The Early Mexican
With the collapse of the empire, a three-man junta governed Mexico provisionally. All three—Nicolás Bravo, Guadalupe Victoria, and Pedro Celestino Negrete—were military men. The precedent of miscasting soldiers as statesmen was now well established. The first order of business was to call elections for delegates to a constitutional congress that would be charged with framing the new charter. The constituent body met for the first time on November 27, 1823, and before the week was out the lines of combat had been drawn. The focus narrowed to a question that on the surface seemed simple enough: should the new republic be federalist or centralist?
Although there were some exceptions to the general alignment of forces, the centralists found their strength among the clergy, the hacendados, and the army officers, while the federalist firebrands drew support from those liberal criollos and mestizos who considered themselves intellectual heirs of the French and American revolutions and students of the United States Constitution and the liberal Spanish document of 1812. The chief spokesmen for the federalists were Miguel Ramos Arizpe from Coahuila and Valentín Gómez Farías from Zacatecas. The centralist cause was championed by Fray Servando Teresa de Mier and Carlos María de Bustamante. When Ramos Arizpe presented the body with a working paper modeled very closely after the Constitution of the United States, Fray Servando, an iconoclast who once questioned the authenticity of the Virgin of Guadalupe, responded with an eloquent speech. He observed that the experience of the northern neighbor had been entirely different from that of Mexico, and, while a federal system might well be suited to the needs of the United States, it could not work in Mexico for it would weaken the country just when strength from union was required. Speaking of the thirteen colonies to the north, Fray Servando argued: