John Lind to William Jennings Bryan
Vera Cruz, Mexico
Dated February 24, 1914, 11 pm.
Recd. Feb. 25, 8:15 am
February twenty-four, eleven pm.
Visitors from Mexico City, Guadalajara and other interior points continue to bring fresh tales of Huerta’s exactions. Forced loans, new taxes, the sale of public property and the granting of concessions are the order of the day. This afternoon an export tax on coffee went into effect, three dollars per one hundred.
A tax of five per cent on the total capitalization and bond issues of corporations doing business in Mexico will be promulgated in a few days. This will apply to foreign corporations as well as domestic.
The circular despatch issued by the representatives of the foreign governments in Mexico relative to protection of their nationals, of which I have a copy in German, contains the following:
“The representatives of the foreign nations will arrange with the Mexican Government as follows:
(One) To recognize the indicated zone as neutral territory. (This zone includes the best residential part, about one fifth of the city)
.(Two)To dispose a special police detail for the protection of this zone and in a contingency to bar access to the zone.
(Three)To provide an ‘elite force’ for the defense of the neutral zone whose commander enjoys the confidence of the representatives of the foreign powers.
The defense force formed from the foreign nationals will take over the functions of the government police force if the latter force is withdrawn or is insufficient to bar access to the neutral zone.”
I forward the circular by mail, also a couple of letters. It is not my impression that the zone as defined in the German circular does not include the British Legation. It includes the Embassy. Whether the English are a party to this scheme I do not know but I think they are proceeding separately. Huerta, I am informed, has consented to the arrangement set forth. The circular is, I believe, purposely vague as to how this “elite force” (elite truppe) is to be made up and officered. I think it will be officered by Germans. In any event the circular fully confirms my suspicions that it is intended to create organized forces and an armed camp by and with the consent of Huerta within the city of Mexico. What this may lead to will depend on circumstances.
The situation in Mexico City and in the near by states is in my judgment very grave and daily becoming more desperate. The foreign investments in business, in mines, and in factories are suffering grievously and threatened with destruction. The/consensus of opinion among the foreigners and among the Huerta element of the Mexicans in that section is that the revolutionists will take no decisive (#) even if able to do so to bring hostilities to an end and they insist that if left to themselves the revolution may continue for years, both sides in the meantime devastating and living (#) the country. The present inactivity of the revolutionists certainly lends color to this. With these convictions, which are also shared and fostered by the Foreign Representatives, it is not unnatural that the leaders among the foreigners should plan to create a condition that will compel their Governments to intervene or to force the United States to take steps to end the situation and I believe that this is exactly (#) they are doing and that you must be prepared for that eventuality. I believe, and I say this after serious reflection, that if the revolutionists fail to take active and efficient action by the maiddle of March it will be incumbent on the United States to put an end to Huerta’s saturnalia of crime and oppression. I think our position before the world, our responsibility in the premises, and our interests demand that it be done. The undertaking would in my judgment involve the minimum of risk and expense at this time. There are no troops worth mentioning along the railway line between here and Mexico City and only a small force there, the twenty-ninth regiment and some volunteers. The bulk of Huerta’s soldiers are scattered in the north. With the railroads in the hands of friends short of fuel and short of rolling stock the federal soldiers would not come south very fast. The Mexican people speaking generally are so utterly sick of their three years of warfare that outside of those connected with the army there would hardly be a hand raised against us. Huerta’s appointees in the postoffice and customs department here take pains to indicate quietly to Mr. Canada and myself that they are friendly to the American Government under any and all circumstances. If any additional grounds were wanted for sending a force to Mexico City other than those already existing I think they could readily be obtained. The attitude of the Mexican press for months has been calculated to excite prejudice against the Americans and to expose them to great peril in case of any disturbances. That there is likely to be such disturbances and that life and property in general are menaced is evidenced by the armed camps established by the European Governments. In view of this situation you may well demand the right to send up a battalion of marines for the protection of life and property. Such a suggestion Huerta would indignantly turn down. You could then take such action as might be deemed proper.
Mr. J. H. Scheltema, a Hollander, called on me yesterday. He has been at his plantation and was on his way to Mexico City. He is a great dealer in tobacco and owns a large plantation. He is a very wealthy man, intelligent, means well and like other foreigners is discouraged over the outlook. He hopes to be able to arrange some solution. I did not discourage his efforts of course but I look for no results.
The KRONPRINZESSIN CECILIE which is due to arrive on the twenty-ninth brings three hundred tons of ammunition. The Ward Line at New York has received for shipment (seventeen?) tons of rifles and ten million rounds of ammunition. Shipment due here within two weeks.