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The Forgotten Peace

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Michael Small

Chapter 5. The mediation

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  • 1 Confidential Memorandum to Diplomatic Representatives of Argentina, Brazil and Chile, April 25, 19 (...)

1Woodrow Wilson made it clear from the outset that accepting the mediators’ offer implied no change in his fundamental goal of ousting Huerta. He followed Bryan’s formal reply to the mediators with his own confidential memo to them, which declared in typically sweeping terms that “no settlement could have any prospect of permanence,” or be acceptable to American public opinion or the U.S. Government, unless it included three features. The first was “the entire elimination of General Huerta.” The second was the immediate establishment of a single provisional government “acceptable to all parties and pledged to proceed at once to the establishment of a permanent government constituted in strict accordance with the Constitution of Mexico.” The third was a commitment by the provisional government to “the prosecution of such reforms as will reasonably assure the ultimate removal of the present causes of discontent.”1 In short, nothing had altered Wilson’s relentless focus on forcing political change within Mexico. Nor did he make even oblique mention of the tensions between the United States and Mexico arising from the recent insults to the flag in Tampico and the intervention in Veracruz, which were the official reasons why the A.B.C. powers had offered their services as mediators in the first place.

  • 2 Views of mediators reported by Spring-Rice to Grey, Washington, DC, May 14, 1914, F.O. 115/1795.
  • 3 See report from Carden, Mexico, May 18, 1914, on his conversation with Brazilian Chargé in Mexico, (...)
  • 4 Spring-Rice to Grey, Washington, DC, May 16, 1914, telegrams 184 and 187, F.O. 115/1796.

2The mediators themselves readily accepted that their work would have to focus on finding a replacement for Huerta’s regime that all parties could accept. They hoped that if they could obtain Huerta’s commitment to resign at the beginning of the conference, the United States would then be prepared to exert its influence on the Constitutionalists to accept an armistice and come to the mediation table prepared to negotiate the formation of a new provisional government.2 Given that none of the A.B.C. powers recognized Huerta’s regime and only Brazil had a diplomatic presence in Mexico City (which at that point was also taking care of U.S. interests), they lacked the means to put this proposal directly to Huerta.3 Instead, the mediators appealed to the good offices of Britain, once again through Sir Lionel Carden in Mexico City, to reinforce the message.4

3By May 1914 the idea that Huerta might resign was no longer unrealistic. May was a militarily disastrous month for his cause. Before the end of the month he had lost the state capitals of Monterrey, Saltillo, and Tepic to the Constitutionalists. Most serious of all for the survival of his regime was the Constitutionalists’ capture of the oil port of Tampico on May 13. Not only did this deprive his regime of access to the other major port on the Gulf of Mexico, but it gave the Constitutionalists a rich new concentration of foreign businesses that they could tax to finance their cause. On May 13 Carden reported to Sir Edward Grey:

  • 5 Carden to Grey, Mexico City, May 13, 1914, telegram no. 138, F.O. 115/1795.

I have strong reason for believing that whole Mexican Cabinet and most other supporters of the Government fully realize hopelessness of position and pin their faith on the Mediation Commission as affording only means of pacifying the country. They are willing to agree to almost any terms in so far as rebels are concerned but would probably resist any attempt of U.S.G. to profit by their internal dissensions...Huerta himself as yet shows no sign yielding but this is due in my opinion to his belief that to do so would be regarded by his enemies as a sign of weakness and would only encourage them to redouble their efforts against him. I think however that in reality he is prepared to retire and only awaits moment when he can publicly show that he does so at suggestion of mediators and not at dictation of the U.S.5

  • 6 Carden to Grey, Mexico City, May 21, 1914, telegram no. 147, F.O. 115/1795.
  • 7 Ulloa (1971), pp. 206–07. Rabasa tabled an official statement to this effect at the second plenary (...)

4Acting on the mediators’ request, Carden put this proposal directly to Huerta on May 20, skilfully making the pitch that staying in power should not become an obstacle to his original goal of pacifying the country. According to Carden, Huerta eventually agreed with this line of argument and left to telephone his representatives, who had just arrived in Niagara Falls.6 Huerta’s Interior Minister, de la Lama, cabled Rabasa the same day confirming that he could announce Huerta’s willingness to leave power if it would guarantee peace, not only with the United States but with the Constitutionalists as well.7 As Carden predicted, Rabasa waited three days to let the conference get started and then tabled a brief official statement to this effect.

  • 8 Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., May 20, 1914, United States Department of State (...)
  • 9 Wilson as quoted in Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 21, 1914, United (...)

5The conference thus began with Wilson’s first objective already within reach: the departure of Huerta from power. Unfortunately, this did not make the President any more flexible when the mediators turned their attention to his second objective, the composition of a new provisional government. The mediators’ opening proposal on May 20 was for Huerta to appoint a new Minister of Foreign Affairs, then resign and have that person replace him as Provisional President, following the terms of the existing Mexican Constitution. The name they suggested was Pedro Lascurian, Madero’s Foreign Minister, an independent figure “of Constitutionalist principles.” Wilson could not come up with any immediate objections to Lascurian, but he baulked at the idea of having Huerta name his own successor.8 Instead, he suggested power should be transferred to three people, including a Constitutionalist, in order to “set up an authority free from former cabinet influences.”9 The mediators then tried to adapt this approach to the procedures established under the Mexican Constitution. They came back with a more fully developed proposal on May 26 for a Provisional President to be appointed, as before, who would then govern through a Board composed of four persons: one Huertista, one Constitutionalist and two neutrals. The Board’s principal task would be to convene new elections for President and Congress.

  • 10 Bryan, quoting direct instructions from Wilson, in Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Wa (...)
  • 11 Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, June 3, 1914, United States Department of (...)

6“We are seriously disappointed with the proposals outlined in your dispatch of the 26th,” Wilson informed his delegates. “We have reason to believe that the acceptance by Huerta of such a plan as that proposed could have been secured by this Government some months ago.”10 This assertion somehow overlooked the fact that none of Wilson’s strategies up to that point had yet secured Huerta’s resignation, let alone a method for holding new elections. However, Wilson had been encouraged by the progress of events on the ground since the mediation was first proposed. By that point he had become convinced that the Constitutionalists had to be put in control of any new provisional government. The Mexican delegates were merely trying to hold on to the privileges they enjoyed under the old regime. As for the neutrals whom the mediators proposed would have the balance of power in the provisional government, “There can be no such persons in Mexico among men of force and character. All men of real stuff must have taken sides in one way or another and those who call themselves neutrals are quite certainly partisans of the kind of order and supremacy which Huerta tried to establish, whether they adhere to Huerta or not.”11

  • 12 For a line-by-line comparison of the two plans, see the memorandum in two columns prepared by the (...)

7Instead, the U.S. delegates were instructed to table an alternative plan. A single Provisional President would be appointed from the ranks of the Constitutionalists, but would not be either Carranza or Villa. The Provisional President would exercise executive powers for a period of time in order to initiate various necessary reforms until the new elections, the timing of which he would specify. The elections would be organized by an independent Board of Elections comprised of three persons: two Constitutionalists and one “representative of other political elements.”12

8Huerta cabled his approval of the mediators plan on June 9. By this point, the conference had become deadlocked between the two proposals.

9The Americans’ explicit bias in favour of the Constitutionalists caused the mediators discomfort and the Mexican delegates acute distress. By June 12 the Mexican delegates had abandoned their previous reservations about working through the mediators and started writing directly to their U.S. counterparts. These direct exchanges between the two delegations contain some of the most revealing passages in the entire record of the conference. In his memorandum to the U.S. delegation Emilio Rabasa argued:

  • 13 Mexican Delegation to U.S. Delegation, June 12, 1914, quoted in Special Commissioner Lamar to Secr (...)

By insisting now that Carranza and his followers shall form the Provisional Government, the Washington Government forces the elections in favor of the former. This is bad for Mexico, bad for the United States and even bad for Carranza. Bad for the two nations because of the natural and just feelings of hostility which the procedure of the United States will create in Mexico. Bad for the revolutionary chief and his partisans because public opinion in Mexico will accuse them of having brought about the intervention of a foreign power in the country’s affairs and of being subject to a foreign government... If the nation really wants Carranza for President his election is a foregone conclusion under a neutral government, and it is therefore unnecessary to impose him by means of a provisional government of his partisans.13

10Justice Lamar’s reply, sent on June 15, rejected the idea that the United States had any preference as to who would become President of Mexico or that it was trying to impose its own choice on the Mexican people. Lamar elucidated Wilson’s view of the only real option in the mediation that would bring peace:

  • 14 U.S. Delegation to Mexican Delegation, June 14, 1914, in Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Fall (...)

The President recognizes facts and he sees in the past success of the Constitutionalist Army indisputable evidence of the approval of the Mexican people. But he also sees that the full triumph of that army means an indefinite continuance of the war, with the suffering and bloodshed and death which every war involves. These consequences the President seeks to prevent through mediation. But we greatly fear that the language of your note implies that his efforts may be thwarted because of your unwillingness to have a Constitutionalist as Provisional President, even though that promises the only practicable means by which the horrors of war can be prevented... if the plan you endorse should be adopted and a neutral chosen as Provisional President, we should have secured no practical results, but still be confronted with the insurmountable fact that the Constitutionalists, now almost completely triumphant, would reject any plan, repudiate the man, and press forward with renewed zeal to Mexico City with all of the loss of blood and life that may involve.14

11In a parallel correspondence one of the other Mexican delegates, Luis Elguero, recorded a private conversation he had with the U.S. delegate Frederick Lehmann, as follows:

  • 15 Señor Elguero to Commissioner Lehmann, June 12, 1914, attached to Commissioner Lehmann to Secretar (...)

