File No. 312.11/1048.

The American Ambassador to the Secretary of State.


My Dear Mr. Knox: * * *

The draft of the note1 sent hither by the Department of State to be transmitted by this Embassy to the Mexican Government marked a distinctly new departure in our dealings with this Government and the questions arising out of the situation which exists here. In that note, which differs only from an ultimatum in that it contains no prescribed limitation of time for the performance of the demands made, we clearly and fully recited our grievances against Mexico and in a number of cases demanded specific performance. Having assumed this position and having stated clearly to the Mexican Government that unless compliance with the demands made therein was forthcoming we would feel compelled to take such steps for the protection of our rights as might seem proper to us, we can not, with due regard for our dignity, prestige and consistency, retrace our steps, ignore the formal diplomatic exchanges, and reappear before the Mexican Government in the light of a humble supplicant. Our note of September 15 was undoubtedly carefully considered in all of its bearings by the Department before its transmission to the Mexican Government and it must have been understood at that time that there could only be one of two conclusions resulting therefrom, viz, either the Mexican Government must yield, repair the damages it has done to us, and give clear guaranties for the future or we must take some vigorous and drastic action with the purpose of securing redress for our wrongs, an abatement of the situation, and perhaps, incidentally, the downfall of a Government which is hateful to a vast majority of the people of this country and which has given us innumerable evidences of its bad faith, inefficiency, hostility and insincerity.

I wish to make my own views quite clear here. I do not believe in the occupation of Mexico nor do I believe in or advocate the acquisition, either justly or unjustly, of a single foot of Latin-American territory. On the contrary, I am and have been since I have had an opportunity to study Latin America and Latin-American conditions from an unusually advantageous position more and more impressed with the circumstance that the government of these countries, [Page 887] alien in speech, customs and race, is, under our form of government, a most difficult enterprise and that each new burden which we assume and each new adventure which we essay leads to the creation of additional burdens and the invitation to more perilous adventures. At the same time my experience has taught me that these Latin-American countries should be dealt with justly and calmly but severely and undeviatingly. Any other course will bring disaster and forfeit to us, in the estimation of these peoples, the respect and awe with which they have been taught to regard us and will sacrifice the genuine benefits which spring from a consistent, firm, and well-understood attitude on all international affairs.

I am of the opinion that all the matters treated of in our note of September 15 must be made parts of a direct settlement with Mexico growing out of the diplomatic correspondence based thereon, and that any other course will be tantamount to a sacrifice of national dignity and prestige. The draft of the note verbale or memorandum which is transmitted as inclosure No. 1 of this despatch expresses briefly, but I think clearly, what our position is or should be in the light of the Mexican Government’s reply1 of November 22 to our note of September 15. It may be amended, amplified, or changed to suit the Department’s views as to phraseology, but it expresses, in my judgment, the logical position at which we have arrived as a result of our note of September 15. Of course the Department will understand that unless the delivery of this proposed note should obtain satisfaction from the Mexican Government we must then adopt one of the several drastic courses which have been under consideration by the Department, and which in my judgment—though perhaps necessarily delayed by patience, a repugnance to extreme measures, a reluctance to engage in adventurous sallies, and a natural fear of misinterpretation of our motives—must finally be adopted in the interest of peace in America and the protection of our own interests.

The memorandum inclosed with this dispatch, and numbered 2, was prepared by Mr. Schuyler. It is not intended as an alternative with the inclosure No. 1, but simply for the use of the Department in indicating the Embassy’s views upon some of the points raised by the Mexican reply to our note of September 15.

I am [etc.]

Henry Lane Wilson.
[Inclosure 1.]

draft memorandum.

For a period of more than two years now the Republic of Mexico has been in a state of revolution, first against the long-established Government of President Díaz and subsequently against that of President Madero. During all of this long period a state of anarchy, intermittent, sporadic, and rising and falling as the tides, has prevailed through a large part of the territory supposedly under the control of the Mexican Government and for the administration of which it is responsible not only to its own citizens, but, under accepted principles of international law, to the nations of the world, which, upon the invitation of Mexico, have sent their nationals and their capital hither, relying upon the ability of this Government to afford to both the usual safeguards guaranteed by civilized states.

