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The "Scramble for Mexico" and Alexander von Humboldt's Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain

Richard Weiner


Figure 1
Otto Roth von Holzstich, Alexander von Humboldt und Aimé Bonpland in der Urwaldhütte am Orinoco,
1870. #00009295, Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.

     "Scramble for Africa" is a commonly used phrase to refer to Europe's keen attention to and colonization of Africa in the second half of the nineteenth century and beyond. The phrase has not been employed for Mexico. Nevertheless, I have titled this article "Scramble for Mexico" to emphasize the great interest that the world powers had in Mexico during the early national period (1820s-1860s). I have elected to apply the familiar phrase to Mexico to draw world historians' attention to Mexico's global importance, not to make the case for a close parallel between Africa and Mexico. In fact, there were significant differences. Since the time eras for the two "scrambles" were distinct (Mexico roughly the first half of the nineteenth century, Africa broadly the second half) the advanced nations' interests in the two regions varied. Despite territorial acquisitions in Africa, Eric Hobsbawm has shown that colonizing powers were primarily looking for consumer markets (in an age of mass-production and protectionism).1 In Mexico, territorial acquisition stemmed more from the desire for natural resources and for geo-political concerns, even if there were multiple motivations.

     The "scramble for Mexico" occurred during a transitional era when Spain's influence declined in newly independent Mexico and Latin America generally, while other nations moved in to fill the void. Although global powers had interest in all of Latin America, Mexico received much more attention than any other country in the region. During the period, Mexico was repeatedly invaded by foreign powers. Not only was foreign military presence much greater in Mexico than the rest of Latin America, foreign investment and trade was also more significant in the early nineteenth century. The global competition for Mexico had important international consequences. It altered the global balance of power in favor of the United States, much to the chagrin of contemporaries in Europe, Mexico, and Latin America. Consequently, the world powers' engagement with Mexico is a topic worthy of coverage in world history classes. The first half of this essay briefly documents the battle for Mexico and its global consequences.

     The second half of the essay investigates the impact that Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, Alexander von Humboldt's famous multi-volume study on Mexico, had on the "scramble." The celebrated German explorer-scientist (in the vein of Captain Cook) toured Spanish America from 1799-1804 and collected data for countless publications on the region. 2011 is the bicentennial of Humboldt's legendary work on Mexico, which was originally published in French in 1811. His study was quickly translated into numerous languages and disseminated globally. It made Mexico's immense natural wealth world-renowned. Did the work cause all the foreign interventions and investments in Mexico, as some contemporaries and scholars have claimed? Was Humboldt a tool of foreign interests, or, even worse, a foreign agent? These questions will be addressed in the second half of the essay.

The "Scramble for Mexico" and its Consequences

     Struggles over Mexico and other Spanish colonies predated the independence era. In the sixteenth century pirates and buccaneers such as Francis Drake were the main threat, and in the seventeenth century some peripheral Spanish colonies, such as Jamaica, were taken by the English. But it was during the eighteenth century, particularly during the Seven Years' War, that the Spanish Crown became more concerned about external invasions. In 1762 the British overtook Havana, thereby exposing Spain's military weakness in the New World, including Mexico (Cuba could be a staging ground for invasions). Spain responded by increasing its military in the new world significantly (300%), an endeavor that was part of Spain's comprehensive Bourbon Reforms (1759-88). Ironically, then, Spanish militarism in the Americas was largely a response to external (British) threats. Military reforms did help protect against foreign powers (for example, Spanish forces successfully repelled British attempts to invade Buenos Aires in the early nineteenth century).

     Despite Spain's preoccupations with external challenges, the first real threat to Spanish sovereignty in Mexico was internal: the independence movement, a violent, protracted, and widespread uprising that had both popular and elite elements. Antecedents included the Bourbon Reforms, which brought widespread discontent, and, more importantly, Napoleon's 1808 invasion of Spain, which caused a crisis in the imperial center (Spanish King Ferdinand was removed). Thus, Mexican independence, and that of Spanish America generally, was truly a global matter. The military aspect of the Mexican independence movement started in September 1810 when Father Hidalgo's movement emerged in the Northwest Bajío region. Hidalgo's army was large and powerful, but poorly organized. He had perhaps 50,000 troops when he defeated Royalists in Guanajuato, a major mining center. After that his troops swelled to perhaps 100,000, and he even threatened Mexico City. Hidalgo was captured and killed in 1811, after which his disciple José Morelos took the leadership and the conflict moved southern Mexico. Morelos was captured and killed in December 1815. The popular insurgency continued from 1816 to 1820, but turned into a decentralized guerilla movement. In 1821, after almost a decade of war, Royalist commander Agustín Iturbide switched sides and joined the rebels, and independence was achieved. Some estimates for the Independence movement death toll have been as high as half a million, but some specialists have maintained that number is too high, even if it is impossible to calculate accurately.2

     Mexican independence from Spain set the stage for a new battle for dominance in the former colony. Britain, which had already intervened in Spain's colonial holdings, clearly viewed independence as an opportunity to exert greater influence. In 1824, George Canning, the famous British statesman wrote of Latin American independence: "Spanish America is free, and if we do not mismanage our affairs sadly, she is English."3 Before the independence movement, American policy had accepted Spain's presence in America since it was a weak European nation, hence preferable to Britain and France. Nevertheless, after the Latin American independence movement began, American statesmen came to support it. Americans came to see the independence movement as a means to weaken not only the power of Spain in the Americas, but to diminish the influence of all European nations. This position was stated in the Monroe Doctrine (1823), which was issued shortly after Latin American independence and asserted that the American continents are "henceforth not to be considered as subject for future colonization by any European power."4 The Monroe Doctrine suggested that the U.S. intended to be the dominant power in the region. Spain, however, wouldn't let go, but its attempts to reconquer Mexico failed. Spain occupied San Juan de Ulloa, the old military garrison at Veracruz harbor. In 1829 Spain staged an unsuccessful attack on the port city Tampico from Cuba. Mexico responded by defeating the expedition, and by expelling thousands of Spaniards from Mexico. (Throughout the nineteenth century Mexico continued to fear attacks staged from Cuba, for the island remained a Spanish colony until 1898. This was a security issue. Mexican president Benito Juárez supported an independent Cuba in the 1850s, and he also supported Cuba's later failed bid for independence, known as the Ten Years' War, 1868-78.)

     The fledgling nation also faced internal threats to sovereignty in the 1820s. In 1823 Central America declared its independence from Mexico. (Even though Central America had been part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain during the colonial era, it had retained its own identity since it had been a separate geo-political unit, the Audiencia of Guatemala). While Mexico did not stop the region from breaking free, it was able to retain the southern province of Chiapas, which had been part of the Audiencia of Guatemala.

