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The Forgotten Peace

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Michael Small

Chapter 3. A ray of light

Texte intégral

  • 1 Severance, ed. (1914), editor’s essay, p. 6.

1In the words of one contemporary American observer, Frank H. Severance: “At this juncture, when the blockade of Mexican ports, the bombardment of Mexican cities, and the invasion of her territory by the United States troops seemed to be the next step, an offer of mediation came like a ray of light through the storm clouds.”1

2On April 25, three South American envoys in Washington—Domicio da Gama, the Ambassador of Brazil; Rómulo S. Naón, the Minister of Argentina; and Eduardo Suárez Mujica, the Minister of Chile—sent the following proposal to William Jennings Bryan:

  • 2 Brazilian Ambassador and Argentine and Chilean Ministers as Mediators between the Governments of t (...)

Mr. Secretary of State: With the purpose of serving the interests of peace and civilization in our continent, and with the earnest desire to prevent any further bloodshed, to the prejudice of the cordiality and union that have always surrounded the relations of the Governments and peoples of America, we, the plenipotentiaries of Brazil, Argentina and Chile, duly authorized thereto, have the honor to offer to your excellency’s Government our good offices for the peaceful settlement of the conflict between the United States and Mexico.2

  • 3 This caption appears in The Globe (Toronto) May 13, 1914; for other photographs and cartoons see N (...)

3Thus was launched the formal mediation proposal from the “A.B.C. powers” (short for Argentina, Brazil, and Chile), as they were immediately christened by the press throughout the Americas. Throughout the process, cartoons made play of the first three letters of the alphabet, coupled with caricatures of the mediators and the three countries they represented. More augustly, photographs of the three mediators in full diplomatic uniform were widely reproduced by newspapers in North America, often under headlines such as “They Hope to Restore Peace.”3

  • 4 Of the three mediators, Naón’s picture appeared most often in the American press, and it is reveal (...)
  • 5 Guerrero Yoacham (1966), pp. 89–90.

4The three mediators themselves were prominent in the Washington diplomatic community, but until this initiative they do not appear to have been public figures in the United States in their own right. The most active and ambitious of the three was the Argentine Minister, Dr. Rómulo S. Naón, who clearly relished the opportunity the mediation provided to enhance his profile in the American press.4 Best-known in his own country as an expert in international law and an educator, he had introduced major reforms in the Argentine education system when he was Superintendent of Public Instruction. In recognition of the latter achievement, he was awarded honorary doctorates by both Harvard and Yale in June 1914. In protocol terms, Domicio da Gama, the Brazilian representative, outranked Naón, as only Brazil at that point had appointed a full Ambassador to the United States. Consequently, Ambassador da Gama served as the spokesman for the three mediators. Da Gama was a career diplomat who had served in the United States in 1893 as secretary to the commission of arbitration between Brazil and Argentina conducted by President Cleveland, and subsequently served as Brazil’s Chargé in Belgium and as Minister in Peru and Argentina. The Chilean Minister, Eduardo Suárez Mujica, sought the limelight least, but appears to have played a key role at various moments behind the scenes. He had been a legislator in Chile, Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and Secretary of Justice and Public Instruction. He also knew Mexico well, having served as Chilean Minister to Mexico for many years before being appointed Minister to the United States.5

  • 6 Severance, ed. (1914), editor’s essay, p. 73. Strangely, this public statement by one of the media (...)
  • 7 Rosario Solveira (1914), pp. 31–33. Rosario Solveira, an Argentine historian, appears to be the on (...)

5In all contemporary accounts, the A.B.C. mediation proposal appears like a deus ex machina in the escalating conflict between Wilson and Huerta. Curiously, no one in the American press corps, which enthusiastically reported the proposal, chose to speculate as to whose idea it was or where it came from, nor did any of the parties, apart from Ambassador da Gama, offer their own public comments on the matter at the time. Da Gama mentioned in his speech to journalists at the conclusion of the conference, on July 2, that the initiative had been launched by his Argentine and Chilean colleagues on April 23, and that he had been unable to accompany them because he was giving an address at the time to the Congress of International Law. He may have stressed this point in an attempt to counter press reports that the successful outcome was due to Naón’s handiwork. Da Gama’s larger point was that mediation was a joint effort in which all three A.B.C. countries had acted in close coordination, and the record shows that this was indeed the case.6 After the conference was over, Ambassador da Gama also explained the sequence of events in detail in a confidential report to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. On the morning of April 23, the Chilean Minister Suárez Mujica took the initiative to contact his two colleagues, asking them to join him in an urgent visit to the State Department to discuss the Mexican crisis. The message did not reach da Gama, who was giving his speech at the time, but Suárez was confident from earlier discussions that he would support this initiative, so Suárez and Naón met Bryan in the name of all three A.B.C. missions. They discussed the impending climate of war and the situation created by the complete rupture of diplomatic relations between the United States and Mexico. On the basis of this conversation with Bryan, both Suárez and Naón recommended to their Foreign Ministries that the three A.B.C. missions offer their good offices to the parties in order to avoid an irrevocable conflict. The next day, both the Chilean and the Argentine Foreign Ministers cabled their agreement that their representatives in Washington should make such an offer, in concert with Brazil.7