[Page 888]

The present revolution, which began under the Presidency of General Díaz and which has continued without intermission to the present hour, has brought neither order, peace, prosperity nor happiness to the Mexican people. On the contrary, there has been a vast sacrifice of human life, enormous destruction of property, a riot of barbarity and inhuman savagery, throughout large parts of the Republic. Government and the law have ceased to be respected, and general and local administrations are helpless and impotent to deal with a situation of constantly increasing gravity and which has become a menace not only to the material interests of foreigners who have invested their money in Mexico and contributed to the development of the material resources of the Republic, but it has also placed in jeopardy and in numerous cases actually sacrificed the lives of foreigners who must necessarily rely upon the Government for protection.

The American Government, though embarrassed by obsolete neutrality laws, honestly endeavored during the revolution against the Government of General Díaz to discharge its full obligations toward the recognized government of a friendly state. When the Government of General Díaz fell and was succeeded by the administration of President Madero, the American Government promptly recognized its duties in the new order of things and; by word and deed, gave its loyal and friendly support to the Government which it understood to be the choice of the Mexican people. Not content with these ordinary demonstrations of good will, and believing that by so doing it would contribute in no inconsiderable measure to the restoration of peaceful condition in Mexico, it amended its neutrality laws and in conformity therewith, and for the proper execution thereof has maintained upon the Mexican frontier since February, 1911, a military force varying in number from ten to forty thousand men, and has, moreover, at a great expense, and to the detriment of other localities, kept there a not inconsiderable number of extraordinary employees of the Departments of Justice, Labor, and the Treasury, expecting no other recompense for the sacrifices incurred than the grateful appreciation of the Mexican Government, the just treatment of American citizens, and the protection of their lives and property against the assaults of the elements of disorder, the tyranny of local administrations, and the collusive confiscatory intrigues of those who, being unable to lay up fortunes by industry, toil and intelligence, find it both convenient and popular to prey upon the foreigner who has brought hither his thrift and his capital.

At the beginning, of the revolutionary movement there were in Mexico somewhere between fifty and seventy-five thousand American citizens, and American capital invested to the extent of probably a billion of dollars. As the revolution progressed it became evident, not only to the official representatives of the Government of the United States in Mexico but to all observing and patriotic Americans, that there existed a strong anti-American sentiment among a large number of the more ignorant part of the population of Mexico, a sentiment which if not in some measure shared by the Mexican Government was at least not discountenanced or reproved by it. In no single instance that can be recalled has an official of the Mexican Government voiced an appreciation of the unselfish attitude of the American Government and people or expressed the smallest measure of gratitude for the material benefits which American intelligence and energy and American capital has bestowed upon this country. On numerous occasions, however, public orators, the press, and all the organs capable of influencing public opinion have been busily engaged inflaming the public mind and in rendering more dangerous the lot of Americans and the safety of their properties in Mexico. This lack of sound and civilized public policy has borne its fruit, as might be expected, in a wide and indiscriminatory attack on everything bearing the stamp of American origin. American interests honestly acquired, and on which vast amounts of capital have been expended, have been attacked on a wide scale on baseless and absurd pretexts by persons in collusion with friends of the Government and have been harassed by confiscatory taxes and by the denial of that protection which the most elemental conceptions of government would afford them.

American citizens to a great number have been arrested on frivolous and insufficient charges and incarcerated in filthy and uncivilized jails, from whence neither the protests of our own Government nor the palpable and proven injustice of their imprisonment could release them. American citizens have been foully and brutally murdered, and neither diplomatic representations, entreaties or threats have served to procure the trial or punishment of the offending [Page 889] criminals; their property destroyed, with only a deaf ear turned to their complaints and with a denial of that justice in the consideration of their claims which is incumbent upon all civilized nations. To such an extent has this persecution passed that today probably 15,000 of them have been obliged to abandon their homes, their factories, their mines and their haciendas and to return to the United States, and their property which has been sacrificed or damaged, along with that of other American financial concerns, has now reached a sum of vast proportions, which, if all present indications do not fail, the Mexican Government has no intention of recognizing its responsibility for.

