Lerdo de Tejada, Sebastián (1823–1889)

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Lerdo de Tejada, Sebastián (1823–1889)

Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada (b. 1823; d. 1889), president of Mexico (1872–1876). The younger brother of Mexican politician Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, Sebastián Lerdo was born in Jalapa, Veracruz. After renouncing an ecclesiastical career, he moved to Mexico City in 1841. Lerdo took a teaching post at the Colegio de San Ildefonso in 1849 and became rector in 1852. President Ignacio Comonfort appointed him minister of foreign relations in 1857, but Lerdo remained in Mexico City as the rector of San Ildefonso and took no part in the War of the Reform. In 1861, he was elected to the national legislature, where he served as president of the Congress on three occasions. During the French Intervention, Lerdo accompanied President Benito Juárez as a representative of the Congress. Juárez appointed Lerdo to head the ministries of government and foreign relations.

Along with Juárez and José María Iglesias, Lerdo was among the most prominent politicians in the Republican government. He wrote decrees (8 November 1865) explaining the extension of Juárez's presidential term until the end of the war and eliminating the possibility of succession for Jesús González Ortega. According to some sources, Lerdo convinced Juárez not to pardon Maximilian. Lerdo wrote the convocatoria of 1867, which sought to increase presidential power through an unconstitutional plebiscite.

Despite increasing opposition to him, Lerdo was elected vice president. He inherited the presidency on the death of Juárez in July 1872 and later that year was elected to a constitutional term. His presidency was marked by the completion of the Mexico City—Veracruz railroad (1873), the elimination of several regional caciques, and anticlerical reforms. As minister of foreign relations, Lerdo had consistently resisted U.S. encroachments on Mexican territory. As president, he delayed railroad construction in the north, saying "Between strength and weakness, the desert," but finally granted a concession to a U.S. firm. After announcing his intention to seek reelection in 1876, Lerdo faced two opposition movements, one led by José María Iglesias, the other by Porfirio Díaz. Although Lerdo was reelected, he was not able to defeat his armed opponents. He resigned the presidency on 20 November 1876 and fled into exile on 25 January 1877. He died in New York City.

See alsoFrench Intervention (Mexico); Juárez, Benito.


Laurens Ballard Perry, Juárez and Díaz: Machine Politics in Mexico (1978).

Daniel Cosío Villegas, Historia moderna de México, Vol. 1: La república restorada, La vida política (1959).

Frank A. Knapp, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, 1823–1889: A Study of Influence and Obscurity (1951; repr. 1968).

Richard N. Sinkin, The Mexican Reform, 1855–1876: A Study in Liberal Nation-Building (1979); Diccionario Porrúa de historia, biografía y geografía de México, 5th ed. (1986), vol. 2, pp. 1654-1655.

Additional Bibliography

Aguilar Rivera, José Antonio. El manto liberal: Los poderes de emergencia en México, 1821–1876. México: Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2001.

Luna Argudín, María. El congreso y la política mexicana (1857–1911). México, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006.

                                                D. F. Stevens

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Lerdo de Tejada, Sebastián (1823–1889)

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