Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Mexico and the Spanish Cortes, 1z8o-1822: Eight Essays. Edited and
with an introduction by Nettie Lee Benson. Austin (University
of Texas Press for the Institute of Latin American Studies), 1966.
Pp. 243. Bibliography and index. $5.00.
The essays constituting this book are the end product of a seminar
in historiography at the University of Texas conducted by Miss Nettie
Lee Benson. Miss Benson, librarian of the Latin American Collection
and a specialist in Mexican history, has edited the papers and supplied
an introduction and conclusion.
The themes embrace several aspects of the difficult period of Mex-
ican history when independence was being achieved and an independ-
ent government established. They increase our understanding of that
period (1810-1823) with a fresh approach to and appraisal of the work
of the Spanish Cortes as they related to Mexico. The Cortes, the
Spanish equivalent generally of the old French Estates General or
English Parliament, were resuscitated when Napoleonic intervention
in Spain disturbed the monarchical situation by imposing Joseph
Bonaparte on the throne. Reactions against that intrusion finally fo-
cused in the Cortes, which convened and undertook the re-establish-
ment of Spanish autonomy, though under a liberalized, constitutional
monarchy rather than the old autocracy.
Sitting in the Cortes were representatives from the New World.
What the Mexican delegation contributed to and how it was affected
by the deliberations is the concentration of these essays. In the first,
Charles R. Berry explores the ways in which deputies from New
Spain (Mexico) were chosen, concluding that "the revolutionary
years provided considerable experience in civil education and repre-
sentative government." David T. Garza traces the involvement of
the Mexican deputies in the formulation of the Spanish Constitu-
tion of 1812, a liberal document that influenced the constitutional
development of Mexico as expressed in her constitutions of 1814 and
1824. Roger L. Cunniff describes how election procedures of municipal
officials were reformed, a critical point in Mexican affairs as the revo-
lution broke down central authority and turned more political respon-
sibility to revitalized municipal institutions.
"Freedom of the Press in New Spain, 1810-1820" is discussed by
Clarice Neal-a significant development as an uncensored press was
necessary for public political education and the evolution of national
thought, and Mexican delegates struggled in the Cortes to guarantee it.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/. Accessed April 17, 2014.