THE experiment made by the United States in Haiti has burned itself into the souls of all Central Americans. Mexico in particular has special grounds for apprehension. President Zamor of Haiti was put through the mill which is now believed to be awaiting some Mexican President less resolute and powerful than Obregón. He was offered help from the United States to keep himself in power, but refused to compromise the independence of his country and resigned.
Haiti, like Mexico, was summoned to sign a treaty with the United States, but the Haitian Senate refused. The new President was denied recognition unless he first sent a Commission to Washington for the purpose of signing “satisfactory protocols” relating to various questions, notably a convention for the control of the Haitian custom houses with the United States. The same condition confronts Mexico, as we gather from the scheme propounded by the international committee of bankers,’ which by a curious coincidence is of the same mind as Mr. Fall and the National Association for the Protection of American Rights in Mexico. In the proposal for the refunding of Mexico’s debt and the supplying o: capital for new developments we find among the conditions “the pledging of the national customs revenue as security for the whole debt, and the administration of the customs revenue by a joint commission or international board of representatives of the United States and Mexico.” In other words, what is planned is a financial and political protectorate, in which the bankers will hold the natural resources of the country and the railroads, expending their “loans” to promote their own enterprises, where the bankers collect the revenues, the bankers supervise the disbursements, the bankers dictate the policies of a puppet governmenttheir rule made good by the armed might of the American people.
The entire story of the dealings of the United States with Haiti from the year 1914 to the present day deserves to be made known throughout the length and the breadth of the globe, in the interests of the American people whose fair name they tarnish. Some of the alleged horrors, had they been perpetrated by a Tsarist Government against Poles or Jews or revolutionists, would have provoked a howl of indignation among civilised peoples. Does the circumstance that they are charged against a democratic Republic which aspires to the moral leadership of the world purge them of their iniquitous character? “No graver indictment of an American administration,” writes an honest New York press organ, “has ever been made. . . . The atrocities . . . murder of women and children, wholesale killing of prisoners, torture with red-hot irons, the ‘water-cure,’ arson, robbery . . . constitute an everlasting stain on American honour.”
The initial procedure of the United States towards Haiti resembles in most essentials the methods employed against Mexico and includes the same systematic misleading propaganda, the same financial thumb-screw, a similar demand for a treaty or convention for the purpose of strengthening “the amity existing between them by the most cordial co-operation in measures for their common advantage.” The United States Government demanded the control of the Haitian custom houses and the right to exercise a veto against future modifications of customs duties. The Haitian Government, like the Obregón administration, declined to sign such a covenant on the ground that it would be tantamount to placing the Republic under a foreign protectorate.’ Thereupon the American Minister notified the Haitian authorities that his Government would not insist upon the treaty.
“Two days previous to this communication from Mr. Bailly-Blanchard, in order to force the Haitian Government to accept the control of the custom houses by systematically depriving it of financial resources, American marines carried off the strong-boxes of the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti in broad daylight and took on board the gunboat Machias a sum of $500,000 belonging to the Republic of Haiti and destined to be used for the redemption of paper money. In his notes of December 19 and 26 the State Secretary of Foreign Affairs asked in vain for explanations from the United States Legation regarding this military kidnapping of the funds of the Haitian Treasury. This amount is still in the United States, where it was transported and deposited in a New York bank.
“On July 29 the population awoke to learn that the territory of Haiti was invaded by American forces which had landed at the extreme south of the city the night before. Hundreds and soon thousands of American marines occupied the town and disarmed the surprised Haitians who were completely bowled over by the terrible events of the last two daysand so the American forces did not meet with any resistance from the population. Two weeks passed, during which the landed forces succeeded in getting control of Port-au-Prince and its immediate vicinity. Meanwhile other American troops had occupied the city of Cap-Haitien, in the northern part of the country. On August 12, 1915, after numerous conferences between leading members of the Haitian Chamber and Senate and the American naval authorities, at the United States Legation and elsewhere, a Presidential election was held by permission of the Occupation, and M. Dartiguenave, president of the Senate, was elected, the majority of the members of the two houses agreeing to support him. It was made clear that the choice of M. Dartiguenave was essentially agreeable to the American Occupation. He was therefore elected for a term of seven years in accordance with the Haitian Constitution then in force.
