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British Liberalism and the French Invasion of Mexico

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 December 2022


Napoleon III's 1860s intervention in Mexico mystified some British observers. For many others, however, it raised urgent questions about the duties of European civilization and the future of global order. This article argues that the affair forced attitudes toward other European countries' overseas imperial projects into sharp political focus, and that in doing so it revealed incipient shifts in the center of gravity of Victorian liberalism. France's Second Mexican Empire split opinion in the Liberal Party and press, throwing light on wider disputes about the parameters of legitimate imperial intervention, the reach of the principles of nationality and self-determination, the political needs of disordered multiracial polities in less-developed parts of the world, and Europe's proper relations with Spanish America. But most Liberals who engaged with the enterprise condemned it, a fact that lays bare a changing balance of power between what historians have called “liberal imperial” and noninterventionist arguments in the 1860s. The failure of the intervention, moreover, did much to affirm powerful partisan narratives about French politics, which helped to buttress the electoral ascendancy of the Liberal Party.

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1 [Gladstone, W. E.], “Germany, France, and England,” Edinburgh Review 132, no. 270 (1870): 554–93Google Scholar, at 575. Gladstone also observed to Disraeli that the expedition was “one of the greatest political blunders ever perpetrated.” Richard Shannon, Gladstone: Peel's Inheritor, 1809–1865 (London, 1982), 496.

2 “Nero and Napoleon III,” Saturday Review (London), 12 July 1873, 46–47, at 47.

3 “The Mexican Difficulty,” London Reader 7, no. 180 (1866): 665–66, at 665.

4 Historians long shared the same view: see Barker, Nancy N., “Monarchy in Mexico: Harebrained Scheme or Well-Considered Prospect?,” Journal of Modern History 48, no. 1 (1976): 51–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 An exception is the recent incidental treatment in Richard Huzzey, “Manifest Dominion: The British Empire and the Crises of the Americas in the 1860s,” in American Civil Wars: the United States, Latin America, Europe, and the Crises of the 1860s, ed. Don H. Doyle (Chapel Hill, 2017), 82–106. The fullest study of British diplomacy relative to the intervention remains Daniel Dawson, The Mexican Adventure (London, 1935).

6 The literature on French and US views of Mexico is vast. More recent work on France includes the following: Guy-Alain Dugast, La Tentation Mexicaine en France au XIXe siècle: L'image du Mexique et L'intervention Française (1821–1862) (Paris, 2008); Thier, Maike, “The View from Paris: ‘Latinity,’ ‘Anglo-Saxonism,’ and the Americas, as Discussed in the Revue des Races Latines, 1857–64,” International History Review 33, no. 4 (2011): 627–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Carroll, Christina, “Imperial Ideologies in the Second Empire: The Mexican Expedition and the Royaume Arabe,” French Historical Studies 42, no. 1 (2019): 67–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Greenfield, Jerome, “The Mexican Expedition of 1862–1867 and the End of the French Second Empire,” Historical Journal 63, no. 3 (2020): 660–85Google Scholar. Recent work on US views includes Don H. Doyle, The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War (New York, 2015); Hoy, Theresa von, “Mexican Exiles and the Monroe Doctrine: New York and the Borderlands, 1865,” Camino Real 7, no. 10 (2015): 39–60Google Scholar; Andre M. Fleche, “Race and Revolution: The Confederacy, Mexico, and the Problem of Southern Nationalism,” in The Transnational Significance of the American Civil War, ed. Jörg Nagler, Don H. Doyle, and Marcus Gräser (Basingstoke, 2016), 189–203. For other international perspectives, see Jean Meyer, ed., Memorias del Simposio Internacional 5 de Mayo (Puebla, 2013); for that of Karl Marx, see Gareth Stedman Jones, “Radicalism and the Extra-European World: The Case of Karl Marx,” in Victorian Visions of Global Order: Empire and International Relations in Nineteenth-Century Political Thought, ed. Duncan Bell (Cambridge, 2007), 186–214, at 205.

7 James E. Sanders, The Vanguard of the Atlantic World: Creating Modernity, Nation, and Democracy in Nineteenth-Century Latin America (Durham, 2014), 2. See, for instance, the Examiner (London) newspaper in 1869: “[T]here cannot be a doubt that few enterprises in modern history have stimulated so much of popular interest, or stirred such emotions of sympathy and sorrow in the hearts of the people of every nation.” Examiner, 16 January 1869, 37.

8 Sartori, Andrew, “The British Empire and Its Liberal Mission,” Journal of Modern History 78, no. 3 (2006): 623–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Pitts, Jennifer, “Political Theory of Empire and Imperialism,” Annual Review of Political Science 13, no. 2 (2010): 211–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge, 1995); Jennifer Pitts, A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton, 2005); Karuna Mantena, Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal Imperialism (Princeton, 2010). For contemporary critiques of empire, see Sankar Muthu, Enlightenment against Empire (Princeton, 2003); Gregory Claeys, Imperial Sceptics: British Critics of Empire, 1850–1920 (Cambridge, 2010). See also Sankar Muthu, ed., Empire and Modern Political Thought (Cambridge, 2012).

