A Memorandum by Francisco Escudero

Identifier

WWP17890

Description

A memorandum on conditions in Mexico by Fransisco Escudero.

Text

RELATIVE TO CONDITIONS IN MEXICO.

Mexico is a country of intermingled colonization, composed of people of quite different races, traditions and civilizations. As a people they may be regarded as a genuine national unity, yet such has only come into existence during recent years. Mexico was the principal colony founded by Spain in America, and so it was here that the conservative classes, the aristocracy, the clergy and the military, gained their highest development and stood in opposition to the humble conditions of life in which the great mass of the inhabitants lived. These facts have been the cause of the several convulsions that have afflicted the Mexican nation in its struggle for life, during the last hundred years.

The war of independence was rather a social than a political strife, its main object having been to emancipate, from a social point of view, the Indians, the mixed bloods and the peasants, whom the wealthier classes, too jealous of their own privileges, had denied the right to mingle in public affairs. This war for independence lasted for over eleven years, and it did not come to an end until the aristocracy gave it their own support in hopes of becoming more powerful under the new regime, than they had been under the crown of Spain.Once the political, but not the social, independence was accomplished, the struggle was renewed between the conservative and the liberal classes. This struggle covered a long period of time and was full of dramatic events, such as the French intervention, and the subsequent establishment of the so-called Empire, an enterprise which ended in the death of an Austrian prince, and which brought about the final establishment of a democratic government and the separation of the Church from the State. The clergy were granted full liberty in respect to their own welfare and ecclesiastical duties, but were thereafter not allowed to meddle in government affairs.The country, now almost exhausted by long internal strife, was willing to tolerate the dictatorship ofPorfirio Diaz who maintained a state of peace for thirty years, during which public wealth increased considerably; a middle class, never known before, was created, and public instruction began to be imparted, though in a scant manner. Diaz, however, utterly neglected to give the people a political education and to protect the latter classes from the oppression of the aristocracy and the ambitions of the Church, which had already been abundantly reimbursed for its former losses. He also failed to bring about a distribution without discrimination of the public wealth, and to satisfy the appeals for justice which were made throughout the country.

Diaz failed to understand that after the thirty years of his dictatorship, the social conditions of the country had undergone important changes; the cost of living had increased, while wages had not been raised proportionately. Thus the people lived under unbearable conditions, their earnings, in later years, being hardly sufficient to afford them existence.

Francisco I. Madero embodied the aspirations of the newer generation of the Mexican people, who, having no legal means of redressing their wrongs, were compelled to resort to arms.The revolution headed by Madero was, like the wars of Independence and of the Reform, a social, rather than political, struggle. Public opinion, constantly supporting the revolutionary movement, brought Madero quickly to the Presidency. Unfortunately, Madero's pure ideals and magnanimity brought about a compromise with the tottering administration ofDiaz, by means of which a provisional president was named, Mr. De la Barra. During De la Barra's administration all the revolutionary elements of the country, quite sure that they would be harassed no more, prepared to regain power and, in advance, to undermine both the administration of Madero and the principles of the revolutionary party.