“Two days after the establishment of the new Government, Mr. Robert Beale Davis, Jr., American chargé d’affaires, in the name of his Government, presented to President Dartiguenave a project for a treaty. This project was accompanied by a memorandum in which the President was informed ‘that the State Department of Washington expected that the Haitian National Assembly, warranting the sincerity and the interest of the Haitians, would immediately pass a resolution authorising the President of Haiti to accept the proposed treaty without modification.’ Since this request indicated a certain ignorance of Haitian constitutional practice, as regards the negotiations of treaties, the Government hastened to call Mr. Davis’ attention to the article of the Constitution relating to this subject, and showed him that the President of Haiti (lid not need special authority of the Chambers to negotiate and sign treaties with a foreign Power.
“The American chargé d’affaires, after examining the constitutional text, readily acknowledged it and withdrew. Imagine the surprise of the Government on receiving the next day a threatening note signed by the chargé d’affaires, insisting that the resolution indicated in the memorandum should be passed by the Haitian Chambers, and setting in the form of an ultimatum a time limit within which the resolution must be passed.”
The demand on Mexico is of the self-same character as that which was presented to Haiti. The State Department in Washington virtually said : “We care nothing about your Constitution, nor whether your President is or is not authorised by it to sign treaties. We insist on his signing a treaty and our will must be done by hook or by crook.”
And yet when the Italians were massacred in New Orleans and the Italian Government requested the Federal Government in Washington to see that the murderers were duly punished, it pleaded its inability under the Constitution, which bestows sovereignty in such matters on the individual state. If we imagine Italy, Japan and Russia urging the American Government to violate the Constitution or modify it on pain of being economically boycotted, we shall be able to under-stand the feelings of Mexicans.
“The Haitian Government, after the landing of the American troops, was actually nothing more than a purely nominal government. It had neither the power to enforce its authority, nor finances. The American military authorities had taken possession of the custom houses, had invaded the territory of the nation, and, by the establishment of martial courts, had practically suppressed the Haitian administration of justice. The protests of the Government against these acts of interference in internal politics had remained a dead letter. And it was ‘to put an end to these difficulties and to obtain the liberation of the territory that was formally promised’ that it had to yield.”
The treaty of “friendship” thus imposed by brute force was observed by the Haitians who had no choice but to carry it out. The United States Government being free availed themselves of their liberty and broke it. This is a grave charge to levy against the great Republic which is continually preaching the sacredness of public treaties and the immutability of service contracts in Mexico. But the Haitians substantiate their charges by striking facts. “Instead of simply keeping to the régime fixed by the treaty, the Haitian Government was constantly obliged by the American officials to take unjustified initiatives. It was forced to accept the placing of American superintendents in charge of the postal service and of the Ministry of Public Education, with salaries equal to, and in some cases even higher than, those of the State Secretaries.
“At the municipal councils it was obliged to appoint so-called council officers who had actually the exclusive administration of the communes and absolute control of municipal affairs, including revenues and expenses. This state of affairs not provided for in the treaty gave rise to regrettable conflicts. When a Council officer (American) was confronted by an administrator of finances and provisional prefect (Haitian official) wishing to investigate the accounts of the commune, as the law obliges him to do, it always ended either with the forced silence of the Haitian official or with all kinds of difficulties. which he had to face simply because he was trying to do his duty.”
