponding report, to the court martial, to be judged in accordance with Article I.

Article V. There shall be judged and sentenced under the terms of Article I of the present law:

I. All individuals who voluntarily have procured money or any other succor to guerrilleros.

II. Those who have given them advice, news, or counsel.

III. Those who voluntarily and with knowledge of the position of said guerrilleros have sold them or procured for them arms, horses, ammunition, provisions, or any other materials of war.

Article VI. There shall be judged and sentenced in accordance with Article I:

I. Those who have entertained with guerrilleros relations constituting the fact of connivance.

II. Those who of their own free will and knowingly have given them shelter in their houses or on their estate.

III. Those who have spread orally or in writing false or alarming news calculated to disturb order, or who have made any demonstration against the public peace.

IV. The owners or agents of rural property who have not at once given notice to the nearest authority of the passage of a band upon their estate.

The persons included in the first and second sections of this article shall be liable to an imprisonment of from six months to two years, or from one to three years' hard labor, according to the gravity of the offense.

Those who, placed in the second category, are connected with the individual concealed by them by ties of relationship, whether as parents, consorts, or brothers, shall not be liable to the penalty above prescribed, but they shall be subject to surveillance by the authorities during such time as may be prescribed by the court martial.

Those included in the third category shall be sentenced to a fine of from twenty-five to one thousand piasters or to one year's imprisonment, according to the gravity of the offense.

Article VII. When the authorities have not given notice to their immediate superior of the passage of an armed force in their locality, the superior authority shall inflict a fine of from two hundred to two thousand piasters or from three months' to two years' imprisonment.

Article VIII. Every inhabitant who, having knowledge of the passage of an armed band in a village or of its approach, has not notified the authorities shall be liable to a fine of from five to five hundred piasters.

Article IX. All inhabitants between the ages of eighteen and fifty-five years of age not physically incapacitated shall, when the locality inhabited by them is threatened by a band, take part in the defense of the place, under penalty of a fine of from five to two hundred piasters or of from fifteen days' to four months' imprisonment. If the authorities deem it proper to punish the village for non-resistance, they may impose a fine of from two hundred to two thousand piasters, which shall be payable by all those who have not taken part in the defense.

Article X. The owners or agents of country property who, being able to defend themselves, have not kept guerrillas and other evil-doers away from their estates or have not notified the nearest military authority of their presence, or who have received the tired or wounded horses of the guerrillas without advising the said authority, shall be punished by said authority by a fine of from one hundred to two thousand piasters, according to the gravity of the offense. In cases of extreme gravity they shall be arrested and brought before the court martial, to be judged in conformity with the rules laid down by the present law. The fine shall be paid to the principal administrator of the revenue of the district where the estate is situated. The provisions of the first part of the present article are applicable to the populations.

Article XI. All authorities, whether political, military, or municipal, who have not acted in accordance with the provisions of the present law against those who are suspected of or recognized as being guilty of the offenses with which it deals, shall be liable to a fine of from fifty to one thousand piasters; and when the omission implies acquaintance with the guilty, the delinquent shall be brought before the court martial, who shall judge him and inflict a penalty in proportion to the offense.

Article XII. Plagiarios* shall be judged and sentenced under the provisions of Article I of the present law, without regard to the circumstances under which the abduction shall have been committed.

* Kidnappers.

Article XIII. Sentence of death passed upon those guilty of the offenses enumerated by the present law shall be executed in the time fixed, and the benefit of appeal for mercy shall be refused to the condemned. When the accused has not been condemned to death, and is a stranger, the government, after he shall have undergone punishment, may make use with regard to him of its right to expel from its territory pernicious strangers.

Article XIV. Amnesty is proclaimed in favor of all who, having belonged or still belonging to armed bands and having committed no other offense, shall present themselves to the authorities before the 10th of next November. The authorities shall take possession of the arms of those so surrendering themselves.

Article XV. The government reserves unto itself the right to fix the time when the provisions of the present law shall cease to be enforced. Each of our ministers is bound, as far as his department is concerned, to enforce the present law and to issue such orders as will secure its strict observance.

Issued in the Palace of Mexico, October 3, 1865. Maximilian.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, intrusted with the Department of State, Jose F. Ramirez.

The Minister of Commerce, Luis Robles Pezuela.

The Minister of the Interior, Jose Maria Esteva.

The Minister of War, Juan de Dios Peza.

The Minister of Justice, Pedro Escudero y Echanove.

The Minister of Public Instruction and of Cults, Manuel Siliceo.

The Under-Secretary of the Treasury, Francisco de P. Cesar.