In fact, Madero never ruled at all; he was constantly prevented from doing so by the reactionary party which, through the press, entirely under its control, and a majority in the hold-over Congress, proceeded to foment revolt and excite the public. His administration was finally overthrown by virtue of joint action on the part of all the reactionary elements, and by means of one of the most cowardly betrayals ever recorded in history.The government, having been forcibly seized by the military chief charged with the defense of its institutions and the protection of the persons representing the Executive Power, and having sealed that usurpation with the assassination of President Madero and vice-President Pino Suarez, the nation, in a solid mass, experienced a strong sentiment of exasperation, outrage and despair, because it understood the character of the betrayal, realizing, as a people aspiring to be considered as enlightened, what had befallen them; that their structure was once more in the hands of reactionaries, and that it was now a human impossibility to satisfy the aspirations that formed the ideals of the revolution of 1910. The interests that strengthened the arm of rte that the pretended government set up by those who overthrew Madero, has never been legal. In the first place, the resignation obtained from him was secured, if it existed, through misrepresentation as well as by moral and material pressure; by duress. In the second place, the Chamber of Deputies, before which he ought to have appeared, and by which he should have been received, during the night of the extraordinary session, when it was given notice of the existence of that document, lacked in a legal quorum, having no more than ninety of the one hundred and twenty members, which, according to the law, constitutes its relative majority. In the third place, when the acceptance of the resignation of Madero was obtained from the Chamber, prior to the taking of the oath of office as Provisional President by Huerta, moral and material violence were employed against its members, to whom were communicated cynical threats that if they did not forthwith accept the resignation of Madero, he would at once be sacrificed without mercy. Simultaneously a battalion of troops was stationed under the arches of the Legislative Palace, and the galleries of the Chamber were filled with soldiers, a demonstration of armed forces intended to intimidate, as it did, the members in the free exercise of their duty. The writer himself was a member from the State of Guadalajara, and protested against all and each of these unlawful acts; and there were five others who, in spite of the menace, voted against the acceptance of the resignation of Madero. But, I repeat, that the Chamber was not legally constituted at the time, and was under moral and material pressures, so that, consequently, by deed and by right, its action was void, rendering the government of

1. We repudiate

2. We repudiate also the legislative and judicial powers of the Federation.

3. We repudiate the governments of the States which, thirty days hence, shall recognize the Federal authorities which form the present administration.

4. For the organization of the military forces necessary to make compliance with our purposes. we name as First Chief of the Forces which shall be called "Constitutionalists" Don Venustiano Carranza, Governor of the State of Caohuila.

5. On the occupation by the Constitutionalist forces of the City of Mexico, the Executive Power shall be taken charge of by Don Venustiano Carranza, First Chief of the forces, or who ever may be substituted in command.

6. The President ad interim of the Republic shall convoke general elections as soon as peace shall have been established, delivering the power to the person who shall be elected.

7. The person acting as First Chief of the Constitutionalist forces will assume charge as Provisional Governor of such States as have recognized Huerta, and shall convoke local elections, after which the persons elected shall assume their duties... Signed at the Estate of Guadalupe, Coahuila, on the 26th day of March, 1913.

This rather simple but direct declaration, devoid of high sounding phrases and complex considerations, met with the high approval at once by a vast majority of the people of the northern States, and later by those of other parts of Mexico when its terms became known.From a political standpoint the leaders of the Constitutionalist party have no personal ambition. This is not a quarrel of personalities; it is not a struggle to place a given individual in power. Both leaders and followers aspire to be austere and devoted democrats who are fighting for respect for the law and for the honor of the country.While the political aspect of the present revolution is important, it is less important, however, than its social aspect.At the bottom, the social ideas of the present movement are the same as those of the Revolution of 1910, and it can be stated that every event which has taken place since, is nothing more than an episode of that same great drama.In the first place, the whole nation, tired of a regime of special privilege and of a policy that had degraded the judiciary, transforming it into a simple instrument in the hands of a Dictator, to serve only the interests of the rich, demands the establishment of a new regime founded on real justice, without discrimination against the poor; also, that the Department of Justice be purified and a revision of the laws made for the better protection of all from the influence of politics.