10 Compare Uday Singh Mehta, Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought (Chicago, 1999), and Duncan Bell, Reordering the World: Essays on Liberalism and Empire (Princeton, 2016).

11 John Vincent, The Formation of the Liberal Party, 1857–68 (London, 1966); H. C. G. Matthew, The Liberal Imperialists: The Ideas and Politics of a Post-Gladstonian Élite (Oxford, 1973); Jonathan Parry, The Politics of Patriotism: English Liberalism, National Identity, and Europe, 1830–1886 (Cambridge, 2006); Eugenio F. Biagini, British Democracy and Irish Nationalism, 1876–1906 (Cambridge, 2007).

12 Attributions of articles are from Walter E. Houghton, ed., The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824–1900 (Toronto, 1966–89); for periodicals’ political allegiances, see Ellegård, Alver, “The Readership of the Periodical Press in Mid-Victorian Britain: II, Directory,” Victorian Periodicals Newsletter 4, no. 3 (1971): 3–22Google Scholar.

13 See Alex Middleton, “European Colonial Empires and Victorian Imperial Exceptionalism,” in The Force of Comparison: A New Perspective on Modern European History and the Contemporary World, ed. Willibald Steinmetz (Oxford, 2019), 164–90; Martin Thomas and Richard Toye, Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882–1956 (Oxford, 2017).

14 Matthew Brown similarly identifies a “Latin-America-Shaped-Hole” in the historiography of imperial Britain in his introduction to Informal Empire in Latin America: Culture, Commerce and Capital, ed. Matthew Brown (Oxford, 2008), 1–22, at 14–18. Mexico, however, barely features in Brown's important collection.

15 J. P. Parry, “The Impact of Napoleon III on British Politics, 1851–1880,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series, no. 11 (2001): 147–75. See also Helena Rosenblatt, The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton, 2018), chap. 5.

16 Andrew Thompson's suggestions about how Latin America might be incorporated into debates about imperial Britain focus on labor, emigration, and consumer consciousness; see his “Afterword: Informal Empire: Past, Present, and Future,” in Brown, Informal Empire, 229–41, at 240–41. The contributions in Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, ed., The Hispanic-Anglosphere from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century: An Introduction (Abingdon, 2021), similarly do not deal with political argument.

17 For introductions, see Alan Knight, “Britain and Latin America,” in The Oxford History of the British Empire, vol. 3, The Nineteenth Century, ed. Andrew Porter (Oxford, 1999), 122–45; Rory Miller, “Informal Empire in Latin America,” in The Oxford History of the British Empire, vol. 5, Historiography, ed. Robin W. Winks (Oxford, 1999), 437–49. On culture, see Robert D. Aguirre, Informal Empire: Mexico and Central America in Victorian Culture (Minneapolis, 2005); Jessie Reeder, The Forms of Informal Empire: Britain, Latin America, and Nineteenth-Century Literature (Baltimore, 2020).

18 Jeremy Adelman, Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic (Princeton, 2006); Nicola Miller, Republics of Knowledge: Nations of the Future in Latin America (Princeton, 2020); Caitlin Fitz, Our Sister Republics: The United States in an Age of American Revolutions (New York, 2016).

19 Desmond Gregory, Brute New World: The Rediscovery of Latin America in the Early Nineteenth Century (London, 1992).

20 McKennan, Theodora L., “Jeremy Bentham and the Colombian Liberators,” The Americas 34, no. 4 (1978): 460–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Miriam Williford, Jeremy Bentham on Spanish America: An Account of His Letters and Proposals to the New World (Baton Rouge, 1980); Harris, Jonathan, “An English Utilitarian Looks at Spanish-American Independence: Jeremy Bentham's Rid Yourselves of Ultramaria,” The Americas 53, no. 2 (1996): 217–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mario Rodriguez, “William Burke” and Francisco de Miranda: The Word and the Deed in Spanish America's Emancipation (Lanham, 1994); James Mill is the subject of this book on “William Burke” (Mill's alleged pseudonym). See also Alonso, Gregorio, “‘A Great People Struggling for Their Liberties’: Spain and the Mediterranean in the Eyes of the Benthamites,” History of European Ideas 41, no. 2 (2015): 194–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On the 1820s more broadly, see the contributions in Matthew Brown and Gabriel Paquette, eds., Connections after Colonialism: Europe and Latin America in the 1820s (Tuscaloosa, 2013); Paquette, Gabriel, “The Intellectual Context of British Diplomatic Recognition of the South American Republics, c. 1800–1830,” Journal of Transatlantic Studies 2, no. 1 (2004): 75–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 It must be stressed that the focus here is on British representations of Spanish American politics, not on their objective reality. Work over the past few decades by Jeremy Adelman, Will Fowler, Nicola Miller, Eduardo Posada-Carbó, Jaime E. Rodríguez O., Hilda Sabato, James E. Sanders, and many others has shown how vibrant Latin American political life was during this period.

