‘I SHOULD therefore suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France,’ wrote Edmund Burke in 1790, ‘until I was informed how it had been combined with government, with public force, with the discipline and obedience of armies, with the collection of an effective and well-distributed revenue, with morality and religion, with solidity and property, with peace and order, with civil and social manners. All these things (in their way) are good things, too, and without them liberty is not a benefit while it lasts, and is not likely to continue long.’
The standards Burke here establishes for testing a nation’s liberty commend themselves to the judgment and common sense of thoughtful men. Liberty is not liberty at all unless it conforms to these requirements; and a government, whatever name it bears, is of no benefit to a people if it does not perform those essential functions for which in the last analysis every government exists and upon which all organized society depends for its very life.
For over a hundred years, with a few brief exceptions, the liberty of the Mexican people has been a fictitious liberty, and the government of that country has failed to meet the tests either of a free government or a successful government. It has not maintained order, except at irregular and widely separated intervals. It has not afforded industry the security it requires, nor protected labor against the evils of a violent and disorganized society. It has not been able to keep its treasury in funds or pay its debts or direct its revenues to the genuine upbuilding of its citizens. It has failed lamentably to educate its people or give them a decent standard of living or teach them the rudiments of health and sanitation. It has built almost no highways, developed almost none of the country’s great resources, and allowed itself to become the economic vassal of other nations. It has frequently ignored its solemn treaty obligations, violated the established principles of international law, and invited the intervention of other nations because of its utter helplessness in the face of domestic turmoil and confusion.
This indictment of self-government in Mexico is not born of hostility or prejudice, but of that same impartial desire to arrive at the truth which leads a physician to record a patient’s symptoms, no matter how serious they may be, when he attempts to diagnose the disease from which the patient suffers. And if my criticisms of Mexican liberty and of the Mexican government appear to be harsh or exaggerated, I can only plead that they are no harsher nor more exaggerated than the facts of Mexican history themselves. Let us see if this statement is not correct.
Mexico became independent of Spain in the year 1821. From that date to 1876, when Porfirio Diaz first came into power, the nation enjoyed the rule of two regencies, two emperors, sundry dictators, nearly twenty provisional presidents, twenty-three regular presidents, and one or two extraconstitutional bodies known by various names. Altogether, in the course of these first fifty-five years of independence, the government thus changed hands on an average of at least once a year (or perhaps a little oftener) and almost never were these changes accomplished without bloodshed or in accordance with the methods prescribed by the Mexican Constitution.
Under such conditions it is obvious that the government of the country could not perform even the simplest of its duties toward its citizens, and that the liberty which had been won from Spain was in no way combined with ‘solidity and property, with peace and order,’ or with any other of the virtues that make for a nation’s progress and enlightenment.
The rule of Diaz began in 1876 and with the exception of a four-year interval, from 1880 to 1884, extended to 1911. In all the history of Mexican independence this is the only period in which the country has enjoyed as much as five years of continuous tranquillity and peace. This relief from political confusion and the turmoil of revolution enabled Mexico not only to make surprising progress along economic lines but also to reestablish her international position and to some degree to improve the condition of the common people.
But the government of Diaz, though an efficient and successful government, possessed two fatal elements of weakness. It was neither a free government nor a constitutional government, and it had no power to pass its virtues on to a successor. Here lies one of the features of Mexican politics which needs to be clearly pointed out. Many people, both foreigners and nativeborn, who have despaired of selfgovernment in Mexico, propose as a sort of guaranteed alternative to the nominal democracy now in effect the restoration of a benevolent despotism, such as Diaz established and so long maintained. But in addition to all the theoretical objections that might be offered to this plan, there is a practical difficulty which renders its operation quite impossible. This difficulty is to find the man of sufficient capacity and strength to establish and maintain the proposed despotism. Virtually every president before Diaz, as well as after him, has attempted to do the very thing he did — that is, to make himself absolute master of the government; but none as yet has had any long-continued success in this attempt.