If a Constitutionalist President is put in power at present, it is certain that he will hold fraudulent elections, as has always been the case in Mexico after the triumph of a revolution, none of which put into the practice the electoral liberty they preach, once they are in power... Elguero also drew attention to the fact that according to the Constitutionalist proclamations the chief of their party must occupy the [post of] President of the Republic, and they only intend to hold elections after triumph is complete and they have annihilated opposing political parties.15

  • 16 Commissioner Lehmann to Señor Elguero, June 13, 1914, attached to the same document.

12To these pertinent observations Lehmann blandly replied: “we are of the opinion that in the present division of the Mexican people the great majority are with the Constitutionalists in principle and in purpose, and that this party more than any other gives substantial hope of accomplishing the reforms believed to be necessary to an enduring peace.”16

13What was at stake in these exchanges was not just a preference for a failing conservative order versus the victorious forces of revolution. The mediators and the Mexican delegates were arguing for using the mediation process to establish a temporary balance of power between the two sides in the Revolution, so that a new permanent government could be established through the ballot box. Woodrow Wilson took a much more limited view of what the mediation could accomplish, determined by “the facts” (as he read them). The Constitutionalists were going to win the conflict and only their success offered the prospect of agrarian reform, which he regarded as essential to enduring peace in Mexico. The best that mediation could offer was a more peaceful and perhaps more rapid alternative to a Constitutionalist victory on the battlefield through the establishment of a provisional government that reflected their interests. However, for this option to hold any allure for the Constitutionalists, they had to be brought into the mediation process.

  • 17 Señor R. Zubáran Capmany, representing General Carranza to Mediators, Washington, May 28, 1914, ap (...)

14Thus, the second great issue of debate throughout the conference was whether a representative of the Constitutionalists would take a seat at the table. Wilson began pressing this issue again by the second day of the conference, instructing his delegates to ask if the mediators would reconsider admitting the Constitutionalists without requiring that they accept the scope of the mediation or agree to an armistice. The mediators replied that Carranza had already declined their invitation once. Furthermore, he only wanted to discuss the international issues between the United States and Mexico. After a week of intense negotiations at the conference, Carranza himself became concerned that a deal might be cut by the United States and Mexico without his involvement. He instructed his special representative in Washington to send a messenger up to Niagara Falls on May 28 to deliver a letter to the mediators, admonishing them that “said conflict should not be the subject of negotiations at the mediation conferences in the absence of representatives of the First Chief of the Constitutionalist Army.”17 Bryan seized on this letter to conclude:

  • 18 Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 31, 1914, United States Department of (...)

The mere fact that General Carranza has now sent an agent to Niagara Falls seeking admission to the conference, in spite of his previous refusal to do so, seems to show us very clearly that he did not at first realize the scope which was to be given to the discussion and to the plan to be proposed, and that it is just because that scope is so inclusive of everything he is interested in that he wishes admission. It is evidence of good faith, for if he participates he will be under stronger compulsion before all the world to accept the results.18

  • 19 Mediators to Señor Zubáran, June 2, 1914, attached to Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, (...)
  • 20 Señor Zubáran to Mediators, June 11, 1914, and Mediators to General Carranza, June 15, 1914, attac (...)
  • 21 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., May 31, 1914, United States Depa (...)
  • 22 Special Commissioner to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 4, 1914, and Secretary of St (...)
  • 23 Rosario Solveira (1994), pp. 91–95.

15The mediators were not so sanguine about whether Carranza really wanted to participate, so they wrote back to him on June 2, asking if he was prepared to participate under the terms they had originally outlined, which entailed a commitment to an armistice, and, if so, would he please nominate his representatives.19 Carranza then waited until June 11 to write back, ignoring the mediators’ conditions and naming three representatives to the conference. The mediators wrote back again on June 15, pointing out that he had not responded to their conditions.20 Meanwhile, the mediators’ firm stand on an armistice exasperated Bryan and Wilson, who pointed out that cessation of hostilities was specifically not a requirement for mediation under the terms of the Hague Convention. The mediators’ response was that they had made a commitment to an armistice a precondition for their offer of mediation in the first place and they were under instructions from their capitals to stick to this position.21 The U.S. delegates raised the question with Washington whether the mediators should be acting only as individuals, or representing the view of their capitals. Wilson replied that, in his view, the governments of the mediators should not try to dictate the terms of the process.22 However, the mediators remained adamant and, led by Naón, kept their own capitals in line on this point.23

  • 24 Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 21, 1914, United States Department of (...)
  • 25 Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 31, 1914, United States Department of (...)

16However, the Americans’ real problem lay elsewhere, namely in their relationship with the Constitutionalists. The United States wanted the Constitutionalists at the table in Niagara Falls, as Bryan explained from Washington, because “it is extremely difficult for us to confer satisfactorily by indirect ways such as are open to us here.”24 Beyond this, there was a deeper problem of representation for the U.S. side, which Bryan acknowledged: “If the representative of the Constitutionalists is not admitted to the conference, we shall have to constitute ourselves judges of what would be just to them and reasonable to expect them to accept without any adequate means of forming the judgement.”25 In the absence of any representative of the Constitutionalists, the U.S. delegation proceeded to make these judgements for them.