     But Mexico faced much larger problems in the north. During the colonial era Spain had conceived of New Spain's northern region as a buffer zone between encroaching European powers (and later the independent U.S.) to the north and Spain's valuable holdings in central Mexico to the south. But Spain's attempts to establish a presence were unsuccessful. Consequently, when Mexico became independent there were perhaps 200,000 nomadic Indians in this vast and sparsely populated region. Mexico was particularly concerned about U.S. expansion into Texas. After all, the U.S. had been expanding westward since the early 1800s, starting with the Louisiana Purchase. Furthermore, even though in the U.S. renounced its claims to Texas in the Adams-Onís Treaty (1819), some Americans still believed it was part of the Louisiana Purchase. Americans staged filibusters into Texas to reclaim the territory. Before independence Spain had established a colonization law to attract foreign immigrants into Texas, and the independent Mexican government continued the policy. While unsuccessful in their bid to attract Europeans, large numbers of U.S. citizens came to Texas, many with their slaves. Some of the stronger enticements included inexpensive land and tax exemptions. By the late 1820s Americans in Texas outnumbered Mexicans by over two to one. Owing partly to the demographic dominance of Anglos, filibusters, and the fact that the region was contiguous to the U.S., Mexico began to take steps to weaken American dominance (prohibiting Americans from migrating to Texas, abolishing slavery, and requiring that Mexican states send colonists to Texas), but they proved unsuccessful. The demographic imbalance increased, and by the mid-1830s there were over 30,000 Americans in Texas, and they outnumbered Mexicans about four to one. In 1835 the Centralists came to power in Mexico and replaced the federalist political system (which had been in place since 1824) with a centralist one. Then Texas declared independence and became an independent nation. In winter 1835 Antonio López de Santa Anna, the most influential leader in the early national period, led 6000 Mexican troops north to suppress uprising in Texas. Texans, with the aid of U.S. supplies and men, were able to defend their independence. Mexico never accepted Texan independence, but was unable to reclaim the region militarily.

     Mexico, however, did successfully repel one foreign invasion in the 1830s: Mexico defeated the French in the "Pastry War" of 1838. Owing to the great unrest and violence in independent Mexico the property of foreign nationals was sometimes damaged. Foreign nations made claims in behalf of their citizens. The French King Louis Philippe demanded a payment, but the Mexican government refused to comply. The French King responded by blocking the port of Veracruz with twenty-six ships and four thousand men. In late November the French bombarded the fortress San Juan de Ulloa and three thousand French troops went to the mainland. Santa Anna arrived just in time, and he and his troops forced the French back. After Santa Anna's victory a payment amount was agreed upon and the French forces left.

     Texas, on the other hand, continued to be a source of concern, and not only for Mexico, but also for Great Britain and France. They all feared that the United States would annex Texas. France and Britain recognized Texan Independence and attempted to establish a presence there to prevent the U.S. from annexing it. On the other hand, some Americans, such as Mississippi Senator Robert Walker, warned that if the U.S. did not annex Texas that the Lone Star Republic would forge strong bonds with Britain, which would threaten American economic and political security.5 Britain attempted to strengthen its bid for an independent Texas by acting as a negotiator between Texas and Mexico: Mexico would recognize Texas independence in exchange for a guarantee that Texas would remain an independent nation. Mexico eventually became more receptive to this position and finally agreed to it. But in the meantime Texas voted to be annexed to the US (July 1845). The fears of Europe and Mexico had come to fruition. After that, American President James Polk attempted to buy not only Texas, but also New Mexico, and California, but was rebuffed by Mexico. It is unsurprising that Polk was interested in more than Texas, for the U.S. had previously made offers to buy other parts of Mexico's northern frontier, especially California. Furthermore, U.S. commercial and economic interests had already been strongly established in California and New Mexico.6

     A minor military conflict between Mexican and American troops in the disputed territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande (Mexico claimed the region was theirs, and the American position was that it was part of the U.S.) was the event that led Polk to declare war in May 1846. The U.S. dominated militarily, controlling both the northwest and northeast regions of Mexico within a year, but nevertheless had to go all the way to Mexico City in order to get Mexico to surrender. In the spring of 1847 General Scott invaded Veracruz. He followed the route Hernando Cortes had taken centuries earlier when he defeated the Aztecs, arriving in the capital in September 1847. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo legalized the spoils of war: Mexico was forced to cede about 55% of its territory to the U.S. Nevertheless, some (including President Polk) were unsatisfied, and there was a campaign for "all of Mexico."

     Foreigners' intrigues in Mexico's northern frontier persisted in the 1850s. U.S. privateers staged unsuccessful filibusters, especially in Sonora. In what is known as the Gadsden Purchase, Mexican president Santa Anna sold the Mesilla Valley (what is today southern New Mexico and Arizona) to the U.S. in 1853. U.S. President Buchanan later tried to negotiate more Mexican territory in exchange for providing diplomatic recognition and assistance to the Mexican Liberal government (which was in a heated political and military conflict with the Conservative party), but Mexican president Benito Juárez refused. Nevertheless, during the 1858-61 War of the Reform that broke out between the Mexican Liberals and Conservatives, Juárez agreed to give the U.S. free commercial transit across Sonora and Tehuantepec in exchange for assistance, but the deal (called the McLane-Ocampo Treaty) did not pass in the U.S. Congress. France, too, made its presence felt in the 1850s, via filibusters and colonization efforts in Sonora.7

     After the Liberal victory in the War of Reform, President Juárez placed a moratorium on the payment of foreign debts for two years since the state was bankrupt. France (2000 troops), Britain (700 marines), and Spain (6000 troops) occupied Veracruz in December 1861, supposedly in an attempt force debt repayment. But as it became clear that France had territorial designs on Mexico, the other two European nations withdrew. France timed its invasion well. Even though the French Intervention violated the Monroe Doctrine, France did not have to be concerned with U.S. interference since the Civil War had just started, and it was clear that the U.S. was preoccupied. France invaded with a force of 6,000 men, but was repelled in Puebla 5 May 1862 (a celebrated date in Mexico today!), a strategic spot that served as a gateway to Mexico City. It took the French another year and 30,000 troops to take Puebla (a two-month siege was required) and then Mexico City. Even though Mexico City was taken the Mexican Liberals in power did not surrender. Rather, they fought a guerilla war, continually on the run in northern Mexico (Juárez retreated to San Luis Potosí, then Chihuahua, and finally Paso del Norte on the U.S. border). Napoleon III established a monarchy in Mexico, and in 1864 he installed the Austrian archduke Maximilian on the Mexican throne. Maximilian appeared to be a favorable choice since he was a descendant of the Spanish King Charles V and Austria had not participated in the occupation of Veracruz.

     Numerous factors ultimately persuaded Napoleon III to pull his troops out. The Liberals' resistance via guerilla war persisted. Furthermore, after the U.S. Civil War ended, the victorious Union provided substantial support to Juárez (munitions, equipment, financial support, diplomatic pressure). At home, the French legislative assembly complained that the war expensive and unpopular. Finally, the Prussian triumph over Austria at Sadowa (July, 1866) meant that the French army was needed in Europe. The French military withdrew from Mexico (gradually from late 1866 to early 1867), but Emperor Maximilian remained. He was captured in Querétaro in March 1867 and executed in June of the same year, thereby sending a message: do not invade Mexico.