The explanation of the single generation of peace which Mexico has known in the last hundred years lies, then, not in the type of government Diaz established, for this was already old when he came into power, nor in the methods he adopted, though these were eminently practical and efficient, but in the personality, genius, and consummate ability of the man himself. Thus those who advocate the establishment of a dictatorship in Mexico, modeled after that of Diaz, as a solution of the nation’s political perplexities, are advocating a delusive and visionary plan unless they can discover somewhere a leader comparable to Diaz in ability and statesmanship, and also can devise some method by which this man can pass his government on to a successor of no less ability than himself. But when in the past, with the possible exception of Benito Juarez, has Mexico brought forth a man like Diaz, and when will she again produce his equal?
But to return from this digression. Few will dispute the weakness and futility of the Mexican government before the time of Diaz or deny the absolute nature of the latter’s rule. But many (on the first impulse) will vigorously object to going any further. Granted, they will say, that self-government in Mexico before 1910 proved a failure. Conditions since that time have changed, and it is both unjust and foolish to speak of the Mexico of to-day as though she still followed the practices and suffered from the evils of an outlived yesterday.
If the premise is correct, this position certainly cannot be questioned. But in any matter of history facts are of some importance in reaching right conclusions, as they are in science. And these are the facts of recent Mexican politics.
From 1910 to 1924, a period of fourteen years, Mexico has had five major presidents — Diaz, Madero, Huerta, Carranza, and Obregon. She has had in addition six temporary or provisional presidents, two of whom held office for nearly six months each, and one of whom was in power less than fifty minutes. She has had as many as three different presidents of one kind or another in a single day. She has seen her capital more than once or twice fall into the hands of bandit-revolutionists, such as Villa and Zapata. She has seen two of her five major presidents assassinated in the revolutions which brought about their overthrow. She has seen two others driven into exile, where they died. And the fifth, Obregón, she has seen escape the certain fate of exile or death within the past year only because the United States Government came to his support at the crisis of his administration.
These facts are worthy of sober consideration. In them there is not much. surely, to indicate that the present state of Mexican politics shows any great improvement over that which has gone before. What has happened, indeed, is really this: The thirty years of tranquillity and peace under Diaz misled public opinion in the United States and taught us to look upon the present revolutionary period in Mexico as an abnormal and unnatural state. In reality, however, the confusion and violent political upheavals Mexico has experienced since 1910 are the normal characteristics of her government. This is no new idea. Nearly a century ago, De Tocqueville, that keen student of American political institutions, wrote: ‘To the present day Mexico is alternately the victim of anarchy and the slave of military despotism. . . . The incessant revolutions which have convulsed the South American provinces for the last quarter of a century have frequently been adverted to with astonishment, and expectations have been expressed that those states would soon return to their natural state. But can it be affirmed that the turmoil of revolution is not actually the natural state of the South American Spaniards at the present time? The inhabitants of that fair portion of the Western Hemisphere seem obstinately bent on pursuing the work of inward havoc. If they fall into a momentary repose from the effects of exhaustion, that repose prepares them for a fresh state of frenzy.’
In this similarity of political conditions in modern Mexico to the political conditions of De Tocqueville’s day (or of any other day for that matter, except at the time of Diaz) lies the greatest discouragement for the believer in self-government across the border. Revolutions now are quite as numerous as they ever were. Elections are still important only as they register the will of the faction in control, or ratify the results of a revolution just accomplished, or usher in an insurrection against the administration. The great purposes of government still wait to be accomplished; and the common people of the land, when they progress at all, go forward only on slow and halting feet.
To the impartial and candid student of Mexican history, it is thus obvious that the government of that country has failed lamentably during the past hundred years to do the things it ought to have done; that it has done many things it ought not to have done, and that the true spirit of democracy has not yet manifested itself in free institutions and the firm establishment of law and order.
