Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Address of the President to Congress December 4, 1917
File No. 812.032/22
Ambassador Fletcher to the Secretary of State
Mexico City, April 26, 1917.
Sir: Supplementing my Despatch No. 83 of April 18 enclosing a translation of a portion of the report of First Chief Carranza, in charge of the Executive Power of Mexico, read April 15, 1917 at the formal opening of the Mexican Congress, and with reference to my telegrams No. 95 of April 15, midnight and No. 111 of April 19, 6 p.m. quoting significant passages of the report relating to international affairs, I have the honor to enclose herewith a translation of that portion of the report which covers the activities of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
This, translation has been made from a copy of the report which appeared in the public press of this city.
I have [etc.]
Report of First Chief Carranza in charge of the Executive Power of Mexico, read April 15, 1917, in the Chamber of Deputies
The Huerta usurpation not having been recognized by the Government and Legislature of Coahuila, and the campaign against the usurper having been undertaken in accordance with the Plan of Guadalupe, the principal care of the First Chief in matters relating to foreign relations was to get in communication [Page 992] with the Government of the United States, the only Government with which this could be done, due to the fact that the principal nations of Europe hastened to recognize the Government of Huerta as legal, without attaching importance to the series of crimes incident to its establishment. Notwithstanding the fact that the President of the United States of the North had on many occasions expressed the opinion that the Huerta Government was wholly illegal, and that consequently it could not be recognized, it is also true that he was far from eager to recognize the Government of Coahuila, and what was more important, to remove all obstacles to the easy supply of the war material indispensable to the struggle.
With this in mind, one of my first acts was to request the United States to remove the embargo which had been placed on all kinds of war materials and I pointed out that this embargo would accomplish no other purpose than to aid Huerta in a very effective way, because the Constitutionalist Government had not been able to make sufficient preparation and could not possibly manufacture the arms and ammunition which its army imperatively needed and moreover, had no ports where such materials could be entered, while Huerta could utilize the arms and ammunition plants of Europe without the least difficulty and could also import their products without the least opposition through the seaports which he had in his possession.
The Government of the United States in view of the fact that the situation created by the embargo on war materials assisted the usurper, finally removed the embargo a year after the beginning of the struggle against Huerta, and consequently it was easy for me thereafter to provide one of the most essential necessities of the campaign.
Because of this action of the Government of the United States, an action which in reality was nothing more than the logical consequence of the opinion the United States formed most correctly and justly of the criminal conduct of Huerta, he and his lieutenants interpreted this action as aid given the revolution by the United States and from this moment began a campaign to create difficulties between the United States and the headquarters of the First Chief, an endeavor promoted by the supporters of the old regime and the enemies of the Constitutionalist Government and one which they have continued to promote up to the present time.
The first difficulty came as a result of the death of the British subject, William Benton, which happened in Ciudad Juárez February 16, 1914. Since the Government of England had recognized Huerta and consequently had no representative at the headquarters of the First Chief, that Government appealed to the Government of the United States which had such representative to endeavor to secure permission for a commission composed of foreigners of which an English consul should be a member, to enter Mexican territory to identify the remains of Benton, as well as to initiate the complaint which the Government of Great Britain desired to make.
Desiring to disclose all that had occurred so that complete justice might be secured, the First Chief ordered a scrupulous and careful investigation and appointed for this purpose a reputable commission composed of honorable Mexicans, but in order to avoid establishing a system by which the nations which had recognized Huerta might make complaints through the mediation of the United States in matters connected with persons or property of their nationals, but without the Government of those nations appearing, I informed the Government of the United States that I would continue to give careful and thorough attention to the complaints and demands made in favor of its subjects, but, considering the dignity of the Republic, and out of respect for the personality of the supreme chief of the Constitutionalist army, I would not permit the intervention of the United States in matters relating to subjects of other nations if such nations were not willing to conform to diplomatic usages, especially since not the slightest obstacle prevented them from accrediting representatives to handle all such matters.
After this failure to accomplish their infamous purpose the reactionaries and enemies of the Constitutionalist Government redoubled their efforts to provoke a conflict by criminal methods; one of the most serious incidents was that which occurred in Tampico.