  • 8 Ulloa (1971), p. 188.

6One persistent version is that it was Bryan who actually put the idea to the A.B.C. representatives. While there is no documentary evidence to support this view, it should not be completely discounted. One Mexican historian, Berta Ulloa, also makes the apt observation that it would be out of character for Wilson to agree so readily to such a suggestion if it had not been arranged by him in the first place.8

  • 9 Guerrero Yoacham (1966), p. 75.
  • 10 Rosario Solveira (1994), p. 32.

7The idea of concerted action by the A.B.C. missions in Washington regarding Mexico was not new. Since August 1913, the three missions had agreed to adopt a common front in responding to pressures from the State Department to get their governments to assist the United States in obtaining Huerta’s resignation.9 Given that Argentina, Brazil, and Chile were the only other prominent states not to have recognized Huerta, they had good reason to expect that an offer from them would be acceptable to Bryan and Wilson. As Naón pointed out in his first cable back to Buenos Aires, there was also no prospect that any of the European powers could take such an initiative. Even if it failed, such an initiative would redound to the credit of the continent.10

  • 11 Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, signed at The Hague, October 18, (...)

8The A.B.C. envoys’ proposal reflected a growing trend in early 20th-century diplomacy toward the use of formal mediation and arbitration proceedings to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes. The two Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 had provided the principal international impetus for this trend. The Hague Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes had been signed in 1907 by all the South American republics, as well as Mexico and the United States, and had entered into force in 1910. The Convention specified in Article 2 that: “In case of serious disagreement or dispute, before an appeal to arms, the Contracting Powers agree to have recourse, as far as circumstances allow, to the good offices or mediation of one or more friendly Powers”; and in Article 3: “Independently of this recourse, the Contracting Powers deem it expedient and desirable that one or more Powers, strangers to the dispute, should, on their own initiative and as far as circumstances may allow, offer their good offices or mediation to the States at variance.”11

  • 12 Barrett (1911), p. 192.
  • 13 Ulloa (1971), pp. 187–88.

9The Pan-American movement, starting with the Second Pan-American Conference in Mexico City in 1901, had also been devoting increasing attention to the peaceful settlement of disputes. By the time of the founding of the Pan-American Union in 1910, the American republics had adopted seven general arbitration treaties among themselves, in addition to the Hague Convention.12 John Barrett, an American who became the first Director General of the Pan-American Union, had specifically floated the idea in February 1913 during the coup against Madero that the United States and several Latin American Republics form an international commission to mediate the political crisis in Mexico. This proposal had been rejected by the outgoing Taft Administration. Barrett had attempted again, without success, to float another mediation proposal in July 1913, to see if the Wilson Administration would be willing to engage other American republics to help in resolving the rising tensions between the United States and Mexico.13

  • 14 Link (1956), pp. 280–83. In total, Bryan signed twenty-nine such treaties, starting with El Salvad (...)

10Finally, William Jennings Bryan himself had long been active in the international peace movement. Upon becoming Secretary of State, in March 1913, he had embarked on a campaign to sign bilateral treaties with as many of the United States’ partners as possible, committing the signatories to a “cooling off” period of six months to a year during which they would submit their disputes to permanent commissions of investigation.14

11Thus, the A.B.C. mediators drew inspiration from a growing current in international public opinion and diplomatic practice when they offered their good offices to Bryan to resolve the dispute. The terms of their proposal fell squarely within the provisions of the Hague Convention.

  • 15 Secretary of State to Mediators, Washington, April 25, 1914, United States Department of State (19 (...)

