The political career and ideology of Mariano Otero, Mexican politician (1817-1850)
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The traditionalist historiography of nineteenth-century Mexico produced a simplistic binary view of the period in which politics were characterised by a clear-cut liberal/conservative divide. According to this interpretation, the liberals were repeatedly depicted as the patriotic forefathers of the great reformist liberals of the mid-century Reforma period, whilst the conservatives were presented as the treacherous defenders of the dark forces of reaction. A revaluation of the fragmented politics of Mexican liberalism during the critical decade of the 1840s, focussing in particular on the actions and ideas of moderate political thinker and actor, Mariano Otero, provides a much needed nuanced understanding of the political issues, factions, and tendencies of the time. It highlights for one, the nature of the divisions that prevented Mexican liberals from presenting a united front, even during the traumatic Mexican-American War (1846-48). It also forces us to revise the view that there were only two political factions or worldviews during this period. This thesis examines, therefore, Mexican moderate liberalism in the 1840s through the figure of Mariano Otero (Mexico, 1817-1850), never quite fully researched in the historiography. A moderate liberal ideologue, politician, lawyer and essayist, he was politically active during the turbulent decade from 1841 until his death in 1850. He served as congressional deputy in 1842 and 1846, senator from 1847-1849, and government minister in 1848. Author of the seminal Ensayo sobre el verdadero estado de la cuestión social y política que se agita en la República Mexicana (1842), and architect of the 1846 Acta de Reformas that reformed the 1824 constitution, he is lauded as the father of the Juicio de Amparo a legal recourse which provided the individual with a means of protection from the abuses of the state. This thesis thus approaches the subject by offering an in-depth biographical study of Otero and an analysis of the political ideology that informed his writings and actions. By contrasting Otero’s political ideas with those others that were in vogue and showing how these were, in turn, put into effect, bearing in mind a backcloth of political and military alliances that was constantly changing, the aim of this study is to allow the reader to understand the nature of Otero’s political standpoint as well as that of Mexico’s mid-century moderados in context. The Otero that emerges from this revision is a man of firm convictions, a committed constitutionalist, unwavering in his belief in federalism as the answer to Mexico’s ills but forced to compromise to achieve his aims. This was a man who in attempting to shape the time was himself shaped by it. Certainly no such cut and dried portrait as that previously portrayed emerges.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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