On the 9th of April 1914 some uniformed sailors under an officer, belonging to the American ship Dolphin and aboard one of the ship’s launches, landed at a storehouse near the Iturbide bridge for the purpose of securing gasoline and the Commander of the Huerta forces at the bridge ordered that they be arrested and brought before him under guard. The American Government demanded [Page 993] satisfaction for these acts and if the matter had been handled with proper regard for justice a satisfactory arrangement doubtless could have been reached without difficulty, but the Huerta administration maneuvered so that the event assumed magnified proportions, and in the end the Americans occupied the customhouse and took possession of the port of Vera Cruz, however not without the shedding of blood on both sides, because of the resistance spontaneously made by the students of the naval school and the residents of that port; the Huerta commander and his troops fled precipitately. This deplorable occurrence illustrates the tortious methods of Huerta.
As a matter of fact, the usurper’s Government utilized this affair as a political maneuver in an effort to put an end to the lessening of its prestige, thereby compromising the safety of the country in an endeavor to promote its own ambitious ends. With false boastings the patriotism of the Mexican people was exploited and an effort made to sow the seeds of discord in the Constitutionalist army with the idea of uniting it to that of the usurper under the pretext that it was needed for the national defense, but in reality for the purpose of offsetting the triumphs of the revolution. The Constitutionalist army through its worthy chiefs refused to listen to such perfidious suggestions although it promptly undertook to fulfil its patriotic duty under the circumstances.
On receiving wireless information of what had occurred, in a despatch sent by the American consul at Torreón acting under instructions of the American Secretary of State, the Constitutionalist Government addressed to the Government of the United States of the North the note of April 29, 1914, in which a well-defined attitude was assumed without vacillation. This note stated that the Mexican nation, the real Mexican nation, had not recognized the usurper who was attempting to drown the free institutions of the country in blood; that the acts of the usurper and his accomplices could not be supported as legal acts of the national sovereignty nor as representing the true sentiment of the Mexican nation which is friendly towards the North American people; that this illegality of the Government of Huerta was supported by the fact that it had not been recognized by the Government of the United States, Argentine, Chile, Brazil and Cuba; that the usurper was an offender who came within the jurisdiction of the Constitutionalist Government, the only government that represented the national sovereignty in accordance with the spirit of Article 128 of the Political Constitution of Mexico; that the acts of the usurper never could be sufficient to involve the Mexican people in a disastrous war with the United States because no sympathy existed between the usurper’s Government and the Mexican people, due to the fact that it was not the legitimate representative of the national-sovereignty.
I clearly and vigorously represented that notwithstanding these facts, the invasion of our territory, the continued occupation of Vera Cruz by American forces or the violation of those rights which constitute our status as a sovereign, free and independent state, would drive us to an unequal but worthy struggle which I desired to avoid by every honorable means before the two nations should reach the point of breaking off the peaceful relations which united them. With this as a fundamental principle and considering the declarations of the American Senate to the effect that the United States of the North would not interfere with the Mexican nation nor consider the proposition of making war upon it, considering also that the acts of hostility were out of proportion to the equitable demands of the case, and moreover that the usurper of Mexico was not a person to extend reparation, I concluded by solemnly inviting the American Government to put an end to the hostile act referred to, to order its forces to withdraw from the places in their possession in the port of Vera Cruz, and to present to the Constitutionalist Government through me as Constitutionalist Governor of the State of Coahuila and Chief of the Constitutionalist Army, the appropriate demand growing out of the events that took place in the port of Tampico, with full assurance that this demand would be considered in a spirit of justice and conciliation.
Events developed along these lines, as you know since they are notorious; the usurper Huerta was overthrown; the Convention was converted into a focus of rebellion and the infidelity of Villa completed the situation and embarrassed the triumphal progress of the Constitutional army at the moment it was about to accomplish final success, that is, just when it was in control of nearly the entire [Page 994] country and just when my Government had occupied the metropolis only to abandon it for strategic reasons.
In the course of these events and while still in the midst of a most difficult situation, the Constitutionalist Government constantly insisted upon the evacuation of the port of Vera Cruz by the invading forces; this was done November 23, 1914, and on that date our national flag waved once more over that heroic city which came into the possession of the Constitutionalist forces; it is worthy of mention that this result was accomplished without impairing the reputation and honor of the Republic and without accepting any intervention whatever in our internal affairs. By the unanimous petition of the Board of Trade in behalf of merchants and property owners of the port of Vera Cruz on the one hand, and on the other in behalf of those who had occupied public positions during the usurpation of the American forces, but had submitted to the authority of the Constitutionalist Government, I issued two decrees—one directing that the import duties paid by those first mentioned above should not be again paid, and the other granting amnesty to the second mentioned above; thus was ended this incident which might have involved a disastrous war between the two countries which by sentiment and interests ardently desire peace.
