Today marks the 100th anniversary of the assassination of that Loyal Son of the Church, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The House of Hapsburg (technically Hapsburg-Lorraine), as a ruling entity, would fail under the reign of Bl. Karl I four years later. While not obvious at first, the South does have connections to the Hapsburgs. It came during 1863, when Ferdinand Maximilian, younger brother to Kaiser Franz Joseph, accepted the crown offered him by Mexican nobles and the French Emperor Napoleon III. He ascended to the throne as Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico.
Abraham Lincoln was well aware of the bulwark-that-could-be that was Mexico. Writing General Grant 3 months before Maximilian’s acceptance of the Mexican crown, Lincoln stated:
I see by a despatch of yours that you incline quite strongly towards an expedition against Mobile. This would appear tempting to me also, were it not that in view of recent events in Mexico, I am greatly impressed with the importance of re-establishing the national (Yankee) authority in Western Texas as soon as possible.
Maximilian, as one observer noted, had his sympathies (much like Bl. Pope Pius IX) with the South:
Maximilian expressed the warmest possible interest in the Confederate cause. He said he considered it identical with that of the new Mexican Empire … that he was particularly desirous that his sentiments upon this subject should be known to the Confederate President.
And Mexico would be a source trouble for the North- not as great as it might have been, especially if the war had been prolonged, but still one that caused irritation for the Federals and limited refuge for the South. One liberal writer of the time stated that
… the Arch-duke Maximilian… firmly believes it is his divine mission to destroy the dragon of democracy and re-establish the true church, the Right Divine, and all sorts of games. Poor young man!
The nearness of an Imperial power, feuding with the Jacobin revolutionaries of the same cloth as Lincoln, could not be tolerated by the North. But the ongoing war of subjugation against the South and it’s Indian allies caused little action to be taken against Maximilian.
At our war’s end, Emperor Maximilian invited defeated Southerners to settle in Mexico. This group in the Confederate Diaspora included such individuals as the world-renown Commodore Matthew Maury and Generals Sterling Price and John B. Magruder. These and others set up Southern enclaves in Mexico and readily served the Emperor, with General Magruder notably becoming a Major General in Maximilian’s army. Commodore Maury became a commissioner in the Imperial Service and was instrumental in creating the Carlotta Colony (near Veracruz) for Dixians.
But with the fall of one enemy, the Yankees, “a traditionless and a homeless race,” began to look towards new conquests. Their icy stare met the Empire of Mexico, which flew in the face of the egalitarian and Jacobin principles. As the official U.S. Department of State almost proudly notes,
As the Confederacy collapsed, U.S. leaders were able to shift resources to resisting French intervention in Mexico and to deploy troops along the Texas-Mexico border. …
U.S. Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Philip Henry Sheridan…. began covert support of Juárez along the Texas-Mexico border. By then, the intervention in Mexico had grown unpopular with the French public, and was an increasing drain on the French treasury. On January 31, 1866, Napoleon III ordered the withdrawal of French troops, to be conducted in three stages from November 1866 to November 1867. Seward, who had earlier been more cautious, warned the Austrian Government against replacing French troops with its own forces, and the threat of war convinced the Austrian government to refrain from sending Maximilian reinforcements. Without European support, Maximilian was unable to retain power. His capture by Mexican forces, court-martial, and sentence to be executed, marked the end of direct European intervention in Mexico. Seward hoped that U.S. support for Juárez would improve relations with Mexico, but as part of Seward’s broader strategy of U.S. expansion, he hoped that the improved relations would eventually convince Mexico to join the United States.
That Juarez and Lincoln were similar there is no doubt. Some have even hailed Juarez as the “Mexican Lincoln,” the defender of democracy, liberty, and consolidation. Throughout the struggle the Yankee government continued to recognise the liberal Republicans as being legitimate and covertly supplied them with arms. As Texas was conquered, Federal troops were brought to the border as a show of might to frighten the French into retreat. With a looming American-Franco War, Napoleon III did just that and withdrew his forces from Mexico.
Those Southerners which did not flee following the French withdrawal met sad fates, as was the case of the Tuxpan Colony. A settlement of a few hundred, it was summarily destroyed by the U.S.-backed Republican forces following the murder of the Emperor Maximilian:
The colony was destroyed almost overnight. The air thick with dust and smoke, the flames from their huts leaping skyward, the gunfire deafening them, Tuxpan’s terrified immigrants attempted escape by sea. With few weapons, supplies, and practically no earthworks, the Tuxpan colonist grimly dug hasty defenses along the beaches. Their only hope was to put up a delaying action while they prepared an escape in their pest-ridden, leaky old scows. The situation became progressively more desperate. Some of the boats on which the Confederates hoped to escape were captured by hostile natives who put the colonists to the torch and threw their corpses into the ocean.
John Foster, in his “Maximilian and his Mexican Empire,” illustrates Yankee-thought on the Hapsburg Mexican Empire. It can be quickly summed up as, “democracy is good, kings are bad, and the United States is the ‘City on a Hill.'” Interestingly, he does provide insight into what possibly could have been, and what indeed did occur:
There was only one possible contingency which could have made the Maximilian Empire a success, and that was the triumph of the Southern Confederacy and an alliance offensive and defensive between these two new governments, supported by their active sympathy of the European monarchies. But fortunately the Southern rebellion and the European intervention were disastrous failures, and the two sister republics, emerging from the terrible conflict of fire and blood, have each placed in the foundation principles of their governmental edifice a corner-stone omitted by the patriots who gained their independence and which brought untold evils upon their descendents, freedom to the slave and religious enfranchisement to the citizen.
Should the South ever embrace monarchy as a form of government, it need look no further than that loyal and noble line that is the House of Hapsburg.