     Let us now turn to the consequences of this "scramble for Mexico." If this international conflict over Mexico was intense, it was because there was much at stake. Some fared much better than others. Spain was clearly the big loser. By losing Mexico and its other American possessions (besides Cuba and Puerto Rico), Spain's opportunity to become a mercantilist empire disappeared. True, attempts to create a mercantilist system (in which Spain's colonies consumed Spanish goods, thereby stimulating Spanish industry) did not prove very successful during the eighteenth-century Bourbon Reforms. Nevertheless, this possibility entirely vanished with independence. Spain was also affected adversely by the loss of its America colonies' silver, most of which was from Mexico. No longer would Spain's global trade imbalance be camouflaged by New World silver. Additionally, after independence, Spain's commercial relations with Mexico declined significantly. This contrasted with the case of Britain and its former colonies. (After American independence Britain was America's major trading partner, as had been the case in the colonial era.) Numerous factors explain Spain's commercial decline. Britain, not Spain, was Europe's main industrial and maritime power, so without colonial trade regulations Spain could not sustain its commercial position. Political factors exacerbated Spain's commercial woes. Mexico's restrictions on Spaniards living in Mexico and outright expulsion of Spaniards (1827 and 1829) displaced the peninsulares from their dominant position in Mexico's international trade. Additionally, Spain did not recognize Mexico until 1836. By then Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. had already established commercial relations with Mexico and had made significant inroads.

     Since Great Britain, France, and Germany partly filled the commercial void left by Spain they made gains. This was especially the case for Britain, for it supplied about half of all Mexican imports in the early national era. Furthermore, during the first half of the nineteenth century more foreign goods were sold to Mexico than any other Latin American nation. Nevertheless, these gains were somewhat limited, as revealed by recent scholarship. Conventional wisdom held that Britain dominated in all of Latin America (including Mexico) after independence—a position it held throughout the nineteenth century. Only then did the U.S. emerge as the dominant foreign power in Latin America. But revisionist work has shown that the U.S. commercial position in Mexico was substantial even in the first half of the nineteenth century, limiting Britain's gains somewhat.8 France's commercial gains were less significant that Britain's. Furthermore, Napoleon III had hoped to expand France's commerce via the French Intervention, but that endeavor ended in failure. Additionally, some contemporaries (such as Justo Sierra, Mexico's foremost intellectual in the latter part of the nineteenth century) and scholars have linked the French Intervention to Napoleon's ultimate demise in the Franco-Prussian war (1870). As one scholar put it, "Had he [Napoleon III] not been tied down in Mexico, he could have been more active and possibly more effective in Europe; of this Prussia was keenly aware." 9

     From the contemporary European perspective, it was the U.S., not Europe that made the greatest gains in Mexico. After all, Europe's (and Mexico's) fears had come to fruition. Despite French, British and Mexican efforts to prevent it, the United States had acquired an enormous amount of Mexican territory, thereby extending its size and power significantly. This is not to say that Mexicans did not benefit. They did. Mexicans liberated their colony from Spain and created an independent nation that eventually became stable, sovereign, and somewhat prosperous (when measured from a global perspective, as World Bank statistics indicate). But, in the end, the gains for the U.S. were far greater. American annexation of Mexican territory was pivotal to U.S. dominance in North America and the world. Before America's annexation of Mexican territory there was a degree of parity between the two. In 1800 the populations of the two were about the same, even if Mexico was more urbanized and industrialized. In 1800 Mexico's per capita income was roughly half that of the U.S., and Mexico produced about half the goods and services of the U.S. By 1877 Mexico's per capita income had "dropped to a little over one-tenth that of the industrial United States . . . . By 1877 Mexico only had 2 percent of the production that came from the farms and plants of the United States."10 It would be an exaggeration to attribute America's ascendance and Mexico's decline solely to the Mexican-American War. After all, economic historians have pointed to other factors to explain Mexico's poor performance during the early national era, such as high transaction costs, economic "feudalism," geography, and war.11

     Nevertheless, Annexing Mexico's north undoubtedly strengthened the U.S. and weakened Mexico. America grew at Mexico's expense. In 1821 Mexico was almost twice as big as the U.S, but in 1853 Mexico was only about one-fourth the size of the United States. The land mass that the U.S. took from Mexico was enormous (about 555,000 square miles, including the Gadsden Purchase), and comprised the states of California, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. Not only was this a huge land transfer, but Mexico's north was also valuable territory (Mexico's north—for example Monterrey—has become the most prosperous part of the country). And the territory the U.S. annexed has turned into some of America's most prosperous states, not to mention the great economic boost from the gold rush, the transcontinental railroad, and commercial ties with the Pacific.

     Let us move from the realm of national and international power to the social sphere. For the U.S., what were the social consequences of the "scramble"? In the 1840s Americans maintained that western expansion was America's "Manifest Destiny." Manifest Destiny was associated with liberation, for it "expanded the area of freedom." Hence the battle between the U.S. and Europe over western lands, in American discourse, was a battle for liberation: establishing American republicanism would be a bulwark against European monarchy. Some Americans even depicted the Mexican-American War as a form of liberation for Mexicans. True, Mexico was not a monarchy. Nevertheless, a U.S. victory would liberate the Mexican people from their tyrannical rulers.

     To what extent were freedom and equality outcomes of American western expansion? Ironically, even though slave interests were an important force behind western expansion (see below), one could argue that emancipation was a consequence, albeit an unintentional one. The Mexican-American War played a significant role in initiating the Civil War, a battle that ended slavery in the United States. As soon as the Mexican-American War broke out, the debate over slavery in the lands to be acquired from Mexico (American victory was assumed a foregone conclusion) started. Two positions emerged: free soil (the 1846 Wilmot Proviso prohibited slavery in the land acquired from Mexico) and popular sovereignty (voters decide if slavery should be established in their state). The concept of popular sovereignty was later employed in Kansas (1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act) and it resulted in what contemporaries termed "Bleeding Kansas," a violent precursor to the war between the Union and the Confederacy. Furthermore, the newly-formed Republican Party embraced the idea of free soil, and when South Carolina seceded from the Union it cited the Republican Party's free soil position (which, South Carolina maintained, would ultimately lead to abolition throughout America) as justification. Thus, the acquisition of Mexico's north helped bring on the Civil War since it sparked the debate over slavery in the territories. Scholars have recently made a strong case for the importance of the Civil War in ending the institution of slavery. Backed by economic scholarship that has shown that the antebellum southern slavery-based economy was very efficient and profitable, scholar David Brion Davis has labeled it the Civil War the "good war," maintaining that it was crucial to ending slavery quickly. But for the War, slavery would have persisted.12

     The fact that the family-operated-farm as opposed to large-scale agribusiness came to dominate in the American west is another piece of evidence that suggests that social equality was associated with U.S. western expansion (Argentine agricultural plots, on average, were about 10X larger than American plots). But equality was by no means fully achieved. Land distribution was less equitable in western states acquired from Mexico, like California and New Mexico, where it was argued that owing to climatic difficulties large plots were an economic necessity. Also, in areas where slavery had existed, share-cropping as opposed to family farms, dominated. Most importantly, social equality in the west only existed for the white population. California is perhaps the best case in point. Despite the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo's protections, Mexicans were "displaced" in California (Mexican ranchers lost their substantial properties). The Chinese, who were also very numerous, were discriminated against and segregated (which culminated in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act), and California's Indians were forced off their lands and exterminated.