Coincident with the occupation of the port of Vera Cruz, the honorable Plenipotentiaries of Brazil, Argentine, and Chile, with the authority of their respective Governments, tendered me as superior chief of the Constitutionalist forces their good offices to mediate in the conflict between Mexico and the United States of the North, an invitation which I accepted with sincere gratefulness in principle and so stated in the note of April 20, 1914, referring to the matter and written in the city of Chihuahua.
The above-named plenipotentiaries addressed a communication to me proposing that I should enter into a general armistice while, a peaceful solution was being sought for the threatened conflict between Mexico and the United States; I categorically declined to accept, and stated that the conflict was provoked intentionally by Victoriano Huerta and should be settled independently of our internal struggle for right and liberty; moreover, I deemed a suspension of hostilities and military activities disadvantageous to the Constitutionalist cause and to the advantage of Huerta only; and I believed that the civil war in Mexico between the usurper and the people in arms should be continued without cessation until peace should be secured and until the interrupted constitutional regime should be reestablished.
I immediately communicated with the same plenipotentiaries on the 3d of May, requesting that they state the points they wished to cover in their good offices in the conflict referred to. They began the A. B. C. Conference in Niagara Falls without granting my request relative to the facts and points which should be discussed, and consequently I informed them on the 25th of the same month of May, through our confidential agent in Washington that I had appointed no representatives in anticipation of their reply, it being my understanding that these conferences should not be continued without delegates being present in representation of the First Chief of the Constitutionalist army who represented the majority of the inhabitants and the majority of the armed forces of the Republic.
The A. B. C. conferences were continued without transmitting to me any reply whatsoever to those very essential particulars; the conferences were participated in by the representatives of Argentine, Brazil and Chile, by delegates from the American Government and by envoys of General Victoriano Huerta, but they were held before I had appointed my representatives and without my taking any part in them.
This was the situation when the plenipotentiaries communicated with me August 15, 1915, proposing in substance that together with political and military chiefs engaged in the struggle against constitutionalism, we should assemble at some point to be determined upon to exchange ideas and decide the fortunes of the country and establish a peaceful government which should adopt the measures adequate for constitutional reconstruction and proceed to call general elections; all this was to be done, naturally, through the intervention of these same plenipotentiaries who tendered their good offices.
To these extraordinary suggestions I replied in a categorical manner in a note despatched the 10th of September 1915 that as First Chief of the Constitutionalist army in charge of the Executive Power of the Republic I could not consent to have the internal affairs of the Republic settled by mediation nor on the initiative [Page 995] of any foreign Government, since the undeniable duty of all was to respect the sovereignty of the nation; and that in accepting an invitation to take part in conferences with the chiefs of the rebel faction in order that peace might return to Mexico I would do grave injury to the independence of the Republic and would establish a precedent for foreign interference in the settlement of internal affairs, an act which of itself would be sufficient to prevent me from adopting the suggestion out of consideration for the legitimate defense of the sovereignty of the Mexican people and other American nations.
Moreover, I briefly summarized the complete program of the revolution referring to the reforms which were to constitute the foundation of our new social organization and which we already had begun to establish. I stated that I in my official character had the great responsibility of securing the wishes of the nation and could not by means of such an arrangement endanger the future of the country nor permit the enemies of the cause I represent to participate directly in the government; that one sad experience had demonstrated the fatal consequences of such an arrangement; that the people had responded with enthusiasm to the campaign being waged against the usurper; that this campaign had been victorious; that Francisco Villa had been overthrown and the revolution had triumphed over new obstacles placed in its path; that I could count on an army of 150,000 men; that progress had been made in the reconstruction of the country and its return to normal conditions; that railway traffic had been resumed and improvements had been made in the railway lines, and that entering into negotiations with the contaminating factions would be equivalent to a renunciation by my headquarters of victory gained at the cost of terrible sacrifices, would necessitate my resignation as Chief of the Constitutionalist army and as the authority in charge of the Executive Power of the Nation and would be a violation of the faith and confidence placed in me by the army and the Mexican people.
