“I Antonio López de Santa Anna at Present in the City of New York am Indebted to…”
Tucked within the library’s Ella Ketcham Daggett Stumpf collection are a couple of visually striking documents with a connection to a significant person in Texas history and a fascinating underlying story. The items are two original copies of mortgage bonds issued by Antonio López de Santa Anna in New York City on June 28, 1866.
The two documents were originally among the 1,500 bonds in the amount of $500 each that Santa Anna circulated in an attempt to raise $750,000. Each document depicted three of his properties, which he used to guarantee the mortgage bonds. These included his palace in Veracruz, Mexico, called Manga de Clavo; an estate in Turbaco, located in northern Colombia; and property on the island of St. Thomas, which was controlled by Denmark until 1917 and is now part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. In all, the three estates were said to amount to approximately 378 square miles of land. Each mortgage bond also included a portrait of Santa Anna, dressed in a business suit, and his signature in the lower right-hand corner.
The mortgage bonds help illustrate the later years of Santa Anna’s life and his continued involvement in Mexican government and politics thirty years after the Texas Revolution and the Battle of the Alamo. Moreover, the documents also hint at some of the complex broader circumstances in Mexico to which Santa Anna’s personal experiences were intimately connected.
By 1866, the regime of Maximilian I – who had been placed on the Mexican throne by Napoleon III, Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, following the French military’s invasion of the country – was nearing an end. In exile since 1855 following his two-year dictatorship, Santa Anna hoped to return to Mexico. In his biography of Santa Anna, author and historian Will Fowler describes what led the seventy-two-year-old former general and president to issue the series of mortgage bonds:
[Santa Anna] became more vociferous in his anti-imperialist statements. Moreover, after he was visited in January 1866 by the U.S. secretary of state, William H. Seward, he convinced himself that the U.S. government would support him in liberating Mexico from the French Intervention, preferring him as president to [Benito] Juárez. Increasingly lost in a labyrinth of his own making, Santa Anna mistook Seward’s courtesy visit, made while on holiday in the region, for an official invitation to return to the fray. Santa Anna was desperate to believe that he was being urged to intervene…He also allowed himself to be deceived by a number of con-men, who sought him out in St. Thomas and persuaded him to part with most of his savings in order to bring about his heroic return to Mexico as the Restorer of the Republic (326).
In 1866 Santa Anna traveled to New York. There, he found himself “not backed by the U.S. government as he had believed” (327). Moreover, his “financial situation [was] in bad shape” because he had been swindled out of much of his money (332). However, desperate to raise funds to finance his return to Mexico and restoration of the country’s republican government, Santa Anna issued the series of mortgage bonds that year.
Due to a series of further events, Santa Anna was not permitted to return to Mexico until 1874, a year and a half after Juárez’s death. He never returned to power, lived his last years unnoticed and almost penniless, and died in Mexico City on June 21, 1876.
Santa Anna of Mexico by Will Fowler (2009)
For Further Reading
Santa Anna’s Manifesto, or address to the Mexican people dated Elizabethport, New Jersey, June 5, 1866, is available online as part of a digitized volume of the United States Serial Set. The document is included with other materials that illustrate the extent to which Juárez’s supporters and official representatives in the U.S. disliked and distrusted Santa Anna.