On the 15th of September, 1912, the Government of the United States, after a long, prudent and patient series of representations to the Mexican Government touching individual causes of complaint, addressed a most vigorous and direct but nevertheless friendly note to that Government setting forth in a general way its dissatisfaction with the situation set forth above and supporting its averments by the citation of many, but not nearly all, of the cases which gave ground to its complaint. The purpose of this note was to recall the Government of Mexico to a realization of its unfulfilled obligations and to an appreciation of the dangerous situation which it was confronting not only with reference to the American Government, but to all other governments having substantial interests in that country. The American Government permitted itself to believe that the Mexican Government would heed this solemn but friendly warning and bestir itself in a practical and evident way to procure a betterment of the evils complained of. The hope was indulged in, having in mind our patient attitude, that the answer of Mexico to our just and reasonable demands would be moderate, conciliatory and specific. On the contrary, it has been obliged to note with the greatest regret and distress that Mexico, far from appreciating the grave and solemn warning contained in our note, delayed its reply for a period suggestive of intentional discourtesy, and that the answer which it finally gave was evasive, disingenuous, frivolous, at variance with the facts, illogical in its conclusions, and lacking in that seriousness of tone and dignity of utterance which should characterize the diplomatic exchanges of governments seeking the support of a just cause before the world. The averments contained in the Embassy’s note of September 15 are each and every one of them sustained by positive and unequivocal evidence which will stand the test of revelation to the world and the judgment of history. The performance of exact justice in each and every instance is insisted upon by the Government of the United States.

In addition to the specific complaints which were set forth in its note and which the Government of the United States has not the least intention of abating or subtracting from and for the righting of which it demands and will expect specific performance, it must, having due regard for the responsibilities with which it is charged, call the attention of the Mexican Government to the deep apprehension of the American Government and people that the present administration will not be able to successfully cope with the armed revolution and the sporadic and widespread brigandage which has now for some two years been existent within its territory.

Notwithstanding repeated assurances of the procurement by the Government of positive and definite results, and in spite of the optimistic appreciations of the situation which have been actively spread abroad through the world, the revolutionary movement continues, brigandage grows apace, the destruction of property increases, and the economic situation has become an immediate menace. Independently of the losses and sufferings incurred by American citizens, the Government of the United States can not for a much longer period, having due regard for the peace and order of this continent, permit a savage and desolating war to continue at its threshold. The Government of the United States recognizes that within certain sound and established limitations every sovereign government has the right to put its own household in order, but it can not commit itself to the principle that a cruel and devastating warfare, the sole object of which, as nearly as can be judged by an impartial opinion, is the gratification of the rival ambitions of aspiring chieftains, can be carried on in territories contiguous to it for an indefinite period.

Finally, and in the exercise of its great patience, preferring to secure redress and an amelioration of conditions through methods and by an attitude in keeping with its constant and undeviating policy with all nations of the world, the American Government solemnly and firmly, but none the less in a friendly spirit, adjures and warns the Mexican Government that there must be a just and prompt adjustment of the grievances set forth in its note of September 15 and [Page 890] that substantial guaranties of future protection to American life and property against armed violence, against malicious intrigue, against antiforeign sentiment, shall be given, and that those who take American life and American property shall be swiftly pursued by justice and punished adequately and quickly by competent courts.

[Inclosure 2.]

draft memorandum.

The following facts are brought to the attention of the Mexican Government in reply to its note of November 22, 1912, which was itself an answer to the Embassy’s note of September 15.

The Mexican Government, referring to the specific cases of murder of American citizens in Mexico which had not received adequate action nor proper punishment from the Mexican Government, tabulated ten cases. An endeavor was made to extenuate several of these on the ground that they occurred under the previous administration of President Díaz. The Government of the United States can not, however, admit that a change of administration is sufficient reason for a complete stopping of the course of justice nor is any reason known why the present administration should not exert itself to the utmost to mete out adequate justice in these cases. Some of the reasons given in the note of the Mexican Government are as follows:

  • Case of Waite, “investigation still in progress”.
  • Case of Crumbley, “assailant’s whereabouts unknown”.
  • Case of Ayres, “arrest of murderers impossible”.
  • Case of Krause, “murderer not found”.
  • Case of Elliek, “murderer escaped”.
  • Case of Lockhart, “rebels have prevented investigations”.
  • Case of Hidy “no results; lack of data”.

