Juárez became a lawyer in 1834 and a judge in 1841. He was governor of the state of Oaxaca from 1847 to 1852; in 1853, he went into exile because of his objections to the corrupt military dictatorship of Antonio López de Santa Anna. He spent his exile in New Orleans, Louisiana, working in a cigar factory. In 1854 he helped draft the Plan of Ayutla as the basis for a liberal revolution inMexico.
Faced with growing pains, Santa Anna resigned in 1855 and Juárez returned to Mexico. The winning party, the liberales (liberals) formed a provisional government under General Juan Álvarez, inaugurating the period known as La Reforma. The Reform laws sponsored by the puro (pure) wing of the Liberal Party curtailed the power of the Catholic Church and the military, while trying tocreate a modern civil society and capitalist economy based on the model of the United States. The Ley Juárez (Law of Juárez) of 1855 declared all citizens equal before the law and severely restricted the privileges of the Catholic Church. All the efforts ended on the promulgation of the new federalist Constitution of 1857. Juárez became Chief Justice, under moderado (moderate) president IgnacioComonfort.
The conservatives led by General Félix Zuloaga, with the backing of the military and the clergy, launched a revolt under the Plan of Tacubaya on 17 December 1857. Comonfort did not want to start a bloody civil war, so he contrived an auto-coup d'état, dissolved the congress and appointed a new cabinet in which the conservative party would have some influence, assuming in real terms theTacubaya plan. Juárez, Ignacio Olvera, and many other deputies and ministers were arrested. The rebels wanted the constitution revoked completely and another all-conservative government formed, so they launched another revolt on 11 January 1858 that proclaimed Zuloaga as president. Comonfort re-established the congress, freed all prisoners and resigned as president. Under the old constitution, the chiefjustice immediately became interim president until proper elections could be made. By this means, Juárez took office in late January 1858. Juárez then led the liberal side in the Mexican War of the Reform, first from Querétaro and later from Veracruz. In 1859, Juárez took the radical step of declaring the confiscation of church properties. In spite of the conservatives' initial militaryadvantage, the liberals drew on support of regionalist forces. They had U.S. help under some terms of the controversial and never approved McLane–Ocampo Treaty. This turned the tide in 1860; the liberals recaptured Mexico City in January 1861. Juárez was finally properly elected president in March for another four-year term under the Constitution of 1857.
Spain, Great Britain, and France reacted with ajoint seizure of the Veracruz customs house in December 1861. Spain and Britain soon withdrew after realizing that the French Emperor Napoleon III used the episode as a pretext to launch the French intervention in Mexico in 1862, with plans to establish a conservative regime. The Mexicans won an initial victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, celebrated annually as Cinco de Mayo(May 5). The French advanced again in 1863, forcing Juárez and his elected government to retreat to the north, first to San Luis Potosí, then to the arid northern city of El Paso del Norte, present day Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and finally to the capital of the state, Chihuahua City, where he set up his cabinet and government-in-exile. There he would remain for the next two and a half years.Meanwhile Maximilian von Habsburg, a younger brother of the Emperor of Austria, was proclaimed Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico on 20 April 1864 with the backing of Napoleon III and a group of Mexican conservatives. Before Juárez fled, Congress granted him an emergency extension of his presidency, which would go into effect in 1865, when his term expired, and last until 1867, when the last of Maximilian's...
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