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Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857


The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857 was a liberal constitution. It replaced an organic law of 1836 that had given dictatorial authority to President Antonio López de Santa Anna, who was overthrown after selling parts of Sonora and Chihuahua to the United States in the Gadsden Purchase. Ratified on February 5, 1857, the Constitution established individual rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to bear arms. In these aspects and in the construction of a federal government, with authority divided between legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and between the central government and various states, the 1857 Constitution closely resembled the U.S. Constitution. It also reaffirmed the abolition of slavery, and cruel and unusual punishment, including the death penalty, and emphasized rights of private property, but prohibited ecclesiastical property-holding other than buildings of direct church usage. This was one of several articles contrary to the interests of the Catholic Church, such as education that was free of dogma. Conservatives representing a majority of the Mexican states strongly opposed the enactment of the new constitution. The Reform War began as a result, with the liberals winning on the battlefield over the conservatives. The losing conservatives sought another way back into power, and their politicians invited Maximilian of Mexico, an Austrian, to establish a Mexican monarchy with the support of the Church and the Second French Empire, whose military forces invaded Mexico in 1862. The republican government-in-exile was led by Benito Juárez in the United States as the legitimate Mexican government. With the ouster of the French and the defeat of the conservatives in 1867, the Restored Republic was again governed under the 1857 Constitution. It remained as Mexico's constitution until 1917, although many of its provisions ceased to be enforced.


Art. 2. In the Republic all are born free. Slaves who set foot upon the national territory shall recover, by this act alone, their freedom, and enjoy the protection of the law.
Art. 3. Instruction is free. The law shall determine what professions shall require licenses for their exercise, and what requisites are necessary to obtain said licenses….
Art. 6. The expression of ideas shall not be the subject of any judicial or executive investigation, unless it offends good morals, impair the rights of third parties, incite to crime or cause a breach of the peace….
Art. 7. Freedom of writing and publishing writings on any subject is inviolable. No law or authority shall have the right to establish censorship, require bond from authors or printers, nor restrict the liberty of the press, which shall be limited only by the respect due to private life, morals, and public peace.
Art. 8. The right of petition, exercised in writing in a peaceful and respectful manner, is inviolable; but in political matters only citizens of the Republic may exercise it. To every petition an answer shall be given in writing, in the form of a decision, by the official to whom it may have been addressed, and the said official shall be bound to make the petitioner acquainted with the result.
Art. 9. No one shall be deprived of the right peaceably to assemble or to come together for any lawful purpose; but only citizens shall be permitted to exercise this right for the purpose of taking part in the political affairs of the country.
Art. 10. Everyone has the right to possess and carry arms for his safety and legitimate defense. The law shall designate what arms are prohibited, and the punishment to be incurred by those who carry them.
Art. 11. Every one has the right to enter and leave the Republic, to travel through its territory and change his residence without necessity of a letter of security, passport, safe conduct or any other similar requirement….
Art. 12. No titles of nobility, or prerogatives, or hereditary honors exist in the Republic nor shall they be recognized therein….
Art. 20. In every criminal trial the accused shall enjoy the following guarantees: I. The grounds of the proceedings and the name of the accuser, if there be such, shall be made known to him. II. His preliminary examination shall be made within forty-eight hours, to be counted from the time he is placed at the disposition of the judge. III. He shall be confronted with the witnesses who testify against him…. In case he shall have no one to defend him, a list of public counsel shall be shown to him, in order that he may choose one or more to act as his counsel….
Art. 22. Punishments by mutilation and infamy, by branding, flogging, beating with sticks, torture of whatever kind, excessive fines, confiscation of property, or any other penalties, unusual or working corruption of the blood, shall be forever prohibited.
Art. 23. Capital punishment is abolished for political offenses….
Art. 26. In time of peace no soldier may demand quarters, supplies, or other real or personal service, without the consent of the owner. In time of war he may do so, but only in the manner prescribed by law.
Art. 27. …No religious corporations and institutions of whatever character, denomination, duration or object, nor civil corporations, when under the patronage, direction or administration of the former, or of ministers of any creed shall have legal capacity to acquire title to, or administer, real property, other than the buildings immediately and directly destined to the services or purposes of the said corporations and institutions….
Art. 30. Mexicans are: I. All persons born, within or without the Republic, of Mexican parents. II. Aliens naturalized in conformity with the laws of the Federation. III. Aliens who acquire real estate in the Republic, or have Mexican children, if they do not declare their intention to retain their nationality….
Art. 35. The prerogatives of citizens are: I. To vote at popular elections. II. To be eligible for any elective office and be qualified for any other office or commission, provided they have the other qualifications -required by law. III. To assemble for the purpose of discussing the political affairs of the country. IV. To serve in the army or national guard for the defense of the Republic and its institutions, as by law determined. V. To exercise the right of petition in any matter whatever….
Art. 39. The national sovereignty is vested essentially and originally in the people. All public power emanates from the people, and is instituted for their benefit. The people have at all times the inalienable right to alter or modify the form of their government.
Art. 40. It is the will of the Mexican people to constitute themselves into a democratic, federal, representative republic, consisting of States, free and sovereign in all that concerns their internal affairs, but united in a federation according to the principles of this fundamental law….
Art. 50. The supreme power of the Federation is divided for its exercise into legislative, executive, and judicial. Two or more of these powers shall never be united in one person or corporation, nor shall the legislative power be vested in one individual….
Art. 77. No person shall be eligible to the office of President who is not a Mexican citizen by birth, in the exercise of his rights, over thirty-five years old at the time of the election, not belonging to the ecclesiastical state, and a resident of the country at the time in which the election is held….
Art. 117. All powers not expressly vested by this Constitution in the Federal authorities are understood to be reserved to the States….
Art. 123. The Federal authorities shall have exclusive power to exercise, in matters of religious worship and outward ecclesiastic forms, such intervention as by law authorized….
Art. 128. This Constitution shall not lose its force and vigor, even though its observance be interrupted by rebellion….


Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.1857. Library of Congress Law Library Reading Room. June 4, 2021; The Mexican Constitution of 1917 Compared with the Constitution of 1857. Trans. H. N. Branch. 1917. JSTOR Early Journal Content. June 4, 2021.

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