     What about the "scramble's" social and political consequences for Mexico? In contrast to the U.S. case, the impact on slavery was minimal. True, Mexico's decision to abolish slavery in 1829 was partly motivated by a desire to discourage Americans from coming to Texas (prohibiting slaves would be a disincentive for white Americans). But slavery was insignificant in Mexico (there were only about 6,000 slaves in Mexico after independence), which probably spelled the doom for the institution in any case. The "scramble" was much more consequential in the political realm: it impacted the outcomes of political struggles. Losing the Mexican-American War was devastating for Mexico. In the aftermath, divisions between Conservatives and Liberals over Mexico's future hardened. Conservatives sought to strengthen Mexico's Spanish colonial heritage via enhancing corporations' (Church, Military, etc.) power and special privileges and by turning to Spain on the diplomatic front, policies that would counter the influence and power of America. Liberals sought to create a liberal society via abolishing privileges associated with the Spanish heritage. Creating a horizontal social body based on citizenship, Liberals maintained, would strengthen Mexican society and nationhood. The 1853 Gadsden Purchase discredited the Conservatives (who were in power), for Liberals charged that selling land to the U.S. placed sovereignty in jeopardy. The Conservatives' reputation was tarnished, and the Liberals came to power with the Revolution of Ayutla (1854), and implemented their liberal vision, which was enshrined in the famous Reform Laws of the 1850s and 1857 Constitution. Conservatives waged a military resistance, but lost the War of the Reform (1858-61). After losing, the Conservatives invited the French in to aid them in their fight with the Liberals. Thus, the Conservatives became "traitors" and conservatism as an ideology was discredited in Mexico. Liberalism finally reigned supreme. Hence the ascendance of Liberals and liberalism was partly a consequence of Liberals' and Conservatives' actions vis-à-vis foreign powers.

     What were the consequences of the Liberals' reign? One was the dismantling of Mexico's colonial heritage (separating Church and State, disentailing Church property, abolishing corporate property and special privileges, strengthening individualism and private property, etc.), which unleashed immense social changes by replacing Mexico's hierarchical social body with a horizontal one (at least in theory, if not in practice). But another legacy of the scramble for Mexico would be that this liberal order that reigned supreme in the latter part of the nineteenth century would stress sovereignty, centralized power, and material progress, not democracy, equality, and social justice. National cohesion, presidential authority, and material advance were deemed essential to safeguarding the nation against foreign intervention. While these tendencies first became evident during Juárez's presidency, they became much more developed during the reign of Porfirio Díaz (1876-1910). Justo Sierra, for example, maintained that Mexico's priorities were national unity and material progress since they were crucial to safeguarding national sovereignty. Democracy and freedom, he observed, had not been achieved, but they were projects for the future. 13

Humboldt's Political Essay and the Scramble

     Humboldt's Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain is an encyclopedic multi-volume work (the 1811 English version, for example, runs 4 volumes and almost 2000 pages long) that examines numerous aspects of New Spain.14 Humboldt reported on the geography, demography, politics, military, and economy of the late colonial period. Regarding economy—the subject most pertinent here—numerous topics were examined, including agriculture, mining, manufacture, national and international trade, and banking and finance.15 Humboldt's account of mining alone spans hundreds of pages, and is especially detailed and complete. Humboldt was greatly aided by Mexican scholars and archives, which were at his full disposal. Scholars have shown that to a large extent his work was based upon these sources.16

     During the 1810s and 1820s Political Essay was widely disseminated. Nine editions of his work were published. The original version was in French, and there were two French editions (Paris, 1811 and 1825), two Spanish editions (Paris, 1822 and 1827), four in English (London, 1811, 1814, 1822; New York, 1811), and one in German (Tubingen, 1809-1811). Furthermore, numerous abridged versions and excerpts of his work were also published in newspapers and pamphlets. Foreign accounts of Mexico published in the early nineteenth century routinely cited Humboldt. Finally, foreign governments and investors relied on his work.17 There are numerous reasons Humboldt's work was so widely disseminated and relied upon. Some have to do with the study itself. It was comprehensive, scientific (relied on the use of extensive data and statistics), and authoritative. Equally as important, it filled a huge void. During the early independence period many interests turned to Mexico, but there was very limited information in print about the fledgling nation.

     Numerous contemporaries and modern scholars have suggested that the Humboldtian idea of Mexico's great natural riches bears some responsibility for foreign interventions in Mexico.18 (Ironically, in the 1820s Humboldt complained that some foreign accounts exaggerated Mexico's wealth.19) Do these charges have any merit? Even if it is impossible to answer this query precisely, addressing two basic questions will help assess the impact of the Humboldtian idea of Mexico's immense natural wealth: 1) to what extent was Humboldt's Political Essay—and particularly the idea of Mexico's great natural wealth expressed in the text—utilized in writings that advocated some form of engagement with Mexico? 2) Even if Humboldt and Political Essay were not mentioned explicitly, were justifications for engagement based on the Humboldtian idea of Mexico's immense natural riches? Answering these questions will entail a somewhat narrow reading of Humboldt, but this particular focus is appropriate since the specific charge in the literature is that Humboldt's depiction of Mexico as a land of extensive natural wealth inspired foreign interventions. Furthermore, addressing these questions will provide a vehicle to explore aspects of Political Essay and make distinctions between types of justifications for foreign engagement with Mexico.

     I will proceed chronologically, starting with independence. (Then I will examine the cases of Texas, the Mexican-American War, and the French Intervention.) Some have pointed out that Humboldt did not vehemently support Latin American Independence after movements broke out and strengthened in the 1810s.20 But our question is slightly different since we are concerned with the impact of Political Essay, not Humboldt's later opinions and statements. Lucas Alamán, the famous Mexican statesman and intellectual in the early national era, contended that Political Essay's advertisement of Mexico's vast natural wealth inspired Mexican creoles to declare independence so that they could obtain those riches for themselves.21 Historian Luis González y González's study, which showed that creoles were inspired to promote independence since they were intoxicated by the Humboldtian idea of Mexico's economic grandeur, supported Alamán's contention.22 Indeed, some independence leaders, such as Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, cited Humboldt's writings about Mexico's vast natural wealth as part of their pleas for independence.23 (Since a Spanish version was not widely circulated until shortly after independence, it appears that prior to independence creoles primarily read the French version, as was the case with Servando Teresa de Mier.) Finally, as Mexico became independent in 1821 some official pronouncements and press accounts predicted economic greatness for Mexico in a spirit that echoed Humboldt, even if they did not necessarily cite his name.

