Our Sister Republic/Chapter 9

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WE had been told that we should find a revolution in full blast at Querataro, and everything in confusion. Instead, we found every thing going on in clock work order, peace, apparent contentment, and comparative prosperity. The Governor, it is true, having quarreled with the Legislature or State Congress, had been impeached, and was then in the city of Mexico, awaiting trial before Congress; but the Gefe Politico, Señor Angel Dueñas, and other officers, were conducting business with regularity in his absence.

We found the City and State officials, ready with carriages at the gates to receive the party. The city contains forty thousand people, and though far less important, commercially, than it once was, is still reckoned a wealthy one. It has schools, churches, and historic localities enough to occupy one's attention for a week; but as we had only a day and a half to devote to it, we decided to spend the first half-day in visiting the great factory which, in fact, supports the town; then devote all the following day to the scenes of interest connected with the siege, and the capture and death of Maximilian.

"We rode at once out of the City to the north-west, past a long aqueduct carried across the valley on high stone arches, the whole work having cost a million dollars. It was the work of a rich Mexican who offered, by way of a banter, to do it free of cost to Queretaro, if a friend of like wealth would build a saint and shrine of solid silver. The bantering offer was accepted, and both parties carried out their agreement. The city is still supplied with water through this aqueduct.

The first factory which we saw was the small one known as La Purisiana Conceptioni. e. The Immaculate Conception—which is run by water, and employs only three hundred operatives. It is owned by Señor Don Cuyatano Rubio, an aged, and very wealthy and enterprising Mexican, whose sons carry on all his immense business. It stands in a beautifully arranged enclosure, with high walls, fountains, orange-trees, and flowers around it, and is guarded all the time by watchmen in full military uniform, armed and drilled in the best modern style. It is lighted with gas, and the fine machinery is of the most improved pattern. Only manta or common cotton-cloth, such as is used by the poorest class and the common people, is made at this factory.

We passed on to the next and largest factory, not only in Queretaro, but in Mexico. This is situated just outside the city limits, and is known as the "Hercules." This is one of the largest establishments of the kind in America, and is a model in its way. It was founded twenty-five years ago by Señor Rubio, who then employed fifty workmen. Since then he has added to the capacity of the works until he has now the largest establishment in Mexico, and his income from it is immense. The buildings, mostly of but one story, cover a large extent of ground, and are enclosed by a high wall and guarded by watch-men in uniform, armed and drilled as soldiers. The motive power is furnished by two double oscillating engines of English manufacture and one hundred horse-power each, and the largest over-shot water-wheel in the world, sixty-five feet in diameter, and of iron, wholly. The factory employs at present eighteen hundred men, women and boys, directly, and has eighteen thousand spindles in operation. The buildings are erected, already, for five thousand spindles more, and the number of operatives will be increased to three thousand. This mill produces six thousand pieces of common cotton goods, each thirty-two varas—say thirty yards English—in length, weekly. The women and men who do the weaving, receive thirty-one and one-fourth cents per piece, or about one cent per yard for their work, and are paid weekly. They earn two and one-half to five dollars per week, and are furnished with comfortable quarters near the factory at a nominal rental. But they work from 6 a. m. to 9 1-2 p. m., with only an intermission of half an hour, for breakfast, and an hour for dinner. Among the employes are many small boys from seven to ten years of age.

The Government provides a day-school on Sunday for these poor, little unfortunates; but what can they be expected to learn, when they have worked fifteen hours out of the twenty-four during the entire week, and can only have, at best, one brief day of liberty and enjoyment of the sunlight in seven? The buildings are all well-lighted and ventilated, and were as well-calculated for the purpose as any I have ever seen, and the office and residence of the superintendent are on a scale of extent and magnificence to be found in no similar establishment, elsewhere. The factory was working at the time, on orders largely in advance, and literally "coining money." The universal testimony of the employers in all these factories, is that the workmen and workwomen are patient, laborious, and reliable; and that no better class of operatives could be procured in the world. A beautiful statue of Hercules and the lions, the latter spouting water, stands in the center of the court-yard, and the entire surroundings of the place give evidence of a cultivated taste, and unbounded wealth on the part of the proprietor.

