No. 451.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Fish.

No. 52.]

Sir: On the 25th instant the Mexican Congress formally declared the ratification by a majority of the legislatures of the republic of the laws of reform as additions and amendments to the federal constitution, and under the same date President Lerdo proclaimed them as embodied in that instrument. These laws were decreed by the liberal government at Vera Cruz in 1859, and since the overthrow of Maximilian, in 1867, they have been enforced but their present incorporation into the federal constitution may be regarded as the crowning act of triumph of the liberal government in its long contest with the conservative or church party.

[Page 714]

These amendments declare the independence of each other, of the state and church, and forbid the passage of laws establishing or prohibiting any religion; declare marriage a civil contract, and give exclusive jurisdiction to the civil authority to celebrate this and all other civil personal acts; prohibit the acquisition of real estate or capital secured by mortgages by religious institutions, except for specific church-uses; abolish all religious oaths; make unlawful the establishment or existence of monastic orders, or the enforcement of any agreement for personal service without just compensation, or which has for its object the infringement of personal liberty. I inclose herewith a copy and translation (inclosures 1 and 2) of the said amendments and their official promulgation.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 52.—Translation.]

Amendments to the Mexican constitution.

The citizen President of the republic has been pleased to address to me the following decree:

Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, constitutional President of the United States of Mexico, to all the inhabitants thereof:

Know ye that the Congress of the Union has decreed the following:

The Congress of the United States of Mexico, in the exercise of the faculty conferred upon it by the one hundred and twenty-seventh article of the constitution promulgated on the 12th of February, 1857, and with the previous approval of a majority of the legislatures of the republic, declares—

The following are additions and amendments to the said constitution:

  • Article 1. The state and the church are mutually independent. Congress cannot pass laws establishing or prohibiting any religion.
  • Article 2. Marriage is a civil contract. This and the other acts of the civil life of individuals are under the exclusive supervision of the civil officials and authorities, in the manner provided by the laws, and will have the force and validity which said laws confer upon them.
  • Article 3. No religious institution can acquire real estate or capital, secured by mortgage thereupon, with the single exception provided in the twenty-seventh article of the constitution.
  • Article 4. The simple promise to speak the truth and comply with the obligations which are undertaken, shall take the place of the religious oath, with its effects and penalties.
  • Article 5. No one can be compelled to give personal service without just compensation and without his full consent. The state cannot permit any contract, compact, or agreement to be executed which may have for its object the diminution, loss, or irrevocable sacrifice of personal liberty, whether by reason of labor, education, or religious vow. The law, therefore, does not recognize monastic orders, nor can it permit their establishment, under whatever name or object they may claim it to be formed. Neither can it allow any compact by which an individual agrees to his own proscription or banishment.

Hall of the Congress of the Union, Mexico, September 25, 1873.

(Signed by all the deputies of the Congress.)


To the Citizen Cayetano Gomez y Perez,
In Charge of the Ministry of the Interior.

And I communicate the above to you for your information and consequent action. Independence and liberty!

Chief Clerk.