In view of all this, and further considering that no one had the right to prevent our people in the very near future from enjoying the bounteous harvest of their desperate struggle, I closed by stating that I could not accept the invitation extended me.
This was the last word of the Constitutionalist Government with respect to the conferences at Niagara Falls and the mediation offered by the A. B. C.
Without doubt the American Government was convinced by the accuracy of the facts and the force of the arguments used, for it recognized the First Chief of the Constitutionalist army in charge of the Executive Power of the Union as the de facto Government of the Republic.
The enemies of the new order of things established in the country, tenacious in their criminal efforts to bring about American intervention at whatever cost, provoked new and serious conflicts on the northern frontier; the most serious was that which occurred when the border town of Columbus was assaulted March 9, 1916 by Villa and his lieutenants, who, constantly attacked and defeated by the Constitutionalist forces had fled to the interior of the States of Chihuahua and Sonora. On receiving the first official notice of this attack my Government sent the Government of the United States the note of March 12, 1916 suggesting that a convention be held to arrange for the reciprocal crossing of the boundary by the forces of each nation, to pursue bandits who, after committing depredations in the territory of one should flee to that of the other. Unfortunately the Washington Cabinet erroneously interpreted this note to mean that it granted permission to cross the border, and consequently organized and carried out the so-called Punitive Expedition.
When the Constitutionalist Government, on hearing of these events, instantly complained and protested against them, the Washington Government explained its action as stated above and supported the explanation moreover by pointing out the necessity for moving quickly. The two Governments exchanged various notes, the final result of which was an agreement to discuss the terms of a compact for the reciprocal crossing of the frontier by the armed forces of the respective countries. Two projects drawn up by the Mexican Government and two counter-projects presented by the Government of the United States were studied and discussed; in these deliberations the Mexican Government constantly insisted on placing restrictions on the crossing of troops with respect to their zone of operations, the time they should remain in foreign territory, the number of soldiers and the arms of the service to which they belonged. The American Government rejected these suggestions but in the end partially accepted them in the last counter-project, but specified that the project should not apply to the Columbus [Page 996] expedition. This gave rise to the note of the Mexican Government of April 12, 1916, which terminated, the discussions of the convention and requested the withdrawal of the troops on the ground that their occupancy of the territory was not founded on any agreement and had no further object since Villa’s band of outlaws had been dispersed and rendered powerless.
Since the American Government did not reply to this note nor withdraw its troops, it was deemed advisable to have the military commanders take up the military aspects of the situation and work out a solution which, so far as the Mexican Government was concerned, could be none other than the withdrawal of the so-called Punitive Expedition. With this object in view, General Alvaro Obregón, Secretary of War and Navy, representing the Mexican Government, and Generals Hugh Scott and Frederick Funston, representing the American Government, held a conference at El Paso, Texas. This conference succeeded in formulating a memorandum project in which General Scott declared that the dispersion of Villa’s band had been accomplished and consequently the American Government had decided to begin the withdrawal of its troops under the promise of the Mexican Government to furnish an adequate frontier guard against raids such as that at Columbus; but since it was also stated, as a condition for the withdrawal of the American forces, that the American Government might suspend the withdrawal if for any reason it was convinced it had misjudged the ability of the Mexicans to guard the frontier, the Mexican Government refused to agree to the memorandum referred to, because the power to decide on the evacuation of the national territory—a matter which pertained to the sovereignty of the country—could not be left to the judgment of the American Government.
During the conference a party of bandits attacked an American garrison at Glenn Springs and crossed immediately afterwards to the Mexican side at Boquillas; fearing that additional troops would cross the border because of this incident, my Government instructed General Obregon to notify the United States that the crossing of that nation’s soldiers would not be permitted and ordered the military commanders on the frontier not to consent to further crossings.
These conferences ended May 11 of the same year without any practical result having been gained. Despite the statements to the contrary made by General Scott, the promises of friendship made by the American Government, and the good will shown by my Government to do everything possible to make the vigilance along the frontier effective regardless of the many preferential demands for the protection of the interior of the country, new American detachments crossed the boundary line and advanced as far as El Pino, some sixty miles south of the border; the strength of the so-called Punitive Expedition was considerable, and included a large amount of artillery; the American Government not only reestablished the embargo on war material and held up shipments of arms and ammunition on several occasions, but it also held up several pieces of machinery bought by the Mexican Government in the United States, for the manufacture of war materials. Since these acts, unless the situation was soon improved, could not be considered in any other light than a hostile manifestation and a veritable invasion of our territory, my Government in its note of May 1, 1916, placed before the United States of the North a complete statement of all these facts and circumstances. This note enumerated with great clearness the reasons and principles which worked to Mexico’s disadvantage, it stated that these facts were opposed to the repeated and definite declarations of the Washington Cabinet, and concluded by insisting on that Government ordering the early withdrawal of its troops, stating that if this could not be done their further advance would have to be opposed with force.