Queretaro was once famous for the bigotry and fanaticism of its people. The appearance of the procession carrying the Host, on the public streets, was the signal for everybody in sight falling on his knees at once; and if any heretic dared to remain standing, or with his hat on, he was sure to receive violent handling even if he escaped with his life.

A few years since, an Englishman who was employed at one of the mills, chanced to be on the streets when the procession with the Host hove in sight. Not being posted on the customs of the country he remained standing until he was knocked down and nearly killed. Some time after, he heard a small bell ringing on the streets, and as this was the signal for the appearance of the Host, supposed it was time to kneel. Down he went on his knees and remained there with his face buried deep in his sombrero until somebody came along, and recognizing him, demanded an explanation of his conduct. It turned out that the bell which he had supposed headed the procession of the Host, was being rung by the official dustman, as a warning to the inhabitants to have their refuse dust and garbage ready for him to remove. He was of course quickly on his feet upon making this discovery, but the joke on him was too good to be kept, and he was almost driven out of the country by the wags, who never tired of going after him, on the subject. The carrying of the Host through the streets of Mexican towns is no longer permitted, and the mistake is not likely to be ever repeated.

I believe all countries and all languages have the same stories, only slightly varied to suit the locality. A man told me in Queretaro, with all possible gravity, that a few years since, an American bought a rancho in the vicinity of that city, and took a large drove of mules to pasture for a year, for one-half of the increase. As the mules did not breed as rapidly as he had anticipated, he lost money, and finally bursted up in business. This story has been told me in every country I have ever visited, at the expense of the next door neighbors, and I am half satisfied that, spite of the Mosaic account of the affair, the real cause or origin of the difficulty between Cain and Abel was the telling of this very anecdote by the former to the latter. Abel replied, "that is an old story, you had better start something fresh!" and the brutal row began.

On the evening of our arrival a number of gentlemen assembled at the parlor of the house occupied by Mr. Seward and party, and Señor Angel Dueñas, Political Chief, made an address, to which Mr. Seward replied briefly; and on his leaving, presented him with a letter of thanks for the address and the efforts made by the people of Queretaro and the authorities, to make his stay in the state and city, a pleasant one.

Señor Manuel Gomez then advanced and pronounced a "felicitation", to which Mr. Seward replied in writing as follows: "Señor Gomez: I pray you, my dear sir, to accept in this form my grateful acknowledgment for the generous words of welcome, which on my arrival at this place you addressed to me, on behalf of the officers and agents of the Federal Government residing in the city of Queretaro. Republicanism on this continent, my dear sir, is not the cause of the United States of America, or of the United States of Mexico, only, but it is the common cause of both countries, and, as I believe, of all the nations which now exist on the American Continent. It will be a happy consequence of my present travel in Mexico, if it shall enable me, in any degree, to cultivate and mature this sentiment, either in your interesting country, or in my own".

The legislature of the state of Queretaro, presented by one of its members, an address of welcome, of which the following is a translation:

The Legislature of the State has the honor to felicitate Mr. W. H. Seward, giving him the welcome. It is the true interpreter of the people of Queretaro with regard to the expressions of its gratitude. Meanwhile, history does not efface off its pages the unjustified invasion of France in Mexico; likewise, will not be effaced the important services which Mexico received of the Hon. Minister of America, in 1866.

Queretaro, Nov. 11th 1869.

