Mexico - The Public Debt And National Criminality
( Originally Published 1921 )
No NATION can live longer in peace than its neighbour pleases. Neither can any undeveloped and untutored people like the Mexicans establish by peaceful methods a new and stable order after the dissolution of its ancient politico-social bonds, unless its wealthy and powerful neighbour allows it. The enterprise on which the Obregón administration has embarked is neither more nor less than the complete reconstruction of a society. The task is not new in the world's history. It has been accomplished in various countries more than once but under conditions so unlike those with which the Mexican President has to cope that the experience of the past is of little help in his undertaking. The notion that a foreign Government, and in particular that of the United States, can prescribe what is good for the people of the Southern Republic better than the leaders of that people is preposterous. What the capitalist groups and their political allies desire—and it is they who make this bold assumption-is that the period which has elapsed since the halycon days of Diaz should be treated as an impertinent parenthesis in history and the threads of national and international polity be taken up where they fell from the nerveless hands of that aged Dictator. The Revolution and its consequences are to be ignored, the hands of the clock of time turned back. Truly the minds to which these ideas commend them-selves are not of the type that can offer sound advice, still less continuous guidance.
The revolutions through which Mexico has passed—largely the outcome of foreign economic thraldom—were undoubtedly a fruitful source of national misfortunes. They kept the nation anchored in the stream of time while other peoples were rapidly moving forward to pleasant harbours. They dethroned cherished ideals and overthrew institutions that had once performed a useful part in the State organism and some that were still in-dispensable for a time: They dislocated trade, commerce and industry. All this is true and deplorable. But it is well worth noting withal, say Mexican thinkers, that throughout this awful welter the people were actuated by an ardent instinctive desire to better the lot of the whole community, to create equal opportunity for all, to inaugurate an era of justice and liberty and to put an end to one of the most repulsive spectacles ever witnessed in any country—the perpetuation of national misery, ignorance and disease, nay of the degeneration of a naturally gifted people—in order that a few foreign corporations should pile up immense dividends and a few foreign politicians should make a dent in local history.
And this was a noble striving, little though it is understood by those interested outlanders who would fain present the Mexicans with the fruit of the tree of knowledge and teach them what is good and what is bad for them.
Now that the revolutionary epoch has come to an end, and even the bitterest enemies of the new régime have decided to content themselves with constitutional weapons in their future struggles, President Obregón, his Government and his people are confronted with the prospect of being thrust back into the quagmire of chaos from which they have just emerged. And the people responsible for this back-handed stroke are certain of the groups which have thriven on Mexico's resources and their political coadjutors in the United States. Mexicans who have given this matter some thought re-echo with the fervour of conviction the significant utterances of President Harding in the course of his eloquent address from the cloister of the Washington Memorial Chapel' : "The rational work of every civilisation is to cure without destroying and guard against the enemies of liberty who come to us cloaked in pretended helpfulness . ." That is a part of the rational work which President Obregón is conscientiously playing today.
As for the official directors of the policy of the United States which is fettering Mexico commercially, financially, industrially, and checking her moral and spiritual development, they at least can lay the unction of good intentions to their souls. They are working in their own way according to their own lights for what they believe is their own country's good and Mexico's. But they are driving the latter country into the Slough of Despond. "I can think of an America," said President Harding in that touching address of his which the New York Herald termed "a sermon of faith . . . and hope"—"I can think of an America that can maintain every heritage and yet help humanity throughout the world to reach a little higher plane." So too can the Mexicans, and it is precisely from such an America and not from rich companies and associations which are endeavouring to sway her policy that they looked, less perhaps for immediate help to reach a higher plane, than for common justice. And odd though it sounds, they have hitherto looked in vain.
Mexicans ask : What is justice in the Mexican problem as it affects the great northern Republic? Surely it is to do unto Mexico as you would have Mexico do unto you? Is that the attitude of official circles in the United States? A few instructive incidents in the recent history of the two countries point the answer.
