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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor

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Porfirio Diaz

DIAZ, Porfirio, president of Mexico, born in Oaxaca, 15 September 1830. He received his education in the institute of his native City, and studied law. In 1847, during the American invasion, he joined the national guards, was elected sub lieutenant, and, after the Guadalupe Hidalgo treaty, he became lieutenant, and studied military science under Commandant Urrea until 1852, when he was made captain of artillery. After the triumph of the party that called Santa Anna to the dictatorship, Diaz, in a fit of discouragement, left the army, and gave his attention to law. At the outbreak of the revolution, provoked by the plan of Ayutla in 1854, he commanded a battalion, and after the flight of Santa Anna, on 9 August 1855, was appointed political and military chief of the district of xtlan, in Oaxaca. After Comonfort had been reelected president in 1857, but had gone over to the reactionary party, and was forced, 21 January 1858, to surrender the executive power to Benito Juarez, Diaz cast his lot with the liberal party, against the reactionary or Church party, which, under Miramon and Marquez, began the bloody three years' revolution called the "War of the Reform." Such were his energy and courage that. early in May 1860, he had achieved the complete pacification of the rebellious state of Oaxaca. After the complete triumph of the liberal party he was elected deputy to the congress of 1861, but he soon took the field again, joining the division led by General Gonzalez Ortega against the reactionary chieftain, Marquez, and obtaining over the latter such a victory that elicited the admiration of his superior, who petitioned the government for the rank of general for Diaz.

In the succeeding trying period of the intervention, begun in December 1861, at the head of a small band of warriors from Oaxaca, he was one of the first to oppose the arms of the invader, and aided General Zaragoza in deciding the victory of 5 May 1862, in Puebla. Shortly afterward he was appointed governor and military commander of the state of Vera Cruz, but was soon, at his own request, transferred to the army of operation, and, under Gonzalez Ortega's command, took part in the defense of Puebla, besieged by the French army from March till May 1863, and, on the surrender of the City in the latter month, was made prisoner, but broke his parole and escaped. The government had to fly from the capital., and Diaz was constrained to accept the command of the army, though on condition that he should be relieved after a short period, because he apprehended that his youth might give rise to jealousies among the older generals. After the government was regularly installed at San Luis Potosi he marched southward, and, in November 1863, invested with full powers for the administration and defense of the southeastern states, Oaxaca, part of Puebla, Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, and Yucatan, took up a position between Puebla and Oaxaca. After the arrival of the emperor, Maximilian, in April 1864, and during the period of intervention and empire, he constituted one of the mainstays of the republican cause, through an uninterrupted series of difficulties and hardships, and, with an effective force that never exceeded 5,000, composed of troops for the most part ill armed and illmunitioned, and with insufficient means of support, he turned the tide of invasion. But at last the imperial troops, after success in other parts of Mexico, turned their attention seriously to the southern states, and, invading the state of Oaxaca, besieged Diaz in the capital, where he was forced to capitulate in February 1865, and was a second time taken a prisoner to Puebla, but a second time escaped in September.

In the next year he was again at the head of 900 men in the east, and won at Miahuatlan a victory over more than double his forces. In the battle of La Carbonera he took 500 Austrian prisoners. After the French army had abandoned Mexico, in February 1867, Diaz rapidly augmented his forces, and, together with the forces of Generals Alatorre and Alvarez, who joined him, besieged Puebla, and commanded by General Oronos. After a bloody assault, the City was captured, 2 April 1867. Diaz immediately marched against the army of Marquez, who had attempted to relieve Puebla, defeating him at Sa, n Lorenzo, and, after his retreat to the City of Mexico, laid siege to that City, which surrendered on 21 June 1867. Some acts of cruelty were attributed to Diaz during this campaign. In the French ,chambers, and especially in the senate, grave charges were brought against him for his unmerciful conduct toward those who fell into his power, and Marshal Forey and several senators mentioned crimes in the session of March 1865. Count Keratry, in his" Elevacion y Caida de Maximiliano," speaks of some facts that he witnessed himself relating to the cruelty of General Diaz during the war, and especially during the sieges of Puebla and Mexico. After the final reconstruction of the republic, Diaz retired to his ranche, "La Noria," in Oaxaea. In the elections of October 1867, he was an unsuccessful candidate against Juarez for the presidency of the republic, and from that time he continually conspired against the government.

