The United States in the 1900’s had become increasingly imperialistic due to the progressive era of presidents. In Mexico, the United States had gained significant economic control due to American businesses involved in the mining and oil industries. With the outbreak of the Mexican revolution in 1910 these economic interests were becoming increasingly threatened. This revolution called for a change in the United States foreign policy. The United States became increasingly involved in the Political structure of Mexico to ensure the United States economic interests were protected. However, the United States were ineffective at protecting U.S.
interests in Mexico. In the many conflicts that the United States became involved in, there was no direct result that can be related to the prolonging of the Mexican Revolution. In many of the events that the United States became involved in, the result of the event would have been the same whether the United States was involved or not, and in some cases the United States accelerated the process of the revolution. This can be seen most clearly though the events of the Tampico Incident, the blockade and occupation of Veracruz, and the punitive expedition of “Pancho” Villa.
In the early twentieth century, the Díaz regime had increased foreign control of Mexico’s economy also sought to decrease the holdings of individual Mexicans. Embracing the ideas of laissez-faire economists, Mexico’s economic elite, called the cientificos or “scientific ones,” encouraged government policies that consolidated small holdings into larger rancheros. Small landholders and peasants became tenant farmers or poorly paid employees of larger landholders (Reed 56). The científicos also believed fervently in the benefits of free-market economy and so called for virtually no 2government regulation of the economy (Manson 7). The 1884 mining code virtually eliminated government regulation of mines; in 1892 the code was revised to give the government no role at all in the mining industry which opened the door for U.S. businesses (Reed 56).
Relations between the United States and Mexico were good while Porfirio Díaz was in power. As a Latin American liberal, Díaz turned Mexico into a “safe haven for investment” (Reed 67). North American entrepreneurs—J.P. Morgan, William Randolph Hearst, James J.
Hill, and the Guggenheims—took full advantage of it. By 1913, there were over 500,000 Americans in Mexico, and their investments totaled $1 billion (Haley 17). However, during the economic depression of 1908, Mexico’s mining industry was badly hurt.
Unemployment and starvation faced the Mexican people, particularly after early frosts destroyed the bean and corn crops. The dispossession of the Mexican peasantry, consolidation of power in the hands of an aristocratic elite, and growing concentration of economic power in the hands of the political and social elite had helped Díaz maintain his power. The depression of 1908, however, put strains on the Mexican economy, and the election of 1910, while it promised to reelect Díaz, also brought the tensions inherent in Mexican society to the surface. With Díaz firmly in power, the only real contest was for vice president because it was possible that Díaz would not survive his term. In 1908 and 1909 some middle class reformers had supported General Bernardo Reyes for vice president, a boom that alarmed Díaz, who feared the general might usurp him. Díaz sent Reyes into exile in 1909, but to minimize the impact of this move, Díaz let it be known he would tolerate other opposition groups, particularly those 3he did not take seriously as threats to the regime (Reed 82).However, between the poor and the upper class there was a growing middle sector that wanted participation in the political process. This group found a leader in Francisco Madero, the son of a wealthy landholder from Coahuila, whom Díaz and most of Mexico’s elite did not take seriously.
Madero had written a book, La sucesion presidencial en 1910 (1908), which urged that presidents be limited to a single term. Madero’s reform plans were vague and did not address the issues of land reform or foreign ownership of resources (Haley 37). Yet, his was the only opposition voice in the North, and crowds flocked to hear him speak. Díaz suddenly became alarmed. He suppressed the 1910 election (Madero received just 180 votes) and sent Madero into exile in the United States.
From the United States, Madero called on the Mexican people to begin rebelling against Díaz in November 1910. Throughout Mexico, rebel forces, led in the south by Emiliano Zapata and in the north by, among others, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, showed the ineffectiveness of Díaz’s army. On 25 May 1911 Díaz abdicated in favor of a provisional government (Reed 85).The provisional government functioned in the same way the Díaz government had, but without Díaz. One reason Díaz had stepped aside was to prevent a real social revolution, but the fact that Díaz had been forced to step down gave tremendous hope, and a feeling of power, to those who had opposed him. Rebels such as Zapata, who had pushed for land reform, and industrial workers and miners, who had opposed the regime, saw in Díaz’s fall the potential for further gains. The provisional government,4 however, would not allow this revolutionary activity—it turned its military against the Zapata rebellion in the south, and the federal police continued to break up strikes.
