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professionalized, was given over bodily to personal followers of Bryan. In what was in 1913 perhaps the most important of our diplomatic posts, the embassy to Mexico, Mr. Wilson was compelled to rely provisionally on Henry Lane Wilson, a holdover appointee from the previous Administration.
It was soon made clear that there was to be no more dollar diplomacy. The Knox policies in Central America were droppedalthough American troops continued to dominate , Nicaraguaand in 1914 the Administration successfully discouraged American participation in a six-power loan to China. The Russo-Japanese absorption of Manchuria was to be treated as the accomplished fact that it was; and in general the policy of the new Administration was anything but aggressive. It would not use diplomacy to advance American commercial interests, nor was it prepared to accept the assistance of American financiers in promoting the policies of diplomacy.
But it was evident from the outset that the most quiescent foreign policy could not prevent foreign complications. Growing anti-Japanese sentiment in California led to the passage of a State law against Japanese land holdings. There was much resentment in Japan, and protest was made to the Federal Government. Mr. Bryan, as Secretary of State, had to make a personal trip to Sacramento to intercede with the Californians; and at one time (May, 1913) military men appeared to feel that the situation was extremely delicate. But the crisis passed over, the Californians modified the law, and though in its amended form it suited neither the Californians nor the Japanese, the issue remained in the background during the more urgent years of the war. Toward the very end of the Wilson Administration it was to come back into prominence.
Another question which caused much disturbance to the new Administration was the question of Panama Canal tolls. An act passed in 1912 had exempted American coastwise shipping passing through the canal from the tolls assessed on other vessels, and the British Government had protested against this on the ground that it violated the Hay-Pauncefote treaty of 1901, which had stipulated that the canal should be open to the vessels of all nations “on terms of entire equality.” Other nations than England had an interest in this question, and there was a suspicion that some of them were even more keenly if not more heavily interested; but England took the initiative and the struggle to save the exemption was turned, in the United States, into a demonstration by the Irish, Germans and other anti-British elements. Innate hostility to England, the coastwise shipping interests, formed the backbone of the opposition to any repeal of this exemption, but the Taft Administration had held that the exemption did not conflict with the treaty (on the ground that the words “all nations” meant all nations except the United States), and British opposition to the fortification of the canal, as well as the attitude of a section of the British press during the Canadian elections of 1911, had created a distrust of British motives which was heightened by the conviction of many that the Hay-Pauncefote treaty had been a bad bargain.
It was understood early in President Wilson's Administration that he believed the exemption was in violation of the treaty, but not until October did he make formal announcement that he intended to ask Congress to repeal it. The question did not come into the foreground, however, until March 5, 1914, when the President addressed this request to Congress in ominous language, which to this day remains unexplained. “No communication I addressed to Congress,” he said, “has carried with it more grave and far-reaching implications to the interests of the country.” After expressing his belief that the law as it stood violated the treaty and should be repealed as a point of honor, he continued: “I ask this of you in support of the foreign policy of the Administration. I shall not know how to deal with other matters of even greater delicacy and nearer consequence if you do not grant it to me in ungrudging measure.”
It has been most plausibly suggested that this obscure language had reference to the Mexican situation, which a few weeks later was to lead to the occupation of Vera Cruz. The European powers were known to be much displeased at the continuing disturbances in Mexico and the American policy of “watchful waiting,” and the belief has been expressed that repeal of the
bearance with Mexico. Other critics have seen a reference to the unsettled issues with Japan and a fear that England might give more aggressive support to her ally if the tolls question were left unsettled. The attempt of a writer of biography to maintain that even in March, 1914, the President and Colonel House foresaw the European war and wanted to arrange our own international relations by way of precaution has been generally received with polite skepticism.
At any rate, the President's intervention in the question, against the advice of his most trusted political counselors, brought down on him a shower of personal abuse from Irish organs and from the group of newspapers which presently were to appear as the chief supporters of Germany. The arguments against the repeal were unusually bitter, and even though Elihu Root took his stand beside the President and against the recent Republican Administration, partisan criticism seized upon the opening. Nevertheless the tolls exemption was repealed in June, and events of July and August gave a certain satisfaction to those who had stood for the sanctity of treaties.
As a part of what might be called the general deitation of overseas entanglements, the new Administration brought about a
material change in the treatment of the Philippines. From the beginning great changes were made in the personnel of the Philippines Commission and of the Administration of the country. Many American officials were replaced by Filipinos, but the separatist agitation in the islands was not much allayed by the extension of self-government. In October, 1914, the Jones Bill,
government shall have been established,” was passed by the House of Representatives, but Republican opposition was strengthened by those who remembered Bryan's anti-imperialism in 1900 and by the supporters of a strong policy in the Pacific. This issue, like others of the early period, came back into greater prominence in the last years of the second Wilson Administration, when war issues were temporarily disposed of.
A specially conciliatory policy toward Latin America was one of the chief characteristics of the early period of the Administration. At the Southern Commercial Congress in Mobile, on October 27, 1913, the President declared that “the United States will never seek one additional foot of territory by conquest;” a statement which was understood in direct relation to the demand for intervention in Mexico, and which had a very considerable effect on public sentiment in Central. and South America. The passing of “dollar diplomacy,” too, was generally satisfactory to Latin America, and, though Mr. Bryan's inexperienced diplomats made a good many blunders and could not help, as a rule, being compared unfavorably with the professionals who had held the Latin-American posts in the previous Administration, the general policy of Wilson created much more confidence in the other two Americas than did the spasmodic aggressiveness of Roosevelt or the commercialized diplomacy of Taft.
