In America, people were freely allowed to elect their president through the process of voting. However, in other countries such as Mexico, assassination and bloody revolution was common for the purpose of gaining control of the government. Both Woodrow Wilson and Victoriano Huerta came into power at almost the same respective period. As the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson rejected the regime which Huerta had established and termed him as a usurper and a murderer. During his talks with the secretary of the British Ambassador to Washington, Sir William Tyrrell. Wilson stated:
I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men (Quirk 2).
Tampico, a Mexican port, was built on the northern bank of the Panuco River. The first years of the twentieth century marked a huge turning point for Tampico due to the discovery of oil. As a result, Mexico was considered as one of the leading producers of crude and refined petroleum in the world. Foreign investments became common as American and British companies competed for concessions. Tampico had about 2000 troops commanded by General Ignacio Morelos Zaragoza in defense of the port against the constitutionalists. Various challenges were often experienced in defending Tampico due to its terrain landscape. United States Navy had stationed their vessels in both Tampico and Veracruz in order to protect the American nationals living in Mexico.
Henry T. Mayo was the commander of the fifth division at Tampico. Two battleships were under his command namely Connecticut and Minnesota. The main purpose of the ships was to carry marine detachments and act as a base in case of an emergency landing. Petroleum properties not only represented investment an opportunity for the Americans living there but it was also a source of livelihood. In addition, it enabled them to establish a mutual relationship with the locals and also, the investments gave them opportunities to build new homes.
The Americans and the rest of Mexico were concerned with the naval forces evacuating women and children. They expected the forces to protect their properties in case of a rebel attack. Business establishments at Tampico prepared for unavoidable street fighting brought by any sudden attack on the city. The federal troops prepared themselves by strengthening their lines and digging trenches for effective awareness. However, after a while, there was calmness at Tampico.
Huerta was decisive in capturing Tampico at all cost. As a result, the rebels made a surprise attack on the outskirts of Tampico which also led to the weakening of the Veracruz forces. An urgent request to the United States department was radioed to send an army transport in order to evacuate the Americans. Wilson responded by curious lack of concern for the safety of his people. He told his personal physician, Dr. Cary Grayson;
I sometimes have to pause and remind myself that I am the president of the whole United States and not merely of a few property holders in Mexico (Quirk 18).
The constitutionalists had finally captured Tampico late in May. Woodrow Wilson had failed to look at every aspect of the matter at hand. He never opted to weigh the existing evidence nor seek advice and opinions from various colleagues. Instead, he made decisions based on his opinions. He was considered as a dishonest man for misunderstanding the situation in Mexico. The reason for this was because of the self-deception that the knowledge gathered was sufficient enough. Wilson was a highly educated man yet he had limited knowledge regarding foreign affairs. He attempted to send John Lind, the former governor of Minnesota, to try and convince Huerta to resign as president and hold free elections.
Huerta was amiable in several ways towards the United States and its young representative, OShaughnessy. However, he still refused to submit to Wilson demands. Mexico had an unimpressive military record; the reason for this is because it had never won any war. Usually, when a nation is regarded as weak, honor and pride are among the factors that contribute to its utmost importance. An appeal to national honor and patriotism was one of Huertas means to secure his presidency. OShaughnessy was less reluctant towards Mayos actions. He told Bryan Frankly
I do not quite understand how such an ultimatum being issued without superior authority, in view of the tense situation now existing (Quirk 42).
Upon his return to Washington, Wilson was in a bellicose mood as he told the reporters The salute will be fired (Quirk 49).
On April 14th at 10.00 a.m., Lind and Bryan met the President at his office to talk about the situation in Mexico. Lind mentioned that the United States hostile attitude was not effective in terms of expecting change. The refusal to grant recognition as a way of weakening the Mexican government had not stopped Huerta from receiving funds and arms.
In Mexico, OShaughnessy did not respond to any questions that were asked by the newspaper Men. Huerta was nowhere to be found regarding his interview. However, when he was cabled, he responded concisely and unequivocally:
Mexico has controversies with nobody, least of all the great American nation (Quirk 59).
When Bryan made his return to the state department, he composed an answer to OShaughnessy:
The president is gratefulthat General Huerta is disposed to bring the incident to a close by complying with Mayos demand (Quirk 61).
Lopez Portillo Y Rojas had finally prevailed upon General Huerta when he entered the American Embassy. He said that in order to accept the terms of the United States, a Mexican battery at Tampico would salute the American flag as long as assurance is made regarding the salute to be returned by a warship of US flying the pennant of Admiral Mayo. Later on, the President of the United States was not disturbed by any phantasms of doubt. He already knew that the Mexicans would not resist. Firing and bloodshed would not be experienced; only Huerta would suffer the consequences and Mexico would thank the US.
Woodrow Wilson had limited knowledge regarding Mexico and its people; he knew nothing about the city of Veracruz. Veracruz was a thriving city and in many respect, a progressive city as well. Men and officers of the fourth division were alerted throughout the night. They received orders from Washington. Josephus Daniels received a message from the radio reporter at Florida:
Seize custom house and do not permit war supplies to be delivered to Huertas government or any other party (Quirk 85).
The two forces initiated war and the entire city together with its population became involved. The city of Veracruz was littered with debris. Many Mexicans died as surprisingly compared to the Americans who had few casualties. Admiral Fletcher proclaimed to the people of Veracruz stating that;
His forces had temporarily occupied their city (Quirk 103).
This was done to supervise the administration of the affairs regarding the disturbed present conditions.
Quirk, Robert E. An Affair Of Honor: Woodrow Wilson And The Occupation Of Veracruz. [Estados Unidos], Mississippi Valley Historical Association, 1962.
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