Discover more from Abundantia
"Apes, together, strong."
The year was 1860. And Mexico was completely bankrupt.
After decades of internal conflict between its government’s warring factions, it found itself heavily in debt. And as the conflict continued, it was unable to continue making good on what it owed.
So in the first year of that decade, the Mexican government decided to suspend payments to its European creditors for two years. Stemming the flow of money leaving the country—it hoped—would allow the economy to stabilise.
But some of Mexico’s creditors across the Atlantic took umbrage.
In 1861, a joint force comprising British, Spanish, and French powers sailed to Mexico to collect on their debts. Once arrived, the Spanish and British ended up cutting deals with the government that would favour them in receiving future payments first. But France? Well, it had a more devious plan.
Napoleon III—the sitting Emperor of France, and nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte—saw an opportunity in the crisis, seeking to make Mexico the first French colony in North America. And to achieve this goal, he hatched one of the most devious conspiracies in history.
He schemed with conservative Mexicans, who desired to rid the country of President Benito Juárez. Their end goal was to push Juárez’s military out of the country, and to implement a new moderate government that would rule on behalf of the French empire.
But Napoleon couldn’t front this plot himself. A scapegoat was required.
One was found in Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph; the Archduke of Austria, and one of Europe’s most powerful men. Napoleon sent him word, communicating that the Mexican people had voted Maximilian as the nation’s new king, and wished for him to rule as Mexico’s emperor.
In 1863, Maximilian accepted. And along with his wife Carlota—the daughter of Belgium’s King Leopold—he sailed to Mexico to take up his crown.
Maximilian’s intentions upon being made Emperor were pure: he desired to be a benevolent leader, and a caretaker of Mexico’s “peasant” class. He was unwavering in his mission to abolish peonage, and grant Mexicans better rights. And he refused to return the vast wealth of the Roman Catholic Church that was previously confiscated by Juárez.
But Maximilian’s intentions were irrelevant. Because he’d been duped by one of the most spectacular lies ever told.
With the support of the French Army, Maximilian’s forces successfully pushed Juárez north, almost completely out of the country into Texas. However, this coincided with the end of the American Civil War, and the United States took exception to the attempt of the ruling Mexican government being pushed into its territory, and rebuked France for violating The Monroe Doctrine: a set of laws that stated an attempt by a European power to colonise one of the United States’ neighbours would be considered an act of aggression against the US itself.
Not wanting war with the United States, Napoleon withdrew his support of Maximilian, and ordered his army to retreat. This left Austria’s archduke severely underpowered against Juárez, resulting in considerable ground being lost.
Knowing Maximilian’s weakened force was destined to be defeated, Juárez offered him the chance to abdicate his position as Mexico’s Emperor. He would be allowed to return safely to Austria, while avoiding additional bloodshed.
But Maximilian refused, as he didn’t want to abandon “his people” in this time of great need. With this rejection, Juárez’s offensive continued.
Maximilian’s forces were eventually surrounded at Querétaro, close to Mexico City. They were besieged, starved, and eventually betrayed by Napoleon into surrendering to Juárez’s army. But this time, due to the loss of thousands of additional Mexican lives since his previous offer to Maximilian, Juárez had no mercy to spare for the Austrian Archduke.
Maximilian was imprisoned—but fate gave him a final chance to escape. Prussian prince Felix Salm-Salm hatched a plan to bribe the jailers, shave Maximilian’s prominent beard to hide his identity, and break him out of prison. But once again, Mexico’s emperor refused.
Maximilian said that to shave his beard would be to strip his very dignity, and thus resigned himself to his fate. And on the 19th of June 1867, his saga would end by being executed on a small hillside on the outskirts of Querétaro.
As I write these words, I currently find myself in the very place much of Maximilian’s drama unfolded: the lush surrounds of Mexico City.
Primarily, I’m here in Mexico to escape this year’s dismal Icelandic summer, as well as to check out the land I recently acquired near Tulum.
As I’m sure you’ve become familiar with by now in this newsletter, I aim to always try and uncover historic stories of money, power, or economics that tie into our modern world. To reveal that no matter what’s happening to us today, chances are it’s occurred before—maybe, just slightly differently.
When Abundantia’s researcher Matt sent me Maximilian’s story, it blew my mind. How could such a colossal lie—one that a nation had voted someone to be its emperor—not be discovered by someone so powerful? Someone with access to the resources of a nation?
But that’s when it hit me: bigger lies than this exist all around us today, that are being fed to billions.
The new electric Hummer is allowed to be advertised as “zero emissions”, even though it puts out more carbon per kilometre than a petrol-burning V8 Audi SUV. Hospitals in the USA are legally able to conspire with insurance companies to manipulate prices, ensuring they rake in billions in extra profits per year.
A government can change the definition of “recession” overnight, just so they don’t have to tarnish their reputation by announcing one. And the chairman of the Federal Reserve is allowed to announce that the excessive printing of money has nothing to do with inflation, which to me is akin to proclaiming water isn’t wet.
These lies are allowed to be peddled in the name of certain people and organisations attaining more power, more control, and more money.
Lies that in some way or another, negatively impact our lives, and our world.
When I think about our modern situation, it seems more ridiculous than the lie Maximilian was fed. At least he lived in a time before the internet, or the smartphone. Because today, billions of people are being duped by spectacular lies, at a time when we have free access to more information than at any time in history.
Still, I can understand why.
Although we live in an extremely prosperous world, the simple fact is that most people are still struggling financially. They’re either working two jobs just to make ends meet, or have been hit so harshly by inflation that they can now barely afford the new cost of living.
When a person is living in survival mode, they don’t have time to wonder if the narrative they’re being fed is true, or to spend time trying to change the world around them—their mental energy is dedicated to survival alone. Scientific studies show that living in poverty or financial stress affects the mind so heavily that it can even lower one’s IQ by 13 points.
Basically, when you’re struggling, your mind simply doesn’t work as it should. And to me, that’s why so much of the deceit in our world is allowed to exist. Because critical thinking and questioning require a lot of brainpower.
To me, it isn’t a conspiracy that people are kept broke, dumb, and sick. It’s a tactic that’s been used for thousands of years to deflect people’s attention away from the grand machinations that keep the world exactly as it is, to benefit the few at the very top.
We need more humans who aren’t struggling. Who aren’t trading their time for a pathetic paycheck. Who aren’t fighting daily just to survive.
I guess this is why I’ve always been so dedicated to our mission here at Abundantia. Because I know that upgrading the financial well-being of millions of people will impact our world for the better, in every way possible.
But me? Well, I’m just one single man who taps away at some keys once a week. And sure, my keystrokes now reach the best part of seventy thousand people each time I push publish, but I feel that collectively, there’s more that can be done if we work together.
Maybe that collective action is to tell a friend about a financial book that changed your life, or to gift that very book to them. Or maybe, it’s to share a podcast episode, a newsletter, or to introduce the people you love to a teacher who gave you the skills to get your own financial house in order.
Again, I don’t have all the answers. I’m just one dude.
But all I know for sure is that those at the top seldom have our best interests in mind. And like the famous quote from Planet Of The Apes, our best chance of creating change is by working together.
And hell, if you’ve got any ideas of how we can make this happen, I’d love to hear your thoughts.