Gomez Farias, Valentin (1781–1858)

By: Miguel Soto

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1995

Valentín Gómez Farías (also known as Gómez de la Vara), Mexican politician, the son of José Lugardo Gómez and María Josefa Martínez y Farías, was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, on February 14, 1781. His father was a merchant, and his mother came from a prominent family of Saltillo, Coahuila. He studied medicine in the University of Guadalajara and must have obtained his degree in 1806 or 1807. Apparently he was well informed about current French texts, not only pertaining to his profession as physician but to political thought as well. He was appointed professor in 1807–08. He married Ysabel López on October 4, 1817, and they had six children, two of whom died in infancy. In 1820 he became regidor of the ayuntamiento in Aguascalientes.

He became involved in politics as congressman, senator, and, later, vice president. His activities, particularly in opposition to the strengthening of any central authority, are closely related to Texas history. In 1822, as congressman, he presented a proposal for a colonization law; like others such laws, it invited foreigners to settle in the unpopulated areas of the country, but, in contrast to them, it strictly prohibited colonists from bringing slaves. In 1833–34, after serving as representative and senator, Gómez Farías became vice president and served as president in the absence of Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna. During his administration both the executive and the Congress attempted the "reformation" of Mexican society through a series of measures that affected the church's properties, its participation in education, and its judicial privileges known as fueros. Also in this period Gómez Farías, on the one hand, favored annulment of the restrictions on American immigration into Texas established by the Law of April 6, 1830, but, on the other hand, considered that the colonists' petition for Mexican statehood in Texas had to wait and therefore ordered the arrest of Stephen F. Austin after the latter wrote his famous letter of October 2, 1833, recommending that ayuntamientos in Texas establish their own state authorities without waiting for the general government's authorization. In April 1834 Santa Anna returned to power and stopped the restrictions on the church because of the public outcry that opposed them and, particularly, because of the violent procedures used to put them into effect. A process of "counter-reformation" spread throughout the country and ultimately implied not only the annulment of most of the reformative laws, but the destruction of the federal system as well. From then on, Gómez Farías used any assistance he could to fight the centralization of the country. Thus, he started by participating in the confrontation of the Coahuila and Texas authorities against the federal government in the spring of 1835, which involved the squandering of huge tracts of land in Texas; later, he went on to New Orleans and there participated in meetings of an "Amphictyonic Council" of clear separatist tendencies.

There is no evidence about Gómez Farías's attitude towards the Texas Declaration of Independence, but in 1838 he expressed sympathy for a French blockade that threatened the Centralist authorities in Mexico, and in the following year he even expressed his willingness, if he were in power, to recognize Texas independence. Furthermore, between 1841 and 1843 he went to Yucatán and, despite some reservations, supported the local secessionist movement from Mexico and its alliance with the Republic of Texas. In mid-1844, however, he became convinced that behind any peaceful negotiation with Texas there would be a foreign interest from the United States, Great Britain, or France; therefore he became one of the strongest opponents of a peaceful solution with Texas. He antagonized the administrations of Santa Anna (1841–44) and José Joaquín de Herrera (1845). He later collaborated with Santa Anna, once again as vice president (1846–47), in his efforts to pursue military action against the United States; but because Santa Anna deceived him again, Gómez Farías again opposed Santa Anna and later the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

After the rebellion of Ayutla succeeded in overthrowing Santa Anna definitively, Gómez Farías was elected again to the Congress: this assembly eventually drew up the Liberal Constitution of 1857. Because of sickness he could not participate regularly in the debates on the new code, but his efforts to establish Federalism and modernize Mexico were clearly recognized by his fellow congressmen. He died on July 5, 1858.

Vito Alessio Robles, Coahuila y Texas en la época colonial (Mexico City: Editorial Cultura, 1938; 2d ed., Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa, 1978). Valentín Gómez Farías Papers, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin. Cecil Alan Hutchinson, Valentín Gómez Farías: A Biographical Study (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1948). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). David M. Pletcher, The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973).
Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Miguel Soto, “Gomez Farias, Valentin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 08, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/gomez-farias-valentin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995

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