No. 217.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Fish.

No. 416.]

Sir: On the 28th of last month the government troops under the command of General Alatorre attacked the combined forces of the revolutionists [Page 404] of Puebla and Oaxaca at Epatlan, in the former State, and after a severe contest drove them from the field; but the loss of General Alatorre’s command was large, and his force was too insufficient to follow up with much effect the advantage gained. The revolutionists withdrew in good order. No important military events have occurred since that date; but in most of the minor engagements in different parts of the country the government has had the advantage. The revolutionists have assembled in considerable force in the States of Hidalgo and Tlaxcala, but have avoided all contests with the government troops, and at the latest advices are reported to have again scattered into small bands, it is supposed for the purpose of preventing the presidential elections in as many districts as possible.

This election occurs in the primary order on next Sunday, the 25th instant, when the electors are chosen; and these electors meet in their respective election districts on the second Sunday in July, the 9th proximo, to vote for President and certain other national officers. The revolutionists and the other opponents of the administration of Mr. Lerdo claim that no legitimate and impartial election can be held, owing to the disturbed condition of the country. The constitution requires the action of a majority of the electoral districts to constitute a valid election, and it is asserted that this cannot be had. It is insisted that a large part of the country is in the hands of the revolutionists, and that under their armed control no election can be held; and that in the States which have been declared under martial law by the President, under existing circumstances, there can be no free and legal election. It is admitted that the past practice under the constitution of 1857 has been to hold elections in States under martial law, as in the elections of 1857,1861,1867, and 1871; but it is insisted that the present condition of the States is anomalous; that in previous elections the States had been in rebellion by the act of the constitutional and regular authorities, the governors and other officers, or by a usurpation, as that of Miramon or Maximilian, in which cases it was necessary to govern the States by military authority until the civil authorities might be legally provided to exercise their constitutional functions; but that at the present time not a single governor has gone into rebellion; and that the President has taken advantage of disorders more or less unimportant to declare martial law, and to displace the governors by military commanders; and that elections in such States will be a mere registering of the will of the President through armed force, and a mockery of free election.

On the other hand, the adherents of the administration maintain that the constitution provides for holding the election at this time and in the manner contemplated; and that in no other way can the constitutional succession of the executive power be provided for. They assert that the main object of inaugurating the revolution was not with any hope of present success, but simply to so disturb the public peace as to make the holding of elections for President difficult or impossible; after which the revolutionists might have a pretext to charge Mr. Lerdo with usurpation and a violation of the constitution, and thus appeal to the country with a better prospect for the overthrow of the legitimate authorities. It is insisted that such a programme is utterly unwarranted, that it cannot receive the approval of good citizens, and ought not to be permitted to stand in the way of the constitutional order of elections. It is further maintained that the revolution has very limited proportions, and has only been able to disturb or overturn the peace in a small part of the republic; that the declaration of martial law in a State does not suspend the exercise of electoral rights by the citizens; and [Page 405] that elections are entirely feasible, and will legitimately occur in many more than the bare majority of the districts.

No other candidate for the Presidency than Mr. Lerdo has been regularly presented for the popular suffrages, although the name of General Mejia, present minister of war, has been informally mentioned; and there is no doubt but that Mr. Lerdo will receive the majority of the votes cast. Should a majority of the electoral districts participate in the election, it will be declared constitutional; but it may happen even in that case that neither Mr. Lerdo nor any other candiate will receive a majority of the electoral votes of the republic; in which event the election of a President will devolve upon the House of Deputies of the National Congress, which is largely composed of the friends of Mr. Lerdo; so that it is reasonably certain that he will be declared elected to the Presidency for the next term.

His opponents claim that so far from his re-election having a tendency to pacify the country, it will only aggravate the situation, give new strength to the revolution, and eventually result in his overthrow and a revolutionary change of administration.

The government continues to be hard pressed, financially, to meet the increased expenses of the army. The best evidence of this fact is that it has been compelled to re-lease the mints of Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosi to private parties in order to obtain $500,000. The control of the mints had been recovered by the government during Mr. Lerdo’s administration, and this event, had been announced as one of its greatest achievements. Nothing but the most pressing necessities of the treasury could have induced their re-lease to private companies. It is unfortunate for the mining interests of the country, for it insures for this term a continuation of the tax of 4.41 per cent. mint-charges, which it was hoped might have been removed or reduced when the government should come into control of all the mints of the republic.

Don Carlos de Bourbon, the pretender to the throne of Spain, has been passing a few weeks’ visit in this city. He has generally been courteously received by all classes, but with special attention by certain persons and families of Spanish origin of the old conservative party and of the Catholic Church. The object of his visit has been announced as one purely of recreation.

General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who returned to Mexico from his banishment in February, 1874, died in this city on yesterday morning. Since his return he has lived very quietly as a private citizen, and his remains were this morning followed to the cemetery by his personal friends, without any official or public demonstrations whatever. I am, &c.,