Alamán, Lucas (1792-1853), Conservative Leader
By Rebecca Williams
Lucas Alamán was a great Mexican statesman and historian. Alamán was a criollo
aristocrat, who was brought up well educated. He remained loyal to his country throughout
his life. He was involved in many important decisions during the struggle to maintain
Mexican independence. He also helped to create many cultural institutions in Mexico.
Alamán was a strict conservative, who eyed democratic tendencies with suspicion. An on
again-off again relationship with the Mexican government regularly saw him in and out of
office. He is best remembered for his Conservative approach and outlook towards politics.
Above all, he always kept Mexico's best interests at heart. What follows is his biography:
Lucas Alamán was born on October 18, 1792 in the province of Guanajuato. Three days
later he was baptized Ignacio Josi, Joaqumn Pedro de Alcantara, Juan Bautista Francisco de
Paula. Alamán was the son of don Juan Vicente Alamán and doña Marma Ignacia Escalada.
He was born of a noble lineage of power and prestige. On his mother's side of the family
he descended from the highest Spanish aristocracy. His father was from a medium position
in society and had found his wealth in the mines of Guanajuato.
Alamán grew up in a stable and happy home. He studied music, painting, and the natural
sciences under Juan Antonio de Riaqo. He also gained his love of foreign languages at this
time. He became a member of the Catholic religion and remained a devout Christian
throughout his life. At the age of fifteen, he went to live with his brother, the Governor
don Manuel Iturbe, in Nuevo Santander. He was able to travel and see more of New Spain.
The Alamán family suffered a great loss on April 29, 1808 with the death of the
father, don Juan Vicente. His death came at a time when the Alamán family fortune was
beginning to decline. The royalties from the mines, which had for many years been at the
center of the economic community, were beginning to diminish. Alamán and his mother moved
to Mexico City for a short time. There, the young Alamán had an opportunity to meet don
Augustin de Iturbide through some of his mother's powerful and influential friends.
Alamán and his mother returned to Guanajuato in 1809 to deal with the worsening economic
situation of the mines.
Civil unrest was growing at this time and in September of the following year Hidalgo
would lead his followers into Guanajuato. At this time the clergy rivaled the state in
power. The mines and agriculture were still at the heart of the economic community. The
commerce was almost exclusively in the hands of the Europeans.
In September of 1810, the houses of Commerce shut down in order to do battle. Almost
all of the Europeans gathered their families and their riches together and waited in the
Alhondiga de Granaditas, which was the public granary. On September 28, 1810 Riano, who
was trying to defend the city, died and Hidalgo moved in. Hidalgo was leading the
insurgents and the Indians as they burned down the Alhondiga, killing most of the people
and stealing all of their possessions. Alamán, at the age of 18, witnessed the tragic
events of this day and later recorded them in his book, History of Mexico. Being
exposed to the events of the times, Lucas developed a keener sense of awareness and
memories with which he would reflect on later.
Lamar links the events that passed during this time to the anti-democratic sentiments
that Alamán nurtured and harbored throughout his life (88). Alamán associated Hidalgo
and his followers as followers of democracy and the democratic way of life. Because
relations with the U.S. were far from friendly, and because the U. S. was a democratic
nation, Alamán treated affairs with the nation later on in his political career, with
The Independence War awakened Lucas to the cold realities of life after he had been so
well sheltered in his comfortable and cultural upbringing. The family moved to Mexico City
on December 9, 1810. Alamán continued his studies, studying French, English, mineralogy,
and chemistry among other things. At this time, Alamán was questioned for possessing
books that were prohibited by the Inquisition. Although he was pardoned by the authorities
because of his mother's powerful friends, he would hear about this situation later on in
his political career. On February 11, 1811, Alamán received the habit of the third order
of Penitence of San Francisco. It was during this time that Alamán held his first job,
writing for the Mexico Daily until 1812. He learned much about politics from this
job and began to cultivate an interest in it.
On September 11, 1813, he received a very honorable certificate from the Royal
Seminary. He then planned a trip to the Old World, first stopping in Havana, Cuba. Alamán
arrived in Spain in 1814, during the Restoration. He was 22 years old. It was during his
travels in Europe that he met many influential acquaintances and friends who would have a
great impact on him later in life. After visiting many important historical sites in
Spain, he arrived in France. The Bourbons were ruling in France when he arrived, but
Napoleon was planning his return. The return of Napoleon resulted in the beginning of the
war, which interrupted Alamán's studies in France. Therefore, he decided to travel on to
England, leaving France on April 13, 1815. After England, he returned to France before
continuing on to Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and other countries. He visited cathedrals,
palaces, plazas, sculptures, paintings, and famous battle sites.