22 For the rise of “national character” in British political analysis, see Parry, Politics of Patriotism, chaps. 1–2.

23 All these points were made very widely. See, for example, “Traits of Spanish Misrule,” Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, 15 April 1837, 94–95; John MacGregor, Sketches of the Progress of Civilisation and Public Liberty (London, 1848), 15–23; “In Mexico,” Bentley's Miscellany, no. 57 (1865): 211–20, at 211.

24 [Herman Merivale], “Mexico and the Great Western Prairies,” Edinburgh Review 78, no. 157 (1843): 157–92, at 169–70. For Britain and Spanish American dictatorship in the 1820s and 1830s, see Alex Middleton, “Britain and the Paraguayan Dictatorship, c. 1820–1840,” Historical Journal 65, no. 2 (2022): 371–92.

25 For an introduction, in English, to postrevolutionary Mexican politics, see Jan Bazant, “From Independence to Liberal Republic, 1821–1867,” in Mexico since Independence, ed. Leslie Bethell (Cambridge, 1991), 1–48; for a more recent take, Timo H. Schaefer, Liberalism as Utopia: The Rise and Fall of Legal Rule in Post-Colonial Mexico, 1820–1900 (Cambridge, 2017); and more broadly on a large literature, Alan Knight, “Patterns and Prescriptions in Mexican Historiography,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 25, no. 3 (2006): 340–66.

26 William H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico, 3 vols. (London, 1843); Arthur Helps, The Spanish Conquest in America: And Its Relation to the History of Slavery and to the Government of Colonies, 4 vols. (London, 1855–1861).

27 Sandra Kuntz-Ficker and Antonio Tena-Junguito, “Mexico's Foreign Trade in a Turbulent Era (1821–1870): A Reconstruction,” Revista de Historia Económica: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History 36, no. 1 (2018): 149–82. This dominance started to ebb from the 1870s; see Alfred Tischendorf, Great Britain and Mexico in the Age of Porforio Díaz (Durham, 1961), 128–30.

28 Barbara A. Tenenbaum, “Merchants, Money, and Mischief: The British in Mexico, 1821–1862,” The Americas 35, no. 3 (1979): 317–39.

29 These include H. G. Ward, Mexico in 1827, 2 vols. (London, 1828); Frances Caldéron de le Barca, Life in Mexico (London, 1843); Wm. Parish Robertson, A Visit to Mexico, by the West India Islands, Yucutan and the United States, 2 vols. (London, 1853), which boasted a long list of subscribers; Charles Lempriere, Notes in Mexico in 1861 and 1862: Politically and Socially Considered (London, 1862).

30 Alex Middleton, “Victorian Politics and Politics Overseas,” Historical Journal 64, no. 5 (2021): 1449–76.

31 Lelia M. Roeckell, “Bonds over Bondage: British Opposition to the Annexation of Texas,” Journal of the Early Republic 19, no. 2 (1999): 257–78.

32 The possible exception is the Argentine Confederation (and the short-lived State of Buenos Ayres).

33 Will Fowler, “First Impressions: Henry George Ward's Mexico in 1827,” Journal of Latin American Studies 50, no. 2 (2018): 265–89, at 267–69; Will Fowler, “British Perceptions of Mid-Nineteenth Century Mexican Society: The Topos of the Bandit in Madame Calderón de la Barca's Life in Mexico (1843),” Septentrión 1, no 1 (2007), 64–87; Hilarie J. Heath, “Mexicanos e ingleses: Xenofobia y racismo,” Secuencia, no. 23 (1992): 77–98.

34 For example, Robertson, Visit to Mexico, 2:66–76; Mexico: The Country, History, and People (London, 1863), 168. See also Gregory, Brute New World, chap. 5.

35 For the historiography on Mexico as “the sick man of Spanish America” in this period, see Alan Knight, “The Peculiarities of Mexican History: Mexico Compared to Latin America, 1821–1991,” Journal of Latin American Studies 24, Quincentenary Supplement (1992): 99–144, at 101.

36 For example, “The Mexican Empire and the Canadian Confederation,” Dublin Review 5, no. 9 (1865): 206–26, at 209. For the pronunciamento, see Will Fowler, “‘As Empty a Piece of Gasconading Stuff as I Ever Read’: The Pronunciamiento through Foreign Eyes,” in Celebrating Insurrection: The Commemoration and Representation of the Nineteenth-Century Mexican Pronunciamiento, ed. Will Fowler (Lincoln, 2012), 247–72.

37 [F. Z. Marzials], “Mexico,” London Quarterly Review 21, no. 42 (1864): 387–419, at 405.

38 A. H. Layard, Speech to the House of Commons, 28 July 1864, Hansard Parliamentary Debates, 3d series (1830–91), vol. 176, col. 2160.

39 For principled readings, see, for example, Lempriere, Notes in Mexico, 5; Times (London), 21 December 1860, 6. (Unless otherwise noted, all references hereafter to the Times and other newspapers are to London publications.) For the faction-first approach, see, for example, Mexico: The Country, History, and People, chap. 5.

40 Time, 13 January 1860, 6. For the personalities and politics behind the Times articles on Mexico in this period, see Dawson, Mexican Adventure, chap. 18.