Merely to point out these conditions, however, without seeking to discover and analyze the factors that lie behind them, would be of little use. The thoughtful man must ask himself at once why the problem of self-government in Mexico (as indeed in almost all Spanish-American countries) has been found so difficult and in some respects is seemingly so impossible.
The first answer to this question lies, of course, in the type of people with which the problem has to deal. ‘No polity,’ wrote Bagehot, ‘can get out of a nation more than there is in the nation.’ And, at the very outset, it is worth while pausing for a moment to see what sort of stuff has gone into the making of the Mexican nation. The office of the American ConsulGeneral in Mexico City two years ago issued a general information bulletin on the consular district directly under its jurisdiction. This district includes the central part of Mexico and contains approximately 6,000,000 people, or nearly half the population of the entire country. The inhabitants are further advanced than any other large body of the Mexican people, and have certainly had greater opportunities to profit from the operations of the federal government than any of their fellow countrymen. The following paragraph, however, from the consular bulletin thus describes these people: —
‘Most of the inhabitants outside of the cities are full-blood Indians. Of the total population at least eighty per cent are illiterate and indigent, having the lowest standards of living, making use of the barest necessities of clothing, food, and shelter, and enjoying no luxuries. Corn and beans constitute the staple articles of food. Scant cotton covering for the body, with perhaps a native blanket for a winter coat and sandals for the feet, supply the usual clothing. Four walls and a roof, with dirt floor and no heating or sanitary accommodations, is the customary housing for a family of this numerous class. There is no middle class outside of the cities, where clerks, small tradesmen, and minor government officials form a limited class between the two extremities.’
In that brief description, if one reads it carefully, are surely to be found sufficient serious obstacles in the path of self-government in Mexico. Let us consider in the first place the question of race. Less than ten per cent of Mexico’s 15,000,000 citizens are of pure white extraction. Of the remainder, about one half are of mixed white and Indian blood; but even in this mestizo or mixed class the Indian strain so greatly predominates that it is almost impossible to differentiate the great majority from the pure Indian element.
Lastly come the Indians themselves, who, without the slightest trace of Caucasian or other foreign blood, constitute nearly fifty per cent of the entire population of the country. This great substratum of the Mexican nation presents a problem in self-government so difficult and complex as to discourage any but the most exalted and ardent believers in democracy. They are people but little affected by the veneer of civilization under which they have lived for four hundred years. In large part they still follow the old customs of their fathers, live the old Indian life, speak in many cases the old Indian dialects, retain the Indian outlook upon life, cherish the old Indian conception of social and political relationships, know nothing of national patriotism or ties of unity outside their tribal or small community associations, and have neither any understanding of the alien form of government under which they live nor any desire to participate in its operations. Such is the great body of raw material out of which Mexico must build her popular institutions and fashion her democratic government!
Another of the great drawbacks to self-government in Mexico is the lack of education among the people. It is certainly a very conservative statement to say that eighty per cent of the entire population are illiterate, and probably not half of the twenty per cent who can read and write possess more than these bare rudiments of an education. How can a democracy be successfully erected on such a foundation? Is there some peculiar spirit abroad in Mexico which makes it possible for a free government to flourish there under such conditions of illiteracy and gross ignorance when elsewhere it demands intelligence and education to survive?
A third difficulty in the way of self-government in Mexico is the isolation and lack of adequate means of communication from which the country suffers. In the early years of national development, before the coming of the railroads, the people of the United States found it possible to travel and to transport their commerce by means of river highways. Regions far removed from the older centres of population were made accessible, the national life was unified, and widely separated states were given a true community of interest and a mutual understanding by such great rivers as the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Hudson, and the Missouri.
Mexico, on the other hand, possessed none of these aids to national unity and political homogeneity. Instead of a network of navigable rivers to knit the land together, there were only great mountain ranges, and wide deserts, and impenetrable jungles to foster extreme provincialism and political disunity.
