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Born in Veracruz, Veracruz on July 16, 1812, of a Mexican
mother and a Spanish father, who was a town councilman. His older brother, Sebastián,
was eight years older and would become President of Mexico. Miguel was
educated in Veracruz and developed an interest in statistics and public affairs,
perhaps because of his father's civic work. As a young man, he became a Liberal
He was elected president the government of Mexico City in 1852 and was an able public administrator. In 1853, he became the Minister of Development during the Mariano Arista's presidency . It was during these years that his books, Historia de Veracruz and Historia del Comercio Exterior de México, were published. When the Liberals ousted Antonio López de Santa Anna in 1855, he became Secretary of Development under interim presidents General Martín Carrera from August 15th to September 12th and Rómulo Díaz de la Vega, September 12th to October 4th.. When General Juan Alvarez became president in October, 1855, Lerdo became under-secretary of public works; in May, 1856, he became Foreign Secretary from November 13 to December 24, 1856 and then Finance Minister under President Ignacio Comonfort. He first went after church property in Puebla state and, when that was successful, he issued the Ley Lerdo on June 25th, a financial measure forbidding the clergy and public corporations to hold landed property except that used in day-to-day ecclesiastical operations. Over the centuries, the Church had accumulated vast landed estates, many of which were not as productive as they might be, and its property made it a political power. Lerdo's plan was to have these auctioned off to get titles into secular and the revenue for the government in the form of a transfer tax. Comonfort signed the decrees but was very uncomfortable with them. When conservatives, large property owners, and churchmen protested, Lerdo resigned his position on January 3, 1857. He supported Comonfort in the presidential elections which also saw Benito Juárez become chief justice of the Supreme Court, the next in line for the presidency. When the uproar got too heated, Comonfort resigned in 1858 the face of a coup by the conservative General Félix Zuloaga. Juárez and his erstwhile government fled to Veracruz, a Liberal stronghold, and Lerdo became his finance minister from January 3 to July 15, 1859 and again from December 19, 1859 to May 31, 1860. In June, he was sent to the United States to try to sell bonds based on nationalized church properties. The mission was unsuccessful. He returned to Mexico. Lerdo was elected by popular vote judge of the supreme court. In the 1861 elections for the presidency in 1861, he got he electoral votes of five states, while Gonzalez Ortega had five and Juárez six states. He withdrew and died in the Tucubaya suburb of Mexico City on March 22, 1861.