File No. 812.00/6.068.

The American Ambassador to the Secretary of State.


My Dear Mr. Knox: Upon resuming my duties at this post after an absence of two months1 I find practically the same conditions existing that prevailed prior to my departure. The area of the armed revolution against the Government appears to have sensibly diminished in the north, but at this moment there are abundant indications of a resumption of formidable revolutionary activities in the States of Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Zacatecas. The peace negotiations which recently took place were, in the opinion of this Embassy, initiated by the revolutionists for the purpose of gaining time to cement various alliances and to complete their shipments of arms and ammunition across the border.

The area of the revolutionary movement in the south continues to be about the same as hitherto, though the scene of activity is constantly changing. To such a degree is it apparent that the Federal troops, either through inactivity or disloyalty or for the purpose of prolonging a situation from which their officers reap unusual pecuniary benefits, are unable to dominate the situation that I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that hope of the procurement of improved conditions in those States is illusory and that not only will the revolutionists continue to maintain a reign of terror and destruction over this vast section of country, but that they will eventually extend the theater of their operations over the whole of the States of Vera Cruz and Puebla.

There are periods of activity when the whole country, from the Pacific to the middle of the State of Vera Cruz, seems to be alive with revolutionists, and when the Federal Government seems to be utterly unable to cope with the situation. Following this there is frequently a considerable period of inactivity during which widespread brigandage prevails, but apparently no organized movement of revolutionary troops. After a long study of this peculiar phenomenon I have come to the conclusion that the periods of activity follow immediately upon the procurement and distribution of additional arms and ammunition, and that when these are exhausted activity ceases and insincere negotiations for peace are initiated.

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As time goes on it becomes more and more evident that the prime cause of the failure of the Government to more thoroughly dominate the revolutionary situation in the north and in the south is due to the hopeless state of the Federal army, which is rapidly losing the morale and discipline it possessed under the Díaz regime is torn by intrigues and dissensions and united only in its contempt and dislike for the present Government.

While the almost hopeless condition of disorder which exists in the country might be expected to wholly absorb the Government’s energies and resources it has other grave and even menacing problems, the most pressing of which, and one indeed that is undermining the already weak foundations of the Madero administration, is the economic situation which is hourly assuming more threatening proportions. Over one-third of the States of the Republic a revolutionary movement has now been in progress for two years and not only have those identified with it been idle and nonproducers but the prevalent lawlessness and conditions of anarchy which have resulted from their activities have deterred a vastly greater number of industries and law-observing people from the pursuit of their usual occupations. The revolutionary elements in control of those vast sections which ordinarily constitute valuable sources of and contributors to the nation’s prosperity, instead of being producers of wealth, are not only consumers of the fruits of toil but also destroyers of the sources of supply. Thus an enormous number of haciendas are standing idle for want of cultivation, their improvements destroyed, and their owners frequently either in exile or in refuge in urban centers. The gravity of the situation thus produced is vastly increased by the immense and constantly increasing destruction of railway properties and the interruption of railway communication, thus depriving the unmolested planters, manufacturers, and miners of the facilities for marketing their products and of the means essential to the carrying on of their business. The number of mines which have been closed down because of these conditions can not be accurately estimated, but it is undoubtedly very great. These conditions, supplemented by many others which need not be cited here, have greatly disturbed and demoralized the financial and banking interests of the Republic and have resulted not only in a general stringency and curtailment of credits injurious to commerce and trade but have threatened the very life of these institutions. Attention might here be called to the circumstance that no less than nine States of the Republic are at this moment virtually in a state of bankruptcy; some of them because of a disparity between their incomes and ordinary expenditures, and some of them because of the indebtedness accumulated by profligate and dishonest administrators. Some of these States are now appealing to the Federal Government for relief and I anticipate that their number will increase as time goes on.