One specific attempt was made to heal a sore spot left by Roosevelt in relations with Latin America by the new Administration. Negotiations with Colombia to clear up the strained situation left by the revolution in Panama had been under way in the Taft Administration, but had come to nothing. Under Wilson they were resumed, and on April 7, 1914, a treaty was signed by which the United States was to pay to Colombia a compensation of $25,000,000 for Colombian interests in the Isthmus. The treaty further contained a declaration that the Government of the United States expressed its “sincere regret for anything that may have happened to disturb the relations” between the two countries, and this suggestion of an apology for Roosevelt's action in 1903 roused the violent hostility of Republicans and Progressives. The opposition was so strong that in spite of repeated efforts the Administration could never get the treaty ratified by the Senate; but the undoubtedly sincere efforts of the Executive had of themselves a considerable effect in mollifying the suspicions of Latin America.
But all problems south of the Isthmus were insignificant compared with the difficulties in Mexico which had begun with the Madero Revolution against Diaz in 1910. Just at the close of the Taft Administration Madero had been overthrown and killed by Huerta, who then ruled in Mexico City and was recognized by England and Germany in the Spring of 1913. Villa and Carranza were in arms against Huerta in the north, calling themselves the champions of the Constitution; Orozoco and Zapata were in arms against everybody in the south; foreign life and property were unsafe everywhere except in the largest cities. The demand for intervention, which had been strong ever since the troubles began, was increasing in 1913. Huerta professed to be holding office only until a peaceful election could determine the will of the nation, but the date of that peaceful election had to be constantly put off. The embargo on shipments of arms from the United States still existed, preventing Huerta from supplying his troops; but there was a good deal of smuggling to the revolutionary armies in the north. Of the interventionists some wanted intervention against Huerta and some wanted intervention for Huerta; and the pressure of economic interests in Mexico was complicating all phases of the situation.
From the first President Wilson had expressed his disapproval of the methods by which Huerta had attained office. Ambassador Wilson, on the other hand, thought that Huerta ought to be supported, and when his policy did not commend itself to the President he resigned in August, 1913. But already the President had been getting information about Mexico from extra-official sources. His first envoy was William Bayard Hale, author of one of his campaign biographies. Ambassador Wilson was virtually replaced in August by another special representative, John Lind, who carried to Huerta the proposals of President Wilson for solution of the Mexican problem. They included a definite armistice, a general election in which Huerta should not be a candidate, and the agreement of all parties to obey the Government chosen by this election, which would be recognized by the United States. Huerta refused and presently dissolved Congress. When the elections were finally held on October 2 Huerta won, and there was no doubt that he would have won no matter how the voting had happened to go.
The President's program for Mexican reform, it may be said, was not as evidently impracticable in 1913, as it seems in retrospect. It was widely criticised at the time, and the phrase “watchful waiting” which he invented as a description of his Mexican Policy was made the object of much ridicule. Throughout the first winter of the new Administration the American Government was apparently waiting for something to happen to Huerta or for Huerta to reform, and President Wilson several times sharply criticised the actions of the Mexican dictator. But
Huerta did not reform and nothing sufficient happened to him; it began to look as if watchful waiting might continue indefinitely when a trivial incident furnished the last straw.
A boatload of American sailors from the warships anchored off Tampico to protect American citizens had been arrested by the Mexican military authorities. They were released, with apologies, but Admiral Mayo demanded a salute to the American flag by way of additional amends, and when Huerta showed a disposition to argue the matter the Atlantic Fleet was (April 14, 1914) ordered to Mexican waters. A week later, as negotiations had failed to produce the salute, the President asked Congress to give him authority to use the armed forces of the United States “against Victoriano Huerta.” There was much criticism of the policy which had endured serious material injuries for more than a year to threaten force at last because of a technical point of honor, and besides those who did not want war at all the President found himself opposed by many Congressmen who thought that the personal attack on Huerta was rather undignified, and that the President should have asked for a downright declaration of war.
While Congress was debating the resolution the American naval forces (on April 21) seized the Vera Cruz Custom House to prevent the landing of a munition cargo from a German ship. This led to sharp fighting and the occupation of the entire city.. General Funston with a division of regulars was sent to relieve the naval landing parties; and war seemed inevitable. Even the Mexican revolutionaries showed a tendency to prefer Huerta to the intervention of the United States. But on April 25 the Governments of Argentina, Brazil and Chile proposed mediation, which Wilson and Huerta promptly accepted. A conference met at Niagara Falls, Ontario, and through May and June endeavored to reach a settlement not only between the United States and Mexico, but between the various Mexican factions. The President was still attempting to carry out his policy of August, 1913, and the chief obstacle was not Huerta, but Carranza, who had refused to consent to an armistice and for a long time would not send delegates to Niagara Falls. Meanwhile Huerta made one concession after another. Watchful waiting had indeed ruined him; for President Wilson's opposition had made it impossible for him to get any money in Europe-and in the early part of 1914 some European nations would still have considered Mexico a good risk. Moreover, from February to April the embargo on arms had been lifted, and the Constitutionalists armies in the north, munitioned from the United States, were steadily conquering the country. On July 15 Huerta resigned, and soon afterward sailed for Spain; and on August 20 Carranza entered Mexico City.
Despite the criticism that had been heaped on the President's handling of the Tampico-Vera Cruz affair, he had got rid of