The Mexican Federal Constitution of 1824

The Mexican Federal Constitution of 1824
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  • 0:04 The Mexican Federal…
  • 1:08 Constitution Contents
  • 3:14 Precedents for the…
  • 4:35 The Mexican Figures Involved
  • 5:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Mexico has had several national constitutions in its history. In this lesson, we are going to check out the Constitution of 1824, and see how it redefined the goals of the nation.

The Mexican Federal Constitution

Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in 1821. So in what year do you think they wrote their first real constitution? Like the United States, Mexico entered its first years of existence without a formal constitution. Instead, their ideas about government were embodied in the Sentimientos de la Nación, the Mexican declaration of independence, and the Plan de Iguala, outline of the ideology of the fighters who finally defeated the Spanish. The Plan de Iguala stated that the independent Mexico would be a monarchy, under the leadership of general (and then emperor) Agustín de Iturbide.

Emperor Iturbide was the first ruler of independent Mexico, but his reign was not to last. Mexicans fought for independence for many of the same reasons that Americans did, and living under a monarchy was not what they had imagined. So Itrubide was overthrown. The Mexican people started the process of building a new government. Finally, they outlined one in the Mexican Federal Constitution of 1824.

Constitution Contents

So what was in this new constitution of theirs? The Mexican Federal Constitution of 1824 established that Mexico would be a federal republic, and no longer a monarchy. A republic is a representative system of government, in which authority rests in the hands of the people, who elect representatives to act on their political behalf.

The concept of a federal republic meant that the central government would have power to make laws, but that implementation and enforcement would occur at the state level. From this restriction of federal power and elevation of state power, we see that Mexico still valued its regional identities very greatly, and that they were a little wary of federal power after years of strong central governments (empires and monarchs).

The Constitution of 1824 goes on to explain that the government will be divided into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch made laws, the judicial branch interpreted them, and the executive branch implemented them. The executive leader of this new republic was to be the president, who could only serve for one term before taking off at least four years before running again. This was the first time that Mexico had ever had a president. The first person to hold that office was an independence hero named Guadalupe Victoria.

For the most part, the Mexican Federal Constitution of 1824 is similar to other constitutions being drafted by new, liberal republics around the world. But there's one big exception. The Constitution of 1824 takes great efforts to explain that Mexico will have a state religion. Neither the separation of church and state nor the freedom of religion, like the U.S. is used to, are part of this document.

Roman Catholicism was designated as the only religion of Mexico, financially and politically supported by the government. The constitution also stated that the government would ''prohibit the exercise of any other'' religion. That's something very unique to this constitution, and Mexico's ideas of government at this time. Freedom of religion was introduced later in the 19th century.

Precedents for the Constitution

To fully understand the Constitution of 1824, it's important for us to understand where these ideas came from. The constitution was based on a number of foreign and international influences, but two other documents stand out as having had the greatest impact.

First was the United States Constitution. Ratified in 1788, this was the first liberal constitution created by a former colony that had declared independence. Please remember that 'liberal' in this context refers to the belief in the rights of citizens, rather than just kings and aristocrats. The ideals of the American Revolution were actively emulated by the Mexican people in their independence wars, and when they decided to create a republic government, the U.S. Constitution provided an important guide.

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