(Signed,) B. Gandarilla,


In reply Mr. Seward wrote a letter, concluding:

"The Legislature will scarcely need to be assured that I appreciate the legendary and historical character of the state of Queretaro. While its capital will be forever celebrated, as the scene of the earliest and most pious labors of the humble founders of Christianity in Mexico, it will be even more distinguished, as the scene of those mighty events, which concluded the last and most desperate attempt of all, to establish European monarchial domination on the American Continent. Peace, harmony, and sympathy among the several American Nations, is now the common interest of all of them, and it is soon to be perceived that it is equally the interest of all mankind. With most profound respect, etc."

A similar reply was addressed by Mr. Seward, to a letter of welcome from Governor Varquez, which closed the felicitations.

We spent all one day riding around Queretaro, visiting the scenes of the last act in the bloody farce of the "Empire of Mexico," and hearing the story from the lips of men who witnessed it all, and participated in it, or were familiar with all the details.

It is the common belief in the United States and Europe, that the execution of Maximilian and his associates, Miramon and Mejia, was in defiance of the will of the majority of the people of Mexico, and that Maximilian's memory is greatly revered by all classes of society. Certain newspaper correspondents, whose motives may well be questioned, have represented that every relic and trace of him, is regarded with superstitious reverence by the people of Mexico; and that the men who sent him to his death, are everywhere detested and abhorred. I could see no trace of such a feeling, and must be allowed to express a personal unbelief of the whole story. Imperialists, belonging to the wealthy and, former, "ruling classes," who might be expected to speak reverentially of him, so far as my observation, at least, goes, all hold his memory in contempt, and regard him as the author, not only of his own misfortunes, but of those who adhered to his cause. They often say of him that he was, personally, a gentleman, in his carriage and demeanor, but vain to the last degree, cold-blooded, fond of idle pomp and show, and devoid of all the qualities of heart and head to fit him for personal popularity, and enable him to succeed in such an enterprise as founding an empire on the ruins of a republic.

Queretaro is situated on the north-eastern edge of a wide plain, around which, on the north-east, north, and west, runs a range of low hills commanding the city. In April, and the early part of May, 1867, the position of the contending armies was about as follows: Gen. Escobedo, the Commander-in-Chief of the Republican forces, had his head-quarters on the heights east of the city, and held undisturbed possession of the northeast and south-east, and debated with the Imperialists the possession of the lower part of the city nearest his head-quarters. The Imperialists held the west, south-west, and south-east, and the main portion of the city; while Gen. Corona on the south, and Regules and the American Legion on the west, hemmed them in, and prevented their escape toward the Pacific.

The old Convent and Church of Las Cruces, is an immense structure, with walls of great strength, and is situated on a hill sufficiently high to command the city, but is commanded in turn by the heights beyond the town occupied by General Escobedo. The Alameda is on low ground, overlooked by the heights occupied by Corona, but is surrounded by a stout, stone wall, and was well defended by artillery and the Casa Blanca. Between it and the Cerro de Las Campanas is an old hacienda, with immense walls, invulnerable to everything but the fire of the heaviest ordnance. From Las Cruces to the Cerro, in a direct line, is a mile and a half, and the line of defences was nearly two miles—twice too long for the force that held it, or rather, tried to hold it. The story of the siege of Queretaro and the deeds of daring on both sides is now tolerably familiar to the reading public. Maximilian sent out Miramon with the flower of his army to attack, and if possible, capture Juarez at Zacatecas. He captured the city, Juarez barely escaping, but next day was attacked and routed by Escobedo, and on the following day, having retreated thirty miles and united his forces to those of Castillo, was again overtaken and routed completely, by Escobedo, his whole army being killed or dispersed, and himself escaping wounded, and with but a handful of men remaining.

On the fourteenth of April, Corona made a daring and desperate attack upon the strong-hold of Las Cruces, and scaling the high walls of the cemetery on the north-east side, occupied a position under the very walls of the Convent for an hour, but was driven out at last by the besieged, after a hand-to-hand conflict. Later in the siege, Corona, while resting his forces in the plain, in the rear of the Casa Blanca, was surprised in the early morning by the forces under Miramon, who marched under the cover of the night from the Casa Blanca to the Alameda, and suddenly flanking his position, routed him, and compelled him to retreat to the hills, a few hundred yards in the rear. This, however, gained him no permanent advantage, and he was in turn flanked by Escobedo, and compelled to retire within the intrenchments.