The vagueness, inconstancy and incongruousness of the policy of the United States towards Mexico are among the most perturbing factors with which the latter country is continually full fronted. In the sphere of international relations, where so much else that affects the nation is decided, nobody can foresee today what tomorrow will bring forth. The consequent incertitude is disconcerting and mischievous. For the potentialities are well nigh unlimited and range from the exchange of cordial missives and the visits of common friends of the Presidents to the sudden despatch of warships on an errand incompatible with pacific intercourse. The advent to power of the Democratic Party, for instance, means the unfolding of a veritable kaleidoscope of measures that run counter to each other and leave one utterly bewildered, while the triumph of their Republican adversaries brings with it a behest to Mexico to reverse her policies, alter her Constitution, change her laws and follow the new lead under pain of economic strangulation. And however friendly the official attitude may be, Mexicans are never free from the consciousness that a strong and steady undercurrent of unofficial schemes and machinations is flowing onwards into the vast Monroe reservoir, the sluices of which may one day be opened to sweep away their independence.
And in all this there are no principles to discuss, no political conceptions to analyse, no definitions to consider—nothing but the public utterances it may be of an eminent and honourable lawyer or professor who has never studied foreign relations and can have no notion of the psychology of the Mexican people unless he have received it by a pentecostal miracle. And the form is that of a whimsical dilemma which takes no account of national or international precedents.
Conditions like these put a tremendous strain upon the efforts of the men charged with the reorganisation of the Mexican State, fill them with grave anxiety, tend to produce involuntary fluctuations in their policy and confront them with the most sinister prospect which any Government can face. And they are unable to vie with their adversaries, whose influence over the press has no parallel in any other country, in setting their view of the matter before the fair-minded people of the United States. All the items of news calculated to discredit the Mexican people are carefully gathered, classed, commented, launched forth, and at irregular intervals sensational fabrications are circulated as news, the only effect and presumably the sole object of which is to irritate the American nation and produce spurts of fire culminating mayhap in a conflagration. Thus lately a telegram was published by the Universal Service announcing that the American flag flying from a small boat of the warship Cleveland was torn down and trampled on by Mexicans during the stay of American ships in Tampico, that "it was unsafe for Americans to walk the streets in Tampico," that "the children cursed us in English and spat at us," and more to the like effect. Against this poisoning of the sources of information—a vice bequeathed by the war propagandists and intensified by other propagandists who have succeeded those—the Mexicans are powerless. But the serene temper and complete absence of irritating language with which those undignified tactics were commented on by the native press challenge and receive the admiration of the foreigner.' Probably never since the downfall of Diaz has there been less bitterness, less distrust of the average American by the average Mexican, than to-day, and the example repeatedly given by the President has had a profound, widespread and beneficial effect.
"Without the shadow of a doubt," General Obregon said when addressing American and Mexican citizens in Nogales, "it is to morality and to culture that the world of the future will look for guidance and direction. And we, in harmony with this new tendency, will gladly throw open our frontiers and fraternally stretch out our arms to all men of good will who bring with them those two elements of progress and come to co-operate with us for the advancement of our country."5' The prevalence of this new spirit of brotherhood is still unknown, hardly even suspected by the people of the United States. And yet it is one of the most potent factors in the future relations of both Republics. After all, ignorance of each other is the mother of hatred, feuds and wars among nations. The most efficacious means of securing and maintaining peace is to get the various peoples to know each other and, one may add, to get them also to know themselves. Every-thing that conduces to that is a valuable international asset and every deliberate attempt to defame the character or exaggerate the defects of a people in the eyes of its neighbours is one of the most nefarious of the many misdeeds that still go unpunished. Those who for such a purpose tamper with the press, the cinema and other sources of public information are among the worst pests of civilised society. And today their name is legion.
General Obregón made a praiseworthy effort to bring influential sections of the people of the United States into close contact with his fellow-countrymen. He had excursions planned for members of various chambers of commerce, journalists, students and men of business to whom the various institutions of Mexico with all their advantages and defects were thrown open unreservedly. It was a noble enterprise worthy of encouragement from all men who have the advance of humanity at heart. Yet it was vigorously discountenanced by the two American associations whose members claim that they are Mexico's best friends. "The American Association of Mexico," we read, "being advised that a Committee of the Confederation of the Mexican Chambers of Commerce is visiting Los Angeles for the purpose of extending invitations to American business men to participate in the International Congress of merchants to be held in Mexico City next June, has decided to counteract this friendly move of Mexican business men by advising American merchants against attending such a conference or accepting any invitation from the Con-federation and urge them not to participate in any friendly overtures with the Mexican Government or the Mexican people until the Administration of General Obregón yields to the eight points set forth by this American Association of Mexico for the recognition of the Mexican Government."
Mr. Gladstone who had less striking examples of this anti-humanitarian spirit' before his eyes wrote with firm conviction: "The history of nations is a melancholy chapter; that is, the history of Governments is one of the most immoral parts of human history."
It is a noteworthy fact that at the present moment two grandiose experiments of a character as novel as they are momentous are being tried in two countries which are as far apart in space as they are in all else—Marxism of an impracticable kind in Russia, and Government based on morality without admixture of "diplomacy" and what "diplomacy" stands for, in Mexico. Those business men and numerous other guests of the latter country from the United States beheld things there as they are—the poverty and ignorance of the people, the backward state of communications, the deadlock produced by State penury, caused by the economic boycott, the accumulating wealth of a few foreign companies, and at the head of this ill-starred nation a man with a genius for moral probity. And returning to their native country they petitioned their Government to put a speedy end to the system of economic throttling to which Mexico is being subjected.
Another equally significant example of the corporate and anti-democratic spirit of the undying class of wealth-monopolisers, as contrasted with the political tact and sense of justice evidenced by President Obregón is afforded by their respective attitudes on the subject of taxation. The oil companies, when an additional tax was imposed on the crude oil exported from Mexico, uplifted their voices against the assessment, stigmatised it as disguised confiscation, dismissed thou-sands of working men, filled the newspaper press with lamentations, threats and figures, and then rushed to their Government asking it to make the matter a State concern and to have the tax removed by diplomatic pressure or more drastic methods. On the other hand, Mexicans resident in the United States, some of whom live entirely, others partly, upon the profits from their lands or business in Mexico but have to pay income taxes in the United States upon the whole sum received, irrespective of its source, petitioned President Obregón to press the diplomatic lever for the purpose of having the burden, which they consider unfair, lightened or removed. The, President replied to those requests through the Mexican Consuls in the United States as follows : "It behooves all Mexican citizens who enjoy the hospitality of the United States to abide by the laws of that country and to pay their taxes without mur-mur. In no case will the Mexican Government entertain any requests or petitions of the nature of those which it has recently received, nor can the matter be made a subject for protest or representation to the Government of the United States."
It cannot be gainsaid that the enemies of Mexico's independence are working strenuously behind an almost impenetrable screen of prejudice, ignorance and misconception raised by themselves and their propagandists. It is this curtain that hinders the people of the United States from acquainting itself with the remarkable reforms which have already been taken in hand by the present Mexican administration and the deciding circumstance that those measures are being retarded by a group of individuals bent upon creating "accomplished facts" and thereby forcing the hand of the United States Government and the reluctant acquiescence of the people in consequence of those facts.
No Mexican questions the loftiness of Mr. Hughes' intentions or considers the measure in which they shaped themselves conducive to their realisation. Nor can any careful observer blink the grave danger which the deadlock produced by the delay of recognition on the one hand and the continuous machinations of interventionists on the other hand has created for the Mexican Republic. True, Mr. Hughes has brushed aside all Mr. Fall's recommendations excepting that of a treaty antecedent to recognition. A small matter in itself, this is the grain of sand that hinders the international machinery from working. If it could be complied with by the Mexican Government it would add nothing to the existing guarantees for life and property in Mexico, the cordiality of the friendship between the two peoples or the stability of the amicable relations between the two Governments.
And yet that superfluous demand has sealed up all sources of international credit to Mexico, is hindering or retarding the reorganization of the country, and thus providing the enemies of that Republic with pretexts for further complaints and accusations. Caustic criticism is applied, for instance, to the defective condition of the railways, yet the money needed for the purchase of rolling stock is withheld on the ground that no loans can be made until the political demand of the State Department has been fulfilled. The work of educating the people, vigorously taken in hand by President Obregón and the Rector of the University, Senor Vasconcellos, who have worked wonders by their splendid campaign against illiteracy, is severely handicapped by lack of funds. And the funds are not available for reasons of foreign politics. Thus Mexico is deliberately kept revolving in a vicious circle. All her financial and economic problems are dealt with on purely political lines and kept without solutions while her proper political status is denied to her on grounds which in the last analysis are industrial and economic. In a word, oil is trump. The claims of the United States Government for losses inflicted on its nationals during the Revolution offer an instructive case in point. The issue turns upon international law, not upon politics. Yet here is what we find : President Obregón writes : "Even now we are planning the machinery that will settle all claims in accordance with the principles laid down by international law. Nor should it be forgotten that as late as six months ago we urged our creditors to send a committee to Mexico for conferences in the interests of fair adjustments and honest settlements. Strangely enough, acceptance of the frank invitation has been prevented by various governmental pressure, and to date Mexico has not been able to secure these face-to-face meetings that are her desire."
