Run For The Border Comparison Of The

Run For The Border: Comparison Of The Mexican And French Revolutions Essay, Research Paper

Run for the Border

“”It is easier to run a revolution than a government”

(Ferdinand E. Marcos (1917-81), Filipino politician, president. Time (New York, 6 June 1977). )

Webster?s dictionary defines the word revolution as ?an overthrowing of government [and/or] radical change? (Webster?s). The usual goal of a revolution is to change something that the populace does not like. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 was just that. The changes made in the Mexican government during the first half of the twentieth century bear many resemblances to changes made during the French Revolution. According to Brinton, there are four stages to every revolution. The preliminary stage was when both Mexico and France set up the problems to come in the future due to the leadership at that time. The preliminary stage then led up to the first stage where frequent uprisings occurred against the government and sometimes even the people. The third and perhaps most turbulent of the four stages was the crisis stage, where some streets ran red with blood, and order ran amuck. The final stage is the recovery stage, where the governments agreed upon a plan that would benefit the people who worked so hard for the changes to see the fruits of their labor.

The preliminary stage of the Mexican Revolution was much like that of the French Revolution. President Porifirio Diaz was a prosperous President of Mexico for thirty-one years and ran the country much like Louis XVI of France. Diaz gave most of the power to a select few, while the majority of the country did not have the right to vote for the officials they wanted or to express their own opinions, limitations that are similar to the third estate of the Ancien Regime. With such conditions, ?wealth was likewise concentrated in the hands of the few, and injustice was everywhere, in the cities and the countryside alike? (MexConnect). With these similarities however, there came many differences. While the monarchs of France of the Ancien Regime were generally absolutist monarchs ruling as the centralized power, Porifirio Diaz was a president in name, but acted like a despot or a dictator. President Diaz ?had the best intentions for Mexico’s future, and established a stable government that rid the nation of crime? (Summary). He improved the method of training military and police forces, making them a much more dominating force. This of course, led to a nation that had a great deal less crime than in the past. Although Diaz did improve the quality of life, he only improved the quality of life and living conditions for the upper class. This group of elitists was much like the aristocracy or second class of France and held most of the power. However, the middle and lower classes of Mexico were subject to some wretched living conditions. For example, they had land stolen by foreign investors, which Diaz had brought in to help boost the economy, no food, and lack of money due to high inflation. The problems of the middle and lower classes were just like the ones of the French Revolution because of the bread shortage and price increase in France. The price increases was marked by the ascension in, ?the price of bread, which had been rising gradually since 1785, [which then] began to soar? (Buckler 703). The French Revolution was marked by the problems that the different classes had with each other. For example, the upper class was upset because they had lost much of their power during the reign of Louis XIV and the middle class was angry because some of their people were gaining great wealth, but they were not allowed to behold any titles of nobility. The urban workers had always thought that they were mistreated, and felt like this until the revolution. Because of Louis XVI?s inept ruling, France went into war against England to help the Americas. This depleted France?s resources and so Louis could not stop or control the revolution. The events marked by the first stage had the same results, just the degree of the pre-rebellion was different.

