Foreign Influences

    Mexico  "French Army South Of The Border"

Benito Juarez, the president of Mexico, announced in 1861 that Mexico would not honor its debts to European countries. The principal lenders, England, France, and Spain, sent a 10,000-man joint military expedition to Mexico to seize the money they were owed. Louis Napoleon, emperor of France, was intent on more than just collecting the debt. He wanted to depose Juarez, set up a French puppet state in Mexico, and emulate in the New World the empire building of his uncle and namesake, Napoleon Bonaparte. England and Spain were able to resolve their debt problems and withdrew their troops by May 1862. France on the other hand, soon had 30,000 troops in Mexico intent on the overthrow of the government.

Washington supported the Juarez government and viewed the French incursion as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine. With its own country being torn apart by a bloody civil war, President Abraham Lincoln could do little to aid the Mexican regime. Louis Napoleon had often expressed his support of the Confederacy, but had been reluctant to offer diplomatic recognition unless Britain did as well. In July 1862, the thought of facing the Union navy without British assistance again caused Napoleon to turn down the Confederacy's offer to support his Mexican enterprise in exchange for formal recognition and naval aid in breaking the Union blockade of Southern ports.

Abraham Lincoln could do little but watch as the French armies captured Mexico City, and Louis Napoleon had Archduke Maximilian of Austria crowned emperor of Mexico. In an effort to show his displeasure with French meddling in the Western Hemisphere, Lincoln diverted some of his soldiers from strategic areas to present an impotent show of force along the Mexican border, an area of military insignificance in the war against the Southern states. After the Union army won the Civil War, Napoleon reconsidered his Mexican gambit and brought his army back to France.

Fascinating Fact:  Emperor Maximilian and his empire were short-lived. His Mexican subjects executed him in 1867.


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