TYPE: Manuscript
COMPONENTS: 1 sheet. Manuscript in black ink.
ITEM ID: 4556
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Freedom of the Press Law Artisanal Manuscript

Year: 1861
Decade: 1860s
Century: 19th (1801-1900)

Artisanal manuscript sheet which reproduces the whole 43 articles of the Freedom of Press law in miniature concentric circles. The sheet was a gift to the maker of the Law himself, Francisco Zarco: “Al Exmo. Señor Ministro de Justicia, autor de la presente ley, ciudadano Francisco Zarco”. The importance of this law to Mexico is only comparable to the American Second Amendment. However, this item is not just the dull governmental official printing. It´s actually a lot more interesting. It was a gift to the maker of the law himself. Someone copied the whole law in a miniature. A unique and important piece of Mexican history.

About the law:

On February 2, 1861, Benito Juárez, decreed the Freedom of Press Law, with which, it finally putted an end to a long tradition of freedom of speech censorship that dated from the colonial era; in which the written word was governed by the nobility and the Church, whom persecuted and punished the manifestation of ideas and denied freedom of expression.

With this Law, the first of its kind that Mexico ever had, the country took a step towards freedom of expression and the horizons opened up to all the ideas and manifestations.

The Reform laws were a set of anticlerical laws enacted in Mexico between 1855 and 1863, during the governments of Juan Alvarez, Ignacio Comonfort and Benito Juárez that were intended to limit the privileges (fueros) of the Roman Catholic Church and the military. The laws also limited the ability of Catholic Church and indigenous communities from collectively holding land. The liberal government sought the revenues from the disentailment of church property, which could fund the civil war against Mexican conservatives and to broaden the base of property ownership in Mexico and encouraging private enterprise. Several of them were raised to constitutional status by the constituent Congress that drafted the liberal Constitution of 1857. Although the laws had a major impact on the Catholic Church in Mexico, liberal proponents were not opposed to the church as a spiritual institution, but rather sought a secular state and a society not dominated religion

The law, which was elaborated by Francisco Zarco (then minister of Justice), was the culmination of all the Liberal movement ideas for which they fought a civil war against the Conservative faction on 1856-1860.

On February 18, 1856 Francisco Zarco began his duties as a deputy for the state of Durango and official chronicler of the Constituent Congress. He devoted himself to transcribing the contributions of his colleagues and on some occasions he himself made interventions, mainly in those debates around individual guarantees, the death penalty to the alleged criminals, the freedom of the press, the education of the people, the treaties international and merchandise traffic. Zarco was also entrusted with the drafting of the preliminary manifesto of the Constitution of 1857, which highlighted the exercise of sovereignty that the people should exercise from that moment, such as the free election of the leaders, the right to “alter or modify the form of his government” and the will of the people to affirm themselves as a free and democratic republic. This text was read on February 5, 1857, in the same assembly in which the Constitution was approved. On December 22, 1869, Francisco Zarco died of pulmonary tuberculosis . His name is registered in the Chamber of Deputies. His remains rest in the historic San Fernando Pantheon, where the body of Benito Juárez also rests, of whom he was a loyal collaborator and friend.

With the French intervention, the law was restricted. However, with the restoration of the Republic in 1867 so was the freedom of press law. In 1883 the law was reformed, but it still served as a basis until the current Constitution of 1917.

This law enabled the Mexican prints to edit books and newspapers, which were highly restricted before that. Juarez thought that with freedom, journalism could become an element of civilization and progress.

Name: Agustin Armas
Type: Artist