The sortie made with a view of escaping to Morelia, had been made by Maximilian's forces previous to this surprise of Corona, and had failed. Now for the final catastrophe. The story, I heard from one of the officers of the court-martial which condemned Maximilian, Miramon, and Mejia to death; and from other parties who were eye-witnesses, some of whom evidently sympathized with the Imperialists.

On the night of the 14th of May, 1867, the Imperialists were defeated at all points, exhausted and dispirited. They had lived on mule-meat and bean-bread for weeks, and even that was gone. Maximilian, despairing, at last, of assistance from abroad, saw that all was lost, and at 11 p. m. he sent Lopez, who was then the "officer of the day," to the head-quarters of General Escobedo, with instructions, to say to him, that he proposed to take fifty picked horsemen, escape across the Sierra Gordo to Tampico or Tuxpan, and embark for Europe, leaving the place to surrender at once, if his own life was guaranteed him. Escobedo repelled the proposition with contempt, telling Lopez that he had strict orders to refuse all terms to Maximilian, as an outlaw, and violator of the laws of war, and that he would carry the city by assault at the next attempt. Lopez returned to Maximilian, told him of his utter want of success, and then returned to the advanced post occupied by him, just below Las Cruces, on the north-western side, and in the outskirts of Queretaro.

Escobedo, reasoning that the proposition could only come from a man in the last extremity, at once called a council of war, and the general assault which had been previously ordered for the following day at 8 a. m., was directed to be made immediately. The Republican troops reached the out-post held by Lopez in front of Las Cruces at 4 a. m., and as soon as Lopez saw them, he told his men that further resistance was useless. Some say, that he said that the Republicans were deserters who came to join the Imperialists, but this is denied by Lopez and his friends. At any rate, he ran directly to the head-quarters of Maximilian at La Cruces, told him all was lost, and urged him to fly to Las Campanas, and escape if he could. Maximilian, who appeared to have completely lost his senses, ran down from his room in the second story of the convent to the basement, and demanded his horses, but was told that the Republicans already had possession of the stables. He then ran out toward the north, but was caught by the shoulder, by an officer who pushed him back, telling him that he was running directly into the jaws of death. He then ran on foot through Queretaro in a south-westerly direction toward the Cerro de Las Campanas. On his way through the city he was seen in uniform by some of the soldiers of the regiment of Col. Rincon of the Republican forces, who had already made their way to the heart of the city. They cried out to stay him, but Col. Rincon, either because he did not recognize him, or because his father had been under great obligations to Maximilian, replied, "No; he is only a private citizen, and a countryman of ours; let him go!" He then ran on to Las Campanas uninterrupted, and, demanding horses, was told that it was useless, as all the country in front was already occupied by General Regules.

Thus cut off, and surrounded at all points, he took a white flag in his hand, and started down the slope of one hundred feet toward the city, and before reaching the bottom met Col. Geo. M. Green, the accomplished officer in command of the American Legion of Honor from San Francisco, whom he recognized. Shots had by this time been fired at Maximilian, repeatedly, by the advancing Republicans, and he was in a pitiable condition; exhausted, disheartened, and with his great, weak lips trembling so that he could hardly command his speech, he asked Col. Green not to let him fall into the hands of General Escobedo, of whom he stood in mortal terror, but to point out General Corona and allow him to surrender to him. Col. Green said to him:

"Calm yourself; the Emperor of Austria has sent a commission to ask the American Government to intercede for your life!"

Maximilian apparently greatly relieved by the information, replied:

"And my brother has done this?"

By this time—all had passed in a few seconds—General Corona had reached the spot, and going straight up to him, Maximilian said:

"I am Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico." (drawing his sword and presenting it;)

"I am the Emperor no longer, but a Mexican citizen, and your prisoner?"