41 For example, Richard Garde, A Letter to the Right Honourable Earl Russell, on the Absolute Right of the Mexican Bondholders, Who are Subjects of Her Most Gracious Majesty (London, 1861). For context, see Michael P. Costeloe, Bubbles and Bonanzas: British Investors and Mexico, 1821–1860 (Lanham, 2011); Michael P. Costeloe, Bonds and Bondholders: British Investors and Mexico's Foreign Debt, 1824–1888 (Westport, 2003); Richard J. Salvucci, Politics, Markets, and Mexico's “London Debt,” 1823–1887 (New York, 2009).

42 Lord John Russell, Speech to the House of Commons, 15 March 1861, Hansard Parliamentary Debates, 3d series (1830–91), vol. 161, cols. 2074–45. Though Mexico is now considered part of North or Central America, within the Victorian geographical imagination, it clearly formed part of South America.

43 For example, [W. Francis Ainsworth], “State and Prospects of Mexico,” New Monthly Magazine 98, no. 391 (1853): 320–28, at 320; “Mexico,” Saturday Review 8, 24 December 1859, 766–67; Times, 20 May 1860, 8.

44 “Mexico and the Mexicans,” New Monthly Magazine 115, no. 460 (1859): 379–97, at 397.

45 “Mexico in Danger,” Examiner, 16 July 1853, 450; “Mexico,” Fraser's Magazine 64, no. 384 (1861): 717–31, at 717–18; Edward B. Tylor, Anahuac: or, Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern (London, 1861), 329.

46 R. J. M. Blackett, Divided Hearts: Britain and the American Civil War (Baton Rouge, 2001); Duncan Andrew Campbell, English Public Opinion and the American Civil War (Woodbridge, 2003); Murney Gerlach, British Liberalism and the United States: Political and Social Thought in the Late Victorian Age (Basingstoke, 2001).

47 Jay Sexton, The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in Nineteenth-Century America (New York, 2011). For US policy on Mexico in this era, see, among an extremely rich literature, Thomas Schoonover, Dollars over Dominion: The Triumph of Liberalism in Mexican-United States Relations, 1861–1867 (Baton Rouge, 1978); Robert E. May, ed., The Union, the Confederacy, and the Atlantic Rim (West Lafayette, 1995); Dean B. Mahin, One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War (Washington, 1999).

48 For British policy here, see Dawson, Mexican Adventure; Kenneth Bourne, Britain and the Balance of Power in North America, 1815–1908 (Berkeley, 1967); E. D. Steele, Palmerston and Liberalism, 1855–1865 (Cambridge, 1991); Silvestre Villegas Revueltas, Deuda y diplomacia: La relación México-Gran Bretaña 1824–1884 (Mexico City, 2005); Will Fowler and Marcela Terrazas y Basante, eds., Diplomacia, negocios y política: Ensayos sobre la relación entre México y el Reino Unido en el siglo XIX (Mexico City, 2018). For French policy, see, among much other work, Nancy Nichols Barker, The French Experience in Mexico, 1821–1861: A History of Constant Misunderstanding (Durham, 1979); Michele Cunningham, Mexico and the Foreign Policy of Napoleon III (New York, 2001); Edward Shawcross, France, Mexico and Informal Empire in Latin America, 1820–1867: Equilibrium in the New World (Basingstoke, 2018); Stève Sainlaude, France and the American Civil War: A Diplomatic History, trans. Jessica Edwards (Durham, 2019).

49 More recent accounts include Jasper Ridley, Maximilian and Juárez (London, 2001); M. M. McAllen, Maximilian and Carlotta: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico (San Antonio, 2015); Edward Shawcross, The Last Emperor of Mexico (New York, 2021).

50 A. H. Layard, Speech to the House of Commons, 10 March 1862, Hansard Parliamentary Debates, 3d series (1830–1891), vol. 165, col. 1277.

51 The First Mexican Empire, under Agustín de Iturbide as emperor, had lasted less than a year, from 1822 into 1823.

52 D. C. M. Platt, Latin America and British Trade, 1806–1914 (London, 1972); John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, “The Imperialism of Free Trade,” Economic History Review 6, no. 1 (1953): 1–15.

53 David McLean, War, Diplomacy and Informal Empire: Britain and the Republics of La Plata, 1836–1853 (London, 1995).

54 Shawcross, France, Mexico, and Informal Empire, chap. 2.

55 For ostentatious magnanimity on this front, see, for example, Times, 15 May 1862, 10; Times, 27 May 1862, 10.

56 For example, “The Letter to General Forey,” Spectator, 24 January 1863, 1545.

57 “France and Mexico,” Saturday Review, 23 August 1862, 121; [R. H. Patterson], “The Napoleonic Idea in Mexico,” Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 96, no. 585 (1864): 74–85, at 74.

58 “France and Mexico,” Saturday Review, 23 August 1862, 121.

59 Benjamin Disraeli to Sarah Brydges Williams, 23 February 1863, Benjamin Disraeli Letters, vol. 3, 1860–1864, ed. M. G. Wiebe et al. (Toronto, 2009), 258.

