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Jesús González Ortega Papers

Identifier: MSN/MN 0508

Scope and Contents

The collection includes 113 letters, some with enclosures, and 17 other items, dating from 1857-1866. The bulk of these are from 1865-1866, when González Ortega was in the United States, and include correspondence with Mexican officials, political allies, American businessmen, friends and family members. Also included is correspondence between his allies and friends, as well as declarations, contracts, orders, decrees, receipts, poems, one newspaper clipping, and political writings produced by González Ortega, his allies and Mexican and American officials.


  • Creation: 1857-1866
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1865-1866


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

Jesús González Ortega (1822-1881), a prominent politician and general in mid-19th century Mexico, was born on the Hacienda de San Mateo, near Teúl, Zacatecas. He studied at the seminary in Guadalajara, Jalisco in his youth, but was unable to finish his schooling due to financial difficulties. González Ortega also studied law while serving as secretary to the justice of the peace in the village of San Juan Bautista de Teúl in Zacatecas (ca. 1850). At approximately this time he married Mercedes Mercado, a woman from Teúl. They had at least one child, a son named Lauro González Ortega.

As a supporter of the Liberals, González Ortega came to play a major role in the conflict with the Conservatives, the party favored by the the church, the army and larger landholders. When the Conservatives, led by Antonio López de Santa Anna, seized power in 1853, González Ortega organized protests in Zacatecas and became a prominent legislator in the state after Santa Anna's ouster in 1855. he took over the governorship of Zacatecas during the Reform War (1857-1860) between the Liberals and Conservatives. After mounting a successful defense of the state against Conservative forces in 1858-1859 he became a senior Liberal military strategist, taking Mexico City on Christmas Day 1860 and ending the war.

González Ortega was elected president of the Supreme Court in the Liberal government of President Benito Juárez in 1861, becoming the de facto vice-president of Mexico. He won further fame during the Second French Intervention in Mexico (1861-1867), mounting a heroic but ultimately unsuccessful defense against the invaders at the siege of Puebla in 1863. Further defeats in 1864 decimated González Ortega's army. By this time he was also in conflict with Juárez, who used the war to exercise powers beyond those granted to the president by the Mexican constitution. These conditions forced González Ortega to leave Mexico in 1865. He travelled to the United States in January on a temporary leave from his duties granted by Juárez. He moved around the U.S. in 1865 and 1866, attempting to purchase weapons, raise funds and recruit men for the Mexican army, but soon fell victim to political intrigue.

Seeking to remain in power without calling an election after his term expired in December 1865, Juárez sought to remove González Ortega, who was designated to succeed him by the Mexican constitution if no elections were held. On 8 November 1865 Juárez decreed that González Ortega was in dereliction of his duties by leaving Mexico and ordered his arrest. González Ortega, in response, declared himself president of the country, but overestimated the degree of support he enjoyed in Mexico. The United States, favoring Juárez, detained González Ortega when he attempted to return to Mexico on 3 November 1866. González Ortega was not allowed to return until January 1867, when he was imprisoned by Juárez supporters and held until August 1868. Although González Ortega still had allies in Mexico and was elected to the Mexican Congress during his imprisonment, his national prominence faded. He retired to private life after his release and died at Saltillo, Coahuila state in 1881.


0.45 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian



A collection of letters and other papers belonging to Jesús González Ortega, an important political and military figure in mid-19th century Mexico. The papers mainly relate to González Ortega's stay in the United States in 1865-1867, the efforts of Benito Juárez's government in Mexico to remove him from political office while he was away, and his detainment by the U.S. government in November 1866.


The collection is arranged into three series: 1. Political Correspondence, Manuscripts and Ephemera; 2. Personal Correspondence and Manuscripts; 3. Miscellaneous. There is typically one item per folder.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2013, from William Reese Company of New Haven, Connecticut.

Related Materials

See the Jesús González Ortega Collection in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.

Physical Description

One flip-top document box

Processing Information

Arranged and described 2018, by Yang Wu.

Jesús González Ortega Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556