Even the construction of railroads, which did not begin until about 1880, failed to overcome these physical hindrances which so seriously retard the development of an effective democratic government; and even to-day only a handful of states in the republic enjoy anything like an adequate railway service, and many vast areas, such as Lower California and the Yucatan Peninsula, have no rail connection whatever with any other section of the country.
Nor has the coming of the automobile to any great degree broken down these barriers of isolation. For automobile roads, except in a few of the larger cities, are as yet almost nonexistent. To go from the border, or from a single Mexican seaport, to the capital by automobile is virtually impossible. And nowhere in the country is a journey of a hundred miles to be undertaken lightly or without careful preparation.
One of the most practical benefits any government could render Mexico, whether one considers the matter from the social, the economic, or the political standpoint, would be to construct serviceable automobile highways throughout the country, and make easily accessible those vast areas which so long have remained geographically isolated, economically backward, culturally stagnant, and politically untrained and unfitted for self-government.
Another cause of the ill success of popular government in Mexico is the failure of Mexican society to develop a middle class. No nation has ever yet succeeded as a democracy, or ever will succeed, in which all wealth and education and culture and political power are lodged in the hands of a small minority and denied utterly to the great masses of the population. Time out of mind Mexico has suffered from this social malady, nor has she to-day by any means found a remedy for the evil, though there is now some ground for hope that the movement started by Madero, if it does not degenerate too far into an irresponsible and destructive radicalism, may gradually ameliorate the situation.
Still another handicap to self-government, and one that must stand at the very forefront in importance, is the lack of training and tradition of self-government from which the Mexican people suffer. There is no virtue, no supernatural power, in the word democracy that can immediately transform a people, ignorant, disunited, utterly unskilled in the difficult business of politics, and wholly unacquainted with the complex processes of self-government, into a society that knows at once how to make its own laws, administer its own affairs, fashion the political institutions necessary to meet its own peculiar needs, and keep the machinery of government in operation.
’I am still further from thinking, as so many people do,’ wrote a very able student of government early in the last century, ‘that men can be instantaneously made citizens by teaching them to read and write. True information is mainly derived from experience; and if the Americans had not been gradually accustomed to govern themselves, their book learning would not assist them much at the present day.’
In any comparison between the development of democracy in Mexico and in the United States, it is essential to keep this point in mind. Long before the American people established themselves as an independent nation, they had served their apprenticeship in self-government as colonists. They were Englishmen, moreover, and the sons of Englishmen. As such they were accustomed to the theory and practices of government. They were well acquainted with ‘the customs which obtain in the political world’ and ‘familiar with the mechanism of the laws.’ They were ‘already practised in the discipline of partial independence and had been tempered by more than a century’s schooling in self-government.’ Accordingly they knew not only how to make their own laws, but also how to abide by the results of a political contest without resort to revolution. They were, in substance, masters of the art of government long before they attempted to govern themselves.
‘The citizen of the United States,’ wrote De Tocqueville, ‘does not acquire his practical science and his positive notions from books; the instruction he has acquired may have prepared him for receiving those ideas, but it did not furnish them. The American learns to know the laws by participating in the acts of legislation; and he takes a lesson in the forms of government from governing. The great work of society is ever going on beneath his eyes, and. as it were, under his hands.’
But this knowledge of the actual workings of free government was not all that the American colonist had when he freed himself from the restraints and guidance of the mother country. He had also behind him the splendid tradition of English freedom. He was determined that none should take from him those ‘ancient and undoubted rights’ from which that freedom sprung. But both his temperament and his experience convinced him that liberty was only valuable as men held it in restraint and that it would soon degenerate into the tyranny of despotism or of anarchy unless it was guarded from excess.
The Mexican, on the contrary, when he severed himself from Spain, had none of the advantages which the citizens of the Thirteen Colonies possessed. For three hundred years he had been under an absolutism which gave him no training whatsoever in self-government, and consequently he knew nothing of its principles or its practices. In his mind authority was always associated with tyranny, and he had no knowledge of how to fashion a government in which liberty and force should be combined in right proportions. He had no great tradition running back across the centuries by which he could interpret the meaning of freedom and define its limits, and he possessed no fixed ideas of liberty by which to order and direct his political experiments.