  • 26 See Article VIII of the Mediators’ Plan as laid out in Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, (...)
  • 27 Bryan, quoting Wilson, in Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 29, 1914, U (...)
  • 28 U.S. Delegation to Mexican Delegation, June 15, 1914, attached to Dodge to Secretary of State, Nia (...)
  • 29 See Article VIII in United States Plan in Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 1 (...)

17A third issue on the table was one that did interest the Constitutionalists: the continued presence of U.S. troops in Veracruz. Discussions of this topic did not get very far. The mediators proposed in their plan that the “American forces of occupation” would leave Mexican territory within fifteen days of the establishment of the Provisional Government.26 Wilson flatly refused to agree to any fixed timetable for the evacuation of U.S. troops, on the grounds that it was a topic that should be discussed between the United States and the Provisional Government, “which might need our support and be conscious that it needed it.”27 As Justice Lamar explained when writing back to Emilio Rabasa, “in the present disturbed condition of Mexico... the happenings of a day may make it desirable for the army to remain there longer than the date fixed in the Mediators’ plan.”28 Given the Americans’ uncertain relationship with the Constitutionalists, it is hard not read this position as a decision to hedge their bets. Hence the American counterproposal simply left the time and manner of withdrawal of their military forces in Mexico to be a matter of agreement between the United States and the Provisional Government.29

18The final issue that shaped the dynamics of the debate at Niagara Falls, even though it was never formally put on the table, was the inconsistent application of the U.S. arms embargo on Mexico. Wilson had lifted it as a matter of policy in February 1914 and then reimposed it as an administrative measure as soon as Carranza denounced the U.S. occupation of Veracruz on April 22. However, Wilson’s own vacillations on the issue reflected a significant division of opinion within his Administration. In late May Sir Cecil Spring-Rice sketched the mood in Washington:

  • 30 Spring-Rice to Grey, Washington, May 25, 1914, reprinted in Gwynn, ed. (1929), Vol. 2, pp. 207–08.

Each department has its own policy and its own information... The Minister of Navy, like Mr. Bryan, believes in “the germ theory of freedom” theory, that is, that the constitutionalists represent the principle of liberty and are worthy of the support of the sons of freedom. The Minister of War who is a business man thinks that the germ of freedom may prove very inconvenient to the American army, if it sprouts too freely among the Mexicans, and he would like to prevent all Mexicans, whether lovers of freedom or the reverse, from getting supplies of arms. The result of this is that the army has prevented Villa from getting arms over the land frontier; but now that he has got hold of Tampico he may be able to import arms under the eyes of United States Navy which will, I presume, obey the orders of its chief.30

  • 31 Grieb (1969), pp. 173–75. Grieb appears to have made the closest study of this under-reported aspe (...)

19This is exactly what happened . On June 3 an American steamer, the Antilla, left New York for Tampico with two million rounds of ammunition and two airplanes. When this was reported in the New York papers, the Mexican delegation at Niagara Falls protested strenuously to the mediators. The U.S. delegation provided the lame reply that the order to the customs inspector to prevent the shipment had arrived one hour after the ship had sailed. When Huerta threatened to blockade Tampico with two gunboats, the U.S. Navy received instructions to use force to “prevent interference with commerce.” After a cabinet discussion, all ports in the southern United States received instructions to detain shipments of arms to Mexico, but, somehow, during the course of the conference six ships carrying arms that left U.S. ports for other destinations were “forced” into Tampico due to “bad weather.”31

  • 32 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., May 23, 1914, United States Depa (...)
  • 33 Wilson, as quoted by Bryan, in Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 24, 19 (...)
  • 34 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., May 25, 1914, United States Depa (...)

20Given this record, it is not surprising that the U.S. delegates were unconcerned about the Constitutionalists’ refusal to accept an armistice as a condition for joining the conference. At the beginning of the conference the mediators expressed their profound concern to the U.S. delegates that, as Huerta’s forces were being weakened by the day, there was a grave danger of anarchy in Mexico City and that the provisional government could enjoy any respect only if it took power in a context of public order. The mediators’ conclusion, which they pressed on the Americans, was that “A cessation of hostilities is therefore imperative, and this may be obtained either by an armistice agreed to by the parties or by a general embargo against munitions of war, which would have the same practical effect.”32 Wilson’s reaction to this was to interpret it as a demand that the United States should “by some means intervene to prevent the complete success of the revolution now in progress,” which he rejected as “impracticable” and likely to force a more active intervention by the United States in Mexico.33 Instead, he put his faith in reaching “prompt agreement upon a clear program which the Constitutionalists can accept.” When the U.S. delegates explained to the mediators that “the President could not accede to their plan of securing an armistice or forcing an embargo,” the mediators were evidently disappointed.34

  • 35 Grieb (1969), p. 172.