Napoleon, by the grace of God and the national will Emperor of the French, to all who will see the present letters, Greeting:

A convention, followed by secret additional articles, having been concluded on April 10,1864, between France and Mexico, to settle the conditions of the sojourn of French troops in Mexico, the said convention and secret additional articles are as follows:

The government of H. M. the Emperor of the French and that of H. M. the Emperor of Mexico, animated with. an equal desire to assure the reestablishment of order in Mexico and to consolidate the new empire, have resolved to settle through a convention the conditions of the sojourn of the French troops in that country, and have appointed to that effect: H. M. the Emperor of the French, M. Charles Francois Edouard Herbet, Minister Plenipotentiary of the First Class, etc., and H. M. the Emperor of Mexico, M. Joaquin Velazquez de Leon, his Minister of State without a portfolio, etc., who, after communicating their full powers to one another, these having been found to be in good and due form, have agreed upon the following articles:

Article I. The French troops actually in Mexico shall, as soon as possible, be reduced to a corps of twenty-five thousand men, including the foreign legion. This corps, as a safeguard to the interests which have brought about the French intervention, shall temporarily remain in Mexico under the conditions agreed upon in the following articles.

Article II. The French troops shall gradually evacuate Mexico as H. M. the Emperor of Mexico shall be able to organize the troops necessary to take their place.

Article III. The foreign legion in the service of France, composed of eight thousand men, shall, however, remain for six years in Mexico after all other French forces shall have been recalled under Article II. From that date said legion shall pass into the service and pay of the Mexican government, the Mexican government reserving unto itself the right to shorten the duration of the employment in Mexico of the foreign legion.

Article IV. The points of the territory to be occupied by the French troops, as well as the military expeditions of said troops if necessary, shall be determined under direct agreement between H. M. the Emperor of Mexico and the Commander-in-chief of the French corps.

Article V. Upon all points where a garrison shall not be exclusively composed of Mexican troops, the military command shall devolve upon the French commander. In case of combined expeditions of French and Mexican troops the superior command shall also belong to the French commander.

Article VI. The French commanders shall not interfere with any branch of the Mexican administration.

Article VII. So long as the needs of the French army-corps will require every two months a service of transports between France and the port of Vera Cruz, the expense of this service, fixed at the sum of four hundred thousand francs per journey, including return, shall be borne by the Mexican government and paid in Mexico.

Article VIII. The naval stations supported by France in the Antilles and in the Pacific Ocean shall frequently send ships to show the French flag in the Mexican ports.

Article IX. The cost of the French expedition in Mexico, to be reimbursed by the Mexican government, is fixed at the sum of two hundred and seventy million francs from the time of the expedition to July 1, 1864. That sum shall bear interest at three per cent. a year.

Article X. The indemnity to be paid to France by the Mexican government for the pay and support of the army-corps from July 1, 1864, shall be fixed at the rate of one thousand francs per man a year.

Article XI. The Mexican government shall at once remit to the French government the sum of sixty-six millions in loan securities at par, i.e., fifty-four millions to be deducted from the debt mentioned in Article IX, and twelve millions as an instalment on the indemnities due the French under Article XIV of the present agreement.

Article XII. In payment of the balance of war expenses and of the charges mentioned in Articles VII, X, and XIV, the Mexican government agrees to pay to France the annual sum of twenty-five million francs in cash. That sum shall be credited, first, to the sums due under Articles VII and X, second, to the amount, interest and principal, of the sum fixed in Article IX; third, to the indemnities still due to French subjects under Article XIV and following.

Article XIII. The Mexican government shall pay on the last day of every month, in Mexico, into the hands of the paymaster-general of the army, the amount necessary to cover the expense of the French troops remaining in Mexico, in conformity with Article X.

Article XIV. The Mexican government agrees to indemnify French subjects for the grievances unduly suffered by them and which caused the expedition.

Article XV. A mixed commission composed of three Frenchmen and three Mexicans, appointed by their respective governments, shall meet in Mexico within three months to examine into and settle these claims.

Article XVI. A mission of revision composed of two Frenchmen and two Mexicans, appointed as above and sitting in Paris, shall proceed to the definite settlement of the claims already admitted by the commission mentioned in the preceding article, and shall pass upon those the settlement of which shall be reserved to them.

Article XVII. The French government shall set free all Mexican prisoners of war as soon as H. M, the Emperor of Mexico shall have entered his empire.

Article XVIII. The present convention shall be ratified and the ratification shall be exchanged as soon as possible.

Done at the Castle of Miramar, on April 10, 1864. Herbet. Velazquez.

Additional Secret Articles

[Here follow the ordinary preambles.]

Article I. H. M. the Emperor of Mexico, approving the principles and promises announced in General Forey's proclamation, dated June 12, 1863, as well as the measures taken by the regency and by the French general-in-chief in accordance with said declaration, has resolved to inform his people, by a manifesto, of his intentions in the matter.

Article II. On his side, H. M. the Emperor of the French declares that the actual effective force of the French corps of thirty-eight thousand men shall only be reduced gradually and from year to year, in such a way that the French troops remaining in Mexico, including the foreign legion, shall be of twenty-eight thousand men in 1865, of twenty-five thousand in 1866, of twenty thousand in 1867.

Article III. When the said foreign legion, under the terms of Article III of the above convention, shall pass into the service and pay of Mexico, as it nevertheless shall continue to serve a cause in which France is interested, its generals and officers shall preserve their quality of Frenchmen and their claim to promotion in the French army according to law.

Done at the Castle of Miramar, on April 10, 1864. Herbet. Velazquez.


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