Though the first stages of the Mexican Revolution and French Revolution had their similarities, they also had some differences. In the Mexican Revolution, many important events occurred. The first of the events was when Francisco Madero challenged President Porifirio Diaz to an election. Diaz did not want to have the election so he rigged it so he would win. Diaz then had Francisco Madero arrested and so he won the election because it was rigged in his favor. Before Madero was arrested in Monterrey and taken to the San Luis Potosi, he organized the ”Anti-reeleccionista” party, which roughly translates to Anti ? Re-election meaning that he felt President Diaz should step down. When Madero found out that Diaz had been re-elected he ?issued the ‘Plan of San Luis,’ a manifesto which declared that the elections had been a fraud and that he would not recognize Porifirio Diaz as the legitimate President of the Republic? (MexConnect). Madero then went to claim to the peasants that their land would be returned to them and a set of universal laws would be set for all. During the same time, he inspired a farmer by the name of Pancho Villa and a middle class man called Pascual Orozco to lead a revolutionary motion in northern Mexico. These two had no military experience but did quite well against the ?abusive ranchers and landlords who ran the North (MexConnect). Villa gathered a small army that went around to small towns and attacked federal officers. The government tried to put a stop to these attacks by sending out the army, but Villa evaded them and managed to capture Ciudad Juarez, a fairly large Mexican city at that time. Shortly after, Madero gained power in Mexico and became President. In southern Mexico, a revolutionist named Emilio Zapata also led a band of revolutionaries. Zapata believed that the land of Mexico should be redistributed equally to the peasants all over, giving everyone an equal opportunity. He attempted to do this in a variety of ways. Zapata?s actions and goal in the south was basically a mirror of what happened in the North with Pancho Villa. Ultimately, Zapata and Villa accomplished what they needed to, and that was to spark a revolution. In France, the first stage was in reference to its results. Madero?s San Luis Potosi can be compared to The Declaration of the Rights of Man issued by the National Constituent Assembly of the French Revolution. Both of these manifestos declared the natural rights of man. Both the people of the French and Mexican Revolutions took steps toward revolt. The radicals storming the Bastille led the revolt in France while the Mexican revolt was led by Pancho Villa in the north and Zapata in the south. The Great Fear was the part the peasants played in the French Revolution. The Great Fear compromised of farmers and peasants uprising ?against their lords, ransacking manor houses and burning feudal documents? (Buckler 703). Just like the Mexican peasants of the first stage, the French peasants were just trying to do ?their best to free themselves from ? exploitation? (Buckler 703). This can be compared to Pancho Villa leading his peasants against the landowners and ranchers of the North. Basically, all over the countryside, peasants of both revolutions rose up and turned on their landlords.

The crisis stage of both the Mexican and French Revolution had civil wars break out. Victoriano Huerta started the crisis stage of the Mexican Revolution when he teamed up with the United States government to overthrow Madero. The government felt that Madero was unqualified for this position because they thought he was an alcoholic. This sparked many battles over the presidency and caused many deaths. Huerta had Madero was arrested, and on February 22, 1913 Madero was shot. Huerta excused Madero?s execution by claiming that he was ?trying to escape? (Summary). Huerta, who had mostly everything in his favor, lost power quickly. Perhaps Huerta lost power because ?of his drunkenness and tyrannical rule? (Summary). The people did not want another tyrant like Diaz. Thus, the revolutionaries of north and south Mexico were back trying to free their country once again, ?led by Pancho Villa, Alvaro Obr?gon, and Venustantio Carranza? (Summary). They stormed Mexico City and when they did, Huerta knew his time was over. Carranza took over in Huerta?s place against the advice of Villa. This sparked Villa into a civil war with Carranza. This war went on for many a month with Carranza and Obr?gon warring against Villa and Zapata. It was at this time that Carranza wrote a constitution that gave many rights to the government and the people. While the constitution allowed many freedoms, it had one drawback that might have been considered unacceptable to the Mexican populace: it gave the President dictatorial powers. The Mexican Constitution of 1917 ?embodied the ideas of all the revolutionary groups, and included the liberties and rights of citizens, as well as the democratic and federal concepts of the 1857 Constitution. It also recognized social rights such as the right of workers to strike and to organize, the right to education, and the right of the Nation to regulate private property in accordance with the common interest? (Constitution). The constitution also controlled the limitation of the church and the ownership of land. It stated that ?the wealth contained in the soil, the subsoil, the waters and seas of Mexico belongs to the Nation. The right to [own] land? [and] exploit the subsoil may ? only be granted by the Nation? (Constitution). This severely limited the power of the church, who ran many private schools and also angered the foreign investors that bought property in Mexico. However, Zapata and Villa were still fighting against Carranza and Obr?gon. The tide turned against Carranza when he set up an ambush to kill Zapata. The war between these two groups was shortly broken up after Zapata was murdered in the trap set by one of Carranza?s generals. This stage for the Mexicans was much like that of the French Revolution. The crisis stage of the French Revolution was reached when the radicals took control. The radicals, led by Robespierre, formed the Committee of Public Safety, which was in charge of the war against Europe and the business of the state. This same group of radicals also instituted the Reign of Terror, a period in which they executed hundreds of people for some very inadequate reasons that were used to justify the execution of public enemies. According to Erika Vause, the causes of the Reign of Terror were ?the European War, the civil war in the Vendee, the rebellion of certain provinces, hyperinflation, and the numerous factions that existed in Paris? (Vause). These events led up to the peak of the crisis stage. All these reasons contributed to the Terror in different ways. The European and civil wars forced a strong, disciplined government to take action, while a financial crisis caused famine and a need for the people to be brought under control. France went to arms against most of Europe during this time period for many reasons. One was that foreign countries viewed France as a troubled and divided nation and perhaps open and vulnerable to attack. Another may have been that nobles fled the country and formed armies to try to gain back the land that was rightfully theirs. A further and conceivably most important reason was that the other monarchs of other countries did not want France?s revolutionary ideas spreading to the populace of their own kingdoms, or the kingdom would have the same fate it did with France. The crisis stage is yet a further example of how much the Mexican Revolution and French Revolution are alike. They are similar in the fact that they both broke out into civil war. Mexico had to deal with the dueling parties of Obr?gon and Carranza against Villa and Zapata. In France, citizens were fighting each other almost everywhere, particularly in the Vendee. They were also the comparable because both revolutions reached their desired goals. In Mexico, the people wanted equal, just rights with a republic form of government much like the United States today. In France, the people sought a well-structured republic with no monarch to boss them around. Mexico and France both reached their desired styles of government, but only the French achieved it in the crisis stage. Mexico had to wait until the end of their revolution to see the fruits of their hard earned, much deserved labor. These goals were also characteristics about the revolutions that resembled each other.