21By Monday, June 15, the conference was at an impasse. There were two plans on the table, one proposed by the mediators, which Huerta had approved, and one that the U.S. delegates had drafted to reflect the absent Constitutionalists’ interests. At the mediators’ suggestion, both sets of delegates had tried to bridge the gap by coming up with a short list of names for the post of Provisional President, but no consensus had been reached.35 The most that the mediators, the Mexicans, and the Americans had been able to agree on at the table was a pro forma protocol that provided for recognition, at an unspecified later date, of an undefined Provisional Government that would exercise power until the inauguration of an elected President.

  • 36 Severance, ed. (1914), editor’s essay, p. 52.

22The mediators proposed a suspension of the conference for the balance of the week to allow the Argentine Minister, Rómulo S. Naón, to return to the United States to receive his honorary degrees from Harvard and Yale.36 As it turned out, three events occurred during this break that determined the final outcome of the conference.

  • 37 These critical developments were first reported to the State Department by Collector Cobb to Secre (...)

23The first was a showdown in northern Mexico on June 13 between Villa and Carranza, conducted over telegraph lines from their respective field headquarters in Torreon and Saltillo. Tensions had been building for months between the Constitutionalists’ political leader and their most successful military commander. They came to a head when Carranza appointed another general, Natera, to lead the assault on the Constitutionalists’ next objective, Zacatecas, and instructed Villa to send 5,000 of his troops to Natera for the battle. Villa refused and offered his resignation, which Carranza immediately accepted. Villa, however, had second thoughts when all his generals urged him to resume command of the Division of the North. On June 16 Villa took charge of the division and ordered it south to Zacatecas, in open defiance of Carranza.37 The next day there were widely broadcast reports from American wire services that Villa’s supporters had seized control of the Constitutionalist telegraph station at Juarez and were trying to take control of customs houses along Mexico’s northern border.

  • 38 See articles in the New York Evening Post, June 17, 1914, and the Washington Post, June 17, 1914.

24Huerta’s delegates at Niagara Falls did not miss the opportunity to point out that this split in the Constitutionalist ranks was exactly why they were arguing for a neutral candidate as Provisional President.38 To put their case in the best light, they proceeded to release the text of their memorandum of June 11 to the U.S. delegation. This move outraged Lamar, who proceeded to release his response to the press. The result was an even greater sense of frustration between the two delegations, made worse by the growing doubts among the U.S. delegates over whether they were still backing the right side in the conflict.

  • 39 Zubáran to Carranza, Washington, June 8, 1914, in Fabela, ed. (1962), pp. 114–16.
  • 40 Zubáran to Carranza, Buffalo, June 16, 1914, in Fabela, ed. (1962), pp. 120–21.

25These doubts were triggered by a four-hour meeting on June 16 in the Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo between two of the U.S. Commissioners, Lamar and Lehmann, and the two senior Constitutionalist representatives in Washington, Raphael Zubáran Capmany and Luis Cabrera. The meeting took place at the repeated urging of Bryan, who had met Zubáran several times in Washington to keep the Constitutionalists interested in the outcome of the mediation. The two Constitutionalists had already made one abortive visit to Buffalo ten days earlier, hoping to meet Minister Naón privately and argue their case for admission for the conference. Naón had cancelled the meeting at the last minute because he had failed to get the agreement for this meeting from his two fellow mediators, and the Mexican delegation was protesting that day the arrival of arms for the Constitutionalists on the Antilla.39 When Zubáran and Cabrera arrived in Buffalo again, Zubáran was upset to learn that the mediators had released to the press the texts of Carranza’s latest telegram to the mediators, and their reply to Carranza reminding him that he had not responded to their demand for an armistice. Before heading for the meeting with Lamar and Lehmann, Zubáran reported this insult to Carranza and declared his intention to put to an end this debate with the mediators by delivering a formal protest at any further international discussion of issues that should be resolved among Mexicans.40

  • 41 Grieb (1969), p. 170.

26Lamar and Lehmann arrived expecting to receive a short list of Constitutionalist candidates for Provisional President.41 Instead, they received an intensive education in Mexican national self-determination. Zubáran and Cabrera explained that the Plan of Guadalupe designated Carranza as the Provisional President, thus precluding consideration of any other candidates. Lamar and Lehmann explained in detail Wilson’s plan, which they had defended at the conference, describing it as “in effect a present surrender to the Constitutionalists by Huerta.” According to the two Commissioners, Zubáran replied that:

  • 42 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 16, 1914, File No. 812.00/2 (...)

Mexican condition s raise no international questions and that they are entitled to fight out their own fight in their own way, just as the United States in 1860 and 1864 was entitled to settle the question of slavery without the intervention of foreign powers... They insisted that they might be willing to take up the question of surrender with someone outside the mediation with which the United States had nothing to do; but that as far as the mediation was concerned they would absolutely decline to receive anything from the mediators or through the mediation—not in effect, but in words saying—that they would not accept as a gift anything which the mediators could give them, even though it was what they were otherwise seeking; that they would not take it “on a silver platter.” They declined to discuss names or to propose names for Provisional President, saying that no one would be satisfactory that was appointed by the mediators, even if it were Carranz a himself, because anything that came from the mediators would not be accepted by their party or by the Mexican people.
Their manner was courteous, expressing regret that they should decline what was in mistaken kindness; but their statement was so explicit, their objection so positive, their spirit so defiant, that we asked them if we were to understand that they were expressing their own views or the views of Carranza. To this they emphatically replied that they were absolutely instructed by Carranza to deliver this as their final answer.42

  • 43 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 18, 1914, File 812.00/23478 (...)

