Lucas Alamán y Escalada (1792–1853) was a politician and historian born in Guanajuato, Mexico, in 1792. He obtained his primary education in his hometown, the wealthiest mining site of the colonial period. When just eighteen years-old, he narrowly escaped the 1810 Alhondiga de Granaditas massacre perpetrated by followers of Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo during the Mexican War for Independence. He realized that this was a close call, and he never forgot the experience condemning the “tumultuous” character of Hidaldo’s movement. Alamán went to Mexico City to study mining, attending the Real Seminario de Minería before continuing his studies in Europe at Freyburg, Göttingen, and Paris, far from the visceral violence of Mexico. When the Constitution of 1812 was reestablished in Spain, he traveled to Madrid as representative from Mexico to the parliament. He quickly joined a faction that advocated dividing the Spanish empire into three kingdoms, each one headed by a Spanish prince. Conservative Spanish politicians dismissed the proposal out of hand, and Alamán became convinced of the need for Mexican independence.
When he returned home, the well-educated and thoughtful young man served in some of the newly established administrations. After the failure of Agustín de Iturbide’s empire, Alamán rose to minister of foreign affairs in the provisional government established and continued in the office under president Guadalupe Victoria. After an imbroglio with other cabinet ministers, Alamán resigned, and turned his capable intellect and mining knowledge to business as agent of the British-financed Compañía Unida de Minas.
In 1830 Alamán, now thirty eight-years old, returned to politics, once again serving as minister of foreign affairs for President Anastasio Bustamante and quickly became the brains behind that administration. Through tight controls, this administration straightened out the finances of the federal government. The key, he believed, was to develop industries that fed directly into the Mexican economy. In particular he wanted to turn Texas into a cotton paradise with the revenues flowing into national coffers. To bring capital into this project and promote the development of the textile industry through government loans, Alamán established the Banco de Avío.
When General Manuel de Mier y Terán’s reported his warnings about foreigners in Texas, Alamán tried to rein in economic developments north of the Rio Grande and directed the Texas cotton crop to Mexican factories by establishing a trade network with Galveston and other Texas ports at the port of Vera Cruz. The Law of April 6, 1830, also prohibited any further immigration from the United States into Texas and instead favored colonization by other nationalities. After all, Anglo-Americans were not the only nationalities capable of growing cotton.His policies inflamed the Texas colonies.
His last action in the Bustamante administration was to sign a treaty of limits with the United States, which ratified the borders established in the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819. When this government fell, Alamán left office. However, he would return to office a number of times, always advocating the centralist–and monarchist–cause amid shifting Mexican political landscapes. Until his death in 1853, Alamán advanced the European inheritance of his country, and bitterly criticized other influences on Mexican society.
Besides being an intellectual and strong Mexican nationalists, Alamán was also a scholar. Between 1849 and 1852Alamán published his famous five-volume Historia de México, which condemned the early movement for independence of Hidalgo and José María Morelos y Pavón. The work also made a case for help from European powers to ensure Mexico’s survival. In his Disertaciones (1844), he highlighted Spains legacy in Mexico, and helped compile and extensive annotation of William Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico. Alamán became a member of various academic institutions, among them the Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía y Estadística and the Massachusetts Historical Society. He also reorganized the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico.