John Lind to Woodrow Wilson


John Lind to Woodrow Wilson


Lind, John, 1854-1930




1914 January 10


Wilson Papers, Library of Congress, Library of Congress, Washington, District of Columbia


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924--Correspondence




American Consulate

This letter will be somewhat rambling. I have no time to revise as Captain Niblack leaves at noon and I was only advised of his departure late last night, but I want to get these suggestions before you at this time.The accuracy of my views in regard to public sentiment in Mexico City, as reported in my recent telegrams, was fully confirmed by Mr.Nelson O'Shaughnessy and Mrs. O'Shaughnessy, who arrived two days ago and are still here. I may mention that Mrs. O'Shaughnessy is a very bright woman fully in touch with gossip and sentiment among the class that she naturally moves with in the City and a very keen observer. Her viewpoint, as well as that of her husband, is naturally sympathetic with the ruling elements with whom they come in contact socially, although I do not believe that she is a Roman Catholic or influenced in any degree by church interests. I have learned from both, along separate lines of conversation, that there had been a marked reversion of sentiment to HuertaVictoriano Huerta in the last few weeks and an increase of hostile feeling against the Government of the United States for causing, as they argue, the troubles from which they are now suffering without taking any active steps to mellow them. These are the views, as I gather it, of the same elements that invited Maximilian and whom I have referred to as “cientificos” or “aristocrats” in former communications. They would have welcomed intervention with open hands had it come at the time that they anticipated that something might happen, namely, when the new Congress convened; but as nothing occurred and as HuertaVictoriano Huerta has, in their judgment, gained strength and has been able to hang on, they now look to him for support. The attitude of Carden has, of course, contributed to this in no small degree and the recent visit “in state” by Admiral Cradock to Mexico City lent color to the constant publications that England was back of HuertaVictoriano Huerta.

In what I say I trust that you will not infer that I intend directly or indirectly to reflect on the loyalty of Mr. O'ShaughnessyNelson O'Shaughnessy. He is just as loyal as I am, but his situation and antecedents have been different from mine and he is necessarily unconsciously influenced in a degree by his environment and also by the Church, to which he is strongly attached. His education and training were in her schools and it is probably impossible for him to see injustice or wrong is her policy and influence in Mexico. There is no question but that HuertaVictoriano Huerta goes out of his way to show his personal regard for Mr. O'Shaughnessy. My judgment is that he is shrewd enough to see that Mr. O'Shaughnessy is in high standing with the Church and in touch with it as no other American and that his attitude is actuated in a measure by that consideration. I do not believe for a moment that his preference for Mr. O'ShaughnessyNelson O'Shaughnessy is based on more personal grounds. Mr. O'Shaughnessy is very anxious that Urrutia, who is strong with the Catholics, should have a conversation with me, to which I have, of course, consented. He has also suggested some other names. He thinks that an understanding might be arrived at by which HuertaVictoriano Huerta might resign to take the field, a good man having been named as successor and a cabinet agreed upon which should include at least three men who have been predominately identified with the revolution. All with the understanding that HuertaVictoriano Huerta might be a candidate at the ensuing election. O'Shaughnessy thinks that this might be the means of bringing about peace in a very short time; that it would divide the revolutionists and with recognition by the United States and abundant means the objecting revolutionists could easily be pacified or quelled. I have not deemed it wise to say to Mr. O'Shaughnessy at this time such a scheme cannot be considered at this date, nor have I made any intimation that it will not be considered. I think it is best for me to remain noncommital at this time. In how far this is inspired by HuertaVictoriano Huerta I cannot judge, but Mr. O'Shaughnessy has had repeated conversations with him, as I reported in my despatch of Thursday last. He has also learned from HuertaVictoriano Huerta that he is in correspondence with Henry Lane Wilson at this time. I think I stated in our conversation my judgment that it is utterly impossible to hope for any compromise at present that would not yield all that is involved in your policy. My reasons, broadly stated, are that the contest now waging in Mexico is political only on the surface; it is essentially economic and social. The forces engaged, so far as they have any conscious conception of motive or interest, may properly be grouped as American or anti-American. The HuertaVictoriano Huerta element, and this includes our own citizens who sympathize with him, unconsciously on their part perhaps, is European in sentiment and in social and political ideals. The aristocratic element in the past has used the Church as its principal instrumentality for keeping the people in subjugation and slavery. Juarez' work really laid the foundation for liberal sentiment and aspirations in Mexico. The revolutionary movement is in fact and in effect a continuation of his work. Nearly all of the aristocrats who have called on me have laid the present ills of the Mexican people to the fact of loss of control by the Church. One of them, the President of the Catholic Party, put it very naively by saying that “the people have lost their faith in Hell and there is nothing to be done with them.” To these people there is no remedy for the present situation except a dictatorship in some form. They never regard themselves as part of the Government or as responsible to it or for its action. Government to them is a mere machine for maintenance of peace and the status quo. All they ask is an efficient engineer. To them the thought of a President as the organ or expression of the whole people in its organized capacity is an impossibility. This was thoroughly illustrated in the Mexican City press immediately after Huerta's coup d'etat. Huerta's action was not defended on the score of necessity, which would be the only possible excuse in our eyes, but it was defended and lauded as a matter of right inherent in him as the head of the Government. While I cannot speak from personal knowledge, for I have not come in contact with them to any great extent, I assume that the weakness of the revolutionary cause is that they are more or less hampered by the same views of government and it would not be surprising if they are, for, as I stated to you, the Mexican people have had less than ten years in the aggregate of what may be called fairly efficient self-government during their entire history. But there is this difference, that they have come in contact with the people of the United States to a great degree and they appreciate and sympathize with our government, and it is also a fact that they have read a great deal of socialistic or semi-socialistic literature. Madero's movement, generally speaking, was of that character. While I realize that most men differ from me on this point, I am strongly of the opinion that this class of literature has been not only wholesome but necessary for the Mexican people to “wake them up” and give them a glimmering of the concept of the “common” good and of the necessity of action by the people as such both as a means and as an end. I really think, from all I can learn, that the revolutionists are groping along the road of a democracy in a stumbling way. At least they are pro-American in sentiment and that in itself is a hopeful sign. It is very amusing to me, Mr. President, when I read the learned dissertations of men like Woolsey, Harvey and others covertly sneering at your Mexican policy as the dream of an impractical idealist who has no conception of the Mexican situation or of international politics. I had not been here more than a couple of weeks, as Mr. Hale will testify, before I became thoroughly convinced in my own mind that however justifiable and ideal your policy may be on ethical grounds its economic and political importance for the United States is greater in so far as one is justified in making any comparison at all between right and interest or expediency. If the Huerta Government, or rather what the Huerta Government stands for in principle, should prevail Mexico would continue to be a European annex, industrially, financially, politically, and in sentiment except in the single industry of mining where American courage and resourcefulness has forged ahead, as you might say, by purely physical means. To illustrate:-

Every public work in Mexico during the last twenty years, of any consequence whatever, has been executed by English and European engineers and capital (this does not include some railroad construction which, at the time, was private enterprise). Lord Cowdray alone has received $135,000,000. for public works of different kinds from the Mexican treasury. I will not stop to specify the items but I have them. American contractors and bidders were turned down in every instance. There was no competition in fact. Besides this he has received concessions of inestimable value. French, Spanish, and German promoters have also had a “look-in,” but the United States, none. The industries that have been developed and that are carried on are wholly European in ownership and control. The entire cotton industry is French and it is very considerable; woolen is English. The distilling, brewing, starch making from yucca, which is a very important industry and a score of others that I might name, are German and French and I repeat this is only natural, for, however friendly Diaz may have been to the Americans in a political way, his whole government was essentially European in spirit and in sentiment of the worst type of European at that. The whole political stock in trade of the cientific element has always been and is to put forward the “bugbear” of the rapacity and menace of the “Colossus of the North” which they proclaim stands ready with open mouth to swallow up the Mexican people and to reduce them to the most abject condition of slavery, and there is no question but that the lower classes have believed this and that, in connection with the Church, it is a means of control. If the revolutionists win out, and we are so far committed, it seems to me, that it is incumbent upon us to see to it that they do win, then the tables will be turned and we will have a Mexican régime that will be at least impartial and it is hoped friendly, on the whole, not only for the things that our nation stands for politically and ethically, but also favorable to larger economic and commercial intercourse. I believe, Mr. President, that at some time in the near future this view should be presented through the American press and especially in graphic but carefully considered magazine articles so that our people will know that your policy means just as much economically as it does politically and ethically.I need not say to you that the plea for “law and order” is used for the same purpose as the like expression is abused at home. Here it means to keep the people under subjugation. Those who are frank about it do not hesitate to say that they do not want any policy that will tend to change the condition of the peon or the system of semi-slave labor now in vogue. One American who owns and operates a large mine near Zacatecas complained to me very bitterly because you had not recognized Huerta. He said that he feared that your failure to do so would lead to intervention and this he deplored, as it would inevitably disturb conditions and wages and make it less profitable to operate his properties than it is now. There is another subject that I must weary you with again. There is the regular army. It is probably the most corrupt and menacing factor in the whole Mexican situation. It has become and is an institution existing and conducting its operations wholly for its own ends. It does not regard itself as an instrumentality of the nation except to the very limited extent that a given national purpose may serve its own ends. I cannot in this letter go into details, or instance corruption and mendacity and there is no vocabulary extant east of the Mississippi that could do the subject justice. As to the rank and file, they are made up of criminals and conscripts. The latter are methodically and purposely converted into criminals, or, at least into beasts as rapidly after their enlistment as circumstances permit. They are forced to attend and to execute the murder of prisoners. Besides, as you probably know, Huerta is capturing women as well as men for the army. Some of them undoubtedly decent women, but many of them vile. These are assigned to the conscripts as soon as they commence to “make good” and what little morals they possessed when captured are soon eradicated. In Mexico the word “army” is a synonym for “graft.” The salaries of the officers are low. The colonel of a regiment or the commanding officer of any body of troops draws the money for the pay and maintenance of his command and for its equipment, to a great extent. The portion that goes to the troops depends somewhat upon the individual, but probably never to exceed sixty percent. At one time it was considered a means of discipline to promote a colonel to be general,- the general, not having the pay or equipment of troops, was deprived of its perquisites. This came near causing a revolution in the army under Diaz but it was compromised so that there is now “division.” The army has also compelled the Government to adopt a policy of paying bonuses to generals for undertaking and prosecuting particular campaigns. HuertaVictoriano Huerta exacted $100,000. from Madero for prosecuting the campaign against Orozco. Bonuses are being paid now. I mention this only for the purpose of indicating some of the reasons for my opinion that it behooves us to give Villa an entirely free hand in dealing with the general army officers if he has the opportunity. Of course we should insist that he observe the forms of law in bringing them to justice and punishment. I repeat what I said in a despatch sometime ago, that there is no possibility of danger that he inflict any excessive punishment or that he punish an innocent man, whatever he may do to captured officers. I realize fully the viciousness of this statement, but I cannot refrain from making it, for it is not only true in fact but vital in the solution of the situation. The army today is more vicious in its influence than was the Church before the time of Juarez.I enclose herewith a letter just received from my old American friend who is manager of the British Club in the City of Mexico. He does not stand very high with the Americans; he has his faults, but he is loyal and he has been loyal to me and has given me a great deal of valuable information. Matters that he states as facts are facts. I have verified his statements in almost every instance and found them very accurate. He has reported to me from time to time what our English friends have said sober and “in their cups” and what they have said, too, in the presence of Carden and what Carden has said. In this letter you will note that the conversation of the English-men, which he reports, speaks of one of the American officers on the steamer as being “seasick”. I verified this inquiry through Commander Sterling, the Admiral's Chief of Staff. In passing, let me call your attention to the statement in Loring's letter, “Think of it, there were several great battle ships, and Sir Christopher comes in on the little Suffolk and all the Yankees had to regard him as the ranking officer in port”. This is an embarassing fact. Notwithstanding the instructions that Cradock has undoubtedly received from his Government to follow Admiral Fletcher's lead in all political matters, he still assumes, and properly I suppose under international custom, that he is entitled to precedence over Fletcher in his relation to other foreigners in port, and otherwise, and they accord it to him as a matter of international necessity and courtesy. This was demonstrated yesterday in connection with arrangements for a rowing contest among the sailors of the different nationalities represented here. I take the liberty to repeat the suggestion that I made verbally, that some means be found by Executive Order, if it is permissible, or by legislation to give Admiral Fletcher that rank of Vice, at least, while in command of the Gulf Fleet. It seems a little matter in itself to us Americans and especially to a Western “landlubber”, but on the sea we are not dealing with American prejudice against titles and if the title were not made permanent but simply attached to the international character of the services performed and while it lasted, no right thinking American should object.

Of the revolutionary situation from a military point of view, anything that I say is necessarily more or less speculative. My means of information are very slow and limited. For instance, I do not know at this time and cannot ascertain the status of things at Ojinaga. Much of what I have said and predicted has been based on my positive knowledge that the revolutionists of the north are, man for man, vastly superior physically and intellectually to the people of the south and especially in general efficiency. But of course they lack training, initiative, and the art of organization. To enable them to carry their campaign to victory within a reasonable time we must aid them in respect to these matters. I will not discuss the raising of the embargo against munitions of war. I assume that to be forthcoming. Since I returned I have advocated the recognition of belligerency. I may have overestimated its value but I think not. I am sure that the moral effect of it in Mexico City and in the south would be very great, but what I wish to emphasize more particularly in this letter is the urgent necessity for advising and assisting the revolutionists in the matter of organizing their campaigns, if they will permit it. I mean, more particularly, with respect to the commissary, transportation and intelligence departments. I think there is danger, as Huerta anticipates, that the northern country will be exhausted in many localities that it will be difficult for the revolutionists to subsist, but their wants are so few that they can easily be supplied if the proper measures are taken. They can use American corn and American beans and American pork and that is all they need. Anything more is a luxury. It must be possible to get private parties to make arrangements to supply these commodities to the revolutionists in adequate quantities and at reasonable prices so that they will not be compelled, as I said in my despatch of last Thursday, to fritter away their time in fruitless foraging. The next important step that they must see to, and the earlier the better, is to deprive the National Railways of their oil supply. I think that this has already been done to a certain extent by the cutting of the railroad between Tampico and San Luis Potosi, but whether the interruption is permanent I cannot say. These revolutionary bands never do anything very effectively. If the oil supply is cut from Tampico the National Railways will be wholly dependent on the fuel that they can get from Veracruz and, as I will indicate later, this question can easily be taken care of. If the revolutionists crippled the National Railways by cutting off the fuel supply they would be under no necessity to destroy track and rolling-stock as they have been doing, which of course, is a terrible loss to the nation. The question of communication between the scattered rebel forces so that they can act with better cooperation is also very important. It was with these considerations in mind that I suggested the advisability of a competent officer of our army being with them. He could go as a Military Attaché if belligerency is recognized. Burnside would be the best man, in my judgment, if it is deemed advisable to take him from this field, for he is necessarily better acquainted with the Mexican situation than any other man. In what I say and suggest I am not taking any nice distinctions of international law into consideration, first, because we are dealing with two opposing revolutionary forces; that makes the situation a new case in international law and in a class by itself; in the second place, I have begun to view it as a “ground-hog” case where we have got to accomplish things or stand humiliated and we can assign the international justification for particular acts later on. We have not recognized the HuertaVictoriano Huerta Government. To us it is a revolutionary force, hence we are not accountable to the Hague Tribunal or any other tribunal except our own sense of justice and the demands of our national policy.Before I forget it I must mention that I am acquainted with three American railroad men of exceptional ability and vast experience who are thoroughly conversant with the people and the language and whose training would fit them admirably to advise the revolutionists on the points I have just discussed. They are available on short notice.Just now the subject that interests me the most is the possession of the Gulf by the revolutionists. I wired the Secretary the outline of a tentative plan for that purpose. Mexico has only two gunboats in the Gulf; they are small and of limited effectiveness, but they are a wonderful asset for HuertaVictoriano Huerta at this juncture, not alone by what they can do but by reason of the moral effect if their possession. At the time of the recent attack on Tampico they could have been captured by a mere handful of men who knew how. I will not stop to explain the details. I am not saying this is on my own judgment, but it is the opinion of two of our naval officers of large experience in the Philippines and in naval operations generally. Captain Burnside, largely on my suggestion, went up there and covered the territory adjacent to Tampico and confirms all that I say. I send you herewith a blueprint showing the oil region generally and the location of Tampico (as a map of the present oil development it is not accurate; there are many new wells not indicated). By this you will observe that Tampico is on the river. The south bank is wooded and has good cover for a couple of miles below Tampico, and the north bank is built up more or less and affords excellent shelter. There is an abundance of boats and barges and all sorts of