Knowing no free institutions of their own, and lacking the tradition of self-government, the Mexicans did the obvious and natural thing when they came to establish their own republic.
They borrowed the ideas of government and even its very forms from their Anglo-Saxon neighbors. But in doing this, as De Tocqueville says, although they copied the letter of the law, they were unable to create or to introduce the spirit and the sense which give it life.’ Or, to borrow Lowell’s more homely figure, they were ‘seduced by the French fallacy that a new government could be ordered like a new suit of clothes.’
H. G. Ward, the earliest of the British historians of Mexico, also called attention to this same fundamental defect of the Mexican political programme. ‘No change of government,’ he wrote in 1827, ‘can be productive of a simultaneous change in the habits and opinions of the people governed. It may — indeed it must — ultimately affect them. It may exalt or debase the national character, strengthen or enervate it, according as it affords more or less scope for the development of individual talent, and more or less encouragement for its application to the public service. But no constitution, even if it came down from Heaven with the stamp of perfection upon it, could eradicate at once the vices engendered by three centuries of bondage, or give the independent feelings of free men to a people to whom until lately the very name of freedom was unknown.’
In other words, when Mexico became independent the overwhelming majority of her people, as I have already said, were densely ignorant; they were held apart by almost impassable racial and social divisions; they were separated by great physical barriers; they had no tradition of self-government, no training in self-government, no instinct or aptitude for self-government; and they were called upon immediately to set up a democracy — the most complex of all governments, the most difficult to operate, and the most easily impaired — and to adopt as their own the political institutions and practices of another people, a people much further advanced in national consciousness, tenfold better educated, gifted with a surprising genius and temperament for self-government, and deeply imbued with that Anglo-Saxon philosophy which has always insisted that liberty must somehow be reconciled with authority and that freedom, instead of serving the purposes of anarchy and confusion, must always serve the purposes of peace and order.
Another great weakness of self-government in Mexico is the country’s woeful lack of capable and unselfish leaders. ‘A democracy without great men is a dangerous democracy.’ And in the last hundred years Mexico has produced only two or three political figures whose unselfish devotion to the public good and whose unquestioned capacity and statesmanship place them in the category of great men. Few indeed have been the Mexican leaders who could command the devotion of the Mexican masses, understand and sympathize with their vague and formless aspirations, formulate a programme at once just and practical for improving their condition, and carry that programme forward until it became an actual reality.
The weakness arising from this lack of commanding leadership is greatly intensified by the dishonesty, inefficiency, and corruption which characterize almost every branch of the public service. One can scarcely exaggerate the evils which spring from these conditions. Public office is rarely a public trust. The great ambition of the Mexican politician is to attain power in order to acquire wealth. And, by devices too numerous to mention, a government position is made to yield a revenue far beyond the meagre salary which the law attaches to it.
Sometimes these practices are only questionable from the standpoint of public ethics, but quite commonly they are flagrant and open violations of every canon of decent and honest politics. ‘The most fruitful source of the revolutions which have marked the independent existence of the Latin American States,’ wrote John W. Foster, United States Minister to Mexico in 1872, ‘has been the effort of the public men of these countries to continue themselves in power or to attain the Presidency by other than peaceful and constitutional methods.’ And, when the motives which lie behind this eager desire for public office are carefully sifted out, it will be found that the revenue which the office can be made to yield is almost always the supreme objective. It is indeed no exaggeration to say that if a seal could be placed on the Mexican treasury, which could not be broken except to meet the nation’s legitimate needs, the revolutionary spirit of that country would speedily wither away and disappear.