60 For example, Richard Cobden to Louis Mallet, 6 December 1863, in The Letters of Richard Cobden, vol. 4, 1860–1865, ed. Anthony Howe and Simon Morgan (Oxford, 2015), 438–39; “Mexico and the American War: The Last Napoleonic Pamphlet,” London Reader, 12 September 1863, 272–73.

61 “The Last Imperial Plan,” Spectator, 14 February 1863, 1628–29, at 1629.

62 For graphic Illustrated London News coverage, see, for example, for Maximilian, Illustrated London News, 23 April 1864, 384; for the commander of the French forces, Marshal Bazaine, Illustrated London News, 26 November 1864, 532; for the siege of Puebla, Illustrated London News, 13 June 1863, 657; for the castle of Miramar, Austrian residence of the archduke, Illustrated London News, 3 November 1866, 433. For memoirs, see Countess Paula Kollonitz, trans. J. E. Ollivant, The Court of Mexico (London, 1867); J. F. Elton, With the French in Mexico (London, 1867); Max, Baron von Alvensleben, With Maximilian in Mexico (London, 1867).

63 Dawson, Mexican Adventure, chaps. 22, 24. On lobbying in France, see Erika Pani, “Dreaming of a Mexican Empire: The Political Projects of the ‘Imperialistas,’” Hispanic American Historical Review 82, no. 1 (2002): 1–32.

64 For example, M. Billaut, The French in Mexico (London, 1863).

65 See especially M. Michel Chevalier, trans. Thomas Alpass, Mexico Ancient and Modern, 2 vols. (London, 1864).

66 For example, “Mexico, Ancient and Modern,” Spectator, 2 April 1864, 394–95.

67 Michael Curtis, Orientalism and Islam: European Thinkers on Oriental Despotism in the Middle East and India (Cambridge, 2009), 215.

68 Sanders, Vanguard of the Atlantic World, 1–5.

69 For example, Times, 27 May 1862, 10; [Abraham Hayward], “The Plot of the Mexican Drama,” Fraser's Magazine 76, no. 452 (1867): 250–68, at 256–67; “Mexico,” Saturday Review, 3 August 1872, 130–1. Almonte had also been in England in 1858 lobbying for intervention.

70 “The Mexican Empire and the Canadian Confederation,” Dublin Review 5, no. 9 (1865): 209; “A French Idea in Mexico Ten Years Ago,” London Review, 12 September 1863, 278–79. See Paul Edison, “Colonial Models for New World Spaces: French Reflections on Mexico, 1830s–1860s,” Journal of the Western Society for French History, no. 43 (2015): 121–32; Shawcross, France, Mexico, and Informal Empire, chap. 2.

71 On the Civil War, see, for example, [Marzials], “Mexico,” 419; Richard Cobden to Louis Mallet, 6 December 1863, in Cobden Letters, 4:439; on race, see “Chevalier's Mexico,” British Quarterly Review, no. 80 (1864): 360–82, at 381; on parties, see “French Perplexities in Mexico,” Examiner, 18 July 1863: 449–50, at 450.

72 For an attempt to understand the intervention in terms of British imperial categories, see “Hapsburg-Montezuma,” Spectator, 15 August 1863, 2368–69.

73 “The Last New Empire,” Bentley's Miscellany, no. 55 (1864): 473–78, at 473; “The French in Mexico,” London Review, 24 May 1862, 472; “The Latin Hobby-Horse,” London Review, 24 January 1863): 81–83; “Chevalier's Mexico,” 365–66, 379–80.

74 John Stuart Mill, “A Few Words on Non-intervention,” Fraser's Magazine 60, no. 360 (1859): 766–76, at 72.

75 This is to simplify radically a complex set of debates. Important recent contributions to the scholarship include Georgios Varouxakis, “1848 and British Political Thought on the ‘Principle of Nationality,’” in The 1848 Revolutions and European Political Thought, ed. Douglas Moggach and Gareth Stedman Jones (Cambridge, 2018), 140–61, at 158; Richard Smittenaar, “‘Feelings of Alarm”: Conservative Criticism of the Principle of Nationality in Mid-Victorian Britain,” Modern Intellectual History 14, no. 2 (2017): 365–91. For J. S. Mill on the theme, see Georgios Varouxakis, Mill on Nationality (London, 2002); Georgios Varouxakis, Liberty Abroad: J. S. Mill on International Relations (Cambridge, 2013); Pitts, A Turn to Empire, chap. 5.

76 “The Dividend on the Last Joint-Stock Invasion,” Spectator, 17 May 1862, 542–43.

77 [Marzials], “Mexico,” 402; [J. H. Tremenheere], “The Empire of Mexico,” Quarterly Review 115, no. 230 (1864): 348–81, at 368.

78 [Marzials], “Mexico,” 410–18.

79 [Tremenheere], “Empire of Mexico,” 366; Times, 29 January 1867, 6.

80 Times, 31 January 1862, 6.

81 “Intervention in Mexico,” Spectator, 14 September 1861, 998–89.