27It took Lamar and Lehmann two more days to absorb the full implications of the fact that “the representatives of the Constitutionalists not only repudiated our good offices but distinctly stated that they would not accept anything from the mediators.” Trying to put the best face on an embarrassing situation, the Commissioners strongly recommended to Bryan that the United States delegation remain committed to the mediation process and to achieving reform in Mexico, but instead find a different party to back. They argued that the existing U.S. plan for the composition of a Provisional Government could be salvaged by a change in terminology: “As we are no longer dealing with the Constitutionalists and they decline anything the mediation may do, we think it well not to assume to be acting for them and therefore should no longer use the term Constitutionalist, but the term liberal.”43 Uncharacteristically, they did not receive a prompt reaction from Wilson or Bryan to this proposal.

  • 44 Zubáran to Carranza, June 19, 1914, in Fabela, ed. (1962), pp. 127–28.

28If Zubáran had any comprehension of the impact of his meeting in Buffalo on his interlocutors, he showed no signs of it in his next report to Carranza. Back in Washington, he met Bryan again on June 19, and found him “very aggressive.” Zubáran was deeply disturbed by Bryan’s suggestion that if Carranza was not willing to help the United States in pacifying Mexico through the mediation, they could find another Constitutionalist leader who might (Zubáran suspected Villa’s deputy, General Angeles). He discounted the explanation Bryan gave for the Administration’s frustration with Carranza’s refusal of help and suggested instead that their wavering support was due to the malevolent influence of U.S. Special Agent Carothers, who was assigned to accompany Villa. Zubáran concluded dramatically that Mexico was in peril of another foreign intervention, this time sanctioned by the South American powers, by being obliged to accept another candidate for Provisional President selected through the mediation process.44

  • 45 Rosario Solveira (1994), pp. 99–100, describes the telephone conversations between Naón in Boston (...)
  • 46 Naón to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 21, 1914, quoted and translated in (...)

29At this delicate moment Minister Naón arrived in Washington on June 20, at the request of his two fellow mediators, to propose a new approach to break the deadlock in the negotiation.45 He met Zubáran first, then Bryan at length, and finally President Wilson. As Naón reported back to his Foreign Minister, he made two proposals, both of which were accepted by all his interlocutors. The first was that the mediators would simply invite the two contending factions to designate representatives to meet to work out the formation of a provisional government between them. The second was that the United States would agree to negotiate protocols dealing with all the international aspects of the conflict for subsequent implementation by the provisional government once it was established.46

  • 47 Link, ed. (1979), Vol. 30, p. 198.

30These deceptively simple proposals amounted to two major concessions by both the mediators and the United States. First, both external parties agreed that it would be best if the two Mexican factions met on their own terms to establish a provisional government. No mediators needed to be present. “A Mexican solution of the Mexican problem” was what Naón reminded Wilson he had recommended before the conference started.47 Second, by agreeing to “protocolize” the international issues first, they decided to decouple the internal from the external dimensions of the conflict and thus dramatically reduce the scope of the mediation. Given the emerging divisions in the ranks of the Constitutionalists and the apparent futility of having the U.S. delegates argue their case for them at Niagara, this scaled-down solution to the mediation must have looked appealing to Bryan and Wilson.

  • 48 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 22, 1914, United States Dep (...)

31On Monday, June 22, the mediators reconvened the conference in Niagara Falls and announced that they were putting Naón’s plan into action. They had already sent a new letter to Carranza, inviting his representatives “to come to Niagara Falls or such other nearby point as might be desired for the purposes of conferring with the Mexican representatives on internal affairs.”48 They announced that the Mexican delegates at the conference had already agreed to this plan. They read a formal statement into the record that Mexicans were the persons who had the right and the authority to settle their internal differences. Then they tabled a new, simple, five-paragraph plan to be appended to the one-paragraph protocol on recognition of a provisional government, which had already been signed on June 12.

32The mediators’ new plan picked up all the international issues that had been included in the earlier U.S. draft: diplomatic recognition of the provisional government; a commitment by the United States not to claim “a war indemnity or other international satisfaction”; the establishment of international commissions to settle foreign claims for damages sustained during the civil war; and a commitment to withdraw U.S. forces from Mexican territory under conditions agreed with the provisional government. It was understood that the reference to refusing to claim “other international satisfaction” closed the incident at Tampico.