12At least, that was how the mediators approached the task at hand. The United States appeared to agree when Secretary of State Bryan wrote back to them the same afternoon: “Conscious of the purpose with which the proffer is made, the Government does not feel at liberty to decline it... The generous offer of your Governments is, therefore, accepted.”15 However, this less than wholehearted response was indicative of a deeper divergence in perspectives between the A.B.C. powers and the United States over the nature of the mediation. This was spelled out in an internal memorandum on the conference, written by the State Department’s second-ranking official, Robert Lansing, on May 1, 1914:

  • 16 Memorandum on Place of Conference of Mediators and Representatives to Attend on Behalf of the Unit (...)

... it must be borne constantly in mind that this is not a mediation between two established Governments nor between belligerent states. It is an attempt to restore peace between Mexican factions and to obtain guarantees from them which will insure the reestablishment of constitutional government in Mexico. The real quarrel of the United States is with the intolerable conditions which exist and not with the factions, except so far as they are the causes of these conditions. In reality, therefore, the mediation is between factions, and not between the United States and either one of these factions. The situation of the United States in the present attempted mediation is, therefore, so novel as to take the cases out of any rule which may be deduced from precedents.16

13Consistent with this logic, Bryan laid down an important marker in his initial response to the mediators about the nature of the Mexican representation:

  • 17 Secretary of State to Mediators, Washington, April 25, 1914.

This Government hopes most earnestly that you may find those who speak for the several elements of the Mexican people willing and ready to discuss the terms of satisfactory and, therefore, permanent settlement. If you should find them willing, this Government will be glad to take up with you for discussion, in the frankest and most conciliatory spirit, any proposal that may be authoritatively formulated, and will hope that they may prove feasible, and prophetic of a new day of mutual cooperation and confidence in America.17

14The mediators readily understood that this meant that the United States expected Constitutionalist participation in the conference. Thus, they sent the same invitation to General Carranza as they did to General Huerta.

  • 18 Grey to Mexico City, April 27, 1914, F.O. 115/1793; Grey to Spring-Rice, London, April 28, 1914, F (...)

15Despite their refusal to recognize Huerta’s exclusive right to speak on behalf of Mexico, Wilson and Bryan were keen that Huerta accept the mediators’ proposal. Bryan even went so far as to ask Sir Cecil Spring-Rice if the British Ambassador in Mexico City, Sir Lionel Carden, could help in persuading Huerta to accept it. Huerta’s initial response was to ask if Britain, a power he trusted, would serve as the mediator. However, after the grief he had endured the year before, Sir Edward Grey had no desire to position Britain again between Wilson and Huerta. He firmly instructed Carden to advocate the South American proposal instead. Grey was able to inform U.S. Ambassador Page on April 28 that Carden had secured Huerta’s acceptance of the offer.18 The mediators officially reported the good news to Bryan in a letter later the same day.

  • 19 Mediators to Secretary of State, April 28, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 492 (...)
  • 20 Hague Convention (1907), Article 7.
  • 21 Letter from Minister of External Relations of Mexico to Mediators, Mexico City, April 30, 1914, Fa (...)
  • 22 Secretary of State to Mediators, April 25, 1914.
  • 23 Secretary of State to Spanish Ambassador, April 28, 1914, United States Department of State (1922) (...)
  • 24 Link (1956), p. 408, see note 94.

16At this point, two intimately linked issues emerged that were to determine the course of the entire conference. The first was an end to hostilities between the parties as a precondition for mediation. In their message to Bryan on April 28, the mediators declared: “As a consequence of the acceptance of those good offices by your excellency’s Government as well as by that of General Huerta, we understand that it is proper to suspend from this time, and during the mediatory action, the hostilities and military movements by the force of both parties.”19 In fact, the Hague Convention of 1907 required the suspension of hostilities and military movements during mediation only if there was specific agreement among the parties to do so.20 However, as the mediators subsequently made clear, these were the only terms under which they were prepared to conduct the mediation. Huerta’s Foreign Minister of the moment, Jose Lopez Portillo y Rojas, readily agreed, and expressed the hope that the forces of Carranza and Villa would also agree to suspend hostilities against his government.21 Bryan replied more ambiguously : “We note what you say in regard to suspension of hostilities during mediation. We so understand it, provided of course that this Government would be at liberty to repel any aggression attempted.”22 This backhanded commitment appears to have been sufficient to satisfy the mediators. On a separate channel through the Spanish Embassy in Washington, Huerta’s Foreign Minister proposed a formal armistice between Mexico and the United States. Wilson’s reply was that since war had never been declared between the two countries, a formal armistice was unnecessary, but that Huerta himself could cease hostilities himself during the mediation.23 As it turned out, both the United States and Huerta chose to cease hostilities against each other as soon as Veracruz had been taken.24

  • 25 Mediators to General Carranza, Washington, April 29, 1914, and General Carranza to Mediators, Chih (...)
  • 26 Mediators to General Carranza, Washington, April 30, 1914; Mediators to General Carranza, Washingt (...)
  • 27 General Carranza to Mediators, Chihuahua, May 3, 1914.
  • 28 General Carranza to Mediators, Chihuahua, May 3, 1914.

