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The Forgotten Peace

Michael Small

Chapter 1. Breaking news

Texte intégral

  • 1 The Globe (Toronto), April 24, 1914.

1Readers of the Toronto Globe opening their newspapers on the morning of Friday, April 24, 1914 would have been alarmed to read the following headline stretching across the page: “Declaration of War Against Mexico Expected.” Different reports from the Canadian Press covered facets of the crisis that had been triggered by the unexpected occupation of the Mexican port of Veracruz by U.S. Marines two days before. The Mexican and American governments had expelled each other’s Chargés d’Affaires and had severed all diplomatic channels between them. British and German naval vessels off the port of Tampico were asked by the U.S. Navy to help in rescuing 1,200 American oil workers there from enraged Mexican mobs. In Ottawa, Senator Poirier asked if there were plans to send the Canadian ships Niobe and Rainbow to Mexico to protect the rights and property of Canadian citizens. Meanwhile, The Globe helpfully provided its readers with a map outlining the two possible routes available for a march by U.S. troops from Veracruz to Mexico City over the same terrain crossed by the troops of General Winfield Scott sixty-seven years earlier. The Globe noted ominously that “a few men with dynamite could destroy the bridges over deep gorges on both roads and thereby greatly embarrass the march of the invaders. The country along both lines offers many advantages for stubborn resistance.”1

2Contrary to expectations, the United States did not follow its occupation of Veracruz with a declaration of war. Instead, the next day there was a surprise announcement that three South American governments, the “A.B.C. powers” of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, had offered their good offices to mediate a resolution to the conflict between the United States and Mexico. The U.S. Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, accepted the offer at once and the Mexican dictator, General Victoriano Huerta, agreed a few days later. Envoys were named and a location was announced by the mediators. The parties had agreed that the next scene in the long- running drama of the Mexican Revolution would be staged in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

3The Niagara Falls Peace Conference of 1914 represented an ephemeral high point in the nascent Pan-American movement. For a few brief weeks it appeared as if the three most prominent countries in South America could find a peaceful resolution to the abortive American military intervention in the internal affairs of its disorderly southern neighbour. For Canadians, the conference provided an unexpected spectacle on their doorstep, combining high diplomacy and low intrigue around the gardens and cataracts of Canada’s most famous natural attraction. If the results of the conference were fleeting and Canada’s political contribution to the outcome was negligible, the fact that it took place at all merits mention in the history of Canada’s relations with its two North American neighbours. This study reconstructs what did and did not happen at Niagara Falls in May and June 1914, and suggests why readers today might find points of interest in a failed peace conference that took place in Canada more than ninety years ago.


1 The Globe (Toronto), April 24, 1914.

© Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press, 2009

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