These statements are not made in any spirit of hostility. Almost every page of Mexican history bears witness to the truth of what I have just said. Those familiar with Mexican conditions know I have not exaggerated. The Mexican people themselves frankly acknowledge the evils here described. Nearly every administration coming into power truthfully accuses its predecessor of having played fast and loose with the public funds. And, finally, the low state of political morality which has characterized Mexican history for a hundred years (with here and there some notable exceptions) is the natural product of factors and conditions which lie deeply rooted in the nation’s life.
Mexico, in the first place, inherited the Spanish conception of public office and for three hundred years lived under that conception as a colony. She saw the Crown officials openly buy and sell their offices. She saw the country impoverished, its defenses neglected, the royal revenues squandered and diverted to private ends; and she grew so accustomed to these things that she came to regard them as the natural and normal characteristics of every government. A hundred years have not been sufficient to uproot this old Spanish tradition of public office, or to render its continued practice particularly obnoxious to the public mind.
Nor is it surprising that public affairs are conducted on a low and inefficient plane among a people so uneducated as the Mexican people. Except in matters of the most outstanding kind, public officials are not restrained by public opinion and feel almost no responsibility to public opinion, because public opinion in Mexico is normally too vague, too disorganized, and too impotent to hold them to account. ‘All free governments,’ said James Russell Lowell, ‘whatever their name, are in reality governments by public opinion, and it is on the quality of this public opinion that their prosperity depends.’ But if a country has no such thing as public opinion, how can it maintain a free government or how can it develop the leadership upon which a free government depends?
The constant recurrence of revolution is another powerful factor which discourages the development of true leadership and also makes it quite impossible for public office in Mexico to be administered in an honest and efficient manner. It requires true physical courage to be president of Mexico, or to hold any other high political position; and unless one is willing to face the certainty of revolution and the probability of exile from his native soil or death by violence, he will not aspire very eagerly to an important political office. For this reason, during the last twelve or fourteen years particularly, many men of undoubted capacity for government have withdrawn themselves from public life. They may not be more timid, perhaps, than the officeholders produced by the revolutions, but they are at least more prudent. And thus it happens in Mexico that the danger which surrounds the office often keeps the man of intelligence and property from seeking it, while men of little education and less ability become the country’s leaders—just as in the United States the fear of newspaper criticism and campaign slander often keeps our most capable citizens out of politics while less sensitive, less able, and less honest men become our rulers.
But this is not the only serious effect of the revolutionary evil upon the question of genuine leadership in Mexican politics. How can a government which is being overturned as frequently as the Mexican government is overturned carry out a single constructive programme or accomplish those things which the land so badly needs? With every successful revolution not only is the treasury drained of funds, but every office, from the highest to the lowest, is filled by a new and often untrained man. Policies and programmes undertaken by the former government are abandoned and new policies and new programmes are set on foot. Before these can possibly reach a successful end, the government which started them is in turn overthrown, and the same futile and costly process is begun all over again.
Under such conditions, it is not to be wondered at that men of honesty and ability are discouraged from seeking office, or that they find it almost impossible to do anything worth while if they obtain office. Nor is it to be wondered at that men of less sincerity of purpose, knowing how soon they will be forced out of their positions, and realizing the futility of attempting to carry through the tasks before them in so short a time, neglect the public good and seek only to use the resources of the office for their own advantage while they have the opportunity.
Another serious handicap Mexico labors under in her government is an utter lack of definite political parties. One might write the history of the United States or the history of England (at least for the last two centuries and a half) around its great political parties. But the historian who should attempt to perform this service for Mexico would soon go mad. Politics in that country are personal or factional but they are never of a true party character. The so-called parties which spring into existence with every election are not much longer-lived than Jonah’s gourd. Mexicans do not group themselves around great political principles, but only around individuals. They are not Democrats or Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives, but Juaristas or Porfiristas or Villistas or Carranzistas or Callistas or Floristas.
This lack of definite, organized, permanent political parties in Mexico is a weakness of the first importance. Presidents, Cabinet Members, and Congressmen are not accountable to anyone except to the small faction which places them in control. A president is not the spokesman of a great party, and he cannot bring party pressure to bear upon members of congress, or appeal to party loyalty to secure favorable legislation either on foreign or domestic issues. He can do nothing at all except as he appeals to the self-interest of his followers or uses force to break down opposition.