17The same, however, could not be said of the civil war between Huerta’s government and the Constitutionalists. When the mediators sent Carranza a telegram on April 29, offering their good offices to find a peaceful solution to the conflict between the United States and Mexico, he promptly accepted.25 They then sent him two more cables, the first requesting his commitment to suspend hostilities and the second asking him to appoint representatives to the conference.26 Carranza’s reply to the latter was to request a definition of the points to be covered so that “I may appoint a representative with due authorization.”27 Before receiving an answer, he proceeded to give his own interpretation of the scope of the conflict in a second cable, explaining that while he had accepted the mediators’ good offices to address the international conflict between the United States and Mexico, this was independent of “our internal struggle for liberty and right,” and that he could not agree to a suspension of the Constitutionalists’ military operations because it would only accrue to the benefit of Huerta.28 Thus, Carranza differed with the mediators on two points of principle: the first regarding the proper scope of the conference and the second regarding the need for an armistice.

  • 29 Mediators to General Carranza, Washington, May 3, 1914.
  • 30 Secretary of State to all U.S. diplomatic missions, Washington, May 11, 1914, United States Depart (...)

18The mediators’ response to Carranza on the first point was a clear statement that, in their view, “all difficulties which have contributed to bring about the present situation of Mexico directly or indirectly affect the solution of the conflict pending between the United States and Mexico,” and consequently should be subject for settlement by negotiation. On the second point, they declared that if Carranza did not share their understanding of the necessity for an armistice as a precondition for the mediation, they would be compelled to withdraw their invitation to him to nominate representatives to the conference.29 There matters rested for the next four weeks, although the United States continued to hold out hope that the question of Constitutionalist participation would soon be resolved.30

19This initial exchange of letters between April 25 and May 3 among the possible parties to the conference revealed an important divergence of opinion about the terms under which the mediation should take place. The mediators were committed to an armistice and were convinced that the conference should take a broad scope, dealing with both internal and external issues that had contributed to the conflict between the United States and Mexico. Huerta’s representatives were prepared to negotiate under both of these conditions, reflecting the fact that diplomatically they had the weakest hand and militarily they were on the defensive. The United States was keen to have a broad scope for the conference if it encouraged the Constitutionalists to participate, since its objective was to use the mediation to leverage an agreement among Mexico’s armed factions. The United States was prepared to go along with an armistice as applied to its own troops, provided that it was reciprocated by Huerta’s forces, but did not regard it as a point of principle. However, the Constitutionalists took the position that they wanted the conference to deal narrowly with Mexico’s external conflict with the United States, in order to accomplish one task they could not achieve militarily, namely, forcing a U.S. withdrawal from Veracruz. They had no interest in either an armistice or a broad negotiation that encompassed internal political issues, both of which could restrict their ability to impose their own political settlement following an outright military victory.

20Thus, the Niagara Falls Peace Conference was launched without a clear consensus on the scope of the conference, who had to be present, or the preconditions for participation. Ambiguity over these fundamental points hindered the mediators’ work from start to finish.

  • 31 New York Times, May 3, 1914.
  • 32 Lansing memo, May 1, 1914, pp. 3–4. Lansing actually made the case that since the mediation really (...)
  • 33 Secretary of External Relations to Mediators, through Ambassador of Spain, May 4, 1914, Fabela, ed (...)
  • 34 Spring-Rice to Grey, May 5, 1914, F.O. 115/1795. This terse comment is in Spring-Rice’s own handwr (...)
  • 35 Mediators to Secretary of State, Washington, May 5, 1914, United States Department of State (1922) (...)