Corona replied:

"No, Maximilian, you are not now Emperor, and never were!"

He then motioned to a subordinate to receive his sword, refusing himself to accept it, or make any terms of surrender, and referring him, altogether, to General Escobedo, his superior in command. Lopez now ordered the Austrians and others in his command, to disarm, and the work was complete.

The story that Lopez sold out to Escobedo for seventy thousand dollars, in coin, is in a measure rebutted by the facts that the Republicans had not a dollar to pay him; that he has not been known to have a dollar since; and that there was no need of such a bribe, as all chance for successful resistance was gone, and the Republicans already, had the city, practically, in their power; the City of Mexico was certain to fall, for it could not be defended long by the forces within it. There was no point on the continent from which succor could possibly come. It is a fact against him, that he was not imprisoned, for a time, like his brother officers; but may not that be explained on the hypothesis, that although detested (as were all those who had gone over to the Empire,) by the Republicans, they still felt that he was entitled to some consideration for having stopped the effusion of blood, when the proper time arrived, and it was just and proper that he should do so. Strict military disciplinarians might urge that his duty was to have died at his post; not to presume to judge of the exigencies of a situation when his superior officer was in command, and on the ground; but civilians will ask, to what good would such self-sacrifice conduce, and it will be hard to answer. I do not propose to offer an apology for a man whose former life had been regarded infamous by his most intimate acquaintances; but something is due to the truth of history; and it really seems to me, from all the evidence which I gathered at the time, and that which I found on the spot, that Maximilian was not betrayed by Lopez; and that he (Maximilian), on the other hand, did, on the night of the 14th of May, offer to abandon his companions to their fate, and escape, personally, to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and from thence to Europe, is beyond a doubt.

We found the room occupied by Maximilian at Las Cruces, unroofed, and filled with rubbish, from a pile of which, small trees had grown up; from one of them, as much as twelve feet in height, I plucked a handful of flowers. Some one had written in bold letters, on the wall, with charcoal, "Mexico es Libre!" but I saw no other inscription. In the rooms below, all was just as it was when the imperial horses were taken out, after the fall. We went up and stood in the bell-tower in which Maximilian stood when a cannon-ball from Escobedo's batteries cut down his aid by his side. All the buildings around the Convent were tenantless, roofless, and in ruins, having been dismantled by the Imperialists, or leveled by the Republican batteries, and never repaired.

From Las Campañas, Maximilian, with Miramon, Mejia, Prince Salm Salm, and others, was taken back to the city and imprisoned for six or seven days in the old Convent of Theresite. From thence he, with Miramon and Mejia, went to the old monastery of Los Capuchinos, and there they remained under guard (while the court-martial decided their case) until the 19th of June, thirty-four days after their capture, when they went out to die. Maximilian persisted until the last hour in the belief that the barefooted and ragged Republicans of Mexico would not dare to shoot a Prince of the house of Hapsburg-Lorraine, and one of the "Lord's Anointed." But they did!

When at Los Capuchinos, I was shown by a friend who accompanied me, the window at which Maximilian was looking out, when he visited the place during the pseudo Emperor's confinement after the court-martial had sentenced him to death. It faces the patio, and in the room adjoining, on the other angle, Miramon and Mejia were confined. By looking diagonally across the corner of this patio, they could see each other when standing at their windows. When my friend entered they were conversing. Miramon called out to Maximilian:

"Emperor: I beg you to prepare for death; I tell you that they will certainly shoot us!"

Maximilian replied confidently:

"No, they dare not do it: they may shoot you possibly, but Don Benito will not let me be killed. He will send me either to the United States or to Europe!"

Miramon shrugged his shoulders and replied:

"I assure you that you are deceiving yourself; they will certainly shoot us all!"