What Mexicans had to expect from the “police force” which was to have maintained ‘peace and order’ in Tampico when the two gunboats were despatched thither by the United States Navy Department in July, 1921, was foreshadowed by what a similar force effected in Haiti. “Internal peace could not be preserved”the Memoir goes on to say”because the permanent and brutal violation of individual rights of Haitian citizens was a perpetual provocation to revolt, because the terrible military despotism which has ruled in Haiti for the last six years has not created and could not create for the Haitian people that security which it was hoped the application of the treaty would bring about. Among other things, it is sufficient to call attention here to the system of corvée, that is to say, forced unpaid labour on public roads, imposed for military purposes upon the Haitian peasant. This will give some idea of why the gendarmerie, aided and encouraged by the American Occupation, instead of assuring respect for individual rights, caused the revolt known as the revolt of the Cacos for the repression of which so many useless atrocities were committed by the marines in our unhappy country. This gendarmerie in spite of the aid of the marines of the Occupation and the use of the most modern armament (machine guns, military planes, armoured cars, etc.) was never able, by purely military methods, to contend with these undisciplined and unarmed hands known as Cacos. Therefore, it is ineffective. And if it is ineffective it is be-cause, in spite of the repeated warnings of the Government, the personnel which composes it was not chosen as it should have been. In fact, it contains men ‘wanted’ by the Haitian courts for criminal acts (robberies, murders, etc.) Examination of the archives of the Ministries of the Interior and of Justice of Haiti will throw light on this subject.”
Thus to entrust common criminals with the work of pre-venting crime and advancing the cause of morality is surely not in harmony with the methods approved by the United States Government. It is like casting out devils by Beelzebub.
“Official documents of Haiti,” the Memoir continues, “clearly confirm that the treaty of September 16th, 1915, this has never been carried out by the American, Government.” One could hardly credit such a statement were not the facts on which it is based clear and incontrovertible. All the greater is the amazement of Mexican politicians at the consuming de-sire of the State Department in Washington to have another treaty to experiment with in Mexico and to get it signed before recognising the Obregón Government. The people of the United States in whose name such conventions are made cannot be aware of these damaging facts which place it in the unenviable position of competing with Carranza and out-stripping him in the race.
The avowed aims of the United States Government in Mexico are exactly the same as those which moved it to hasten 1:o the help of Haiti. They were enumerated in the preamble 1:o the Haitian treaty as “the maintenance of public peace and the establishment of the finances on a sound basis and the economic development of Haiti.”
How these voluntarily assumed obligations were carried out by the official representatives of the great American democracy is set forth by the Haitian people as follows :
“No effective aid has been brought to Haiti for the development of its agricultural and industrial resources, and no constructive measure has been proposed for the purpose of placing its finances on a really solid basis.
“By the terms of Article 2, paragraph 8, of the convention, the President of Haiti appoints, upon the nomination of the President of the United States, a Financial Adviser who will be an official attached to the Ministry of Finances. The adviser is then a Haitian official paid $10,000 (American gold) annually by the Haitian public treasury. But in reality the Financial Adviser is not responsible to the Haitian Government. On the contrary, his actions indicate his purpose to subject it to his will.
“Numerous facts show the omnipotence which the Financial Adviser arrogates to himself. Nothing more strikingly illustrates this than the confiscation by the Financial Adviser, with the support of the American Minister, of the salaries of the President of the Republic, the State Secretaries and the members of the Legislative Council, because the Government had refused to insert in the contract of the National Bank of Haiti (which is controlled by the National City Bank of New York), a clause prohibiting the importation into Haiti of foreign gold coins, which the Financial Adviser wanted to force upon them.
“If there be any special kind of help which the United States is better qualified to give than any other nation on the globe it is financial. And the Convention with Haiti provided for this expressly. Article II says :
” ‘The (American) Financial Adviser shall inquire into the validity of the debts of the Republic, shall keep the two Governments informed regarding all future debts, shall recommend improved methods of collecting and applying the revenues, and shall make such recommendations to the State Secretary for Finances as are judged necessary for the well-being and prosperity of the Republic.’ . . No inquiry into the validity of our debts has been made. No improved method of collecting the revenues has been recommended. No recommendation for the well-being and prosperity of the Republic has yet been made to the Haitian Government.
“Now we come to the strangest phase of the situation from the point of view of the Haitian Government; not only have American officials done nothing that could have been done for the intellectual development and economic prosperity of the country, but they oppose the Government’s work in this direction. Numerous projects for laws dealing with the finances, agriculture, public education, administrative ark! rural organisations meet with either the direct opposition of the American officials, or lie unanswered in the archives of the American Legation.
“Particular resistance is made to projects dealing with the education of the people, such as for the preparation of teachers for primary education, industrial and agricultural schools, secondary or higher education, and for the construction of school buildings.
