The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 83, July 1979 - April, 1980

Book Reviews
ROBERT A. CALVERr, Editor
The French Experience in Mexico, 1821-1861: A History of Constant
Misunderstanding. By Nancy Nichols Barker. (Chapel Hill: The
University of North Carolina Press, 1979. Pp. xv+264. Preface,
appendix, bibliography, index. $18.)
Nancy Nichols Barker's previous study of the role of Empress Eugenie
in the tragic fiasco of the Maximilian episode in Mexico led her to this
careful study of four decades of Franco-Mexican cross purposes. She
found that a great sufficiency of writings concentrated on the drama of
intervention but failed to discern the long accumulating and festering
problems that could explain the apparently irrational decision of Em-
peror Napoleon III to intervene in Mexico.
The French had a Mexican problem at the onset of Mexican inde-
pendence and proceeded to compound it to disaster in the 186os. How-
ever economically desirable France might regard an independent Mex-
ico, how does one recognize a breakaway Mexico at the same time that
one's occupation troops support Cousin Ferdinand's tottering Spanish
crown? The commercially motivated "halfway house," the Declarations
of 1827 conferring limited recognition, solved nothing and led to a
generation of bickering.
Thereafter Bourbonist, Orleanist, and Bonapartist governments dis-
patched a series of quasiministers and plenipotentiaries varying in
quality from the inept to the downright vicious. Of all these diplomats,
only Baron Antoine Louis Deffaudis possessed a modicum of patience
with the struggling Mexicans, and his tolerance faded quickly in dealing
with a chaotic who's-on-first series of cuartelazo-born Mexican govern-
ments.
High talent and strong, consistent direction from the home office
might have alleviated the genuine perplexities faced by inadequate
French diplomats, but neither obtained. In Paris and Mexico, French-
men encumbered themselves with virulent racism toward the Mexicans
and a growing conviction that the promise of Mexico could be realized
only by the imposition of a European monarch. By the 185os conserva-
tive Mexican elitists, defeated by Benito P. Jurez and his liberal re-

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 83, July 1979 - April, 1980. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101207/. Accessed July 23, 2014.