The Constitutionalists wish to improve the conditions of the farmer, doing away, once for all, with certain abuses which, in some sections, transform the peasant into a slave; in others, they are deprived of all hope of ever acquiring a piece of land for themselves, the land-holder absorbing all the product of their work. There are, indeed, parts of the country where the laboring classes are held in such miserable and pitiful conditions, that it can be said they live in far inferior conditions to beasts of burden, which are sometimes better cared for and better fed.The Constitutionalists want a more equitable distribution of all public taxation, because through old corrupt methods, the whole burden rests almost exclusively on the poor, the wealthy bearing but a very small portion of it.The Constitutionalists want that certain class of individuals who, by unclean means, during the Diaz regime, deprived even towns, to say nothing of many poor individuals, of their lands, compelled, by due process of law, to return them.The Constitutionalists demand that certain estates of immense area, which are in the hands of individuals who cannot cultivate them, and who have not even seen them, shall be divided up, enacting the necessary laws for equitable compensation, and which will harmonize private interests with those of the community. They want new legislation which may favor, either by private enterprise supported by the State, or undertaken by the State itself, a system of irrigation and water supply to help the farmer cultivate his land. They declare the necessity for a new financial system, which, in a similar way, may provide funds, at low interest, so that the farmer may, by giving suitable security, borrow modest amounts to enable him to cultivate his lands. They also wish to impart education on a large scale; to build roads and turnpikes, and to establish shools of agriculture and industry in sufficient number. The Constitutionalists want the land holdings fixed and respected, and, at the same time, that legislation may be enacted to facilitate the transfer of property. The condition of workingmen must also be improved by means of a better relationship between capital and the working classes. And it is specially desireable to protect, educate and redeem the neglected Indians.Finally, the social ideas of the Constitutionalist movement may be condensed by saying that Mexico wishes to take another step forward in the road of moral, political and social improvement. This movement is one of progress, and in view of the knowledge that the writer has of the present conditions of the country, he considers that if the present crisis can be solved in a way favorable to the popular will, in a day not very far distant, Mexico will call the attention of the world by the harmonious development of her reesources and by the democratic exercise of her rights. The people are already practically prepared for democracy, though they lack experience, and, above all, confidence in their ruler to execute their express will.I may say, in a rough way, that all honest men in Mexico are on the side of the Constitutionalist faction; but as I may considered partial in such a general statement, I consider myself obliged to rectify it only in the sense that few are the honest men who are against us, and these are only those individuals who sincerely believe in a dictatorial and oppresive regime. Thus, with the exception of these few, who may be convinced, the remainder of those who are on the side of mayor of his town, after which he was made a judge, a Senator in the National Congress, and finally was unanimously elected as Governor of his State, which position he still holds. He believes that the cause for which he is fighting is the cause of righteousness; he knows that the burden he has assumed is a very heavy one, but he has a clear counciousness of the great need of the present movement, on which depends the establishment of lasting peace in Mexico. He is not impulsive, nor is he unfair in his decisions; but, on the contrary, is humanitarian and a man of repose; but, at the same time, he is endowed with a firmness of character which has made him noted among the leaders of the country.

Mr. José Maria Maytorena, Governor of the State of Sonora, is also a man of very good social position, and he is well to do. He has spent his life developing his estate. He is also admired and beloved by his people.

Around these two great leaders, and Governor Castillo Brito, of Campeche, there are all the really influential men of their respective States. Out of the 235 Congressmen who were elected to form the present Mexican National Congress, more than one-half sympathize with the Constitutionalist movement. During the last day's of Mr. Madero's administration, many of them were in great danger of death, and were compelled to leave the Capital for safety. About forty of them are already in the army of Constitutionalists. Nearly one-half of the Senators, are, at heart, also sympathizers with the movement, and if their number is not greater it is due to the fact that many of them belong to the old ranks of Porfirio Diaz.Many of the leaders of the movement are still in the capital, unable to leave.The state of war in which the country finds itself at present has developed the military qualities of many citizens who were unkown before. Thus we have among the prominent leaders and officers of the Consitutionalist army, many merchants, farmers, manufacturers and men of various professions. Obregón, Cabral, Calles Bracamontes in Sonora; Toribio Ortega, Francisco Villa and many others in Chihuahua; Pablo Gonzalez, Jesus Carranza, Francisco Cos, Atilano Barrera and others in Coahuila; Roque Gonzalez Garza, Lucio Blanco, Mujica and many others in Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas; Orestes DPereira, Calixto Contreras, Pablo Nateras, Santos Coy, Novoa, Iturbe, Martin Espinoza, in Durango, Zacatecas, Tepic, Sinaloa, and Jalisco; Gertrudis Sanchez, Renteraìa Lubiano, Castraejon and many others in Micoacan and Guanajuato. Besides, there are many new leaders in all the states enumerated, and others who have just received their commissions in San Luis Potosi, Vera Cruz, Guerrero, Hidalgo, State of Mexico, Puebla, Tabasco, Campeche and Tlaxcala. Zapata with his many followers, in the State of Morelos, would gladly submit to Carranza.