While the country at large is being overwhelmed by the stress of the financial situation the Government naturally has not been without its troubles. The sound condition of the public finances and the large reserves stipulated by the country’s financial obligations, which existed at the time of the downfall of the Government of General Díaz, have given place to disorder and a dissipation, through unknown but presumably, in some instances, corrupt channels, of the treasures [Page 698] which a wise and thrifty Government had accumulated. Its acute distress has led the Government to resort to all sorts of quack economic remedies, like the imposition of unusual tariff duties and the taxation of the raw products of the country, while at the same time it is imperiling its good name in the financial world by attacking and appropriating those sacred reserves to which the honor of the nation is pledged. It is obvious that the conditions which have heretofore been recited could not prevail without bringing in their train high prices, food scarcity, and great distress. These conditions already exist in Mexico City, and reports from the interior indicate corresponding conditions.

Confronted by the intolerable conditions which exist throughout the country, the administration of President Madero remains impotent to remedy or offer any solution for the rapidly accumulating dangers. The Cabinet is divided into warring factions of radically conflicting views, all petty intrigues and liliputian politics which have little to do with the salvation of the country or the restoration of national prestige at home or abroad. The kind of government that must necessarily be evolved out of a situation like this could not be otherwise than that which exists, viz, one that is impotent in the face of domestic ills and disorders and truculent, insolent, and insincere in its international relations. A Government which came into power with an altruistic program, and with party pledges of a free press, free elections, free education, and the division and distribution of great estates finds itself, after a period of a little more than a year, in a position of not having accomplished any of its high-sounding measures for the relief of the Mexican population but responsible for the sacrifice of thousands of human lives, the destruction of vast material interests, aggravation in the condition of the poorer classes, for unspeakable barbarities, and for desolation and ruin over a third of the area of the Republic. Liberty of the press does not exist either in fact or pretense. In the matter of free elections, which constituted so important a feature of the revolutionary program, the attitude of this Government has been a travesty and a disappointment even to those who did not accept the revolution with enthusiasm. Hardly had the new Government been seated in power until it began, by intrigues in some cases and by the exercise of force in others, to interfere in State elections, deposing some governors and imposing others. This policy it has continued to the present day, the recent uprisings in the States of Tlaxcala and Puebla being consequences thereof. The Government also actively interfered in the election of Delegates and Senators to Congress, but as its local organizations were imperfect and as there is very little loyalty felt in the Provinces toward the administration the Congress remains, and is rapidly growing more, independent. In the matter of free education and the division and distribution of great estates, which constituted an important part or the pledges of the new administration to the people, nothing has been done, and as the present tendencies of the administration are in the direction of force and repression, and as it regards with undisguised suspicion those same elements of population to which it owes its elevation, it is highly improbable that anything will be done. At the present moment, in the capital, the situation is marked by an infinite [Page 699] number of intrigues and political deals, by an intolerance on the part of the Government of free thought and free speech, by a wide system of espionage which marks and dogs the steps of every important public man not in accord with it, by deception and misrepresentation as to the actual conditions obtaining throughout the Republic, and by aspersal of the motives of all those who have the independence and courage to criticise it and demand a more intelligent management of public affairs. This campaign of misrepresentation is being conducted on an extensive scale. The agents of the Government, both Mexican and American official and secret, are constantly at work not only in Mexico and a part of their policy is not only as to actual conditions but to discredit and impugn the motives of the consular and diplomatic representatives of our Government who, under instructions from the Department, are endeavoring faithfully to portray the conditions which exist and to recite the political and revolutionary events as they occur.

The President’s speech, delivered to the diplomatic corps on New Year’s Day, can leave very little doubt in the mind of anyone as to this administration’s conception of its obligations to foreigners who have come hither with their energy and capital and have given to this country whatever of progress it has achieved and whatever of prestige it enjoys throughout the world. The public speeches of Mr. Calero, formerly Ambassador to Washington, in which he frankly admits the country to be on the verge of ruin and that he, under instructions from his Government, systematically falsified and misrepresented the situation in Mexico; the speech of Mr. Cabrera, leader of the Madero forces in Congress, in which he said that conditions in Mexico were being systematically misrepresented abroad by the Mexican Government; the reports of our consuls and of hundreds of resident Americans whose interests lie in peaceful conditions and the prevalence of order—all these are significant facts which must be fully estimated and must have that value attached to them which should pertain to impartial and disinterested testimony.

I am [etc.]

Henry Lane Wilson.

Note.—The anti-Madero revolution begins in the correspondence with the following.

  1. Mr. Wilson resumed charge of the Embassy on January 5.