In 1870'1, Diaz having failed in the revolt he had plotted against Juarez, fled, in company with General Galvan, one disguised as a valet and the other as a clergyman, to Sierra de Aliea, where Diaz intended to win over to his cause the celebrated bandit, Losada, called the "Tiger of Aliea," but, as Losada received him coldly, he sailed for New Orleans by way of Mazatlan. After the bloody pronuneiamiento at La Ciudadela in favor of Diaz, having asked an amnesty of Juarez, he was allowed to return to Mexico on condition that he should present himself in that capital as a political prisoner. Instead of keeping his word, Diaz went to Matamoros to conspire again against the government. Juarez ordered his arrest, but, on learning of this order, he hurriedly presented himself to the local authority to assure the government of his fidelity and to decline the candidacy for president. Juarez, as a reward of Diaz's conduct, exerted his influence to have him appointed deputy, but he only remained in congress a short time. Protected by the privileges of a deputy, he joined the revolution, proclaiming the plan called "La Noria." In this revolt he won over Generals Garcia de la Cadena, Huerta, Toledo, Paz, and several others. The agitators having been defeated at Ovejo, Diaz crossed the River Bravo and fled for shelter to Brownsville, Texas, where he remained hidden until the sudden death of Juarez in 1872. When under Lerdo, Juarez's successor, amnesty was decreed, Diaz returned to his country, and remained at the estate of La Candelaria for some time.

At the general elections in the same year Diaz was elected a deputy to the congress of the union, but joined the new revolution. In 1875 he adopted and proclaimed the plan of Tuxtepec, reformed in Pale Blanco, 1876, advocating free suffrage, the abolition of internal revenue and excise laws, the independence of the federal district, and the ineligibility of the president to succeed himself. He won over the military commander of Matamoros, Toledo, and with the garrison offered battle to General Fuero, by whom he was pursued. Diaz was defeated at Icamole, and escaped to New Orleans, where he remained until called by his partisans to Oaxaca, the centre of the revolution against Lerdo's government. On the voyage to Vera Cruz, while the steamer was at anchor off one of the towns on the coast, thinking that his presence had been discovered, and that he would be arrested by government officials, he threw himself into the sea with the intention of swimming ashore, but he was picked up by a boat and taken back to the steamer. When he had reached the harbor of Vera Cruz he disguised himself as a coal bearer, and, with the assistance of the purser, was put on shore. On his arrival at Oaxaca the chiefs who favored his cause, and advanced upon Puebla at the head of 7,000 men acknowledged him. After the bloody battles of Epatlan, E1 Jazmin, and Tecoac, he occupied the capital of the republic five days after Lerdo's flight to the United States. When Lerdo and some of his ministers, among whom were General Escobedo and Romero Ruble, abandoned the country, Jose M. Iglesias, then president of the court of justice, declared himself, in accordance with the constitution of 1857, president of the republic pro tern., which act was supported by the friends of law and order; but immediately afterward General Diaz marched from the capital, with a large force, toward the interior, with the purpose of attacking the troops sustaining Iglesias.

A conference was held between Gen. Diaz and Iglesias at the estate of La Capilla, but they could not agree. General Diaz said he had no alternative but revolution, whereupon Iglesias assured the general that, if he (Diaz) obtained dominion over the republic by military force, he would be a " fortunate soldier, but never a constitutional president." Such was the situation at the beginning of 1877; but Diaz quickly put the troops who were still faithful to the cause of Iglesias to flight at Union de Adobes. The military prestige of Diaz, the superior force at his command, and the desire to seek an early solution to the existing difficulties, were powerful motives for the recognition of the "plan of Tuxtepee" by many as the only practicable remedy. For a short period Mexico had four presidents at once: Lerdo, Iglesias, Mendez, and Diaz. General Mendez was temporarily entrusted with the management of the government's affairs during General Diaz's absence on his military expedition, and on the following days the elections took place for deputies to the congress of the union, for president of the republic, and for magistrates of the Supreme Court of justice. General Diaz was elected president. Congress assembled on 1 April and on 5 May 1877, Diaz took the oath of office, and was duly inaugurated as chief magistrate of the nation until 30 November 1880.

In June occurred the difficulties with the United States respecting American troops on the frontier, but in an interview at Piedras Negras, in July between Generals Ord and Trevino, these difficulties were amicably settled. Those of Germany, Guatemala, had officially recognized the government of General Diaz by the month of August. San Salvador, and Italy; but not until March 1878, was it finally recognized by the United States. In 1878'9 there were revolts in different parts of the country, which Diaz, with his experience as a revolutionist and conspirator, finally subdued. When it was seen that Diaz was not keeping the promises made in his program of Tuxtepee, his partisans in the press, and some of the most prominent men of the revolution, urged him to its fulfillment, saying that the only thing gained by eleven years of bloody struggle was his obtaining the presidency. Diaz, feeling that his party was pressing him, declared through "El Diario Oficial" that " the programme of Tuxtepee was nothing else but a heap of moral absurdities and material impossibilities, and that in consequence he was not able to fulfill the promises there made to the nation." The press that before supported Diaz now began to oppose him, and he found himself abandoned by his best generals, without the support of his own party, despised by the parties of Iglesias and Lerdo, and surrounded by an atmosphere of revolution and hatred.