To clamour for fair adjustments and honest settlements, then to decline to co-operate in making them, hardly offers firm ground for the contention that Mexico is endeavouring to evade her obligations.
A vast amount of foreign capital in the United States and Europe is waiting to be invested in the Republic from motives which seem conclusive to its possessors. Foreign capitalists are aware that Mexico possesses all the natural conditions requisite and adequate to the creation of wealth. They also know that her liabilities judged by latter-day standards are insignificant. Her debt, for example, which is so often alluded to as "overwhelming and unpaid," is in Mexican pesos as follows :
Principal Interest due
External debt 287,043,240.53 87,001,260.10
Grand total 557,831,650.21 Pesos
Equivalent $278,915,825.11 U. S. Currency
"This amount of a little more than a quarter of a billion dollars is distributed among a population of sixteen millions or thereabouts. At the close of the Civil War the United States, with a population two and one-half times as great, had a total indebtedness of three billions of dollars. Canada, with a population of less than one-half that of Mexico, has a present indebtedness of two billions of dollars, and is now increasing it in order to care for its soldiers.
"Mexico has always paid what she owed, and the longer her creditors have waited for her to pay, the more costly it has been to Mexico. It is estimated that the Government revenues for the present year will yield one hundred million dollars United States currency.
Mexico's per capita national public debt charge amounts to about one U. S. dollar a year whereas that of the Argentine is now more than seven dollars, that of Belgium about sixteen dollars and that of Canada thirty. These figures are significant.
Consequently the national debt is not overwhelming. Neither is there any fear of President Obregón having re-course to the shabby expedients to which so many other States on both shores of the Atlantic have occasionally had recourse. Repudiation has no place in his programme. On the contrary, he has stated publicly and repeatedly that the national debt will be paid to the last farthing. In this connection people who have given this matter their attention recall the fact that several States of the American Union have given a dubious example to Mexico, having themselves been in default for quite a number of years. "t is to be hoped," writes a correspondent of the London Morning Post,10 "that any settlement of British indebtedness will take into consideration these outstanding debts.
"According to the annual report of the Council of Foreign Bondholders, the amount to which these States are in default is estimated at $60,000,000. The same report, after taking note of the fact that a settlement of West Virginia's debt was made in 1919, remarks : 'It is indeed regrettable that those States of the nation whose credit leads the world should allow their obligations to continue in default and refuse to listen to appeals from their creditors. The Council would be glad to hear what arguments can possibly be adduced in extenuation of the conduct of Mississippi in repudiating payment of its loans in 1831 and 1833, which were duly authorised by the State Legislature and issued at a high price in this country.
"The State invested the proceeds in the establishment of two banks and so long as they prospered Mississippi paid the bondholders; but when the banks ceased to be profitable the State not only suspended payment, but actually repudiated its debt. Such a step has not been taken even by so backward a country as Honduras.'
"The Morning Post's correspondent suggests that, now that Great Britain is a debtor country to the United States, the latter be asked to recognise the debt of its defaulting States as a national obligation."
These and similar facts are relevant to the various staple charges brought against the Mexican people.
Before forming a final judgment on disputes such as that which at present sunders the Mexican from the United States Government one would do well to scrutinise the issues in the light of the reciprocal relations of the two States over a number of years. This is the only way to assess at their just value charges preferred by one country, which has but recently desisted from acts of the kind it complains of, against another which is only just following the good example of turning over a new leaf. Thus when looking into the oft-expressed apprehension that Mexico may repudiate her debt, one would do well to bear in mind the virile retort made by President Obregón in his historic telegram to the New York World :
"We stated repeatedly that Mexico would not repudiate any just obligations. We have always paid our debts, we always will pay our debts. We have seen a loan of $20,000,000 received in 1824 changed magically into a debt of more than a $100,000,000. We have seen Maximillian sign an obligation for $40,000,000 in return for a loan of $20,000,000. We have seen Miramon, the counter-revolutionist, sign a note for $15,000,000 in return for a loan of $750,000. Yet not once, even under these outrageous burdens, have we ever advanced the idea of repudiation. Throughout the revolution we stated repeatedly that Mexico would meet every just obligation with-out evasion. t is a promise that will be kept to the letter."