“The Financial Adviser ‘refused appropriations for three Associate Professors from the University of France who were offered to the Haitian Government by the French Government for the Lycee of Port-au-Prince.’ ”
Those and other charges against the American forces of occupation are superlatively damaging. A Naval Court of Inquiry was called for and sent to the country, but, according to the Memoir, “all Haitians who had anything to say regarding the numerous cases of murder, brutality, robbery, rape, arson, etc., that is, Haitians who wished to convince the Court of Inquiry of the way in which the forces of the Occupation had carried out their duty in Haiti,” were systematically excluded. Many of them have published in the press of Haiti the letters which they sent to the Court demanding to be heard. . . . “Witnesses testified on the case of Lieut. Lang, accused of having killed three prisoners with his own hand at Hinche, making them go out of the prison one at a time, firing a revolver shot in the back of each one.
“In Haiti numberless abominable crimes have been committed. To give some idea of their horror we cite only a few cases made public through the press which the Naval Court did not feel the need to investigate.
“Execution by the Marines of Joseph Marseille and his two sons, Michel and Estima Marseille, of Princivil Mesadieux, Baye Section, District of Mirebalais; assassination by the marines of Guerrier Josaphat and one of his children, aged 14, in his own house, acts denounced by M. Louis Charles, Sr., December 8, 1920.
“Arrest by an American officer, and mysterious disappearance of M. Charrite Fleuristone, former school inspector at Chappelle, District of Saint Marc. He was arrested in the first part of 1919, at the same time as MM. Jean Baptiste and Clement Cler jeune.
“At Marin, District of Mirebalais, in December, 1919, assassination and mutilation of Joseph Duclerc, a respectable old man of sixty, by marines and gendarmes. After the crime they burned his cottage.
“At the same time and in the same section the same group fired on a school-teacher and wounded her in the mouth. She managed to escape. The marines and gendarmes burned her house as well as everything that went with it. They were accompanied by an American officer, a lieutenant, whose name can be established by an investigation.
“Near Marin, at Collier, District of Mirebalais, the same band cut the head off a blind man named Neis, 25 years old, and did the same thing to a child who was with him, named Jules Louisville.
“On the same day (in January, 1919) the same band of marines and gendarmes surprised Esca Estinfil in his house at Caye-Beau with his young sons. They shot all three, father and children. Then they robbed his house and burned it. Esca was a great planter, and had a large quantity of coffee stored, and a good sum of money ready for commercial transactions.
“On January 25, 1919, at ‘Savane Longue’ near Marin, a group of marines and gendarmes coming from Terre-Rouge, District of Mirebalais, killed Hon. Auré Bayard, who was ill in bed. They pulled him from his bed and shot him through and through. The house was robbed and burned. Then they forced Madame Auré Bayard, by striking her with the butt ends of their rifles, to take the things that they had just stolen and carry them along with them. It was not until the next day that the poor woman could render her last services to her husband.
“On January 30th some marines and gendarmes led by spies named Neis (des Orangers) and Aure Fleury (du Carre-four grand-mat), killed a pregnant woman in a place called Thomaus. The cottage was robbed.
“In December, 1919, some marines and gendarmes coming from Saut d’Eau or Mirebalais arrived at the second station of the Crochus, District of Mirebalais, and shot, at Beauvoir, Saint-Felix Geffratd, who lived with his two little daughters, aged 8 and 12 years. The terrified children managed to escape the shots of the assassins.
‘Bodily tortures were inflicted by the American captain of gendarmerie, Fitzgerald Brown, upon M. Polydor St. Pierre, clerk of the St. Marc Police Court, in the prison of that town. He was arrested on January 3, 1919, on a false charge of theft, and was imprisoned for six months. Brown administered the ‘water-cure’ to him and burned his body with a red-hot iron; to say nothing of the beatings and other tortures which he inflicted upon him. St. Pierre -vainly begged a hearing from the Naval Court of Inquiry.
“Hanging of Fabre Yoyo from a mango tree on March 13, 1919, at Pivert, on property belonging to the Orius Paultre family of St. Marc; execution on this same property this same day of two young boys of 14 and 15 years, Nicholas Yoyo and Salnave Charlot, by Captain Fitzgerald Brown.