82 Illustrated London News, 24 May 1862, 519. See also [Patterson], “Napoleonic Idea,” 82.

83 “Maximilian,” Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 102, no. 622 (1867): 232–44, at 237.

84 Y. Y. Y. [David Robinson], “South America,” Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 15, no. 85 (1824): 135–44, at 140.

85 Monarchy v. Republic; or, Has Not Constitutional Monarchy in Brazil, More Tended to Prosperity than Republicanism in the Other South American States? (Bristol, 1859); [Patterson], “Napoleonic Idea,” 75.

86 [Tremenheere], “Empire of Mexico,” 370, 380. Some argued also that the intervention promised to turn US attention away from Canada; see, for example, Justin Sheil, French Thoughts on Irish Evils (London, 1868), 9–10.

87 Lord Palmerston, Speech to the House of Commons, 29 July 1864, Hansard Parliamentary Debates, 3d series (1830–91), vol. 176, cols. 2202–4.

88 Yusuf Abdulrahman Nzibo, “Relations between Great Britain and Mexico, 1820–1870” (PhD diss., University of Glasgow, 1979), chaps 10–11. Russell argued that there was nothing in Mexican character or institutions that rendered self-government impossible: Dawson, Mexican Adventure, 19.

89 Robert Saunders, Democracy and the Vote in British Politics, 1848–1867: The Making of the Second Reform Act (Farnham, 2011).

90 Alex Middleton, “William Rathbone Greg, Scientific Liberalism, and the Second Empire,” Modern Intellectual History 19, no. 3 (2022): 681–707.

91 [W. R. Greg], “Foreign Policy of the English Government and the English Nation,” National Review 34 (1863): 465–92, at 483, 472–74, 479–83.

92 [Walter Bagehot], “The State of Europe,” National Review 18, no. 35 (1864): 293–308, at 295–96. For Greg and Bagehot, see Gregory Conti, Parliament the Mirror of the Nation: Representation, Deliberation, and Democracy in Victorian Britain (Cambridge, 2019), 179; for Bagehot's sympathy toward the Second Empire, see Alexander Zevin, Liberalism at Large: The World According to the Economist (London, 2019), 92–95.

93 “Mexico,” Economist, 28 June 1862, 704. See also “The New Mexican Empire,” Economist, 22 August 1863, 925–26, which regretted that France had not made Mexico a colony. For the Economist's general approval of European imperial projects in this era, see Zevin, Liberalism at Large, chaps. 1–2.

94 A. J. P. Taylor, The Trouble Makers: Dissent over Foreign Policy, 1792–1939 (London, 1957).

95 Richard Cobden to William Hargreaves, 18 September 1863, Cobden Letters, 4:415. See also “The Late Mr. Cobden on the American War and Mexico,” Anti-slavery Reporter 13, no. 10 (1865): 243.

96 “Another Suffragan Monarchy,” Examiner, 15 August 1863, 513–14, at 513.

97 Often drawing on Robertson, Visit to Mexico, esp. 2:96–106, 131–39.

98 “The French Conquest of Mexico,” Westminster Review 24, no. 2 (1863): 313–44, at 337. There were other suggestions that the Mexico might find a national spirit in uniting against France; see [Marzials], “Mexico,” 419.

99 “French Conquest,” 342. For John Morley on this theme, see Middleton, “Britain and Paraguay,” 386–87.

100 Alexander Kinglake, Speech to the House of Commons, 29 July 1864, Hansard Parliamentary Debates, 3d series (1830–91), vol. 176, col. 2201.

101 [Hayward], “Mexican Drama,” 268. For Hayward's allegiances, see Philip Harling, s.v. “Hayward, Abraham (1801–1884),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online, 2004, Compare the Times's denial that the collapse of the project vindicated the fact of Mexico's national independence: Times, 5 April 1867, 9.

102 John Stuart Mill was the great theorist of nonintervention, but it is not clear whether he considered Mexico to belong among the “barbarous” states that could benefit from interference. A reference to Mexico in an article of February 1862 suggests that he was skeptical of the initial expedition, and fearful of the Confederacy spreading slavery to the country: John Stuart Mill, “The Contest in America,” Fraser's Magazine 65, no. 386 (1862): 258–68, at 267. The only reference to the Mexican enterprise in his 1860s letters, however, deals with its implications for French land taxes: J. S. Mill to John Elliott Cairnes, 9 February 1865, Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, ed. J. M. Robson, 33 vols. (Toronto, 1963–1991), 16:993–94.

103 Speech of Mr. W. E. Forster, M. P., on the Slaveholders’ Rebellion (Manchester, 1863), 8–9.

104 “French Perplexities in Mexico,” Examiner, 18 July 1863, 449–50; “Mexico,” Spectator, 4 January 1862, 13–14.

105 [Hayward], “Plot of the Mexican Drama,” 268.

106 A Freeman, “The French in Mexico,” Spectator, 15 August 1863, 2373. Other Spectator editorials, however, wanted Mexico rescued from anarchy; see “Earl Russell on Mexico,” Spectator, 12 October 1861, 1110–11.

107 “Mexico,” Fraser's Magazine, 64, no. 384 (1861): 730.

