1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Iturbide, Augustin de

ITURBIDE (or Yturbide), AUGUSTIN DE (1783–1824), emperor of Mexico from May 1822 to March 1823, was born on the 27th of September 1783, at Valladolid, now Morelia, in Mexico, where his father, an Old Spaniard from Pampeluna, had settled with his creole wife. After enjoying a better education than was then usual in Mexico, Iturbide entered the military service, and in 1810 held the post of lieutenant in the provincial regiment of his native city. In that year the insurrection under Hidalgo broke out, and Iturbide, more from policy, it would seem, than from principle, served in the royal army. Possessed of splendid courage and brilliant military talents, which fitted him especially for guerilla warfare, the young creole did signal service, and rapidly rose in military rank. In December 1813 Colonel Iturbide, along with General Llano, dealt a crushing blow to the revolt by defeating Morelos, the successor of Hidalgo, in the battle of Valladolid; and the former followed it up by another decisive victory at Puruaran in January 1814. Next year Don Augustin was appointed to the command of the army of the north and to the governorship of the provinces of Valladolid and Guanajuato, but in 1816 grave charges of extortion and violence were brought against him, which led to his recall. Although the general was acquitted, or at least although the inquiry was dropped, he did not resume his commands, but retired into private life for four years, which, we are told, he spent in a rigid course of penance for his former excesses. In 1820 Apodaca, viceroy of Mexico, received instructions from the Spanish cortes to proclaim the constitution promulgated in Spain in 1812, but although obliged at first to submit to an order by which his power was much curtailed, he secretly cherished the design of reviving the absolute power for Ferdinand VII. in Mexico. Under pretext of putting down the lingering remains of revolt, he levied troops, and, placing Iturbide at their head, instructed him to proclaim the absolute power of the king. Four years of reflection, however, had modified the general’s views, and now, led both by personal ambition and by patriotic regard for his country, Iturbide resolved to espouse the cause of national independence. His subsequent proceedings—how he issued the Plan of Iguala, on the 24th of February 1821, how by the refusal of the Spanish cortes to ratify the treaty of Cordova, which he had signed with O’Donoju, he was transformed from a mere champion of monarchy into a candidate for the crown, and how, hailed by the soldiers as Emperor Augustin I. on the 18th of May 1822, he was compelled within ten months, by his arrogant neglect of constitutional restraints, to tender his abdication to a congress which he had forcibly dissolved—will be found detailed under Mexico. Although the congress refused to accept his abdication on the ground that to do so would be to recognize the validity of his election, it permitted the ex-emperor to retire to Leghorn in Italy, while in consideration of his services in 1820 a yearly pension of £5000 was conferred upon him. But Iturbide resolved to make one more bid for power; and in 1824, passing from Leghorn to London, he published a Statement, and on the 11th of May set sail for Mexico. The congress immediately issued an act of outlawry against him, forbidding him to set foot on Mexican soil on pain of death. Ignorant of this, the ex-emperor landed in disguise at Soto la Marina on the 14th of July. He was almost immediately recognized and arrested, and on the 19th of July 1824 was shot at Padilla, by order of the state of Tamaulipas, without being permitted an appeal to the general congress. Don Augustin de Iturbide is described by his contemporaries as being of handsome figure and ingratiating manner. His brilliant courage and wonderful success made him the idol of his soldiers, though towards his prisoners he displayed the most cold-blooded cruelty, boasting in one of his despatches of having honoured Good Friday by shooting three hundred excommunicated wretches. Though described as amiable in his private life, he seems in his public career to have been ambitious and unscrupulous, and by his haughty Spanish temper, impatient of all resistance or control, to have forfeited the opportunity of founding a secure imperial dynasty. His grandson Augustin was chosen by the ill-fated emperor Maximilian as his successor.

See Statement of some of the principal events in the public life of Augustin de Iturbide, written by himself (Eng. trans., 1824).