“Among the crimes perpetrated in the region of Hinche, Maissade, from 1916 to 1919, by Lieutenants Lang and Williams, acts little known and denounced by M. Meresse Wooley, former Mayor of Hinche, on December io, 1920, in the Courier Haitien, are the following : (1) M. Onexil hanged and burned alive in his house at Lauhaudiagne; (2) execution of Madame Eucharice Cadichon at Mamon; (3) execution of Madame Romain Brigade at 1′Hermitte near Maissade; (4) execution of Madame Prevoit with a baby of a few months at ‘Savane-a-Lingue’ on her own property.
“In the prisons of Cap-Haitien, during the years 1918, 1919 and 1920 more than four thousand prisoners died.
“At Chabert, an American camp, 5,475 prisoners died during these three years, the average being five deaths a day.
“At Cap-Haitien, in 1919, eight corpses of prisoners a day were thrown into the pits.
“Before American Occupation and the seizure of the prisons by the American officers the number of prisoners in the Cap-Haitien prison did not exceed on an average forty a year.”
The Memoir concludes as follows: “The Haitian Republic was the second nation of the New Worldsecond only to the United Statesto conquer its national independence. We have our own history, our own traditions, customs and national spirit, our own institutions, laws, and social and political organization, our own culture, our own literature (French language), and our own religion. For 111 years the little Haitian nation has managed its own affairs; for 111 years it has made the necessary effort for its material, intellectual and moral development as well as any other nationbetter than any other nation, because it has been from the first absolutely alone in its difficult task, without any aid from the outside, bearing with it along the harsh road of civilisation the glorious misery of its beginning. And then, one fine day, under the merest pretext, without any possible explanation or justification on the grounds of violation of any American right or interest, American forces landed on our national territory and actually .abolished the sovereignty and independence of the Haitian Republic.
“We have just given an account of the chief aspects of the American Military Occupation in our country since July 28, 1915.
“It is the most terrible regime of military autocracy which has ever been carried on in the name of the great American democracy.
“The Haitian people, during these past five years, has passed through such sacrifices, tortures, destructions, humiliations, and misery as have never before been known in the course of its unhappy history.
“The American Government, in spite of the attitude of wisdom, moderation, and even submission which it has always found in dealing with the Haitian Government, has never lived up to any of the agreements which it had solemnly entered into with regard to the Haitian people.”
Seldom has such a tremendous indictment been framed against the official representatives of any great people in mod-ern times. Compared with this selection of crimes said to have been committed in the name of the greatest democracy, the excesses perpetrated in Mexico during the whole heat of civil war and published by Mr. Fall, fade into relative insignificance. For in the latter case the misdeeds occurred during a ruthless struggle between two infuriated sections of the community, whereas in the other a group of culture-bearers entered the country in the name of humanity, tendered the hand of friend-ship to the people, struck up binding agreements which they never lived up to, were received with peaceful resignation and then, we are told, burned the houses and shot and tortured the inhabitants and destroyed the independence of the Republic.
And throughout this lugubrious document which, fair-minded Americans hope, will bring about a thorough investigation, one is confronted with the ominous refrain: “The American Government has never lived up to any of the agreements which it had solemnly entered into with regard to the Haitian people.”
It is easy to realise the effect which the warning note sounded by this historic Memoir must have had on Mexicans who fancied they saw their own turn coming next. And all the Latin-American Republics look with deep concern on the outcome of the Mexican situation, much as Ulysses regarded his plight in the cave of Polyphemus when his comrades were being devoured by the Cyclops one by one.
The central defects, it seems to me, of those who frame the Mexican policy of the United States, lie in the oppressive narrowness of their horizon, their ignorance of the character and strivings of the Mexicans and their liability to be influenced rather by the few restless wealth-hunters who uplift their voices in angry protest than by the humanitarian sentiments of the inarticulate American people. There is no doubt that the American nation wishes well to Mexico and’ would willingly help her out of her present troubles. It is equally certain that Secretary Hughes is animated by a sincere desire to remove all misunderstandings between the two Governments. And yet despite these laudable intentions we see the ill-fated Republic being slowly strangled to death because the heads of the State Department in Washington having put gyves on its feet and manacles on its hands insist on its attuning its progress towards normal international life to the quick march of Yankee Doodle.