108 “French Conquest,” Westminster Review, 24, no. 2 (1863): 313.

109 Richard Cobden to William Hargreaves, 18 September 1863, Cobden Letters, 4:415–16. For context, see Stuart Semmel, Napoleon and the British (New Haven, 2004).

110 “French Conquest,” Westminster Review, 24, no. 2 (1863): 314; Parry, “Napoleon III,” 155–56.

111 Alexander Kinglake, Speech to the House of Commons, 29 July 1864, Hansard Parliamentary Debates, 3d series (1830–91), vol. 176, cols. 2201–2; Mexico. Reprinted from the Saturday Review (London, 1865), 16–18.

112 Sylvie Aprile and Fabrice Bensimon, eds., La France et L'Angleterre au XIXe siècle: Échanges, Representations, Comparaisons (Paris, 2006).

113 Parry, “Napoleon III”; R. Koebner and H. D. Schmidt, Imperialism: The Story and Significance of a Political Word (Cambridge, 1964), chap. 1; Georgios Varouxakis, Victorian Political Thought on France and the French (Basingstoke, 2002); Matthew Kelly, “Languages of Radicalism, Race, and Religion in Irish Nationalism: The French Affinity, 1848–1871,” Journal of British Studies 49, no. 4 (2010): 801–25.

114 For example, Steele, Palmerston and Liberalism; David Brown, Palmerston and the Politics of Foreign Policy, 1846–55 (Manchester, 2006); Geoffrey Hicks, Peace, War, and Party Politics: The Conservatives and Europe, 1846–59 (Manchester, 2007).

115 For Britain's obsession with Napoleon III's pronouncements, see Charles Wentworth Dilke, Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries during 1866 and 1867, 2 vols. (London, 1868), 1:278.

116 Cobden argued that, having taken Mexico City, Napoleon III was too embarrassed to order his forces home without leaving a permanent trace of his occupancy. Richard Cobden to William Hargreaves, 18 September 1863, Cobden Letters, 4:415.

117 [Patterson], “Napoleonic Idea,” 76.

118 “The Emperor's Life Pill for Mexico,” London Review, 15 August 1863, 161–62, at 162.

119 [Patterson], “Napoleonic Idea,” 75–76.

120 On the wider patterns of thought here, see Duncan Bell, “Republican Imperialism: J. A. Froude and the Virtue of Empire,” History of Political Thought 30, no. 1 (2009): 166–91. Conservatives also made these points, for example, [R. H. Patterson], “The European Crisis,” Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 95, no. 579 (1864): 110–32, at 127.

121 “The French in Mexico,” London Review, 24 May 1862, 472.

122 French commitments in Mexico were seen to limit France's military options in Europe; see, for example, “Poland and Mexico,” Examiner, 10 October 1863, 643–44. It was often argued that Mexico might be used as a bargaining chip in Continental power politics, for example, as compensation for the family of Leopold of Belgium after the emperor had annexed their European kingdom (see “The Second Empire,” Saturday Review, 10 September 1870, 316–17, at 317); or as a way of compensating Austria for the loss of Venetia (see “The French View of the Mexican Intrigue,” Spectator, 24 May 1862, 575–76).

123 “France and Mexico,” Saturday Review, 5 July 1862, 5.

124 For French colonial policy and imperial culture, see esp. David Todd, “A French Imperial Meridian, 1814–1870,” Past and Present, no. 210 (2011): 155–86; David Todd, A Velvet Empire: French Informal Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, 2021); Jennifer E. Sessions, By Sword and Plow: France and the Conquest of Algeria (Ithaca, 2011); Jennifer E. Sessions and Naomi K. Andrews, eds., “The Politics of Empire in Post-revolutionary France,” special issue, French Culture, Politics, and Society 33, no. 1 (2015).

125 Dilke, Greater Britain, 1:278. For British eyewitnesses of the empire, see also W. H. Bullock, Across Mexico in 1864–5 (London, 1866).

126 “The French in Mexico,” Saturday Review, 14 June 1862, 669. See also “Mexico,” Saturday Review, 25 July 1863, 108–9; “The Last Imperial Plan,” 1629.

127 Alex Middleton, “French Algeria in British Imperial Thought, 1830–1870,” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 16, no. 1 (2015); also Lempriere, Notes in Mexico, 336.

128 “French Perplexities in Mexico,” Examiner, 18 July 1863, 449–50.

129 Middleton, “French Algeria.”

130 For earlier French intervention in Greek politics, see Thomas W. Gallant, The Edinburgh History of the Greeks, 1768–1913: The Long Nineteenth Century (Edinburgh, 2015), chaps. 3–4.

131 Goldwin Smith, England and America (Manchester, 1865), 33.

132 “Breakdown of Imperialism in Mexico,” Examiner, 16 September 1866, 577–78, at 577; Illustrated London News, 24 May 1862, 519.

133 “Emperor's Life Pill,” 161.

134 “Mexico,” Economist, 28 June 1862, 704.