21With the Constitutionalists sitting out for the time being, the mediators proceeded to formalize arrangements for the conference. The first order of business was the location. The New York Times reported that the mediators were inclined to propose Havana as a neutral site.31 Robert Lansing argued in his internal memorandum on the subject that the conference should be held in Washington, in order to facilitate communication between the Secretary of State and the mediators. In his view, the diplomatic missions of either Argentina, Brazil or Chile could provide neutral territory, as could the recently inaugurated headquarters of the Pan-American Union.32 However, on May 4 Huerta’s new Foreign Minister proposed to the mediators that Canada could serve as the location of the conference, due to “its rigorously neutral character.”33 Sir Cecil Spring-Rice reported his own views on this choice: “This I think a mistake.”34 Canada, however, was apparently acceptable as a venue to the United States. On May 5 the mediators officially informed the U.S. and Mexican governments that, “upon consulting all parties concerned,” the conference would take place at the Clifton Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario, beginning on May 18.35

  • 36 Fabela, ed. (1962), p. 41.

22The choice of Canada as the location for the conference generated no surprise at the time, even in the Canadian press, and it has been left virtually unexamined by subsequent commentators. Isidro Fabela, Carranza’s Foreign Minister and later official historian of the Revolution, interpreted this choice as a gesture of gratitude from Huerta for the sympathy of the British government and the support he had received from the British oil tycoon Lord Cowdray.36 This seems unlikely, given that, once he had accepted the A.B. C. mediators’ offer, he never again sought to use British diplomatic channels through Sir Lionel Carden to influence the mediation. A more prosaic reason is that Canada was probably convenient to Huerta given that he had already dispatched a diplomatic agent there.

23When Angel Algara Romero de Terreros, the former Mexican Chargé in Washington, was handed his passports, he travelled to Toronto and settled down to wait for instructions. Algara’s arrival in Canada was seen as something of an enigma by the local press, an impression he did little to dispel. As the Toronto Globe reported on April 27:

  • 37 The Globe (Toronto) April 28, 1914.

Not a little curiosity has been aroused as to why Algara R. de Terreros, late Chargé d’Affaires of Mexico at Washington, who was given his passports by the United States government, came to Toronto. “I came to Toronto,” he said, speaking to a Globe reporter at the King Edward Hotel last night, “because I thought I would be nearer the Mexican base than if I went to any other Canadian city. Moreover, I have many Canadian friends in Washington, who advised me to come to Toronto. The longer I am here, the more pleased I am with your beautiful city.”37

  • 38 Secretary of External Relations to Mexican Consul, Toronto, May 7, 1914, Fabela, ed. (1962), pp. 6 (...)

24Algara discounted the likelihood of the A.B.C. mediation proposal being accepted by his government. Nevertheless, he remained in Toronto and, once Canada had been chosen as the location, he received a cable from Huerta’s Foreign Minister instructing him to assist the Mexican delegates to the conference and to be prepared to cover their expenses.38 Although his name never appeared in the formal list of conference delegates, he seems to have been present for much of the conference in Niagara Falls as an informal member of the Mexican contingent. (Curiously, having reported on Algara’s arrival in Toronto, The Globe made no further connection between his presence on Canadian soil and the fact that the conference was then held in Canada.)

  • 39 Grieb (1969), p. 162, and Lamar (1926), pp. 256–57.

25There appears to be no contemporary evidence explaining the choice of Niagara Falls as the Canadian site for the conference, but it may have been the result of a request from the United States in return for agreeing to meet in Canada. Given the popularity of the Niagara Falls as a tourist destination and its location exactly on the Canada–U.S. border, the U.S. delegates were able to lodge in a suitable hotel in their own country and commute over the Suspension Bridge to Canada for official meetings with the mediators and the Mexican delegates. This arrangement enabled the U.S. delegation to stay in daily touch with Washington via the dedicated telegraph line they had installed in their hotel and their nightly telephone calls with Secretary Bryan.39

MAP OF NIAGARA FALLS (1894). This map of Niagara Falls from twenty years before the conference shows the location of the Clifton House Hotel on the Canadian side of the Suspension Foot Bridge. Reproduced from The Dominion of Canada with Newfoundland and an Excursion to Alaska: Handbook for Travelers. Leipzig: Karl Baedeker

THE CLIFTON HOUSE HOTEL (date unknown). This photograph shows the hotel as it would have appeared in 1914. Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library D415214

  • 40 Governor General to Spring-Rice, Ottawa, May 9, 1914, Canada Department of External Affairs files (...)
  • 41 Spring-Rice to Grey, May 5, 1914.