This matter of studying the psychology of the neighbouring countries with which they have continually to deal is well worth the attention of American statesmen, some of whom may have been surprised to learn that Mr. Henry Lane Wilson, who was once Ambassador in Mexico, contrived to earn the resentment not only of Mexicans but, it is also reported, of Latin-Americans generally.’ Secretary Hughes in a speech at an Odd Fellow meeting went to the heart of the matter when, in paying a tribute to fraternities, he said: “I wish nations might be committed to the same fraternal relations . . . out of fraternity comes understanding, and if nations possessed understanding and sought to deal fraternally with one another, they could dwell together as the United States and Canada have for more than a century without fortifications along thousands of miles of border.”
If we compare those wise words with the deeds of which Haiti, Santo Domingo and other neighbouring States complain and with the impression produced by the United States foreign policy abroad, the practical conclusion stands out that between saying and doing there is a chasm. The Filipinos, despite petitions, arguments, protests and. patience,10 have not yet been vouchsafed their long-promised independence. Mexico is being starved into bolshevism or submission not only without sinister intent but for her own good and the highest interests of humanity. On the other hand the oppressive misrule which afflicts Venezuela is actually approved by the United States’ official representative there. Porto Rico’s claims to in-dependence go unheeded. Santo Domingo is mourning the loss of her sovereignty as irreparable. In Spain Deputy A. Barcia y Trelles writes: “There are notorious reasons for affirming that the United States is going ahead with dissimulation and preparing for the total domination of the Continent across the Atlantic. Conditions changed radically with the World War. The strength and economic power of Europe in the new Continent, if not today, will in the very near future be inferior to those of North America!’”
“You are always talking to me of principles,” Tsar Alexander I once remarked to Talleyrand. “As if your public law were anything to me; I do not know what it means. What do you suppose that all your parchments and your treaties signify to me?” From the lips of a Russian autocrat these words appear natural if anti-social. Today there is probably not one civilised power on the globe which would not promptly dismiss and disavow any of its representatives abroad who should employ such language. For we ascribe a sacramental virtue to phrases. But acts which tally with Alexander’s sentiments may be committed not only with impunity but with the moral certainty that they will be applauded as “one hundred per cent patriotic.”
It is but just to point out that a considerable section of the United States press has called upon Mr. Harding to order an immediate investigation of the Haitian atrocities.12 “In the face of the terrific arraignment of our record of military occupation in Haiti,” writes one widely circulating journal, “now laid before the Government at Washington by delegates from that island, it is impossible for Mr. Harding to postpone that full investigation which events in Haiti have long demanded.
“The language of the Haitian protest is more than strong. But it is also specific, and many of the charges are corroborated by American observers in the island. An investigation, for example, would be justified by the findings of so competent an observer as Harry A. Franck who in the Century Magazine tells a story of American oppression, of callousness to life on the part of many of our soldiers and officers there, and of a lack of discipline, which the best sentiment of the American people will not tolerate if proved to be true.”
Unhappily in the Haitian as in the Mexican issue it takes a long time for the best sentiment of the American people to make itself heard and felt and in the meanwhile wrongs are inflicted which can never be repaired.
The Republic of Santo Domingo is almost as vociferous in its protests and as despairing of its future as that of Haiti. And yet the troops of the American Occupation are about to be withdrawn thenceunder conditions which the best sentiment of the American people must condemn as decisively as the misdeeds of its forces in Haiti. “The Harding Administration,” writes one of the principal Dominican press organs, “with the most absolute tranquillity has declared us slaves of the White House, slaves of ambitious capitalists, slaves of that Republic which boasts itself the freest on earth.” A joint protest signed by the editors of all the important newspapers states that the conditions of the withdrawal of the American troops deprives the people of their liberties, of their fiscal and legislative rights, of their schools, etc. The editors urge the whole Dominican people to unite in passive resistance to this encroachment on their sovereignty. The newspaper El Tiempo appeared with a. funeral oration over the Dominican Republic. “Alas for us and for our children ; for the captivity will be eternal !” The American journal14 from which these extracts are reproduced comments thus on the work of moralising the Dominican people by the military forces of the great democracy: “Have we as a people so far forgotten our republican principles as to charter our bureaucrats and soldiers to subjugate whatever weaker peoples they may find convenient? That is exactly what we have permitted in the case of Santo Domingo. It is imperialism of the most dangerous sort, because it is the imperialism not of a nation, but of a nation’s servants, acting irresponsibly.”