In brief, it may be said that the revolutionary movement has on its side intellectual and enterprising men in sufficient number to absolutely secure the general peace of the Republic, to organize the administration, to arrange a proper plan of reform in order to systematically establish the same throughout the Republic. The principal characteristsics of these men is, in general, that all of them are morally sane, and are moved by a common desire to work for the benefit of their country.

In the first place, we count on the good will and the active cooperation, according to circumstances, of the great majority of the inhabitants of Mexico. The Constitutionalists control nearly the whole of the States of Sonora, Coahuila, Durango and Campeche, in which States the troops of Huerta control only a very few towns. Chihuahans, Tanulipas, Nuevo Leon, Zacatecas, and the greatest part of San Luis Potosi; Michoacan, Guerrero and Sinaloa are also controlled, in a general sense, by the Constitutionalists. In the States of Tabasco, Jalisco, Tepic, Tlaxcala, Puebla Veracruz, Hidalgo, and Mexico, several organized movements have been started, spreading with such a facility that within 30 days these States will be entirely under control.

It is easy to foresee that the few States in which the movement has not yet started will very soon follow the others. In the city of Mexico our followers are actively at work, counting on the public opinion, especially among the middle classes and among the working men.

The soldiers of Huerta only amount to anything where they stand. As soon as the leave a town or city, the latter turns to the Constitutionalist side; any railroad line that they leave unprotected comes immediately to their power. A new opportunity will come to show the weakness of the so-called covernment of Huerta, and that opportunity will come when he begins to conctentrate his troops, leaving great sections of the country entirely in the hands of the Constitutionalists, choosing to fight his last battle in the valley of Mexico.

It is a fact that war supplies have not been very abundant in the Constitutionalists camps, the greater part of the arms and ammunition in their possession being taken from the troops of Huerta. If the Constistutionalists could purcahse the necessary elements to arm the volunteers who offer their services, they would readily make up an army of more than 100,000 men, withing 30 days, doing away with Huerta's administration in short order.

This time the leaders of the movement intend to bring it to a final success, in order that when the needs that produced it shall be staisfied, a definite and organic peace may be established. Thus they are perfectly decided to enter into no negotiations of any kind with either Huerta or with the followers of Felix Diaz, or with any of the Cientificos, or with the Catholic party, nor with any other reactionary faction, whose tendencies are more or less concealed. A compromise, which was really a sign of weakness, determined the partial failure of the revolution of 1910, the disaster to the Madero policy, the murder of Mr. Madero, and caused the present situation. Thus it is for humanity's sake and for the sake of the most elementary patriotism that the Constitutionalists feel in duty bound not to enter inany compromise with the enemy. No compromise would insure peace.

Therefor, the Constitutionalists will not look with favor on any endeavors that may tend to promote such a compromise, as, for instance, the suggestion in behalf of General Trevino, a very old man, closely tied with the Cientificos, and therefor persona non grata.

When the movement shall have achieved its triumph, it is intended to keep sound an whole the strength that gave it victory. Therefore, we will not muster out our men, but will retain them in service, in order to maintain peace throughout the Republic and so do away with any bands of brigands who, under pretext of political ideas, may operate in the country.