26The one party that appears to have been left completely out of the loop by the selection of the location was the Canadian Government. In 1914, Canada’s Department of External Affairs was only five years old and Canada had yet to establish any diplomatic missions abroad. Canadian diplomatic and consular interests were represented by Britain, as Canada was an integral part of the British Empire, and the Canadian Government communicated with British Embassies in third countries via the Governor General in Ottawa. On May 9 the Canadian Government sent a plaintive message through the Governor General to the British Ambassador in Washington observing that “press reports state that South American delegates appointed to mediate between the United States and Mexico propose to conduct their negotiations at Niagara Falls in Canadian territory, though we are without official information on the matter.”40 Spring-Rice replied by simply providing the information he had received from Ambassador da Gama regarding the mediators’ date of arrival and their accommodation plans, although he had known of Huerta’s choice of location for several days.41 It appears that neither the parties nor the mediators thought it necessary to secure official approval from Canada or from Britain before selecting Niagara Falls as the site and booking rooms in the Clifton Hotel.

  • 42 Grieb (1969), p. 161.
  • 43 The list of the Mexican delegates and their credentials was given by the U.S. Consul in Veracruz, (...)
  • 44 Secretary of State for External Relations to Algara, Mexican Consulate, Toronto, May 7, 1914, in F (...)
  • 45 Grieb (1969), p. 161. Buckley, had an extensive legal practice in Mexico. He was the father of the (...)

27The next item on the order of business was the selection of representatives. Huerta nominated three commissioners to represent Mexico, all of whom were lawyers and distinguished members of the upper class of Mexico City, but none of whom was close to Huerta.42 The lead commissioner was Emilio Rabasa, an eminent jurist and former senator who was considered the author of the best Mexican work on international law. Rabasa in fact had been Huerta’s choice to be Mexico’s Ambassador in Washington if the U.S. Government had extended diplomatic recognition. The second commissioner was Agustín Rodriguez, dean of the Mexican bar and director of the School of Law in Mexico City, who was a principal figure in Catholic political circles. The third was Senator Luis Elguero, a financier and former senator, who was a Director of the National Bank of Mexico and the National Railways. Elguero’s son Rafael served as secretary to the delegation and they were accompanied by two protocol officers from the Mexican Foreign Ministry.43 They were joined in Niagara Falls unofficially by Angel Algara from Toronto and Manuel Esteva, a Mexican consul from New York.44 Finally, the Mexican delegation brought its own American legal counsel, William F. Buckley of Texas. His services were proposed by Rabasa, who was his consulting attorney in Mexico.45

  • 46 Colonel House recorded in his diary for May 11 that Wilson “told me Justice Lamar was an old boyho (...)
  • 47 The Naón collection contains a clipping giving this information about Percival Dodge from an unide (...)
  • 48 Secretary of State to Mediators, Washington, May 18, 1914, United States Department of State (1922 (...)
  • 49 Lansing memorandum, May 1, 1914. Lansing took the firm position that the United States could not d (...)

28On the U.S. side, Wilson appointed a trusted boyhood friend, Associate Supreme Court Justice Joseph Rucker Lamar of Augusta, Georgia, as senior commissioner;46 Frederick Lehmann from St. Louis, a former Solicitor of the Department of Justice, as second commissioner; and as secretary to the delegation, H. Percival Dodge, an experienced former diplomat who had served as head of the Latin American Department in the State Department under President Taft.47 This trio was designated “The Special Commission of the President of the United States near the Mediators,” a term of art contrived by the State Department to avoid appointing delegates to meet representatives of a government the United States did not recognize.48 Lansing was particularly concerned that neither the Secretary of State nor any senior officials of the Administration be appointed as delegates and thus be obliged to engage the Mexican delegates, even on an informal basis.49 As Huerta nominated his delegates first, and chose distinguished jurists rather than cabinet members or close political advisors, Wilson was able to follow suit and keep within the strictures of Lansing’s advice by nominating experienced individuals appointed by the Taft Administration, none of whom currently occupied positions in the Executive Branch.

  • 50 Resolution of Mexican Senate to Mexican delegates, May 8, 1914, Fabela, ed. (1962), pp. 61–62.
  • 51 See Grieb (1969), p. 162.