Such excuses given by a sovereign state for seven out of ten eases of murder brought to its attention by a foreign government would seem to indicate the necessity for the establishment and maintenance of such a form of government as would be able to afford proper protection to foreign interests. The further statement made by the Mexican Government that it is impossible in many cases to arrest and punish criminals on account of the great extent of Mexican territory and the scarcity of population in many sections of the country must undoubtedly have weight, but it is not thought that the extent of territory was less under the previous administration nor has the population sensibly diminished since that time.

So far as the United States Government is aware no action of any kind has been taken by the Mexican Government since the receipt of the note of September 15—a period of four months—either to apprehend or even to locate the criminals guilty of these murders. The entirely inadequate reasons for such failure can only be regarded by the United States as a willful disregard of the rights of foreigners in Mexico and of the obligations of a sovereign state to enforce order and to administer justice in its dominions. The Government of the United States regrets that it must inform the Mexican Government that it will no longer tolerate such flagrant disregard of international obligations and that, unless a written promise to take immediate steps to obtain satisfactory action be furnished, the Government of the United States will unavoidably and regrettably find itself under the necessity of protecting the lives and interests of its citizens in Mexico in the manner which shall seem best under the circumstances.

It is unfortunately true that certain Mexicans have been murdered in the United States and in several instances, extending over a number of years, the murderers have not been punished. This fact the American Government deplores as much as can the Mexican Government, and is, and has been, at all times ready to afford the promptest justice to Mexicans or other foreigners in its territory. It should, however, be pointed out that in the majority of cases the Mexicans who have lost their lives in the United States were killed as the result of having taken part in disorderly, or illegal occurrences.

The Government of the United States can not refrain from expressing the stupefaction with which it found in the note of the Mexican Government, in reply to the demands made in its note for concrete action in the cases of Foster, [Page 891] Giennon, and Carroll, which demands had frequently been made not only during the entire term of President Madero but under the administration of Mr. de la Barra as well, the extraordinary statement that these men were accused of being filibusters. The Government of the United States has made two separate investigations of this entire matter with the utmost care before bringing it to the attention of the Mexican Government, and the amazing allegation of the latter concerning this absurd charge at this late day inevitably suggests that up to that time the Mexican Government had not even taken the trouble to investigate this case for itself. Too serious attention can not be drawn to those diplomatic methods which would allow the discussion of such an important matter to continue for two years and at the end of that time in a general note make to the other Government the absurd and utterly unwarranted charge which has been made in this case.

With reference to the anti-American spirit which exists not only among the Mexican people but among Mexican officials as well, concerning which the Mexican note stated that the “enormity” of the charge obviated the necessity for a reply, it should be pointed out that the information on this matter in the possession of the Embassy is naturally more complete and more accurate than that which could be known to the Mexican Government, since almost daily reports are being received from different parts of the country indicating specific instances of such unjust and discriminatory action. Not only is this seen in cases of obvious collusion between judicial officers and interested litigants, such as the Butler case, but also in many recent criminal matters where the sympathy of the judge or magistrate is quite apparently on the side of the Mexican involved. Among recent examples in criminal cases is the familiar case of the American citizens Koch and Lundquist, arrested in Lower California on the accusation of stealing guano from an island on which they had been wrecked. Delay after delay occurred in this trial, and when the prosecuting attorney finally declared that there was no “charge” against these men they had already suffered a longer imprisonment than if they had actually been convicted of the offense with which they were charged. Another and more recent case, that of Mr. O. J. Langendorf, of Parral, Chihuahua, who was arrested for alleged complicity in the killing of the chief of police of that place, is even worse. The evidence in this case shows that police entered the mine, of which Mr. Langendorf was superintendent, at night in search of ore thieves, and without disclosing their identity met a party of the employees, who were also looking for the thieves, with the result that in the dark the chief of police was regrettably shot and killed. Although the evidence showed that Mr. Langendorf’s weapon had not been discharged, he was nevertheless arrested and held “incommunicado” for a number of days without bail, while eight of the ore thieves, who had been captured at the same time, were promptly released, in spite of the fact that seven of them were captured in the mine in flagrante delicto and another one was captured at the mouth of the tunnel holding a burro upon which the stolen ore had been loaded. Of the guilt of these thieves there could be no possible doubt, while there was no evidence whatever to show that Mr. Langendorf had shot the chief of police.