The Recovery Stage started out quickly for the Mexicans while Napoleon took over France to reorganize its system of government. The Mexicans held Carranza responsible for the death of Zapata, and therefore the public turned on him. Upon ?realizing his political career was spiraling, Carranza attempted to flee Mexico. Carranza sensed the tide turning against him, but it was already too late. He was killed just outside Mexico City on May 21, 1920? (Summary). A few months later, Alvaro Obr?gon, Carranza?s former ally, was voted by a landslide majority vote as the new President of the Mexican Republic, and peace was finally achieved after numerous years of bloodshed and battle. In contrast the Recovery Stage during the French Revolution was a long, drawn out process that continued for many years after the actual revolution ended. After Robespierre stepped down, the Directory took over for a number of years. Under the Directory, many great military achievements were reached, although most were mainly due to the way the Committee of Public Safety had organized France during its time of control. The Directory was ended in 1799 when Napoleon completed a successful coupe d?etat that put himself into power as the Emperor and dictator of France, and ended the republican form of government in France. Napoleon had many effective accomplishments for the good of the state, and created many new laws that protected the rights of men such as the Code of Napoleon. The Recovery Stage allowed Mexico to reap the benefits of their revolution, while France had Napoleon?s leadership to guide them through the turbulent waters of recovery.

The effects of the Mexican Revolution and the French Revolution are still being felt around the world. The Mexican Constitution of 1917 is still basically the same right now, as it was when it was written. Also, the Mexican Revolution has been the prime example of a third world country revolution and has been the model for every third world revolution since. The French Revolution established many basic rights that are still in effect in France today from the Declaration of the Rights of Man. A difference between the two revolutions was that Mexico was able to keep its republican form of government even after the revolution, whereas France reverted back to a dictatorship and then a monarchal form of government at the conclusion of their revolution. Today, Mexico is still a constitutional republic, based on the Constitution of 1917. Mexico has a president and a legislative branch. Mexico?s government system is more stable due to the Mexican Revolution of 1910. In past decades, the French have changed their constitution many times. Today, their government is also based on a president and a parliament system, much like the United States. Originally, the goal of the French Revolution was to establish a constitutional monarch, much like that of England at the time. Currently, France has a stable government and most likely a bright future ahead. Both these revolutions had one thing in common, they both fought for what they believed in, and at the end, all?s well that ends well.


Buckler, John, et al., eds. A History of Western Society. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.

?Constitution of 1917?

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Johnson, William Weber. Heroic Mexico: The violent emergence of a modern nation. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1968.

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?Mex Connect? URL: (5 Jan 2000).

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