How the Liberals Thought

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has a favorite word. “Liberals.” Many times he has used this term to refer to himself in the third person as well as his movement. On countless occasions, he has labeled his “rivals” as “conservatives”.

The following text was written by Mexican intellectual Enrique Krauze, today in the Reforma newspaper.

The government has wanted to expropriate the word liberal. It is impossible. The entire history of Mexican liberalism was a struggle to defend principles that the government violates, distorts, perverts, and corrupts. Here is a minimal sample of liberal thinking in the 19th century.

AGAINST ABSOLUTE POWER
Nothing is more critical for a nation that has adopted the republican system […] than to diminish the real or apparent motives that can accumulate a great mass of authority and power in the hands of one man […] The love of power, innate in man and always progressive in government, is much more fearsome in republics than in monarchies.
José María Luis Mora, Speech 1827.

Evil is not in the depository of power; it is, yes, in power itself. As long as it is absolute and unlimited, whatever hands it is placed in must cause the same evils.
José María Luis Mora, El Sol, May 13, 1824.

LEGALITY
To sacrifice order and freely adopted laws to the more or less illusory plans of a man, however deserving he may be, would be to sink us into endless anarchy, to completely ruin the elements of prosperity in the country, to destroy perhaps forever our reputation in the world, and to compromise in the future our very independence.
Benito Juárez. Inauguration speech as president-elect, December 1, 1871.

FREEDOM OF OPINION
Discussion is permitted by law and must be encouraged by the government to ensure freedom of thought. [Those who hold opposing views] are all children of the fatherland […] the nation does not recognize parties. Since it knows that simple error is not a crime, it hears, admits, and qualifies the most conflicting opinions, weighing them in the balance of reason.
José María Luis Mora. El Observador, March 24, 1830.

FOR TOLERANCE
Why should the reproach in doctrines be changed into hatred of people? … Who is the exclusive owner of the truth, who is immersed in error?
Melchior Ocampo, Reflections on Tolerance, undated

As long as political tolerance is not established on a moral and civil basis […], that is to say, the perfect security of not being disturbed by the exposition of one’s own opinions. As long as men who follow certain principles believe themselves to have the obligation or faculty to curse or persecute those who profess different or contrary doctrine; […] as long as the habit of suffering the contradiction and censure of others does not become widespread, the political regeneration of people is impossible.
José María Luis Mora. Speech on the political aversions that citizens profess to each other in times of revolution, 1830.

Freedom of conscience […] is an incontrovertible principle.

José María Mata, Speech to the Constituent Congress, 1856.

ABOUT THE UNION OF OUR MOTHERLAND
The country is in danger! But together, we will conjure it up. By speaking, not by killing ourselves, we will understand each other […] In the name of our religion, of your families, of your dignity, of your interests all. I beg you to remain united. In the name of all our memories and aspirations for honor and glory!
Melchior Ocampo, Speech of September 16, 1852

AGAINST UNIFORM THOUGHT
For every liberal is a liberal to the degree that he knows or wishes to liberate himself, and our opponents are all equally servile and almost alike wards.
Melchior Ocampo, Letter to D. A. Garcia, March 8, 1853

AGAINST REVANCHISM IN VICTORY
The government has not wished to nor should it have done so before, let alone at the time of the complete triumph of the Republic, let itself be inspired by any feeling of passion against those who have fought against it […] Let us now direct all our efforts towards obtaining and consolidating the benefits of peace […] Let the people and the government respect the rights of all because among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.
Benito Juárez, Manifesto, July 15, 1867.

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