The above instances, taken from many, suffice to show the anti-American spirit of many minor Mexican officials. From the nature of the case it is obvious that such actions would naturally occur among the lower and less scrupulous officials, who, perhaps not unnaturally, would hesitate to inform the Federal Government or even their own superiors that they had acted in an illegal manner or even with an anti-American bias.

With regard to the third portion of the note of September 15, in which was pointed out the condition of anarchy and chaos through which Mexico is passing, the Government of the United States regrets to have to say that in the period of time since that note was written not only have the conditions regarding safety of foreign life and property not improved, but, in many places, they have actually grown worse until, in many parts of the country, no American citizens dare longer to reside even for the proper protection and supervision of their properties. While in certain districts an evident improvement is to be noted, in other and more important districts there are practically no American residents left even in those places where formerly there were numerous and flourishing colonies of Americans who contributed in no small degree to the prosperity of Mexico.

The American Government, actuated by the friendliest feeling toward the new administration which had succeeded that of General Díaz, was content to wait [Page 892] with unexampled patience until the necessary period of disturbance incident to the establishment of a new regime founded on principles which, in so far as Mexico is concerned, were new and untried should have passed over and the new administration should have had a full and sufficient opportunity to root itself firmly in the respect and support of the Mexican people. At the present time, however, the American Government, which, time after time, has given the most signal proofs of long suffering and hard-tried patience, must, in spite of the repeated declarations of responsible members of the Mexican Government that all revolutionary disturbances have disappeared from the country, in spite of the repeated promises of the authorities made on the repeated demands of the American Government in countless instances for the protection of its citizens and their interests in Mexico, take this occasion to say, in the most earnest manner, that conditions in a large portion of Mexican territory are such—and among specific localities should be cited the States of Durango, Chihuahua, and Mexico, with large parts of the adjacent States—that, in view of the immense American interests in those places, it must, while disclaiming and deprecating any hasty action, place itself on record in this formal way by declaring to the Mexican Government that so little hope is entertained of the restoration of normal conditions in the above-mentioned regions in the near future that it reserves to itself the right to take such action for the protection of its citizens and their interests as shall seem necessary and proper.

The statements made in the American note of September 15 concerning the practically confiscatory interference with and hindrance of American corporations doing business in Mexico are as true today as they were then. So far as the American Government is aware nothing whatever has been done by the Mexican Government toward rectifying the discriminatory practices against these corporations complained of in that note. The American Government desires once again to protest in the strongest terms against what it described before as a predatory persecution amounting to confiscation. Not only have these annoyances and persecutions not been discontinued, but they have been aggravated in certain instances, one of the most familiar of which is that of the Hacienda de Cedros. That company possesses a vast property in the State of Zacatecas which is not given the military protection which the constant depredations of the rebels demand, but, on the contrary, is so loaded down with unbearable taxation that its life is being taken with the connivance and evident approval of the local authorities. It is regrettably true that the real reason for these abuses is the desire on the part of certain highly connected Mexicans to be able to purchase the property at a small portion of its real value.

The American Government has been invariably patient and kind with the present administration of Mexico and, as must be patent to any impartial observer, has on every possible occasion shown its good will toward Mexico and the Mexican people. In return for this extreme forbearance during the past two years its citizens have been murdered with impunity; their interests and their properties have been raided and destroyed, in many cases without the slightest protection, even when, as has several times happened, neighboring properties owned by officials of the present Government have been promptly and adequately protected; American women have been violated in several instances and in none of these have the assailants been punished. The just, temperate and patient representations and protests of the American Government have been met with cynical indifference and absolute lack of sincerity underlying the profuse promises, both written and oral, of immediate and satisfactory action which have been given to representatives of the United States in their vain endeavors to secure simple justice for American citizens and their interests.

In view of all the above the American Government is reluctantly forced to state that should there not be observed an immediate improvement in the attitude of the present Government of Mexico toward American interests it will be obliged to withdraw its troops from the border, to allow the resumption of traffic in arms and ammunition across the border without restriction, and to cease its efforts to keep justly indignant foreign nations who have suffered much from Mexico in the last two years from insisting on that reparation for their wrongs which up to now only the attitude of the United States has been successful in restraining.

  1. For. Rel. 1912, p. 835. It was embodied in the note of September 15, 1912.
  2. For. Rel. 1912, pp. 871877.