In Maximilian's room I saw a hole in the floor where the pavement had been taken up, as if to effect an escape into the room below; but could not learn whether this was made during the time that he was there confined or subsequently.

In company with Señor Dueñas, I rode out to see the spot where the three met their death. On the north-eastern slope of the low, rocky hill-side, facing the city, a rude barrier of adobes had been thrown up to stop the bullets, and here the carriage halted. Gen. Escobedo, with a motion of the hand, directed Maximilian to come down. The puppet Emperor, unaccustomed to such treatment from those he regarded as the dust of the earth, gave him a look of doubt which finally changed to a scowl, descended hesitatingly, and walked mechanically toward the summit of the hill. Miramon arrived next, and, seeing that Maximilian was going wrong, called him back. They stood at first with Maximilian in the center, but the position was changed, and when the troops drew up on the hill below to fire upon them, Maximilian stood on the west, Miramon next, and Mejia on the east. Maximilian, from a repugnance to touching the hands of common men, had contracted the habit in Mexico of standing with his hands behind him, and in this position he stood, and said something inaudible to the spectators, to Mejia and to Miramon. Then he commenced a bitter, rambling, and incoherent speech to Escobedo—not the words, at all, which have since been put in his mouth—about being willing to die for the good of Mexico, but was stopped and told to face the muskets. Mejia stood with his arms folded, Miramon holding his written defense; and

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Maximilian with a cross elevated in his right hand, when the sharp crash of the volley came, and all three rolled upon the ground. Mejia and Miramon died instantly, but Maximilian repeatedly clapped his hand on his head as if in agony, and expired with a struggle, as the echoes of the muskets died away among the canons of the distant Sierra.

Died away did I say? No; not there, nor then!

Those echoes rolled across the broad Atlantic and shook every throne in Europe. The royal plotter against the liberties of men heard them in his palace by the Seine, and grew pale as he listened. They rolled over the Pyrenees, and the throne of Isabella began to crumble; over the Alps, and every monarch from Italy to the farthest East heard in them the rumblings of the coming earthquake—the prelude of the fall of empires. They will roll on, and on, through the coming ages, and be answered by the uprising millions of future generations, until "Kingly Prerogatives" and "Divine Right" are things of the past. The world had waited long for these echoes, and was better when it heard them at last.

The ground, which but a few short months ago was torn by cannon-shot, trampled by contending armies, and drenched with the blood of Europe and America, is now covered with corn-fields; and three plain, wooden crosses, painted black, without inscription of any kind, and mounted on a rude pile of stones, alone mark the spot whereon was enacted the last scene of one of the most tremendous dramas of our time.

The laborers were engaged in gathering the corn, when our carriages drove up, and they stopped a moment and looked on with silent interest, as Mr. Seward stood beside the rude mound, while the uncle of Miramon told the story of the execution, and the two sisters of the most ambitious, bigoted and unscrupulous of Mexico's celebraties, clad in black, stood weeping silently behind them. Some there may be, who will think that I am hardly human, in my want of sympathy for the men who expiated their crimes against liberty and the rights of men, at the Cerro de Las Campanas; but let them see the widows and orphans, the ruined towns, depopulated districts, poverty, misery and woe, which they brought upon this lovely land, as I have seen them, and then sympathise with dead royalty and its supporters if they can. I have as much sympathy for human misery as any man living, but it is with the innocent victims of this crime against all that is holy,—the starving, poor and helpless,—that I sympathize; not with those who staked their all on the dice,—trusting to gain the wages of crime, be worshiped for their success, and feared for their power,—lost, and paid the penalty. I would have doubted the justice of God, had Maximilian lived, and the thousands of brave men whom he sent to death through his black flag decree slept unavenged in their bloody graves. I have stood on the Cerro de Las Campanas, and I know that God is just!

"The mills of the Gods grind slowly,
But they grind exceeding small."

They never ground a grist finer than that which Napoleon III. sent to their mill, marked "Empire of Mexico."

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