All this is surely far removed from what Mr. Hughes had in view when aspiring for his country to the moral leadership of the world, on the ground that it is the foremost among the progressive nations. But it is nowise far removed from the fate which Mexicans believe would be theirs if they too should fall under the moral guardianship of the great “Democracy of prohibition and righteousness.” And one should make due allowance for this grounded apprehension when examining the motives of Mexico’s reluctance to find herself isolated from the eastern world and left face to face with the United States. A people which has already lost more than half of its territory to its great democratic neighbour, which is threatened with the prospect of losing more, which is having its treasures systematically drained by the new-rich of that assimilative Republic, is now being called upon to change its Constitution and alter its laws in order to enable those capitalists to exploit the natural resources of the country more easily,such a people cannot be expected hurriedly to conclude a treaty-even though it be termed of “amity and commerce”with the great moralising neighbour. The examples of Haiti and Santo Domingo corroborate its own experience and confirm the belief that the character of States like that of individuals rarely changes.
It is not an easy matter to dispossess Mexicans of the notion that at the bottom of those fine phrases about the moral advancement of backward peoples, a policy of righteousness and a reign of justice, lurks hypocrisy of the rankest type. They refuse to make a distinction between the worst sentiment of the servants of the United States Government, and the best sentiment of the American people which is ignored by the former while republics are being shorn of their sovereignty and is invoked only when the wrong can no longer be righted. They make the State responsible for its chosen agents and condemn and fear both equally.
But it is not only the Mexicans who view the inspiriting watchwords and shibboleths of the great American people in the unfavourable light shed upon them by the deliberate acts of its representatives. In most countries of the world the verdict is the same, but being seldom reproduced in the United States it is hardly known, and is certainly not realised, there. If it were, the grotesqueness of the contrast between the noble aspirations towards the moral guardianship of the world voiced by well-intentioned but naïve statesmen and the repellent instincts and brutal misdeeds of their representatives and agents in weak States would have long since appealed to the Yankee sense of humour. The Mexicans, however, appreciate it keenly. They put Mr. Hughes’ lofty ideal of the fraternity of peoples side by side with the blood-thirst, violence and cruelty of the culture-bearers who have been operating in Haiti and with the imperialistic feats of those who have been uplifting Santo Domingo. “This is a period,” writes a representative New York journal, “when the motives of the United States and its relation to other nations of the world are being seriously questioned. Altruistic expressions of our views and in-tent are the common language of politicians of both parties and all groups. . . . The aspersion of hypocrisy which is already cast upon us . . . can with difficulty be warded off.”
As an instance of the way in which the idiosyncrasies of Washington diplomacy appear to plain-dealing public men in Europe, Lord Robert Cecil’s recent remarks may be worth re-producing. Speaking16″ on the subject of mandates before the Council of the League of Nations, he said that “if that problem was at a standstill it would be the fault of the United States who. did not want it to be solved without them but at the same time refused the invitations of the Chancellor of the League.” And an influential British journal declares that the effort to draw closer the Latin-American Republics to the United States “has hitherto been checked by fear on the part of the South and Central American States that the great North American Republic has a half-formed desire to dominate the whole Western Continent and reduce the sister Republics there to a state of tutelage under their powerful neighbour. . . . The chief basis for Latin-American dubiety in regard to the United States is mainly their uncertainty as to the policy of the latter in regard to Mexican affairs. If this is cleared up and guarantees are given in respect to the United States’ intentions regarding South America there is no doubt that the political organisations of the whole Continent, with the exception of Canada, would tend to draw closer together, so as to enable the Western hemisphere as a whole to stand in a firmer position with regard to the economic, financial and military power of Europe, backed now by the rising nations of the Far East.” That is exactly what Mexico desires to haveguarantees in respect to the United States’ intentions.