     It is unsurprising that Political Essay was invoked to promote Independence. Historian José Miranda has shown that Political Essay implicitly supported independence since it depicted Mexico as a region with great promise and potential.24 In fact, Political Essay strongly suggested that Mexico was destined to be the economic powerhouse of the Americas. (In the 1820s, albeit in a brief commentary, Humboldt was not quite as optimistic about Mexico's potential.25) Humboldt stressed Mexico's large size, varied climate, fertile agricultural soil, extensive silver deposits, and fortuitous commercial location between two oceans. Humboldt's comparative analysis showed that Mexico's soil was far more fertile than European nations'. Owing to Mexico's varied climate (tropical and temperate) the region could produce an enormous range of goods for local consumption and export.26

     Despite the fact that creoles utilized Political Essay to promote independence, it would be a stretch to characterize his work as anti-colonial. True, Humboldt observed that silver production advanced the interests of Spain rather than the colony and advocated that Mexico exploit other minerals that would aid in local development instead.27 Furthermore, Humboldt critiqued New Spain's economic and social inequality. Nevertheless, he did not harshly attack Mexico's political or economic system. In his analysis, the Caribbean (which was relegated exclusively to exporting raw materials and importing finished ones) was a region exploited by colonialism, not Mexico.28 Nevertheless, creoles' selective reading, which featured the Humboldtian idea of Mexico's vast natural abundance and great economic potential, supported Mexican independence.

     The significance of the Humboldtian idea to Mexican independence should not be overestimated, however. Let me make two points to temper its importance. First, perhaps Political Essay did not play as pivotal role in the formation of creoles' ideas about Mexico's vast natural wealth as some have claimed. Scholars have shown that in the second half of the eighteenth century creoles already thought that Mexico had vast natural abundance.29 Therefore, creoles' ideas about Mexico's wealth did not stem from Political Essay. Humboldt's text, rather, had the more modest impact of scientifically and statistically confirming creoles' previously-held assumption that Mexico was rich. Now for the second point: the movement for independence did not solely spring from creoles' economic and cultural concerns. Even Alamán did not depict independence as exclusively motivated by economic interests. Various pieces of evidence illustrate this point. The Mexican independence movement started with a crisis in Spain, the imperial center, not the colony. Napoleon invaded Spain, put King Ferdinand VII under house arrest, and placed his own brother, Joseph, on the throne. The Creole movement for independence, then, originated in a political crisis in imperial rule as opposed to economic discontent. According to revisionist scholarship, even as the movement for independence evolved economic issues were not necessarily at the forefront. The traditional interpretation depicted the independence movement as a conservative one engineered by creoles to protect their colonial-era privileges which were being threatened by Spanish liberalism. This traditional interpretation resonates at least somewhat with the claim that creoles were intoxicated by the Humboldtian idea of Mexico's vast wealth and wanted to retain it for themselves. Revisionism, on the other hand, seems to counter the idea that independence was primarily inspired by a desire to obtain Mexico's great riches. Revisionism has emphasized the impact of Spanish liberalism on creoles. Some creoles saw independence as a means to restructure society by overturning the colonial corporate order and establishing a horizontal social body based on individualism and citizenship.30 Actually, there is some resonance between these liberal ideals of equality and Political Essay. But not the part of Political Essay that advertised Mexico's immense material wealth. To the contrary, it is part of an entirely different Humboldtian tradition steeped in sociology, which complained about social inequality in Mexico.

     Some contemporaries and scholars charged that Humboldt inspired U.S. expansionism and militarism in Mexico, particularly the cases of Texas independence and the Mexican-American War. A general charge is that since Humboldt depicted Mexico as wealthy Americans desired the territory for themselves.31 A more specific charge is related to Humboldt's relationship with Thomas Jefferson. The two met shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, at the end of Humboldt's trip to the Americas. Humboldt provided Jefferson with maps and information about New Spain and the borders between Mexico and the United States, a topic Jefferson had great interest in.32 Humboldt also provided Jefferson a two-page summary on Texas.33 Further, once Political Essay was completed in 1811 Humboldt sent Jefferson a copy of the French version. Their correspondence continued until Jefferson's death. Did the information Humboldt provided to Jefferson in 1804 result in U.S. imperialism? A scholarly debate has developed about this34 that students can engage directly through a reading of the letters that Humboldt and Jefferson exchanged. These have been prepared for classroom use and are currently available free on-line.35 Interestingly, Humboldt sided with Spain in the territorial dispute it had with the U.S. over Texas.36 (This web-site includes letters that discuss Mexico's northern frontier, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, slavery and the West, Washington society, and other matters.)Our concerns here are not on the specifics of the debate, but rather the extent to which Humboldt's depictions of Mexico's wealth resonated with American justifications for expansion. Ironically, Humboldt's account of Mexico's northern frontier (the area annexed by the U.S.) was not nearly as glowing as his portrayals of some regions. True, in California he stressed the abundance of pearls and he mentioned sixteenth-century rumors of gold.37 And while he was skeptical about the existence of precious metals in New Mexico, he did note that soil in New Mexico and Texas was fertile.38 But Humboldt did not go into any depth, and his assessment was mixed. He maintained that the northern region could not support a large population since it was very dry.39

     In our analysis of American expansion, we will examine the cases of Texas and the Mexican-American War separately. When dealing with Texas it is necessary to consider the potential impact that Humboldt had on the actions of both Mexico and the United States since Mexico solicited American colonists. Humboldt's overall description of Mexico as well as his prescriptions for the nation's economic advance proved influential on Mexican policies in Texas. Humboldt described Mexico as wealthy in resources, but with inadequate population to fully exploit them. In Political Essay Humboldt maintained that Mexico's vast resources could support a ten-fold increase in population! The implication was that population increase would enable Mexico to exploit its natural abundance. Additionally, despite the fact that Humboldt discussed Mexico's silver mines at great length, he contended (following the ideas of the French Physiocrats) that the basis of Mexico's wealth was in agriculture and commerce.40 Humboldt strongly influenced Tadeo Ortiz de Ayala, a Mexican statesman who had a large role in colonization policies in the 1820s. Not only did Ortiz's vision of Mexico follow Humboldt's, but Ortiz also cited and praised Political Essay.41 Following Humboldt's notion of riches that highlighted natural resources, Ortiz adhered to the idea that Mexico's agrarian wealth was the main source of opulence. All that was needed was a population to exploit it. Texas was a case in point since it was rich in natural wealth but was under-populated. Colonization would solve the problem.42 Ortiz was not alone in this assumption. During the early national era a dominant assumption was that Mexico was rich in resources but scarce in population. Hence colonization would make Mexico rich.

     It was not solely the Humboldtian idea of Mexico's vast resources that motivated Ortiz, however. He was also inspired by geo-political concerns. Ortiz viewed colonization as a means to strengthen sovereignty: establishing a presence in Texas was imperative to block U.S. encroachments on the region.43

     Humboldt was less influential on Americans' actions in Texas. Nevertheless, it cannot be negated that Americans were interested in Texas as an agricultural region with great economic potential. Furthermore, some Americans did depict Texas as a region wealthy in resources but scarce in people, portrayals which were in agreement with Humboldt's overall depiction of Mexico.44 Finally, Americans' initial interest was also fueled by Mexico's colonization program, which was inspired by Political Essay. But political, legal, cultural, and demographic factors were more central than Humboldt's legacy when it came to the issue of Texas independence. Mexico abolished slavery in 1829 and Americans in Texas had to apply for exemptions in order to keep their slaves. Texan independence, in part, was fueled by a desire to protect the institution of slavery. Independence was also motivated by the desire for greater political autonomy. In 1835 Santa Anna led a successful revolt against the Mexican federalist government and replaced it with a centralist political order. Revolts against centralism took place across Mexico's northern frontier, including New Mexico, California, and Texas. Cultural and demographic factors partly explain why only Texas achieved independence. Only in Texas was there a large and culturally-distinct American population.

