In the last four decades much has been written about the evolution and failure of the First Mexican Republic (1824-1835). Ever since Costeloe's seminal political history of the period, substantial research has concentrated on the fiscal innovations and their trajectory as well as their limitations which may have contributed to the failure of this form of government. The purpose of this paper (part of a larger research project) is to reassess the recent fiscal historiography of the period in order to offer a new interpretation on the performance of Mexico's treasury. Whereas other historians have emphasized differences between state treasuries by analyzing particular levies and fiscal instruments (alcabalas, tobacco, direct contributions and the so-called contingente), this research focuses on the role of the comisaras generals, ie. the federal government offices in the states of the new Mexican republic. It shows that the problems and eventual failure of the first Mexican federalism stem to a great extent from the administrative restrictions on these offices as well as from the limited state capacity of the general (central) government.
Luis Jauregui is Professor of Economic History at the Instituto de Investigaciones Doctor Jos Mara Luis Mora, Mexico City.