conveyances in the river. In case of an attack the gunboats would of course again run up the river and anchor in the vicinity for its defense as they did before. They are not armored. Modern high power rifles will penetrate the shell and good shots on the shore well disposed and properly directed can make operations on the boats absolutely untenable in the judgment of the men referred to. The plan I suggested involves the organization of a force American trained and under the command of men who have had a broad experience in our navy and in the Philippines and who are fitted for undertaking this kind of work. Captain Moffett tells me that he has in mind the very men for the job. They are not now in the service of the United States but would be glad, he believes, to undertake the task at the instance of the revolutionists. If the scheme meets with your approval and has the approval and cooperation of the revolutionists I will have the details worked out in such a way that there can be no possible miscarriage. It would not take a large amount of money either. With these two gunboats captured or sunk, preferably captured, the revolution could be ended in thirty days. Every city on the coast would surrender to the revolutionists as a matter of course. Veracruz could be taken without a gun being fired. The question of fuel for the National Railways would then be wholly in the hands of the revolutionists. The capture of Veracruz would not need to interrupt the operation of the Mexican (English) Railway between this place and the City of Mexico. Trains did not stop running at the time that this port was captured by Felix Diaz.My best judgment of the situation at this writing is that while the revival of the HuertaVictoriano Huerta sentiment, to which I referred in the beginning of this letter, is a fact, that revival must not be overestimated. It is not based on confidence but prompted by the fear that something worse may befall if he should fail. It will not last long. There are forces in operation that, in connection with the situation in the north, are bound to undermine HuertaVictoriano Huerta's power very soon. The different commands of his army are now levying tribute in the localities in which they are located and threatening that if the money is not paid the town or community, as the case may be, will be abandoned. I could name a score of places where this has occurred in the last few days. Tuxpam and Tampico are now under pressure. I feel that this is the most dangerous expedient to which HuertaVictoriano Huerta has been compelled to resort; that it will not last long; but I am not sure that it is not a good thing. I believe it good discipline for these communities in the south to see what Huertaism leads to.The air is full of the like rumors indicated in the unsigned enclosure from D'Antin. The latest that has reached me would indicate that there is a conspiracy on foot among the army officers in which Blanquet is implicated. It is difficult to believe that he would betray Huerta, but he is such a consummate scoundrel that anything is possible in his case. While I was dictating this letter the enclosed communication, which I have endorsed in pencil, arrived from Mr. D'Antin, the official interpreter and counselor of the Embassy. My relations with him are very confidential. His reference to the conversation that he had with a Justice of the Supreme Court is undoubtedly reliable. I have always found him scrupulously accurate in his statement of facts; his opinions and gossip are subject to discount. His disclosure in regard to Carden only confirms my suspicions from the start. I have other corroboration on this point if needed.The situation down here is becoming more complicated every moment. Attacks on the Mexican Railroad between Veracruz and the City are rumored. I will report details by cable. I think it would be very helpful if the revolutionists of the north would delegate some man, who is reliable and in whom they have confidence, that I could be in contact with here at Veracruz so that I could furnish him such information as I may desire to convey and also to enable me to indicate such action as I deem the best interests of all concerned demand. Things may happen at any moment that will precipitate actual intervention, but if I had reliable means of communication that I could trust implicitly such occurrences might be headed off. Up to this time I have refrained from getting in contact with the sympathizers of the revolutionists, at least openly. I think it best that I continue that policy, but I also realize that I might able, and in fact I now have the opportunity, to get into relations with Mexican officials both military and naval that might be the means of furthering interests of the revolutionists very rapidly and very materially. I would be glad to have an indication in some form of your views in this respect. I will only add that if I should enter upon this kind of work at all you may feel assured that I will exercise the utmost caution that no complications or embarassments ensue. I have never written a letter that I was not willing to have made public at the time it was written or at any future time and I do not propose to.

I expected to forward this communication by Captain Niblack of the “Michigan,” but his orders to proceed north have been countermanded. I now forward it through the Postmaster at Galveston.

With best wishes, I am
Your obedient servant,
John Lind


Original Format



Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924




Lind, John, 1854-1930, “John Lind to Woodrow Wilson,” 1914 January 10, WWP18276, First Year Wilson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.