The Mexican Revolution and the United States in the Collections of the Library of Congress
The Constitution of 1917
We consider the passage of the Constitution of 1917 to mark the culmination of the Mexican Revolution. That Constitution, still in force today almost one hundred years later, insisted on complete separation of Church and State (article 3), the division of large haciendas into ejidos, held jointly by local entities and national ownership of national subsoil (article 27), and the right of labor to organize, strike, receive compensation for workplace accidents (article 123). It would serve as a model for progressive constitutions around the world.
Constitution of 1917
By the end of 1916, Carranza controlled every Mexican state except Chihuahua and Morelos. It was time to legitimize the Revolution, have a new constitution, and be elected president. In November 1916, he invited Mexico’s new political class, mostly middle class reformers, to a Constitutional Convention in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico. Half the attendees had attended university and held professional degrees, and only 30% had fought in the Revolution. They were young, ambitious, and relatively apolitical. Carranza had thought the new constitution would be like that of 1857, but most of the delegates were twentieth century liberals, considered radicals in Mexico, like General Francisco Múgica of Michoacan.
The Constitution of 1917, still in force almost 100 years later, has 137 articles. These define citizenship, organize a government, mandate land reform, and enumerate basic human rights for all Mexicans. Divided into ten thematic titles, the Constitution lists human rights, defines national citizenship, outlines associated rights, and specifies freedoms of foreigners residing in the country. It establishes the government, public service and social welfare, and Mexico City as the capital, with the Federal District a separate entity, apart from state jurisdiction.
The Revolution deeply affected everyone at the convention, and the document reflects their experiences. It contains three essential articles, numbers 3, 27, and 123. Article 3 established free, obligatory, and secular public education free from clerical supervision, and secularized the Mexican state. Article 27 mandated that lands taken from the peasantry during the Porfiriato had to be returned, even if they did not have written titles. The government could also take all land not used “appropriately,” and repurpose it for the public good. It also forbade foreigners from owning land within 100km of a national border or 50km of the sea. Article 123 established an 8-hour workday, a 6-day workweek, a minimum wage, and equal pay for equal work. It gave both labor and capital the right to organize and workers could bargain collectively and strike. The document was ratified on 5 February 1917. Included is a PDF of the full text of the 1917 Constitution, which was printed in full in most Mexican newspapers once it had been ratified. This copy was published in the Diario Oficial on 5 February 1917.
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