“United States morality,” Mexicans declare, “smells of oil. Oil is the motive power of its Mexican policy.” Take, for instance, the recent despatch of warships to Tampico coincidently with the outbreak of the revolution expected and an-bounced by certain oil companies’ agents. Its avowed object was to quell the disorders which these oil corporations confidently anticipated as a certain result of their own act of sus-pending operations and throwing thousands of Mexican work-men out of employment. A more suspicious looking combination of circumstances it would be hard to imagine. And when it is illumined by the allegation of the oil companies’ whilom friend, General Pelaez, that to his knowledge a large sum of money was paid by one of the oil corporation’s agents (he mentions names) to the chief of the rebels, one can readily understand the feelings of Mexicans. “An American steamer,” we read in a provincial American journal, “carrying American cargo was tied up for more than a month at Buenos Aires because longshoremen declared a strike. American property was by that strike damaged to the extent of several thousand dollars a day. . . . There was no suggestion during the ‘Martha Washington’s’ enforced internment at Buenos Aires that the United States despatch a couple of warships to the Argentinian port to stand by in case the hostility of the strikers threatened to imperil the skipper’s life or the property in his care. To have suggested such a course would have been to incur the charge of criminal feeble-mindedness. Had the Martha Washington been engaged in the oil trade and had she docked at Tampico instead of Buenos Aires, the inference is strong that our Government’s attitude would have been less restrained. It makes a difference in whose bailiwick American property is threatened. If it is threatened in the territory of a first-class Power our State Department writes notes. If it is threatened in Mexico our War Department sends battle cruisers. It makes a difference also what kind of American property rights are jeopardised. If it is cable rights in Yap, we complain to the Supreme Council. If it is oil rights in Tampico, we despatch a young fleet with orders to the Commanding Officer to land an army of occupation.
“The cry of imperilled American interests comes loud from Tampico but it is a cry with an oily overtone. The deadly petroleum virus is once more at work to poison our relations with our Southern neighbour. Obregón’s Government seems abundantly capable of protecting American lives, but unfortunately it is not American lives over which the State and Navy Department are so strangely exercised, but American oil.”
The influence of oil is, it must be admitted, answerable for the eclipse of truthfulness, the distortion of facts, the twisting of moral principles and the perpetuation of rank in-justice disguised as human fellowship and altruism. It was solicitude for the oil interests that led Secretary Fall to assert that the British Government controls one of the principal oil companies working in Mexico, to accuse it of unduly favouring these and to maintain an attitude of dignified silence when both statements were publicly proven to be untrue. It was solicitude for the oil interests that moved the State Department in Washington to insist upon a new agreement being made retroactive and the sacred property rights of non-Americans in Mesopotamia being set summarily aside in order that Americans should acquire them. That Department contended that the concessions received years ago by British subjects and by the nationals of other countries should be declared null and void in the same off-handed way in which Carranza is accused of having proceeded with American rights. And Lord Curzon who in this case championed the sacredness of private property pointed out the inconsistency of this attitude with that which the same State Department is taking up “in regard to similar American interests in Mexico.” He further laid stress on the odd circumstance that, while the State Department con-tends that the oil resources of the world should be drawn upon for development without reference to nationality, still, by Article 1 of the Philippine Constitution” (the oil companies make a speciality of Constitutions) participation in the working of all public lands containing petroleum is confined to citizens or corporations of the United States or the Philippines, and he ex-pressed his regret that this enactment contradicts the general principle of the United States. Lord Curzon might have added, had he been aware of the fact, that one of the candidates of the American corporations for the Presidency of the Mexican Republic is already bound by agreement, should he be put in power, to accord to American citizens a decided preference over all other nationals in the matter of oil concessions.
Is it to be wondered at that it is in the light of these backslidings from grace that Mexicans interpret the terms righteousness, moral guidance and altruism which are so often wafted to their ears on the breezes that blow from the northern bank of the Rio Grande?