While touring extensively in Europe, Lucas had time to observe the monarchy as a system
of government. He particularly liked England and its system of government. According to
Lamar, he was pro-monarchist and thought that the Mexican government should be modeled
after the English one (88). Alamán's feelings towards a democratic style of government
were very negative. His idea of elections was tantamount to a joke. He did not feel that
there was a place for the common people of Mexico in the government. In no way did a
representative-style government have a place in Mexican politics, according to Alamán.
After tiring of the tourist life, Alamán visited universities and mines. In Germany he
took an interest in the Freyberg mines, where he wanted to learn the newest technology and
machinery of the mines. He believed that the economy of New Spain rested on the abundance
of metals in the earth. He also learned of new methods of extracting gold and silver.
When he received news of his family's worsening economic situation, he returned to
Mexico. He had met many influential people in Europe, had acquired sone new languages, and
had made some serious plans for his future. While he was on his return trip, the
Constitution of 1812 had been established. After six years he returned home on February
27, 1820. When he arrived in Mexico, he was named Secretary of the Superior Committee of
Sanitation, his first public job. Thus began his 32 years of public service.
He was elected to represent the courts and began his second trip to Europe to find out
some solutions to the decline of the mining industry in New Spain. He began his second
trip when Iturbide had initiated his final campaign. In the Spanish courts he was well
received. He obtained the right of sales for the Mexican mines. He then went to Paris,
where he initiated the arrangements for the formation of the United Company of Mines. He
put his knowledge of the secret method of extracting silver and gold, by using sulfuric
acid instead of nitric acid, to use. During all of this, New Spain had become the Mexican
Imperial. The new government named Alamán the diplomatic representative before the king
of France. After marrying the doqa Narcissa Castrillo on July 31, 1823 he occupied the
position of Minister of Relations. During this time, he succeeded in getting England to
recognize Mexico's independence. This was necessary to boost the economy by attracting
possible English investors in Mexico's business interests. He asked Congress to recognize
Guatemala's independence, as well. He also tried to settle the dispute between the land
boundaries of the U.S. and Mexico. He was very emphatic on this point because he could see
what others were denying. While he was trying to detain more settlers from entering
Mexico, and subsequently settling there, he received much resistance. He was always
thinking of the best interests of Mexico and knew that the U.S. was wanting to annex part
of Mexico's territory. Because of the anti-democratic feelings that Alamán had towards
the U.S. government, he held suspicions towards them. Perhaps because of the proximity of
the U.S. and Mexico, Alamán had reason to be suspicious of their expansionist intentions.
However, Alamán was the right person to choose in dealing with the Mexican-U.S. land
boundary issue. Alamán met with Joel Roberts Poinsett and undecidedly kept the
negotiations within the best interests of Mexico. According to Lamar, "Poinsett
represented to Alamán a system of government which he had long considered repugnant and
dangerous, for he considered the masses incapable of governing themselves" (100). At
this time, he also founded the General Archive, the Museum of Natural History and
Antiquities, and protected the San Carlos Academy.
Accusations against Alamán began to come in at the beginning of 1824. He was called a
traitor and left the Ministry. After defending himself he returned on May 15, 1824. In
September of 1825, he was again attacked. This time he was accused of breaking various
rules. He resigned again and dedicated all of his time to mining activities and to the
direction of the United Company of Mines of Mexico. He organized his first mining company
and spent much of his time trying to attract investors from England and France. He had
various projects to keep him busy while he was away from public office. He brought up the
exploitation of the mining industry before Congress. He stated that with a change in the
political regiment should come a change in the economic regiment. He called attention to
the riches of California and Texas, also. He concerned himself with Mexico's welfare when
he called attention to the importance of the interior commerce of Mexico and the riches
that Mexico had. He was strongly for the economic freedom of Mexico. Unfortunately, he was
a better politician than he was a businessman and lost money on many of his economic
Public office again called and he returned. Alamán had a presence that got things done
and he was a definite asset to Mexico. He was in the department of Exterior and Interior
Relations and spent most of his time dealing with the affairs of Mexico and other nations.