29Although equally distinguished, the two delegations were dispatched to Niagara Falls with very different sets of credentials, a fact which readily became apparent when the conference started. While the Mexican delegates met Huerta for only ten minutes before their departure, the Mexican Senate in approving their appointment authorized them to “arrange, consult, negotiate and sign whatever agreement or treaty with the United States, extending them full powers and authority as broad as necessary to settle the emergent conflict between the two countries.”50 The Mexican delegates took this as full licence to develop their own proposals for resolving Mexico’s internal political crisis and to reject instructions that they regarded as unrealistic. They periodically cabled their recommendations back to Huerta through his Finance Minister, Adolfo de la Lama, usually bypassing the Foreign Ministry entirely. Given that the Foreign Minister was the designated successor to the President under the Mexican Constitution, it is not surprising that Huerta changed the occupant of this office three times during the course of the mediation and used a different Minister throughout as his channel of communications with the Mexican delegates in Niagara. The U.S. delegates, on the other hand, were deliberately given no negotiating mandate at all and were required to report back on all developments via coded cables through Bryan to Wilson.51 While they exercised some latitude in how precisely they conveyed the detailed instructions they received, the President essentially viewed them as his mouthpieces at the conference.

Notes

1 Severance, ed. (1914), editor’s essay, p. 6.

2 Brazilian Ambassador and Argentine and Chilean Ministers as Mediators between the Governments of the United States and Mexico, to Secretary of State, Washington, April 25, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 488–89, File No. 812.00/16525 (U.S. spelling preserved).

3 This caption appears in The Globe (Toronto) May 13, 1914; for other photographs and cartoons see Naón (1914), a selection from which appears as Appendix 1.

4 Of the three mediators, Naón’s picture appeared most often in the American press, and it is revealing that after the conference was over he carefully assembled the comprehensive archive of newspaper clippings already mentioned.

5 Guerrero Yoacham (1966), pp. 89–90.

6 Severance, ed. (1914), editor’s essay, p. 73. Strangely, this public statement by one of the mediators does not seem to have been picked up any of the subsequent commentators on this question.

7 Rosario Solveira (1914), pp. 31–33. Rosario Solveira, an Argentine historian, appears to be the only author who has pieced together the sequence of events by reading the Argentine, Chilean, and Brazilian diplomatic reports contained in the Argentine Foreign Ministry files on the conference. Guerrero Yoacham, in his study of the conference published by the Chilean diplomatic academy, provides a survey of all the other versions of who was responsible for the original mediation proposal; see Guerrero Yoacham (1966), pp. 73–76.

8 Ulloa (1971), p. 188.

9 Guerrero Yoacham (1966), p. 75.

10 Rosario Solveira (1994), p. 32.

11 Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, signed at The Hague, October 18, 1907.

12 Barrett (1911), p. 192.

13 Ulloa (1971), pp. 187–88.

14 Link (1956), pp. 280–83. In total, Bryan signed twenty-nine such treaties, starting with El Salvador in 1913. Had the United States recognized the Mexican Government during this period, he doubtless would have proposed a bilateral treaty with Mexico as well.

15 Secretary of State to Mediators, Washington, April 25, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 489, File No. 812.00/16525.

16 Memorandum on Place of Conference of Mediators and Representatives to Attend on Behalf of the United States,” May 1, 1914, p. 1, signed by Robert Lansing with the handwritten notation “given to the Secretary,” State Department File 812.00/11800-1/2.

17 Secretary of State to Mediators, Washington, April 25, 1914.

18 Grey to Mexico City, April 27, 1914, F.O. 115/1793; Grey to Spring-Rice, London, April 28, 1914, F.O. 115/1795; Spring- Rice to Grey, Washington, May 4, 1914, F.O. 115/1794.

19 Mediators to Secretary of State, April 28, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 492–93, File No. 812.00/23494.

20 Hague Convention (1907), Article 7.

21 Letter from Minister of External Relations of Mexico to Mediators, Mexico City, April 30, 1914, Fabela, ed. (1962), p. 22.

22 Secretary of State to Mediators, April 25, 1914.

23 Secretary of State to Spanish Ambassador, April 28, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 493, File No. 812.00/23493a.

24 Link (1956), p. 408, see note 94.

25 Mediators to General Carranza, Washington, April 29, 1914, and General Carranza to Mediators, Chihuahua, April 29, 1914. Note that all the letters exchanged between the Mediators and General Carranza between April 29 and May 3, 1914, cited below, were given by the mediators to the U.S. delegation during the conference and are attached to their message: Special Commissioners to Secretary of State, Niagara Falls, N.Y., United States Department of State (1922), May 31, 1914, pp. 517–19, File No. 812.00/12130.

