The French Intervention
With the War of the Reform finally over, Mexico desperately needed a period of uninterrupted peace. Juárez and the liberals needed time for reflection and for the convalescence of their war-torn country. The desolation left in the wake of the civil conflict showed on the landscape dotted with burned haciendas and mills, potted roads, unrepaired bridges, neglected fields, and sacked villages. But more importantly, it was epitomized in the minds and bodies of tens of thousands of exhausted, crippled, and aggrieved Mexicans. Soldiers slowly drifted back to their villages to find no work. Bandits continued to infest the highways. Frustration set in quickly. Only the national government could be expected to smooth the transition, but the tired nation was to have no relief. The liberal victory in 1861 proved to be but a brief respite from the ravages of war. The armies would soon begin marching again, but on this occasion one would wear foreign uniforms.
Among the numerous legacies bequeathed by the war there emerged a pronounced mistrust within the victorious liberal party. Although Juárez won the presidential elections held in March 1861, the liberals were badly split on many issues, especially on what type of punishment should be meted out to their erstwhile enemies. Some favored harsh retribution, but the president opted instead for a more conciliatory policy. Only a few bishops and leading conservative generals were not included in his sweeping amnesty declaration. The moderate stance he assumed presaged difficulties with radicals in the new Congress, men such as Francisco Zarco, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, Ignacio Altamirano, and Ignacio Ramírez. They could see little sense in treating the conservatives with kid gloves. Allied with the corrupt and exploitative clergy, had not these same conservatives been responsible for the holocaust from which Mexico had just emerged? Should not they be made to pay for their sins?