Gómez Farías, Valentín (1781–1858)

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Gómez Farías, Valentín (1781–1858)

Valentín Gómez Farías, (b. 1781; d. 1858), liberal reformer, vice president and acting president of Mexico (1833–1834 and 1846–1847) during two of Antonio López de Santa Anna's presidencies. Born in Guadalajara, Gómez Farías received his degree in 1807 and practiced medicine in Aguascalientes. He began his political career as regidor (president) of the ayuntamiento (city council) of Aguascalientes and was later elected to the Spanish Cortes. After independence, the state of Zacatecas elected him to the First Constituent Congress (1822), and during the 1820s he served repeatedly in the national legislature. In early 1833 he was finance minister before serving as acting president during the absences of Santa Anna in 1833–1834.

During this period, Gómez Farías attempted to carry out radical changes in the social and political structure of Mexico. His government first advised the clergy to restrict themselves to religious matters when speaking from the pulpit. Prompted by Gómez Farías and his allies José María Luis Mora and Lorenzo de Zavala, Congress voted to end the monopoly of the Catholic Church over education and founded the Directorate of Public Instruction to organize public education in the Federal District and the national territories. Gómez Farías's government asserted its authority over the church hierarchy as well, claiming the right under the Patronato Real to name bishops and archbishops. Congress also abolished mandatory payment of the tithe and gave priests and members of religious orders the freedom to renounce their vows.

But these liberal reforms did not include toleration of other religions. Anticlerical legislation was combined with official "protection" for the Catholic Church. Although some church property was confiscated to pay for educational reforms, Gómez Farías supported Mora's plan to sell all nonessential church property and collect a 4 percent tax on the sales. The proceeds of the tax would be divided between the federal government and the states, and the proceeds of the sales would be used to pay the expenses of the church. Gómez Farías also sponsored reforms to limit the power of the national army by reducing its size and abolishing its fuero, thus requiring military officers to stand trial in civil courts. These reforms were aborted when the army, the church, and wealthy conservatives supported a rebellion for "Religion and Fueros," forcing Santa Anna to remove Gómez Farías from office in 1834.

Gómez Farías, his pregnant wife, and his three small children fled into exile with few resources, since Gómez Farías was unable to collect the pay due him. He returned to Mexico in 1838 and in 1840 supported an unsuccessful rebellion by General José de Urrea. Exiled again, he spent time in New York, Yucatán, and New Orleans before returning to Mexico in 1845.

Gómez Farías exercised presidential power as vice president under Santa Anna during the war with the United States in 1846–1847. When he sought to nationalize church property to pay for the war, the militia of Mexico City launched the "Rebellion of the Polkos" (1847), and Santa Anna reassumed the presidency. Gómez Farías was a member of the national legislature, where he opposed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and supported the Revolution of Ayutla. He was elected to the Constitutional Congress of 1856–1857 and died in Mexico City.

See alsoAnticlericalism; Santa Anna, Antonio López de.


Charles A. Hale, Mexican Liberalism in the Age of Mora, 1821–1853 (1968), pp. 108-147, 165-175, 218-221.

Michael P. Costeloe, La primera república federal en México (1824–1835): Un estudio de los partidos políticos en el México independiente (1975), pp. 371-436.

Michael P. Costeloe, Church and State in Independent Mexico—A Study of the Patronage Debate, 1821–1857 (1978).

Barbara A. Tenenbaum, The Politics of Penury: Debt and Taxes in Mexico, 1821–1856 (1986), pp. 38-39, 80.

Michael P. Costeloe, "A Pronunciamiento in Nineteenth-Century Mexico: '15 de julio de 1840,'" in Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 4 (Summer 1988): 245-264.

Additional Bibliography

Fuentes Díaz, Vicente. Valentín Gómez Farías: Santos Degollado. México: Editorial Porrúa, 1997.

Villaneda González, Alicia. Valentín Gómez Farías. México: Planeta DeAgostini, 2002.

                                             D. F. Stevens