26 Mediators to General Carranza, Washington, April 30, 1914; Mediators to General Carranza, Washington, May 2, 1914.

27 General Carranza to Mediators, Chihuahua, May 3, 1914.

28 General Carranza to Mediators, Chihuahua, May 3, 1914.

29 Mediators to General Carranza, Washington, May 3, 1914.

30 Secretary of State to all U.S. diplomatic missions, Washington, May 11, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 498, File No. 812.00/11902a.

31 New York Times, May 3, 1914.

32 Lansing memo, May 1, 1914, pp. 3–4. Lansing actually made the case that since the mediation really was between Mexican factions, anywhere in the United States was “neutral territory,” but he suggested these diplomatic venues in Washington as preferable locations.

33 Secretary of External Relations to Mediators, through Ambassador of Spain, May 4, 1914, Fabela, ed. (1962) pp. 40–41.

34 Spring-Rice to Grey, May 5, 1914, F.O. 115/1795. This terse comment is in Spring-Rice’s own handwriting. He crossed out a couple of additional lines in the draft that indicate that he thought it would be better for Huerta to “consent to Washington” on the matter of the location.

35 Mediators to Secretary of State, Washington, May 5, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 497, File 812.00/11849.

36 Fabela, ed. (1962), p. 41.

37 The Globe (Toronto) April 28, 1914.

38 Secretary of External Relations to Mexican Consul, Toronto, May 7, 1914, Fabela, ed. (1962), pp. 60-61.

39 Grieb (1969), p. 162, and Lamar (1926), pp. 256–57.

40 Governor General to Spring-Rice, Ottawa, May 9, 1914, Canada Department of External Affairs files RG25, Series A-3-a, Vol. 1142, File 1914-457.

41 Spring-Rice to Grey, May 5, 1914.

42 Grieb (1969), p. 161.

43 The list of the Mexican delegates and their credentials was given by the U.S. Consul in Veracruz, whose surname was Canada. See Consul Canada to Secretary of State, Veracruz, May 12, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), p. 499, File No. 812.00/11914. More details about their qualifications are contained in Guerrero Yoacham (1966), pp. 90–91.

44 Secretary of State for External Relations to Algara, Mexican Consulate, Toronto, May 7, 1914, in Fabelo (1962), pp. 60–61.

45 Grieb (1969), p. 161. Buckley, had an extensive legal practice in Mexico. He was the father of the well-known conservative political commentator William F. Buckley Jr.

46 Colonel House recorded in his diary for May 11 that Wilson “told me Justice Lamar was an old boyhood friend, and they used to play together and fight roosters”: Link, ed. (1979), Vol. 30, p. 21. More biographical detail about Lamar and his role in the conference can be found in the biography of him written by his wife: Lamar (1926).

47 The Naón collection contains a clipping giving this information about Percival Dodge from an unidentified newspaper (it may be the New York Tribune) from May 15. According to this profile, Dodge was in his early forties when he had left the State Department the year before and had worked as a diplomat for twenty years since graduating from Harvard.

48 Secretary of State to Mediators, Washington, May 18, 1914, United States Department of State (1922), pp. 500–01, File 812.00/12011a. Since there was a discrepancy in the titles that each side gave its envoys, I have used the generic term “delegates” when referring to the official participants at the conference.

49 Lansing memorandum, May 1, 1914. Lansing took the firm position that the United States could not designate representatives to meet with representatives of either the Huerta regime or the Constitutionalists, since the United States did not recognize either party as belligerents; and that it would be unwise for the Secretary of State or other senior official to attend the conference even in an unofficial capacity.

50 Resolution of Mexican Senate to Mexican delegates, May 8, 1914, Fabela, ed. (1962), pp. 61–62.

51 See Grieb (1969), p. 162.

Table des illustrations

Légende MAP OF NIAGARA FALLS (1894). This map of Niagara Falls from twenty years before the conference shows the location of the Clifton House Hotel on the Canadian side of the Suspension Foot Bridge. Reproduced from The Dominion of Canada with Newfoundland and an Excursion to Alaska: Handbook for Travelers. Leipzig: Karl Baedeker
URL http://books.openedition.org/uop/docannexe/image/204/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 257k
Légende THE CLIFTON HOUSE HOTEL (date unknown). This photograph shows the hotel as it would have appeared in 1914. Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library D415214
URL http://books.openedition.org/uop/docannexe/image/204/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 91k

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