     Now for the Mexican-American War. We know from Humboldt's personal correspondence that he disapproved of American actions in the Mexican-American War.45 This is an interesting fact, but not really relevant to the line of questioning we are pursuing here. Undoubtedly, the idea that this land was rich in resources played a role in the war and American annexation of northern Mexico. The gold rush (even though it was just after the war) strengthened the notion that the region was wealthy in resources. Nevertheless, if we look at the rhetoric and the interests behind the Mexican-American War, concerns seem to be more political and geo-political than economic. As noted above, the ideology of Manifest Destiny was central to the war. Even if the term's meaning was vague an unfocused, Manifest Destiny's connotations were more religious, political, and geo-political, than economic. The idea was to expand American democracy and republicanism as a bulwark against European monarchies, especially Great Britain. Further deviating from a focus on Mexico's rich resources, the debate over slavery was very tied up in Manifest Destiny. Polk, the president who championed Manifest Destiny and the war with Mexico, was catapulted to the presidency by slave interests. He was a dark horse candidate in his own party and he received the nomination since Martin Van Buren, the more popular candidate, waffled on slavery and the annexation of Mexico. Consequently, slave interests supported Polk and he was beholden to them. Further illustrating the centrality of slavery, as the war broke out the Wilmot proviso prohibited slavery. Finally, while slave interests championed annexing northern Mexico, some pro-slavery forces opposed the "all Mexico" movement, fearing that if the entire country was annexed that the anti-slavery sentiment in Mexico would tip the balance in the U.S. against slavery. In this discourse, slavery trumped the acquisition of more land.

     The charge that Humboldt's Political Essay inspired the French Intervention has some merit, even if all the motivations for France's invasion cannot be directly tied to the idea of Mexico's vast natural resource wealth. Before examining the links between the intervention and Humboldt, I will briefly review other motivations. On the Mexican side, incentives were mostly political rather than economic. As noted above, since the mid-1850s the Conservatives in Mexico had been losing decisively in their battle with Liberals. Consequently, Conservatives invited the French in as a means to defeat the Liberals and strengthen Mexican conservatism. Furthermore, the idea of a monarchy headed by a member of the European nobility was popular amongst Mexican conservatives. Moving to the French perspective, some motivations were geo-political. In accordance with France's diplomatic engagement in Texas before it was annexed by the U.S., France's involvement with Mexico after the Mexican-American War was partly inspired by geo-politics: establishing a presence would prevent the U.S. from annexing more Mexican territory. In fact, some contemporaries called Mexico a New World Crimea. France would send troops to Mexico to halt U.S. expansionism, as France and England had sent armies to Crimea to block Russia's advance on Turkey.46 Napoleon III was particularly concerned about the possibility of the U.S. annexing the northwestern state of Sonora, a region that had been subjected to numerous filibusters. French colonization of Mexico would halt U.S. republicanism at the Rio Grande. Perhaps the appeal of colonialism and the desire for global dominance, too, motivated Napoleon III.

     But the Humboldtian idea of Mexico's vast natural wealth was also influential. The Humboldt connection, above all, can be traced back to Political Essay's discussion of the mining sector, particularly precious metals. Humboldt maintained that the Mexican mining industry had increased production in the eighteenth century. Further, he stated that Mexico's mines were far from depleted. He predicted that Europe, as had been the case in the early colonial era, would be inundated with Mexican silver. He maintained that the north, especially Sonora and Durango, had great mining potential, and that the quality of the silver in the former was especially high.47 Many French travelers and intellectuals who visited nineteenth-century Mexico built on Humboldt's analysis. Michele Chevalier and other Frenchmen depicted Mexico as a country with vast natural wealth.48 The idea of great silver wealth in Sonora was probably the most prominent theme in French accounts, an assumption that became even stronger in the 1850s owing to the Californian gold rush. According to foreign commentators, Sonora's vast wealth remained untapped owing to Mexico's technological backwardness and political instability. The Mexican mining sector had great potential.

     Mexico had silver, and France had a shortage of the precious metal. The shortage began in the 1850s owing to increased global gold production, mostly in California and Australia. In the mid-nineteenth century as much gold was mined as had been mined in previous centuries! Since the supply of gold increased dramatically silver became much more valuable. Consequently, some began to hoard silver and even melt silver coins down. To make matters worse, owing to the increased value of silver, France was exporting more of the precious metal than it was importing in the 1850s. Reflecting this shortage, in the 1850s most of the coinage minted in France was gold, which was reversal from past precedent when silver had accounted for about 75% of French coinage. The U.S. civil war exacerbated the problem since it forced France to purchase cotton from India, a country that demanded payment in silver. How to resolve this crisis? Some advocated switching from bimetallism to the Gold Standard, but Napoleon III and his advisors rejected this solution. Napoleon III, rather, sought Mexican silver as the answer.49 Reflecting his great interest in Mexican silver, Napoleon III battled Maximilian, the emperor he installed in Mexico, for jurisdiction in Sonora. Even if the French Intervention was short-lived and in many respects a failure, it significantly increased inflows of silver into France.

     Commerce was another motivation that proved significant for the French Intervention that can be traced back to the Humboldtian idea of Mexico's vast wealth. Humboldt had stressed Mexico's fortuitous commercial location between the Pacific and Atlantic, which would make the area a commercial hub between the East and West. Humboldt identified the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as a possible site for a canal between the two oceans (and he continued discussing this possible canal site well after he published Political Essay).50 Even if Napoleon III might have been influenced by the Saint Simonian idea of the importance of international commerce to stimulate industry and create jobs in France, his plan for establishing a commercial crossroads at Tehuantepec echoed Humboldt's idea.


     The French Intervention was the last major foreign military intervention that Mexico experienced (Mexico successfully withstood U.S. intervention in the 1910 Revolution). This begs the question: after the French Intervention did the "scramble" for Mexico subside? I would argue that foreign competition for dominance continued, but manifested itself differently at the end of the nineteenth century. Instead of fighting over Mexican territory, foreign nations competed in the realms of finance and investment. In keeping with the outcome of the international fight over Mexican territory in the early national period, the U.S. prevailed in the late-nineteenth-century global financial competition in Mexico. What role did Humboldt's Political Essay play in this new international financial conflict in Mexico? Owing partly to a re-conceptualization of wealth in this "age of capital," Political Essay became discredited. Let me briefly elaborate on both these points.

     While there were certainly antecedents in the early national era, global investment in Mexico increased substantially during the Porfiriato (the 1876-1910 era is called the Porfiriato since Porfirio Díaz was president for almost the entire period), especially the late Porfiriato. External and internal factors explain the increase. External factors included the problem of global capital glut and, more importantly, the second industrial revolution, which resulted in advanced nations' increased demand for industrial raw materials such as Mexican oil. Internal factors included Mexico's natural wealth, geographic location, political stability, transportation infrastructure, and laws (during the Porfiriato private property rights were strengthened and the freedoms and protections to foreign investors were enhanced). Foreigners invested in Mexico's transportation network, public works, extractive industries, and agriculture, and Mexico's exports ballooned ten-fold. Mexico was one of Latin America's leading exporters and main recipients of foreign investment.

