Lucas Alamán

views updated May 29 2018

Lucas Alamán

The Mexican statesman Lucas Alamán (1792-1853) was the leading spokesman and theorist for the Conservative party. He is also one of Mexico's major historians, especially of the 19th century, although his works were written to justify the Conservative position.

Lucas Alamán was born in Guanajuato on Oct. 18, 1792, of an aristocratic family, which owed its fortune to the district's silver mines. He attended the Mexico City College of Mining. In 1810 he witnessed the sack of Guanajuato by rebels under Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, and much of his conservative sentiment stemmed from his vivid memory of this event. He studied in Europe from 1814 to 1820, principally in Spain and France.

Alamán was a member of the Mexican delegation to the Spanish Cortes from 1821 to 1823, and upon his return to Mexico he was installed as minister of foreign relations, serving until 1825. The short, stout, spectacled Alamán soon demonstrated that he was a shrewd and subtle politician despite his diffident manner, and he became a prominent figure on the Mexican political scene. He is credited with obtaining British recognition of the Mexican republic and with establishing the National Archives and the Museum of Anthropology. Alamán returned to the Cabinet as minister of foreign relations in 1830, becoming the dominant figure throughout the regime of Gen. Anastasio Bustamante. Alamán's accomplishments included improving Mexican credit in international financial markets, a law closing Texas to further North American settlement, and substantial efforts to stimulate economic development. He advocated a protective tariff to encourage wealthy landowners to invest in industry, and in 1830 he founded the Banco de Avio, a government-sponsored institution which offered loans to private individuals at modest rates to assist modernization and expansion of existing industry. Alamán headed the bank until 1833.

Alamán is remembered principally, however, for his historical works. He wrote them during the 1830s and 1840s, when he became the chief Conservative theorist and spokesman and edited the party's newspapers, El Tiempo and El Universal. History was a political weapon for Alamán, and his books were dedicated to defending the Conservative cause. His principal works were Disertaciones sobre la historia de la república méjicana (3 vols., 1844-1849; Dissertations on the Mexican Republic), covering the period from the conquest to independence, and Historia de Méjico (5 vols., 1849-1852; History of Mexico), examining the years 1808 to 1848. Employing a biographical approach in the style of William H. Prescott, he glorified Agustín de Iturbide, the Conservative who had won Mexican independence, and condemned Father Hidalgo, characterizing his uprising as a proletarian revolt against civilization. Alamán extolled the virtues of the Spanish colonial heritage, stressing its superiority to the liberal doctrines of the United States. Yet he also criticized colonial governmental abuses and defended Mexican independence.

Alamán returned to the Ministry of Foreign Relations in 1853, heading a Conservative coterie that restored Gen. Antonio López de Santa Ana to the presidency. Alamán's plan to dominate the government collapsed with his death on June 2, 1853.

Further Reading

There are few studies of Alamán in English. The best is Charles A. Hale, Mexican Liberalism in the Age of Mora, 1821-1853 (1968). □