Figueroa succeded to the leadership of the Clericalists in 1809 following the death of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. Sobel describes him as "a man of great ego but small ability at war." However, Figueroa proved adept at concealment, so that the Clericalists were able to continue their guerrilla war against the government of President José María Morelos. In 1815, Morelos began carrying out widespread executions of suspected Clericalists. Figueroa, who had always been a better agitator than military leader, was able to capitalize on Morelos' new policy, claiming in March 1816 that the Federalists had killed over 5000 innocent peasants. Figueroa called on the outside world for assistance against Morelos, and his call was answered by co-Governor Alexander Hamilton of the State of Jefferson.
An unsuccessful diplomatic mission by John Quincy Adams to Morelos resulted in the Jeffersonian Chamber of Representatives declaring war on Mexico on May 16, 1816, and a Jeffersonian army under General Horatio Conyers entered Mexico in July. Following Conyers' death, Colonel Andrew Jackson took command, and led the army south, defeating the Federalists at the Battle of Seven Forks. Figueroa's Clericalists joined with the Jeffersonians, and together the two armies entered Mexico City on February 17, 1817. Morelos had died the previous December, and Figueroa became the new President of Mexico.
The Clericalists under Figueroa began a purge of Morelos' supporters, condemning and executing them in hastily-assembled courts. In June, Jackson used the executions as an excuse to imprison Figueroa and declare himself provisional President of Mexico. Jackson was able to co-opt some of the Clericalists and put an end to the purge of Federalists. An attempt by some of Figueroa's supporters to overthrow Jackson on February 1, 1819 was put down by the Jeffersonians.
Sobel's sources for the life of Simón Figueroa are Carlos Ortez' The Mexican Civil War (Mexico City, 1960), and Figueroa's memoirs, La Vida de Libertad (13th ed., London, 1955).
|Presidents of the Republic of Mexico|
|Count of Revillagigedo • José María Morelos • Simón Figueroa • Andrew Jackson|