135 “Suffragan Monarchy,” 513; “President Johnson and Napoleon III,” Examiner, 21 October 1865, 661–62, at 662. See also “Emperor's Life Pill,” 161–62.

136 “Suffragan Monarchy,” 513.

137 For example, “Breakdown of Imperialism in Mexico,” Examiner, 16 September 1866, 577–78.

138 “The Mexican Empire,” Saturday Review, 15 August 1863, 203–4.

139 For example, Frederic Harrison, “England and France,” in International Policy: Essays on the Foreign Relations of England (London, 1866): 51–152, at 148; “Mexico,” Saturday Review, 11 March 1865, 269–70.

140 “French Conquest,” 316; [Patterson], “Napoleonic Idea,” 75. Louis Blanc's opposition was widely thought to be significant; see Athenaeum, 27 July 1867, 103–4.

141 “Mexican Empire and the Canadian Confederation,” Dublin Review 5, no. 9 (1865): 218–19.

142 “Napoleon's Rule,” London Reader, 4 July 1863, 235.

143 Henry Reeve, “Alexis de Tocqueville,” in Henry Reeve, Royal and Republican France, 2 vols. (London, 1872), 2:77–190, at 187; Reeve, “France in 1870,” in Reeve, Royal and Republican France, 2:237–309, at 306.

144 See also, for British imperial attitudes in the 1860s, Richard Huzzey, “Minding Civilisation and Humanity in 1867: A Case Study in British Imperial Culture and Victorian Anti-slavery,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 40, no. 5 (2012): 807–25.

145 This Palmerstonian group was significant in size, but uninterested in moralizing about Mexico. Perhaps even more numerous were those party Liberals who thought either that the whole enterprise was doomed from the start or that it was not important to have a strong view on the conflict.

146 “The Empire of Mexico,” Tinsley's Magazine 1 (1867): 92–99, at 99; “Maximilian,” Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 102, no. 622 (1867): 232–44, at 232; “Napoleon III,” London Quarterly Review 40, no. 79 (1873), 130–61, at 156–67; “The Last of the Mexican Tragedy,” London Journal, 11 May 1872, 300–1. For prior pessimism, “Mexico,” London Review, 22 September 1866, 311–12; “Mexico,” Saturday Review, 29 September 1866, 383–84, at 384.

147 C. B. Adderley, Europe Incapable of American Democracy: An Outline Tracing the Irreversible Course of Constitutional History (London, 1867): 33–34.

148 The visit was part of the tour that would turn into Dilke's study Greater Britain, 1:129–30.

149 Lord Acton, “The Rise and Fall of the Mexican Empire,” in Historical Essays and Studies, ed. John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence (London, 1907), 143–74, at 144–45.

150 For example, “British Trade, No. 11, Mexico and Brazil,” Fraser's Magazine 16, no. 91 (1877): 113–22, at 113–16; see also, for the 1880s, Zevin, Liberalism at Large, 121; and for the start of the twentieth century, García, Itzel Toledo, “Mexico through the Eyes of James and Marion Bryce,” Studies in Travel Writing 23, no. 2 (2019): 139–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

151 See, however, for postmortems, Émile de Kératry, trans. G. H. Venables, The Rise and Fall of the Emperor Maximilian (London, 1868); W. Harris Chynoweth, The Fall of Maximilian (London, 1872).

152 Times, 26 September 1868, 6. The cultural legacies of the episode elsewhere were more substantial; see Kristine Ibsen, Maximilian, Mexico, and the Invention of Empire (Nashville, 2010); Juliet Wilson-Bareau, ed., Manet: The Execution of Maximilian: Painting, Politics and Censorship (London, 1992); John Elderfield, Manet and the Execution of Maximilian (New York, 2007).

153 Mountstuart E. Grant Duff, A Political Survey (Edinburgh, 1867), 150–61.

154 Parry, “Napoleon III.”

155 Compare with liberal criticisms of Disraeli in the 1870s: Durrans, P. J., “A Two-Edged Sword: The Liberal Attack on Disraelian Imperialism,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 10, no. 3 (1982): 262–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Peter J. Cain, “Radicalism, Gladstone, and the Liberal Critique of Disraelian ‘Imperialism,’” in Bell, Victorian Visions, 215–38; Koebner and Schmidt, Imperialism, chaps. 4–6.

156 Mountstuart E. Grant Duff, A Glance over Europe (Edinburgh, 1867), 5–6.

157 Illustrated London News, 17 November 1866, 469. See also Middleton, “European Colonial Empires”; Zevin, Liberalism at Large, 126–29.

158 Mazzini, Joseph, “The Franco-German War,” Contemporary Review no. 17 (1871): 114Google Scholar, at 8. This result was widely anticipated; see, for example, “France and Mexico,” Saturday Review, 13 July 1867, 34–35.

159 [Gladstone], “Germany, France, and England,” 576.

160 One Who Knows Him, “The Inner Life of Napoleon,” Gentleman's Magazine 7 (1871): 197–204, at 201; “Mexico and Maximilian,” Spectator, 6 February 1886, 203–5, at 204. See also “The Fate of Maximilian,” Spectator, 6 July 1867, 746.