CHAPTER XXIII. LATER INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

In 1917, Robert Lansing, the American Secretary of State, and Viscount Ishii, special ambassador of Japan, reached an important agreement concerning American relations in the Orient. By it the United States admitted the interest of Japan in China, but the two placed themselves on record as mutually opposed to the acquisition by any government of special rights in China that would affect the independence or the territorial integrity of that country. Nevertheless Japan had already forced China in 1915 to grant her territorial and economic concessions that constituted a grave menace to Chinese independence, and final settlement between the two awaited later events.

It is impossible at the present time to give an accurate account of American relations with Mexico during the decade preceding 1920. Mexico and Mexican affairs are but ill understood in the United States; and the purposes and acts of the chief figure in the most important events, President Wilson, will not be fully known until papers are made public and explanations presented that only he can give. His conduct of Mexican affairs, moreover, had to face constant change on account of the outbreak and progress of a European war in 1914, and many critical decisions had to be arrived at during 1915-1916 when political partisanship in the United States was at fever heat and when the most bitter opponents of the administration were ready to pounce upon every act and hold it up to public scorn. Nor is the exact character of some of the pressure brought to bear upon the President fully known. American capital in vast amounts had gone into Mexico as into other parts of Latin America. Mining companies, railroad, ranching and plantation companies, and private individuals had invested in a land that has been called "the storehouse of the world," because of its fabulous resources in mineral wealth and fertile soil. In 1912 President Taft said that American investments had been estimated at one billion dollars. President Wilson in 1916 warned the public that agents of American property owners in Mexico were scattered along the border originating rumors which were unjustified by facts, in order to bring about intervention for the benefit of investors. For these reasons most accounts of Mexican relations, whether they uphold or condemn the steps taken by the administration, are rendered defective by prejudice or lack of information. It is possible, therefore, to give only a bare narrative of a few of the most important events following 1910.

The strong hand of Porfirio Diaz ruled Mexico from 1877 to 1880 and from 1884 to 1911. The government was autocratic; the resources of the country were in the hands of foreigners; and while a few magnates were wealthy, the mass of the people were poor and ignorant. The country was infested with bands of robbers, but Diaz managed to control them and even made some of the leaders governors of states. Such was the country that is separated from Arizona and New Mexico by an imaginary line and from Texas by a narrow river that shrinks in summer almost to a bed of sand.

In 1910 Francisco Madero organized a revolt, compelled Diaz to flee to Europe in 1911, and was himself chosen President. Taft meanwhile had sent troops to the border, stray bullets from across the line killed a few American citizens and the demand for intervention began. Madero was soon overthrown by General Victoriano Huerta, who became provisional president. Shortly afterward Madero was shot under circumstances that pointed to Huerta as the instigator of the assassination, but his friends kept the fires of revolt alive, and Governor Carranza of Coahuila, the state across the border from northwest Texas, refused to recognize the new ruler. It was at this juncture that Wilson succeeded Taft. General Huerta was promptly recognized by the leading European nations but President Wilson refused to do so, on the ground that the new government was founded on violence, in defiance of the constitution of Mexico and contrary to the dictates of morality. He then sent John Lind to Mexico to convey terms to Huerta - peace, amnesty and a free election at which Huerta himself would not be a candidate. When the latter refused the proposal, President Wilson warned Americans to leave Mexico and adopted the policy of "watchful waiting," hoping that Huerta would be eliminated through inability to get funds to administer his government. In the meanwhile the destruction of lives and property continued.

War was barely avoided in the spring of 1914 when a boat's crew of American marines was imprisoned in Tampico. An apology was made, but General Huerta refused to order a salute to the United States flag, and troops were accordingly landed at Vera Cruz, where slight encounters ensued. At this juncture Argentina, Brazil and Chile, "the ABC powers" made a proposal of mediation which was accepted. The conference averted war between the United States and Mexico, although failing to solve the questions at issue. Shortly afterward, however, Huerta retired from the field unable to continue his dictatorship, and the American troops were withdrawn.

The end was not yet however. Carranza and his associate, Villa, fell to quarreling. Bands of ruffians made raids across the border, and Mexico became more than before a desolate waste peopled with fighting factions. At President Wilson's suggestion six Latin-American powers met in Washington in 1915 for conference, and decided to recognize Carranza as the head of a de facto government. Diplomatic relations were then renewed after a lapse of two and a half years. In a message to Congress the President reviewed the imbroglio, but expressed doubts whether Mexico had been benefited.