Though some in Congress thought the time had come to seize control of Mexico’s mines back from the United States, Madero and the provisional government blocked any attempt at nationalization or land reform. Madero was a cautious reformer, not a revolutionary. Madero’s inability to achieve real reform and failure to change Mexico’s power structure meant that forces within the government would be able to challenge him. In February 1913 one of Madero’s own generals, Victoriano Huerta, deposed Madero and had him killed (Reed 87).In Washington D.
C. the Taft administration immediately considered the wishes of American business leaders, whose main goal was stability and the protection of their investments. “American ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, urged the United States to recognize Huerta to end the uncertainty of Mexico’s revolution” (Haley 27). However even if the United States had supported the Huerta regime, the events that followed would have still occurred due to the opposition to Huerta that had already formed in Mexico. Taft, however, left office on 4 March, and Woodrow Wilson would have a different approach.Woodrow Wilson wanted to teach Victoriano Huerta a lesson. Huerta, a military leader under Mexico’s interim president, Francisco Indalécio Madero, had conspired against Madero in 1913 and had him killed (Grieb 15). Huerta then became interim president, holding power until a new election could be held.
Wilson, newly elected as 5president of the United States, was determined to change the image of the United States through his Moral Diplomacy, and wanted all to know he would not tolerate such atrocities as Huerta’s coup d’état.Wilson did not heed the call of American businessmen to recognize Huerta. He would not “recognize a government of butchers,” he said(Link 22). Representatives from the Southern Pacific Railroad; Phelps, Dodge, and Company; Greene Cananea Copper Company; and the Mexican Petroleum Company all urged Wilson to recognize Huerta if the general promised to hold elections by 26 October 1913 (which he had already agreed to do) and if he would not be a candidate (which he had not promised) (Freeman Smith 107).
Wilson reversed a longstanding American policy of recognition and did not recognize the Huerta regime. However, Wilson believed that morality should govern in international relations. The United States would teach Huerta, and other ambitious generals, a lesson and so would help the Mexican people establish a democratic government. Within Mexico an opposition to Huerta had already formed, centered in the south, where Emiliano Zapata’s resistance continued, and in the north, where Venustiano Carranza, the governor of Coahuila, announced the formation of a “Constitutionalist” movement to oppose Huerta. Carranza quickly secured the support of influential political and military leaders in Sonora and Chihuahua, notably Francisco “Pancho” Villa. He formed a provisional government in Nogales, and his generals began moving against the Huertistas (Katz 90).6Wilson thought that this development presented an opportunity.
He thought that the United States could declare war against Mexico. No U.S. troops would be sent, but the U.S.
Navy would blockade Mexico’s ports to prevent other nations, notably Germany and England, from supplying the Huerta government with arms. Carranza and his forces could then move against the poorly armed federales more easily, and the joint U.S.-Constitutionalist exercise would topple the dictatorship. It might have been a reasonable plan, but Carranza refused.
He would not tolerate any action by the United States against Mexico’s sovereignty—the United States could not dictate to the Mexican people what kind of government they would have. This action taken by Carranza shows the ineffectiveness of the Wilson administration, and their attempt to influence the Mexican revolution in the favor of the United States had failed. The Wilson administration took no further actions until February 1914, when it revoked the embargo on weapons to Mexico. The embargo had no real influence on the Mexican revolution because the Huertistas controlled several ports and could buy arms on the international market, and the Constitutionalists received arms from sympathetic United States citizens (Quirk 85).In April 1914 the Wilson administration faced a further crisis in Mexico.
In the port city of Tampico, which the Huertistas held though it was besieged by the Constitutionalists, the paymaster and several sailors from the USS Dolphin went ashore to get gasoline. They had unwittingly, and without permission from local authorities, entered a war zone. A federale colonel had the men arrested. When his commanding officer learned of the arrest, he ordered the Americans be released immediately and 7sent a personal apology to Admiral Henry T.
Mayo (Womack 65).Mayo was not satisfied with the apology. He demanded that the Tampico military authorities show their submission by firing a twenty one-gun salute to the U.S.
flag. Mexico City now entered the negotiations, and Huerta saw the irony in the situation. Since the United States did not recognize his government, he wondered, what would be the point of having his government salute the U.
S. flag? He suggested to the admiral that his forces in Tampico would salute the U.S.
flag, and the U.S. fleet could salute the Mexican flag (Womack 67).