Therefore the Constitutionalist forces will be retained under arms to maintain order throughout the Republic, while the army which now supports Huerta will be disbanded under suitable precautionary conditions.

The intervention of any foreign power in our internal affairs would only favor the interests of Huerta and the ractionary party. The interests of the people would be greatly prejudiced, inasmuch as it would compel them to enter into som unjust compromise with their oppressors. Furthermore, the idea of intervention is highly unpopular among the people, and it would surely originate evils far greater than those it intended to remedy.

Among the people at large there is no anti-American feeling: on the contrary there is a feeling of true friendship. The great majority, as heretofore state, have their sympathies with the Constitutionalists, and, therefore, the failure to recognize the so-called government of Huerta has been considered by them as a justification of their attitude, and has been regarded as an indirect help to them, which has been greatly appreciated. The anti-American demonstrations which have taken place in the city of Mexico are known to be mere artificial manipulations intended to force recognition, for the purpose of floating a loan in Europe, which, we believe, could only serve to protect unnecessarily a struggle, whose final outcome is easy to predict. Millions of dollars would in this way be squandered by some well known men, never regarded as honorable, and the interests of the nation would be to this extent further impaired.

In this connection it must be said, however, that the Constitutionalists will never be disposed to recognize the loan.

The Constitutionalists have never asked, and never will ask, any help from foreign powers. All they desire is that these powers consider their cause with justice and calmness. The lives and property of foreign subjects and citizens have been protected by every possible means within their jurisdiction, and it is fair to say that no honest man need have fear. The only men who now run any risk in Mexico are those who have been charged with committing crimes, or those who have plundered the national treasury.

In spite of the great difficulties encountered in maintaining communication between the different States now in arms, as well as between the different military chiefs, the whole constitutionalist movement follows strictly the same ideals and is under the general control of Mr. Carranza. Persons who have a keen interest in misrepresenting the cause have reported that this movement is chaotic and lacks systematic coordination, but these reporst are absolutely false. Representatives from all over the country are constantly arriving in Piedras Negras -- Carranzas's headquarters -- to receive orders and instructions.

Carranza has already begun to form an embryo government and to appoint a cabinet. At the beginning, military organization was not important, and he, therefore, devoted all his attention to the needs of his army; but now he has created two new departments, one of War and one of Finance, the latter under the direction of the writer, and in a very few days other departments will be created to meet the necessities incident to the occupation of new territory and fresh responsibilities.

On the 15th day of May, last, Carranza, without pressure of any sort, issued a decree binding the Constitutional government to the principle of international arbitration for the immediate settlement of claims of American citizens and other foreigners against Mexico, upon the triumph of his cause. This affords an excellent example of the practical side of his character.

To sum up:  The Constitutionalists conceive that the seizure of the Government of Mexico by Huerta, and his assumption of power, did violence to the constitution and justifies the people in a resort to arms in an effort to vindicate not only the fundamental law, but the national honor.

The masses support this movement for the restoration of constitutional order; the aristocracy and the reactionary elements oppose it, favoring Huerta.

The movement is rapidly gaining ground, with at present about ninety percent of the people in its favor.

In event of triumph, a military government will be maintained in Mexico City until peace is an accomplished fact and brigandage completely suppressed, when a general election will be called, in accordance with the terms of the constitution, for the election of a President.

All disloyal elements of the army will be disbanded under suitable precaustions, and a new army, effective and well paid, will be formed in order to guarantee public order.

The personnel of the government, including the judiciary, will be materially changed, in all grades.

Reforms will be pressed on Congress, free elections guaranteed, and present financial methods suppressed.

An administration of the strictest economy and dilligent application to internal necessities will follow.

Francisco Escudero

Washington, 24th of July, 1913.

Original Format

Memorandum

Files

Citation

Escudero, Francisco, “A Memorandum by Francisco Escudero,” 1913 July 24, WWP17890, First Year Wilson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.