     Even if all of Latin America experienced an "export boom," the case of Mexico was distinct in a way that paralleled its uniqueness during the early national era. During the late-nineteenth-century, too, foreign competition for hegemony was greatest in Mexico. Mexico was also a forerunner in terms of the outcome of the international struggle between the advanced nations: the United States came out on top in Mexico, as it would later in the rest of Latin America. The leading nations (Britain, Germany, France, and the United States) and investors (such as the Rothchilds) competed for dominance in Porfirian Mexico. The analysis of Charles Conant, the prominent U.S. banker, journalist, and government advisor (he helped the U.S. convert nations to the gold standard), suggested that this competition was inevitable. Conant argued that it was imperative that U.S. capital expand abroad since there were no more profitable investment opportunities at home.51 He targeted Mexico as one of the global regions of opportunity. Rather than "congestion," there was a shortage of capital in Mexico. In keeping with Conant's observations, the majority of the United States' foreign investment went to Mexico. At this first stage of U.S. investment abroad (the U.S. was still a debtor nation), Mexico received over half all American foreign investment, about a billion dollars. (Myra Wilkins has termed this investment a "spillover" as U.S. railroads and mining interests overflowed America's southern border.) Despite the fact that the Díaz regime attracted substantial European investment, U.S. investment constituted over half all foreign investment in Mexico.52 Mexico contrasted with the rest of Latin America, in which European (particularly British) capital was dominant. Contemporaries took notice of this anomaly in Mexico. Europeans noted and complained about the dominance of American capital. The Mexican government took action to offset U.S. dominance. Favoring British capital (for example, Weetman Pearson, an oil man) over American capital was one strategy that Díaz used to counter Americans' dominance.53 Another was nationalizing U.S. railroad interests in Mexico. Despite these efforts to weaken the United States, some American financial sources (for example, Bankers' Magazine) predicted that U.S. financial hegemony in Mexico was just the first step: U.S. capital would reign in all of Latin America.

     During the Porfiriato Humboldt's Political Essay, and particularly the Humboldtian idea of Mexico's vast natural abundance, was critiqued. Leading intellectuals of the Porfirian regime were the primary critics. Justo Sierra articulated some of the earliest and most elaborate critiques. Sierra's analysis reflected the greater importance that was attributed to capital in generating wealth in the late nineteenth century. Sierra stated that early-national-era Mexicans subscribed to the Humboldtian idea that Mexico was rich because of its vast natural resources. Owing to the idea, Sierra maintained, Mexicans came to believe that their nation could become wealthy without human intervention. Natural abundance, according to the Humboldtian mindset, was the generator of riches. Nature itself was wealth. Sierra contended that the Humboldtian idea of natural wealth discouraged investment and hard work, thus Mexico remained poor during the early national era. Sierra re-evaluated the role of the natural environment in generating national wealth. He argued that the environment, rather than generating wealth, hindered it. Mexico's natural environment impeded economic progress: a mountainous geography and a lack of navigable rivers thwarted commerce and stymied the exploitation of resources, arid soil and climatic extremes (including dry spells interspersed with torrential rains and temperatures that jumped from hot to cold) hindered agriculture, and substandard minerals posed a serious roadblock to industrialization.54 Capital and technology, Sierra asserted, had to overcome nature's obstacles in order to generate wealth. He maintained that the Porfirian era was a case in point. Finally, during the Díaz era, Mexico had courted foreign capital and technology, and the result had been significant material progress. Sierra maintained that the Porfiriato marked a significant break with the past since it was the first time that Mexico had achieved sustained material progress since independence.55 Sierra's critique of Humboldtian idea made perfect sense during this "age of capital," a period when investment and technology, not natural resources, were deemed the most significant forces in generating riches.


     This essay and epilogue have focused on the ways that nineteenth-century Mexico was exploited, manipulated, and invaded by foreign powers. Unsurprisingly, Mexico became associated with foreign domination. (Even after the era of military interventions this idea persisted. Since Díaz courted foreign capital a slogan emerged: Mexico, father of foreigners, stepfather of Mexicans.) But this account of Mexico's relations with the advanced nations would be incomplete if it failed to mention the emergence of Mexican nationalism after the 1910 Revolution. Reversing previous depictions, the Revolutionary Mexican state became a symbol of a third world nation that effectively safeguarded national sovereignty. The 1910 Revolution had many elements, one of which was economic nationalism. Stressing this aspect, one academic defined the Mexican Revolution as a revolution that liberated Mexico from foreign domination.56 Article 27 of the 1917 Constitution—which, in a reversal of Porfirian policies, empowered the state to expropriate foreign economic interests—embodied Mexico's Revolutionary nationalism. Further revealing their nationalist stance and convictions not to be controlled by foreign interests, during the 1920s Mexican nationalists regularly stated that they refused to be "Cubanized," that is, they would allow Mexico to become a U.S. protectorate (the 1903 Platt Amendment made Cuba an American protectorate).57 Amazingly, in 1938 Mexico expropriated American oil interests, but was not invaded by the U.S.! Throughout Latin America, Revolutionary Mexico became a symbol of a nation that successfully resisted U.S. hegemony, and prominent Latin American nationalists like Nicaragua's Augusto Sandino traveled to Mexico for assistance in their bids to resist the United States. Mexico's nationalist symbolism remained strident into the 1970s, when Mexican President Luis Echevería represented Mexico as the leader of the non-aligned movement. One scholar has termed the Mexican Revolutionary state "post-imperialist" since it forged a new pact with the advanced nations that allowed for Mexican sovereignty.58 It would be an overstatement to claim that the notion of Mexico's vast natural wealth was resurrected by the Revolutionary state, for some revolutionists continued the Porfirian tradition of critiquing the Humboldtian idea.59 Nevertheless, some revolutionists articulated nationalist discourses that depicted foreigners as predators who plundered Mexico's vast natural abundance and left the nation impoverished.

Richard Weiner is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. He has written Race, Nation, and Market: Economic Culture in Porfirian Mexico (University of Arizona Press, 2005) and co-edited (with Raúl Galoppe) Explorations in Subjectivity, Borders, and Demarcation: A Fine Line (University Press of America, 2005). He is Book Review Editor for the Journal of Latin American Urban Studies. He can be reached at


1 See Eric Hobsbawn, The Age of Empire (New York: Vinatge Books, 1989).

2 Christon Archer, ed., The Wars of Independence in Spanish America (Delaware: Scholarly Resources, 2000).

3 Quoted in John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, "The Imperialism of Free Trade," The Economic History Review, New Series, vol. 6, no. 1, 1953, 8.

4 Quoted in Peter Smith, Talons of the Eagle: Latin America, the United States, and the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 19.

5 Timothy Henderson, A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and its War with the United States (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007), 134-147.

6 David Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821-1846 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1982), 122-146.

7 Shirley Black, Napoleon III and Mexican Silver (Silverton, CO: Ferrell, 2000), 41-60.

8 Walther Bernecker, "Between European and United States Dominance: Mexican Foreign Trade in the 19th Century," (unpublished paper), 1-38.