Wilson, who seemed never to see the humor in any situation, took a hard line with Huerta. He warned the Mexican government that it would either salute the U.S. flag or face the consequences. Wilson was this as a second opportunity to become involved in the Mexican revolution. “On 20 April, Wilson asked Congress to permit him to use military force to obtain redress from Mexico for the insult at Tampico” (Quirk 167).Meanwhile in Mexico, the German steamship Ypiranga was in route towards Veracruz with a cargo of weapons and ammunition for the Huertista government. Armed with permission from Congress to use military force against Huerta and the German Steamship.
“Wilson ordered American forces to invade Veracruz, on 21 April 1914. Over several days of fighting 19 Americans and 126 Mexican soldiers and marines died before the Huertistas were forced to evacuate Veracruz, which now was occupied by six thousand American marines and sailors” (Quirk 170).Huerta believed that an American invasion would benefit him, as it would force 8his enemies in Mexico either to side with the Americans and so be branded as traitors, or to show their patriotism by siding with him.
Carranza, the leader of the Constitutionalists, avoided this dilemma by condemning the American invasion and continuing his opposition to Huerta. This plan was possible because, once the Americans had seized Veracruz, they did not really know what to do with it. Simply holding Veracruz should have been enough to pressure Huerta.
However, it was not (Grieb 47).The American military remained in Veracruz for five months, cleaning the streets, digging sewer lines, and installing screens in windows. The city was healthier and safer when they left, but other than that it is difficult to determine the long-term effect of the American occupation. When the Americans had entered Veracruz, Huerta was in power, and Carranza was the “first” chief of the Constitutionalist revolution, with Zapata in the south and Villa in the north forming the military arms of the revolution.
By October, when the Americans left Veracruz, Huerta had abdicated, and while Carranza remained the “first chief,” Villa and Zapata had broken with him, pushing for a more radical social revolution rather than the bourgeois political revolution Carranza represented (Quirk 189).Had the American occupation of Veracruz influenced this outcome? It can be argued that by holding the port, the Americans had deprived Huerta of military supplies. The American occupation, however, did not supply Carranza or the other rebels with arms, and even if Wilson had wanted to tip the balance to Carranza, the occupation of 9Veracruz was not intended to do so. The occupation was meant to intimidate Huerta, and while he abdicated as Americans held Veracruz, it is difficult to see a cause and effect in the occupation and his abdication. This goes to show that these events would have occurred even if the United States was not involved in Veracruz.
If any conclusion were to come of this, it would be that the United States accelerated this transfer of power from Huerta to Carranza rather than delay it. As the American troops evacuated Veracruz, Villa and other military leaders called a convention at Aguascalientes to plan further strategy for the revolution (Quirk 132). The convention marks the break between Villa and Zapata, the social and military revolutionaries, and Carranza, the bourgeois and political revolutionary. With Huerta gone, the revolution turned from a struggle of Constitutionalists against Huertistas into a struggle between the Convention, or Villistas and Zapatistas, and Constitutionalists, or Carrancistas.While publicly Wilson maintained that his administration merely wanted to ensure that Mexico had a stable government chosen in accordance with the rudiments of law, the administration turned against Carranza when the Mexican Revolution began to threaten American investments.
Particularly after 1915, the Wilson administration became concerned with the growing radicalism of the revolution. “Secretary of State Robert Lansing warned the Carranza government not to seize American property in 1916, and the United States increasingly saw every move by the Mexican government to regulate industry as a step toward outright nationalization. The Carranza government10 began moving to regulate Mexico’s mining and petroleum industries, reversing the laissez-faire policies of Díaz and the científicos”(Link 45). Wilson and Lansing saw these moves as steps toward nationalization, and rather than engaging Carranza on his own terms, the Wilson administration, heeding the call of American capitalists, tried to overturn the Carranza regime which ultimately failed.In January 1916 the Mexican Departamento de Fomento canceled contracts with the Maritime Oil Company, which had been given the rights to drill for oil off Veracruz and Tamaulipas (Manson16). When Lansing instructed special agent John R. Silliman to warn Carranza not to nationalize, Silliman refused. The Carranza government, he said, was not about to nationalize the petroleum industry.
However, Lansing knew better—he rebuked Silliman, informing him that he knew what the Mexican government was up to, and he did not like it (Manson 17).The problem for the United States in overturning Carranza was its inability to find a more congenial leader. Some business leaders in the United States saw Villa as a potential savior.