He worked with Cuban Independence before he spent time trying to make Spain recognize all
of its old colonies. He continued his work with relations between Mexico and England,
using many of the old contacts that he had made when he lived there. Once again the life
of a politician was not for him. He separated from the Ministry on September 7, 1824.
After his mother died, he was once again called back to office. He returned January 12,
1825 for the third time. At this time, Guadalupe Victoria was president. Alamán was
always in disagreement with the members of his cabinet. The cabinet wanted to be like it
was under the Monarchy. He continued to do other things for the benefit of the Mexican
nation, as well. He had a great triumph when he reestablished trade with England. He was
also at the center of the U.S. Expansion issue. When the U.S. expansion issue came up
again, the United States politicians found Alamán to be a difficult obstacle in their
attempts to expand into Mexico. He was now in the Ministry of most importance and he
worked on the problems of the fledgling government.
Alamán helped relations between New and Old Spain by bringing in business for the
latter. Although his opponents argued not to because Spain had not formally recognized New
Spain, he thought of the best interests of Mexico. His typical thinking in this period was
that good foreign relations with Spain would bring about faster recognizement of the new
nation. He argued for a system of government like the U.S., also. When don Antonio Lopez
de Santa Anna was elected president and Gomez Farias, vice-president, they started to
change the politicians in their government. Alamán, once again, came under attacks and
accusations. He left the Ministry again, without thanks or appreciation for the work that
he had accomplished. In his book, Defense, he demonstrated his defense. Later, he was
absolved on March 17, 1835. He once again turned his attention to business. He gave up
directing the United Company of Mines because of problems that he had encountered with the
English. He turned his interests to agriculture and bought some haciendas. He wanted to
jump start Mexico's production and free the country from relying on foreign manufactured
In 1836, the Centralist Constitution was enacted. In April of the following year
General Bustamante was elected president. Alamán refused to participate in the high
positions of government except to give occasional advice. He, also, asked England to
mediate in the situation with Texas. Alamán was given a position in the General Direction
of Industry. He worked on the industrialization of Mexico. A little time later, the
disastrous war with the U.S. had begun.
Alamán was the most notable figure in the Conservative party after the war with the
U.S. He had predicted what had actually occurred when Mexico's land holdings were cut in
half. Alamán returned to the political arena with an enthusiasm in his country, when
spirits were low and death tolls were high. Alamán believed in national unity. He
believed in traditional Mexican institutions and the old way of government, with public
institutions such as the city hall, in the center of the community. He remained a
monarchist at this point in his life and proudly espoused the monarquist-style of
In 1849, Alamán organized a conservative party that participated in the municipal
elections. Alamán , also wrote for a conservative paper, El Universal, in which he
supported his party's views and attacked the leaders of the Independence War. The
conservative party, at this time, considered Alamán's leadership a golden age for
conservatives. In 1851, he was elected as the representative for Jalisco. The next year,
he was elected Senator. On March 23, 1853, Alamán wrote a letter to Santa Anna about the
state of the country and his party's program. He began a study of the metric system and
proposed its adoption. He worked on the project of the creation of a Historical Institute,
as well. He fell ill from some problems that had appeared in 1843 and quickly worsened. He
died on June 2, 1853.
Lucas Alamán will always be remembered fondly in Mexican history for the devotion and
progress that he showed in his efforts to improve Mexico. He was a very patriotic man to
his native country, Mexico. Although one must wonder if he could truly understand the real
Mexico, as it existed and as it existed in his mind. As he was born from a privileged
background, he could never fully recognize the plight of the poverty-stricken, average
Mexican, seeing that they came from such opposite ends of the economic spectrum. He will
be remembered fondly, however, for the great services that he accomplished for his
Alamán, Lucas. El reconocimiento de nuestra independencia por España y la unión de
los paises Hispano-Americanos. México D. F. : Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, 1924.
González Navarro, Moises. El pensamiento político de Lucas Alamán. Mexico D. F. : El
Colegio de Mexico, 1952.
Lamar, Curt. " Genesis of Mexican-United States Diplomacy: A Critical Analysis of
the Alamán-Poinsett Confrontation, 1825." The Americas XXXVIII (1981-1982): 87-110.
Valdes, José C. Alamán: estadista e historiador. Mexico D. F. : Universidad Nacional
Autónoma de México, 1987.