Political parties, moreover, at their best are powerful factors in moulding public opinion and in educating a nation in matters of politics and government. They furnish, also, the necessary mechanism through which public opinion acts, and without some form of party government it is difficult for a practical man to see how a democracy can exist at all.
The Opposition in Mexico, like the Administration, is also greatly handicapped because it lacks the cohesion and effectiveness which come only from organized party action. It is commonly a mixture of heterogeneous and often rival factions, united only in their common hostility to the group which happens to be in power and knit together only by their determination to effect a change of government.
The attainment of this end is never sought by the normal methods employed in other countries and prescribed by the Mexican Constitution, but resort is always had to revolution. When this succeeds and the new government comes into power, the unnatural combination which comprised the Opposition dissolves into its component parts; and some of these, forming a new alliance, begin almost immediately to intrigue against the very government they have themselves so recently established.
Certainly as one views the long hundred years of Mexican independence he finds much to discourage him in the early prospect of true self-government coming to that country. Even the past year in Mexican politics, to judge at least by actual occurrences, has differed in no respect from most of its predecessors. It has witnessed one widespread and destructive revolution, which was subdued only by external aid. It has witnessed political assassinations, and the frequent use of the firing squad to free the country from rebellion. It has witnessed the stagnation of business, the demoralization of the national finances, and the development of serious international complications. Finally, it has witnessed a presidential election in which the administration candidate’s claim to an overwhelming victory is answered by the threat of revolution, and seriously embarrassed by violent dissensions among his own supporters.
To some degree offsetting these conditions, one gladly confesses that a new spirit is abroad in Mexico to-day which is profoundly affecting the great masses of the common people. It manifests itself in a great variety of ways, chiefly up to this time along social and economic lines. But no one can as yet define this spirit or say precisely what it is. It may be like the wind that comes before the dawn. It may be like the leaven that leaveneth the whole lump. It may be the forerunner of that ordered liberty and genuine self-government for which the distressed nation has waited these hundred years.
But one’s hopes should not make him blindly optimistic. Men said that Diaz had ushered in the Golden Age nearly forty years ago. They said the same thing of Madero, and later of Carranza. Now they are saying the same thing of Obregon, and of Obregón’s probable successor, Calles. And if the Obregon-Calles faction should be deposed to-morrow, and a new dictator come to power, they would say the same thing of him also.
’There is nothing more arduous than the apprenticeship of liberty,’ wrote De Tocqueville nearly a hundred years ago. This is true, and every nation that has passed through that hard and bitter training should bear patiently with Mexico in her present struggle. But there are factors and circumstances of an international character in this problem of self-government across the border that will not admit of indefinite delay.
Mexico’s obligations to the outside world and her peculiar and complete economic dependence upon other nations vastly complicate the situation. Whether that country’s ‘fictitious and rickety independence’ (to borrow a phrase from Professor Priestley’s recent history of the Mexican Nation) can withstand another generation of chronic revolution, or even a single decade, is altogether doubtful.
In this whole matter one thing at least is inescapable: the United States is almost as vitally concerned in the success or failure of self-government in Mexico as Mexico herself. The success of self-government will give us a prosperous and contented neighbor, and free us from one of our gravest and most irritating international dilemmas. The continued failure of selfgovernment will lay upon us a direct and very sobering responsibility, the ultimate outcome of which no man can foretell.
It is not for the writer to prophesy what the political future of Mexico will be, for he is mindful of Lowell’s statement that the course of events ‘is apt to show itself humorously careless of the reputation of prophets.’ But at least to-day there is an imperative necessity for the people of this country to obtain a more perfect, a more intelligent, and a. more sympathetic understanding of the exceedingly complicated and disheartening problem in democracy which Mexico still faces after more than a century of hard and unpromising experiment.