“Villa had protected American property in the northern part of Mexico, and during his resistance to Huerta, Villa had been supplied by Americans through El Paso. Villa, as commander of the Division of the North, had ostensibly fought under Carranza for the Constitutionalists” (Katz 71). However, Villa tired of Carranza’s middle-class leadership, and joined forces with Zapata, the revolutionary leader of the south, to turn Mexico’s bourgeois, republican revolution into a social revolution.
It seems a strange alliance, between American capital and a revolutionary leader such as Villa, and yet some American businesses saw Villa as a potential ally. He had spared American 11property, warmly received American journalists, and appeared to some Americans as the Mexican version of either Robin Hood or Theodore Roosevelt. “American businessmen also saw Villa as an honest and courageous fighter, while they saw Carranza as a duplicitous politician” (Katz 36).Villa was not able to sustain his revolutionary career. His military campaigns against the Carrancistas failed, and Villa took more openly to robbery to support his dwindling forces. Villa had been alone among the Constitutionalists in supporting the American occupation of Veracruz, and perhaps he believed the United States would support his faction in the ensuing war against Carranza. Villa attempted to draw the United States into his conflict with Carranza. Just as Huerta welcomed an American invasion.
Having the United States violate Mexico’s sovereignty would either show that Carranza was an American puppet, or would force Carranza to use his forces against the Americans, rather than against the Villistas. In January 1916 Villa’s forces attacked a train carrying American mining engineers to a site in Chihuahua, killing eighteen Americans. In March, Villa and his forces attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico, the first foreign invasion of mainland United States since 1815. Wilson ordered a Punitive Expedition, commanded by General John J. Pershing, into Mexico to capture Villa. (Katz 86)The Punitive expedition was not able to find Villa.
As Pershing’s army ventured deeper into Mexico, the United States and the Carranza government sought a diplomatic solution to the problem. Commissioners from the United States and from 12Mexico met in various American cities, with the United States beginning the sessions by insisting that as the price of American withdrawal, the Carranza government agree to protect the property of American citizens. Carranza’s negotiators refused, insisting that the commission was not the appropriate forum for discussing internal Mexican affairs. Ultimately, with the United States being drawn into the European war, Wilson and the Americans were forced to realize that they could not dictate to Carranza. In return for American withdrawal from Mexico, the United States received almost nothing.As Pershing was searching for Villa, American business interests were also trying to find the elusive rebel. U.
S. senator Albert Bacon Fall from New Mexico, closely identified with American oil interests, hoped that the Pershing expedition heralded a full-scale invasion of Mexico and that the United States would occupy the entire country. Some American businesses, even while Pershing was trying to arrest Villa, sought to contact him and help Villa topple the Carranza regime. Fall’s associate, cattleman Charles Hunt, offered to conduct negotiations between Villa and Fall, which would lead to U.S.
support for a Villista republic in northern Mexico. Villa, they hoped, could break the north away from Carranza and establish a government more in line with their interests (Katz 40).Villa rejected these flattering offers when he learned of them, but American businesses did not stop looking for sympathetic Mexicans to protect their investments. Ten years of bloody revolution and civil war in Mexico ended with the establishment of a civilian government. President Alvaro Obregón, elected after the assassinations of 13Carranza and Zapata, but before the assassination of Villa, secured peace by promising land reform to the Zapatistas, the Villistas, and other social revolutionaries, and his government and subsequent administrations pursued the nationalization policies of the Constitutionalists. Aside from the real reforms of the revolution, however, Mexico remains as Díaz had left it, far from God and close to the United States.
During the Mexican revolution the impact that the United States had on the outcome and the timespan of the revolution was relatively minor. The conflicts in which the United States was involved in typically have the same outcome whether the United States was involved or not, and in some cases the interference from the United States accelerated the process of the revolution rather than slowing it down. In the case of the Tampico incident, there was no significant change in the course of the revolution other than providing a basis for the United States to become officially involved in the Mexican revolution.
The occupation of Veracruz accelerated the revolution by forcing Huertas enemies in Mexico either to side with the Americans and so be branded as traitors, or to show their patriotism by siding with him. And the last and final time the United States became involved is with the punitive expedition of “Pancho” Villa. This led to a confrontation between the United States and the Constitutionalists, which ultimately led to the United States withdrawal. This provided a pathway for the establishment of a stable civilian government. It can be concluded that the United States was inefficient at protecting their economic interests in Mexico, and that the United States was very much insignificant in the outcome and timespan of the Mexican revolution