33The U.S. delegates proposed only two amendments to the mediators’ text. One was to add a provision for an amnesty after the conflict, which had been included in both versions of the previous peace plan. Since this protocol dealt only with international questions, the U.S. delegates proposed that the amnesty apply only to foreigners, the issue of amnesty for Mexicans being left for a future provisional government. This was readily agreed. More delicate was the U.S. proposal to drop the mediators’ reference to the “international conflict as definitely closed” after the United States had recognized the provisional government. As the U.S. delegates pointed out in cabling this text to Bryan, this language could imply a commitment to an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Veracruz once the Administration had recognized the provisional government. The next day Bryan cabled Wilson’s approval of the text as amended. His only stipulation was that if the Mexicans did not agree to an open-ended date for U.S. withdrawal from Veracruz, the subject should be dropped from the text altogether.

  • 49 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, June 24, 1914, United States Departmen (...)

34On June 24 the mediators met the U.S. delegation again to iron out the final wording. The mediators agreed in the end to substitute a reference to diplomatic relations being restored between the United States and a provisional government, in lieu of declaring the “international conflict as definitely closed.” They also agreed to “postpone” any discussion of Veracruz and dropped the paragraph on the subject altogether from the final text.49 At 9:45 that night they convened the final plenary of the conference and approved the text of the fourth protocol, as follows:

  • 50 Final text as appended to Secretary Dodge to the Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 25, (...)

Article I. The Provisional Government referred to in Protocol no. 3 [the record of the June 12 plenary] shall be constituted by agreement of the delegates representing the parties between which the internal struggle in Mexico is taking place.
Article II. (a) Upon the constitution of the Provisional Government in the City of Mexico, the Government of the United States of America will recognize it immediately, and thereupon diplomatic relations between the two countries will be restored.
(b) The Government of the United States of America will not in any form whatsoever claim a war indemnity or other international satisfaction.
(c) The Provisional Government will proclaim an absolute amnesty to all foreigners for any and all political offenses committed during the period of the civil war in Mexico.
(d) The Provisional Government will negotiate for the constitution of international commissions for the settlement of the claims of the foreigners on account of damages sustained during the period of civil war as a consequence of military acts or the acts of national authorities.
Article III. The three mediating Governments agree on their part to recognize the Provisional Government organized as provided by section [sic: Article] I of this protocol.50

  • 51 Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, July 1, 1914, United States Department of (...)
  • 52 Mediators to U.S. Special Commissioners and Delegates of General Huerta, July 1, 1914, attached to (...)

35The mediators and the delegates remained in Niagara Falls for another week in the hope that General Carranza would reply to the fresh invitation from the mediators to meet General Huerta’s delegates. A few days later Carranza cabled a very polite reply to the mediators informing them that, as their proposal implied a modification to the Plan of Guadalupe, he would need more time to consult all his generals and obtain their approval. With this message in hand, the mediators decided to take an indefinite recess. On July 1 they organized a signing ceremony for the last protocol, which Wilson agreed that the U.S. delegates could sign along with the Mexicans, subject to the proviso that “nothing contained herein is construed as a recognition of the government of General Huerta by the Government of the United States.”51 That done, the three mediators wrote to both delegations that “the protocol of June 24 having settled satisfactorily all the matters deriving from the incidents that originated our good offices... nothing more remains to be done but the organization and establishment of a Provisional Government of Mexico, a patriotic work reserved exclusively to the delegation of the two parties contending.”52 They assured all parties of their readiness to be called back to mediate, if needed, and they referred any further questions to the Brazilian Embassy in Washington. With that, the Niagara Falls Peace Conference was over.

Notes

1 Confidential Memorandum to Diplomatic Representatives of Argentina, Brazil and Chile, April 25, 1914, in Link, ed. (1979), Vol. 29, p. 567.

2 Views of mediators reported by Spring-Rice to Grey, Washington, DC, May 14, 1914, F.O. 115/1795.

3 See report from Carden, Mexico, May 18, 1914, on his conversation with Brazilian Chargé in Mexico, F.O. 115/1796.

4 Spring-Rice to Grey, Washington, DC, May 16, 1914, telegrams 184 and 187, F.O. 115/1796.

5 Carden to Grey, Mexico City, May 13, 1914, telegram no. 138, F.O. 115/1795.

6 Carden to Grey, Mexico City, May 21, 1914, telegram no. 147, F.O. 115/1795.

7 Ulloa (1971), pp. 206–07. Rabasa tabled an official statement to this effect at the second plenary session on May 23: see Grieb (1969), p. 166, quoting the Minutes of the Second Plenary.

8 Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., May 20, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 501–02, File No. 812.00/12136. In fact, Huerta had used Lascurian for succession purposes once before. The day that Madero was forced to resign, Lascurian was sworn in as President and served for fifty-six minutes, during which time he appointed Huerta as Minister of Interior, the next office in the line of succession. Lascurian then resigned and Huerta took his place. This charade provided the tissue of legality for Huerta’s appointment as Provisional President under the terms of the Mexican Constitution of 1857. See Meyer (1972), pp. 62–63, on this sequence of events.

9 Wilson as quoted in Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 21, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 502–03, File No. 812.00/ 23435.

10 Bryan, quoting direct instructions from Wilson, in Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 27, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 509–10, File No. 812.00/23445.

