The conservative ideologist and theoretician Lucas Alamán

A prominent figure who stood out for his personality and sharp criticism of the liberal project of the time was the conservative ideologue and theorist Lucas Alamán.

The conservative ideologist and theoretician Lucas Alamán
Lucas Alamán (1792-1853) was a conservative historian and politician who helped shape several institutions. Image: EPN

During the development of the first stages of independent Mexico, a series of institutions were established that led to the ideological dispute between the liberal and conservative groups, regarding the political organization and the course of Mexico during most of the 19th century. One of the characters that stood out for his personality and sharp criticism of the liberal project of that time was the conservative ideologist and theoretician Lucas Alamán.

Lucas Alamán y Escalada was born on October 18, 1792, in the city of Guanajuato, in what is today the state of Guanajuato. His parents, María Ignacia Escalada y Madroñero and Juan Vicente Alamán were part of the richest families of the Bajío region in the viceregal territory, whose ancestry dated back to the 16th century.

Alamán began his studies at the Colegio de la Purísima Concepción. In Mexico City he studied at the Royal Seminary of Mines, where he obtained his degree as a mining expert in 1814; on European soil, he furthered his studies in mineralogy, as well as Greek, chemistry, and natural sciences.

Lucas Alamán had contact with the independence revolution in his youth, which significantly oriented his political stance about liberalism years later. On September 28, 1810, he witnessed the capture of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas; the barbarity with which the horde harangued from the town of Dolores -which followed the priest Miguel Hidalgo- attacked, looted, and murdered those who barricaded themselves in the citadel, generated in him a particular animosity towards liberal thought and led him to lean towards a conservatism oriented towards the reestablishment of order using religion, as an indisputable mechanism to remove the bad habits of the poor.

For Alamán, property in itself constituted the basis of society, so that security for the owners would guarantee the stability and permanence of society itself; likewise, he considered it unnecessary to instruct the indigenous people, for security reasons, since according to him, if they learned to read and write, there would be a latent danger that they would come into contact with subversive literature, which could lead them to an imminent rebellion.

After his stay in Europe, Alamán returned to Mexico in 1819 and became secretary of the Superior Board of Health, by direct order of the then viceroy. In 1821, he left for the Iberian Peninsula because he was appointed deputy for the Spanish courts; it was during this time that the text Ensayo sobre la causa de la decadencia de la minería en La Nueva España (Essay on the cause of the decline of mining in New Spain) saw the light of day.

In 1823, after his stay in the peninsula and after rejecting an appointment in the court of the Crown, he returned to Mexico at the moment when the ephemeral Empire of Agustín de Iturbide was crumbling, to give way to a Provisional Government Junta, headed by well-known military insurgents.

The Provisional Government Junta took advantage of Lucas Alamán's experience abroad and appointed him Minister of Foreign Affairs when he was thirty years old. In that ministry, he managed for the country the recognition of England and the recognition of Mexico towards Guatemala; he also opposed the colonization of Texas and, as a strategy before the evident North American expansion, he promoted the rapprochement and unity among the nascent Hispanic American countries.

Due to his socio-political inclination, Alamán joined the Scottish lodge, which brought together merchants, lawyers, civil and military officials, politicians, miners, Creoles, and Spaniards who defended the permanence of colonial institutions in the independent life of our country.

In this model, later known as conservative, the role of the Catholic religion appeared as a central element for social unity, although it was divided into estates, with privileges for those positioned at the top of the pyramid; the existence of ecclesiastical and military privileges was defended, with a centralized state that maintained economic protectionism, while seeking alliances with powers such as Spain and England to contain North American expansionism.

In 1829, Lucas Alamán returned to public life in the country after the deposition of President José María Bocanegra. From 1830 until 1853, Lucas Alamán remained active in the economy and politics of our country, when conservative governments succeeded each other in power.

His proposals and advocacy in favor of the establishment of a monarchy were sponsored by the latent threat that for him represented the rise of the United States as a military and economic power and that, according to his position, could be stopped using the association of a possible Mexican crown with the European ruling houses.

In 1853, during the last administration of Antonio López de Santa Anna, he once again occupied the Ministry of Relations; from that administration, he promoted the Ministry of Development, Colonization, Industry, and Commerce; he urged the use of the decimal metric system in the country; he ordered the revision of tariffs and taxes on products arriving at national territory and prepared a printing bill.

Taking into consideration these actions, some historians affirm that at the end of his career he began to move towards liberalism and distance himself considerably from conservatism.

To his pen we owe iconic texts of the conservative thought of the 19th century, such as Disertaciones sobre la historia de la República Mexicana desde la época de la Conquista que los Españoles hicieron a fines del siglo XV y principios del XVI de las islas y continente americano hasta la Independencia and Historia de México desde los primeros movimientos que prepararon su Independencia en el año de 1808 hasta la época presente.

Lucas Alamán died in Mexico City on June 2, 1853, of pneumonia.

Source: Legislative Museum