9 Alfred Jackson Hanna and Kathryn Abbey Hanna, Napoleon III and Mexico (Chapel Hill: University North Carolina Press, 1971), 306.

10 Dirk Raat, Mexico and the United States 3rd ed. (Athens: University of Georgia, 2004), 53. Raat bases his comparison on scholarship by John Coatsworth: John Coatsworth, "Obstacles to Economic Growth in Nineteenth-Century Mexico," American Historical Review, no. 83, 1978, 80-100. Also see John Coatsworth, "Economic and Institutional Trajectories in Nineteenth Century Latin America", in John Coatsworth and Alan Taylor, eds., Latin America and the World Economy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 23-54. For other comparisons see Jaime Rodríguez, Down from Colonialism (Los Angeles: University of California, 1983); and Stephen Haber, "Introduction: Economic Growth and Latin American Economic Historiography," in Stephen Haber, ed., How Latin America Fell Behind (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 1-33.

11 Coatsworth, "Obstacles to Economic Growth"; Coatsworth, "Economic and Institutional Trajectories"; Haber, "Introduction"; and Rodríguez, "Colonialism."

12 David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

13 Richard Weiner, Race Nation, and Market: Economic Culture in Porfirian Mexico (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004), 48-69.

14 An English version first appeared in 1811. It is available as a reprint. Alexander von Humboldt, Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, 4 vols., trans. John Black (New York: AMC Press, 1966). For an abridged edition see Mary Dunn, ed.  Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1972).

15 For a summary of Political Essay see José Miranda, Humboldt y México (Mexico City: UNAM, 1995), 129-162.

16 Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Nature, Empire, and Nation: Explorations of the History of Science in the Iberian World (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 112-128.

17 Miranda, Humboldt, 177-79.

18 Walther Bernecker, "El mito de la riqueza Mexicana. Alejandro de Humboldt: del analista al propagandista," in Frank Holl, ed., Alejandro de Humboldt: Una nueva visión del mundo (Mexico City: UNAM, 2003), 95-101; Carlos Pereyra, Humboldt en America (Madrid: Editorial America), 193; and Martín Quirarte, Historiografía sobre el Segundo imperio de Maximiliano (Mexico City: UNAM), 11-21.

19 Alexander von Humboldt, Viaje a las regiones equinocciales del nuevo continente vol. 5 (Caracas: Escuela Tecnica, 1942), 88.

20 Arthur Whitaker, "Alexander von Humboldt and Spanish America," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (November, 1959), 317-22.

21 Lucas Alamán, Historia de Méjico, vol. 1 (Mexico City: Editorial Jus, 1942), 138.

22 Luis González y González, "Humboldt y la revolución de independencia," in Marianne Bopp, ed., Ensayos sobre Humboldt (Mexico City: UNAM1962), 207-10.

23 Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, Escritos ineditos (Mexico City: Colegio de Mexico, 1944).

24 Miranda, Humboldt, 163-66.

25 Humboldt, Viaje, 81-89.

26 Alexander von Humboldt, Ensayo Político sobre el reino de la Nueva España 6th ed. (Mexico City: Porrúa, 2002), 235-81.

27 Humboldt, Ensayo, 420.

28 Humboldt, Ensayo, 451-61.

29 Luis González y González, "El optimismo nacionalista como factor de la independencia de México," in Silvio Zavala, ed., Estudios de Historiografia Americana (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1948), 155-215.

30 Jaime Rodríguez, The Independence of Spanish America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

31 Bernecker, "mito"; Pereyra, Humboldt, 193; and Quirarte, Historiografía.

32 Sandra Rebok, "Two Exponents of the Enlightenment: Transatlantic Communication by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander von Humboldt," The Southern Quarterly 43 no. 4 (summer, 2006), 126-152.

33 Ingo Schwarz, "Alexander von Humboldt's Visit to Washington and Philadelphia, his Friendship with Jefferson, and his Fascination with the United States," Proceedings: Alexander von Humboldt's Natural History Legacy and Its Relevance for Today 2001 Northeastern Naturalist 1 (2001), 48.

34 For a charge that the Humboldt-Jefferson meeting resulted in U.S. imperialism see Juan Ortega y Medina, "Estudio preliminar," in Alejandro de Humboldt, Ensayo Político sobre el reino de la Nueva España, 6th ed. (Mexico City: Porrúa, 2002), XVI-XVIII . For a refutation of Medina see Jaime Labastida, "Humboldt, México y los Esatdos Unidos. Historia de una intriga," in Jaime Labastida, ed., Atlas Geografico y Fisico del Reino de la Nueva España (Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno, 2003), 131-147.

35 See

36 Humboldt, Ensayo, 184.

37 Humboldt, Ensayo, 197-201.

38 Humboldt, Ensayo, 182-6, 193-7.

39 Humboldt, Ensayo, 194.

40 Humboldt, Ensayo, 237, 316, 319; and Richard Weiner, "Redefining Mexico's Riches: Representations of Wealth in Alexander von Humboldt's Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain." In Lourdes de Ita Rubio and Sánchez Díaz, eds., Humboldt y otros viajeros científicos en América Latina (Morelia: Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo), 157-170.

41 Tadeo Ortiz, México considerado como nación independiente y libre, o sean algunas indicaciones sobre los deberes más esenciales de los mexicanos (Burdeos: Carlos Lawalle Sobrino, 1832), 280-2.

42 Ortiz, México, 429.

43 Guy Thomson, "La colonización en el departamento Acayucan: 1824-1834," Historia Mexicana 94 no. 2 (1974), 259.

44 Marilyn McAdams Sibley, Travelers in Texas, 1781-1860 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967), 45-68.

45 Schwarz, "Humboldt's Visit," 53.

46 Hanna and Hanna, Napoleon III, 10-20.

47 Black, Napoleon III, 8-9.

48 Margarita Martínez Leal de Helguera, Posibles antecedentes de la intervención francesa (tesis, UNAM, 1963); and Black, Napoleon III, 5-22.

49 Black, Napoleon III, 23-39.

50 Humboldt, Ensayo, 467-71.

51 Charles Conant, "The Economic Basis of Imperialism," in Charles Conant, The United States and the Orient: The Nature of the Economic Problem (Port Washington, N.Y.: Kinnikat Press, 1971), 1-33.

52 Mira Wilkins, The Emergence of Multinational Enterprise: American Business Abroad from the Colonial Era to 1914 (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1970), 70-71, 125.

53 Friedrich Katz, The Secret War in Mexico (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).

54 Justo Sierra, México social y político (Mexico City: DGPMBP, 1960).

55 Justo Sierra, Obras Completas XII. Evolución política del pueblo mexicano (Mexico City: UNAM, 1991).

56 John Hart, Revolutionary Mexico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).

57 Lorenzo Meyer, Mexico and the United States in the Oil Controversy, 1917-1942 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977)

58 Keith Hayes, "The Mexican Revolution as a Province of Postimperialism," in David Becker and Richard Sklar, eds., Postimperialism and World Politics (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999), 283-316.

59 Daniel Cosío Villegas, American Extremes (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964).


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