He thereupon organized a party composed of the imperialist and reactionary elements, and in fact, of everybody else he could get, and with it declared war against his own party, subdued the revolution, exiled the editor of "La Colonia Espanola" and many journalists, imprisoned others, while at the same time he tried by all means to win over the army. In the night of 24 June 1879, Teran, governor of Vera Cruz, executed nine citizens without any trial whatever. This execution is known by the name of "The Itecatomb of Vera Cruz," and it is charged that it took place by order of Diaz, but no such order has ever been produced. Similar acts were committed in other states, such as the execution, without trial, of General Figuerero and of Colonel Rios, and the imprisonment of General Cortina. Generals Negrete, Martinez, and others concealed themselves in order to avoid persecution. An editor of "E1 Combate" published an accusation in which 164 charges, including all sorts of crimes and robberies, were attributed to Diaz; and the accuser was imprisoned, denied intercourse with anybody, and was put out of the country in haste in July 1879. As at the expiration of his presidential term, 30 November 1880, Diaz could not be reelected, he transferred his powers to his secretary of war, General Gonzalez, while he himself took charge of one of the departments of the government, and was also elected chief justice of the Federal Supreme Court, but never took his seat. About the same time he was elected governor of Oaxaca, and retired from his other offices. Before the expiration of his term as governor he obtained leave of absence from the legislature, and, leaving the state in the hands of the lieutenant governor, returned to the City of Mexico to attend to his coming contest for a second presidential term. During this time he had visited the United States, where he had been well received.

On 30 November 1884:, at the expiration of Gonzalez's term, Diaz was a second time inaugurated as president of the Mexican republic. During his first term concessions for building various railroads had been granted by him to American corporations, but no work on them had been begun till the beginning of Gonzalez's administration. The subsidies that had been granted had been paid regularly, but on Diaz's second inauguration he found the treasury absolutely empty. Besides this, his predecessor had pledged about three quarters of the customs revenues. The first official act of Diaz was to repudiate these pledges, without interfering with the railroad subsidies, which, however, he was obliged to stop in June 1885. The question of settling the public debt now arose anew. In the "plan of Tuxtepec"a general repudiation of the sums due to England had been advised by Diaz, but this was afterward rejected as impolitic, and during the administration of Gonzalez a proposition was made to appropriate a vast sum of money for the payment of the English debt alone. The apprehension that Gonzalez would appropriate a large part of this sum caused public demonstrations of opposition by students and journalists. After the beginning of Diaz's second term a plan for the settlement of the whole debt was made by congress, and is now (1887) in process of execution.

In 1886 several unimportant revolts broke out in different parts of the country, but they were immediately suppressed. According to a law enacted by instigation of Diaz, 17 May all rebels falling into the hands of the government were immediately executed as highwaymen. This law caused the death of many revolutionary chiefs, among them General Garcia de la Cadena and Colonel Lizalde. General Negrete was imprisoned in Santiago Tlaltelolco. the question raised by the arrest of Mr. Cutting threatened to cause a rupture between the United States and Mexico. Secretary of State Bayard made an official demand for the immediate and unconditional release of Cutting, who had been arrested for publishing a libel in a newspaper that was issued in E1 Paso, Tex., but circulated also in Mexico. The trial continued, and Cutting was duly convicted and sentenced. Afterward the superior court reduced his sentence, and gave him credit for the time during which he had already been imprisoned, so that he was released. Governor Ireland, of Texas, also complained that Arrezures, a citizen of the United States, had been "foully murdered by the Mexican authorities," but his citizenship was denied, and the affair ended amicably. In October 1886, a letter from Diaz was published in Paris, in which he declared that the ex-marshal Bazaine, during the French-Mexican war, proposed to him to surrender the cities occupied by the iraperialists, including the munitions of war, together with the emperor himself and Generals Miramon and Mejia. This letter caused a great sensation; but General Leonardo Marquez declared, in "E1 Autonomista " of Havana, that it was Diaz himself who, in a sealed letter sent by General Carballeda to Marshal Bazaine, proposed to deliver up Oaxaca, under condition that he be allowed to depart for the United States. In the latter part of 1886 a movement was set on foot to abolish the article of the constitution that forbids a president to be his own successor, with the intention of electing General Diaz for a third term. Under the administration of Diaz manufactures have increased, the resources of the country have been developed, commerce has multiplied, education has been advanced, the revenues have been appropriated to the purposes for which they were designed, travel is safe, bandits have been dispersed, and railroads and telegraphs are extending. While it has been far from perfect, there has been no public scandal in it, and it has been as clean as the circumstances of his surroundings have allowed. His elder brother, F61ix, better known by the name of " E1 Chato," was governor of Oaxaea in 1871. Although the brothers were not open enemies, there always existed a certain discordance and rivalry between them ; yet, when the "Plan de la Noria" was proclaimed, Felix sided with his brother, and pronounced against the government. Juarez sent General Alatorre against Oaxaca, who, after defeating General Teran in the bloody battle of San Mateo, prepared to invest the City, when Felix Diaz abandoned it, and fled over the mountains toward Tehuantepec, but was overtaken by hostile Indians, and killed after suffering cruel tortures.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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