11 Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, June 3, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 523, File No. 812.00/23455a.

12 For a line-by-line comparison of the two plans, see the memorandum in two columns prepared by the mediators, reported by Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 17, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 539–41, File No. 812.00/12313. The Mexican delegates confirmed their agreement in all significant details with the mediators’ plan on June 9, as reported in Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 9, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 525–26, File No. 812.00/12221-1/2.

13 Mexican Delegation to U.S. Delegation, June 12, 1914, quoted in Special Commissioner Lamar to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, June 12, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 527–29, File No. 812.00/12263-1/2 (U.S. spelling preserved).

14 U.S. Delegation to Mexican Delegation, June 14, 1914, in Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 16, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 535–37, File No. 812.00/12288.

15 Señor Elguero to Commissioner Lehmann, June 12, 1914, attached to Commissioner Lehmann to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 13, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 530–32, File No. 812.00/12241.

16 Commissioner Lehmann to Señor Elguero, June 13, 1914, attached to the same document.

17 Señor R. Zubáran Capmany, representing General Carranza to Mediators, Washington, May 28, 1914, appended to Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., May 31, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 514–19, File No. 812.00/12130.

18 Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 31, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 519–20, File No. 812.00/23451. Although this message is signed “Bryan,” the language and arguments used read very much as if it was largely drafted by Wilson himself.

19 Mediators to Señor Zubáran, June 2, 1914, attached to Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 13, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 529–30, File No. 812.00/12240.

20 Señor Zubáran to Mediators, June 11, 1914, and Mediators to General Carranza, June 15, 1914, attached to two separate messages from Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 15, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 533–35, File Nos. 812.00/12270 and 812.00/12271.

21 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., May 31, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 514–16, File No. 812.00/12130.

22 Special Commissioner to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 4, 1914, and Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, June 4, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 524–25, File Nos. 812.00/23456, 23457.

23 Rosario Solveira (1994), pp. 91–95.

24 Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 21, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 504, File No. 812.00/23452c.

25 Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 31, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 520, File No. 812.00/23451.

26 See Article VIII of the Mediators’ Plan as laid out in Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 17, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 541, File No. 812.00/12313.

27 Bryan, quoting Wilson, in Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 29, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 513, File No. 812.00/23446, 23452g.

28 U.S. Delegation to Mexican Delegation, June 15, 1914, attached to Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 16, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 537, File No. 812.00/12288.

29 See Article VIII in United States Plan in Dodge to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 17, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 541, File No. 812.00/12313.

30 Spring-Rice to Grey, Washington, May 25, 1914, reprinted in Gwynn, ed. (1929), Vol. 2, pp. 207–08.

31 Grieb (1969), pp. 173–75. Grieb appears to have made the closest study of this under-reported aspect of U.S. policy towards Mexico in 1914.

32 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., May 23, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 504–05, File No. 812.00/23439, 23441.

33 Wilson, as quoted by Bryan, in Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, May 24, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 505–06, File No. 812.00/23452d.

34 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., May 25, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 506–07, File No. 812.00/23444.

35 Grieb (1969), p. 172.

36 Severance, ed. (1914), editor’s essay, p. 52.

37 These critical developments were first reported to the State Department by Collector Cobb to Secretary of State, El Paso, Texas, June 16, 1914, File No. 812.00/12226. For a detailed account see Quirk (1960).

38 See articles in the New York Evening Post, June 17, 1914, and the Washington Post, June 17, 1914.

39 Zubáran to Carranza, Washington, June 8, 1914, in Fabela, ed. (1962), pp. 114–16.

40 Zubáran to Carranza, Buffalo, June 16, 1914, in Fabela, ed. (1962), pp. 120–21.

41 Grieb (1969), p. 170.

42 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 16, 1914, File No. 812.00/23477. Note that this critical message in its original form is eight pages long and only a heavily edited version appears in United States Department of State (1922), p. 538.

43 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 18, 1914, File 812.00/23478. This important message is not reprinted in United States Department of State (1922).

44 Zubáran to Carranza, June 19, 1914, in Fabela, ed. (1962), pp. 127–28.

45 Rosario Solveira (1994), pp. 99–100, describes the telephone conversations between Naón in Boston and the other two mediators, in which they agreed that he should proceed to Washington to try to “penetrate precisely the thinking of the [U.S.] government.”

46 Naón to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 21, 1914, quoted and translated in Link, ed. (1979), Vol. 30, pp. 197–99.

47 Link, ed. (1979), Vol. 30, p. 198.

48 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 22, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 544, File No. 812.00/23485.

49 Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, June 24, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 546, File No. 812.00/23487, 23488.

50 Final text as appended to Secretary Dodge to the Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., June 25, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 548–49, File No. 812.00/12363 (U.S. spelling preserved).

51 Secretary of State to Special Commissioners, Washington, July 1, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 549–50, File No. 812.00/23490.

52 Mediators to U.S. Special Commissioners and Delegates of General Huerta, July 1, 1914, attached to Dodge to Secretary of State, Washington, July 3, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 554–55, File No. 812.00/12411.

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