Nevertheless, desiring to make use of all honorable means for reaching a settlement, special commissions were appointed by my Government and that of the United States of the North thoroughly to discuss the matter and reach a solution if possible. Thus were begun the conferences at Atlantic City.
The conflict finally reached a crisis when my Government in defense of the National sovereignty and integrity, was compelled to give orders to use force in repelling the invasion of our territory. The immediate result of this was the encounter at Carrizal in which our soldiers showed their usual bravery, as well as another near Matamoros, Tamaulipas, where the inhabitants, men, women and children alike spontaneously following a patriotic impulse, joined the garrison of the town.
War with the neighboring Republic of the North was considered imminent; but war was avoided through the efforts of the commission just spoken of, and [Page 997] because of the cordiality and serenity of both Governments which, through diplomatic channels succeeded in bringing the facts to light and in handling this delicate situation with moderation and equity. In these diplomatic relations the Mexican Government established the fundamental principle that it would not accept any discussion in advance of a complete evacuation of national territory by American forces, and our commissioners strictly followed this principle. The American Government in justice to that of Mexico finally completely withdrew the so-called Punitive Expedition from our soil, and has accredited its Ambassador who, after being given the prescribed formal reception, has taken up his residence and assumed his duties in this Capital. My Government has also named the personnel of our Embassy which is now established in Washington.
To enumerate completely all matters referring to our relations with the American Government I should mention another incident although it has not the serious and annoying character of those matters already discussed.
In February 1915 the rebel uprising in Yucatán occurred under the leadership of Abel Ortiz Argumedo, who finally occupied the entire State, Quintana Roo, and a part of the State of Campeche. It is well known that all of the Yucatán traffic passes through the port of Progreso, and, partly to prevent the rebels from receiving reinforcements and war materials, partly because the Mexican transport Progreso was blown up in this port, the Constitutionalist Government closed the port.
On account of this the American Government made representations before my Government for the purpose of obtaining a suspension of the action alleging that it injured the interests of American business men who had extensive business in henequen, the principal product of Yucatán, and giving as an additional reason that the steamer Wisebrooc carrying cargo for Progreso was held at the port of Campeche.
The Constitutionalist Government immediately sent forces and material to Yucatán to oppose the rebels; the campaign undertaken against them was conducted with great rapidity and met with complete success; the port of Progreso was quickly opened to the traffic of the world and this diplomatic incident was closed.
At the present no question of this character is pending with the United States of the North, and consequently, I am greatly pleased to be able to tell you on this solemn occasion that our affairs with the great Republic of the North are being conducted in a spirit of manifest cordiality nourished by a sincere and earnest desire on the part of both Governments, to establish closer relations between the two neighboring people on a basis of mutual and absolute respect for national honor and integrity and of the most ample liberty in the exercise of sovereignty.
Notwithstanding this, I should at the same time inform you that the Government of the United States, although all reason for friction has completely disappeared, has not up to date removed the embargo against arms and ammunition which was imposed at the time of the assault on Columbus by Villa and his lieutenants, and because of which a number of shipments of ammunition and supplies from the United States have been held up by the Government of that country.
The same principles that have guided the conduct of my Government in its relations with the United States have been observed in the concentrated effort made to develop closer relations with a more fraternal feeling for Latin-American nations with which Mexico has the strongest bonds of union by reason of origin, ideals and common interests. These people and their respective Governments have cooperated heartily and even with enthusiasm in this altruistic labor from which we may mutually hope for the most abundant return to the advantage of all, especially in the development we may eventually attain in our mutual commercial relations, which as everyone knows, contribute greatly to strengthening the bonds of friendship and mutual regard.
With this in view the Republic has increased the personnel of its diplomatic service and has added to its legations. I am glad to state here that mutual expressions of consideration and sympathy which have been noted in our relations with these countries have been most eloquent and significant and demonstrated a strong tendency towards continually making these important relations still more cordial. * * *