The alleged criminality of the Mexican people is another of the many counts in the indictment against that Republic and of the pretexts alleged for the necessity of the "cleaning-up" process. A dispassionate study of the facts, however, will show that the charge is calumnious, and a comparison between the crimes perpetrated against life and property in Mexico and those recorded in other States of the new world, or indeed of the old, will not redound to the discredit of the former country. t would be unfruitful and ungracious to point to the recent lynchings in Georgia, the robberies in the Middle West, the tarring and feathering of defenceless citizens, American and foreign, women and men, in Texas and other parts of the United States, or to the kidnapping of a little boy of five in New York City who was cruelly put to death because his parents were unable to pay the heavy ransom demanded. Nor does the Mexican press make capital out of data of that character. Such revolting atrocities, whether they occur in one republic or the other, kindle a blaze of anger in the hearts of all normal men in both countries. For either people to indulge in exaltation over the other after the matter of the Pharisee in the Gospel, or Mr. Fall in his Report to the Senate, would be unfair and premature.
The same remark holds good of that canker of nearly all the republics of the New Continent for which Americans have invented the term "graft." Unhappily, it is as wide-spread as it is deep-rooted. That Mexico is no exception is perfectly true. If years of revolutionary chaos, pillage and lawlessness were the real explanation of this deplorable phenomenon the friends of that country might well rejoice. But unhappily the cause lies deeper and cannot be displaced in a day or a year. And yet, oddly enough, the writer of these pages is acquainted with an American who invested many millions of dollars in that country without having paid one centavo in bribery. But for that one there are thousands of others who have a different story to tell its more instructive than edifying to read the following remarks in one of the really independent press organs of the United States. The subject was the disclosures made by Mr. Untermyer : "His revelations are a tremendous blow at the present economic organisation of society. For he has established a number of highly important facts: First, wherever he has probed he has uncovered labour or capitalistic conspiracy, or corruption, or both, always at the cost of the public; second, he has proved the existence of ring after ring and ring within ring all in flat violation of law; third, he has proved that the United States Government has deliberately permitted these rings and combinations in restraint of trade to exist by prosecuting neither civilly nor criminally ; and, fourth, he has proved where the sympathies of our courts lie in that every labour rascal whose prosecution he has brought about has been given a jail sentence, while every crooked business man has been let off with a fine."
It would be difficult to frame a more sweeping indictment against a society than that and impossible to mark more clearly the character of a truly progressive and fearless press organ than by framing it; but the amazing exposé presented by Mr. Untermyer is worth mentioning here only because it connotes the depth and strength of corruption in such a model State as the North American Republic, whose mission is believed to be the ethical and economic guardianship of its neighbours. "The revelations of Mr. Untermyer," continues the journal already quoted, "reveal as conscienceless and unsocial a state of business life as could well be imagined. For the sake of private or corporate profit we behold an economic condition of lawlessness and cut-throat exploitation to give heart to every extreme advocate of social reconstruction who believes that our capitalistic system needs only a little more time to collapse of its own rottenness."
If one assumes for a moment that equally vehement terms of condemnation are applicable to Mexicans, who by the way are not capitalists, by what country in the new world could they be appropriately uttered? Which of them is qualified to cast the first stone?
Protection for American business men who are engaged in legitimate commercial and industrial pursuits in Mexico is one of the staple postulates of those groups of companies and politicians in the United States who are striving to press their political programmes on their Government and their fellow-citizens. And it is perfectly legitimate. But if a league of Mexican patriots were to lay siege to the Teatro Arbeu in Mexico City, to picket for a whole day, to organise a riot lasting six hours and finally to put a violent end to the performance on the ground that the film on the screen was American-made and must be replaced by one taken in Mexico, with what feelings would the announcement be read by American patriots? Yet incidents of this kind are met with in the United States without evoking an emotional thrill. "The American Legion," we read in a Los Angeles newspaper, "at 8:40 o'clock last night won a complete victory in the first open fight in this country on the German-made film issue, when Hollywood Post, after a day of picketing and rioting lasting more than six hours, caused Miller's Theatre to stop its performance of the German-made 'Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' and to put in its place a Los Angeles-made film. The playhouse, which had started the picture early in the afternoon for a two weeks' run, capitulated only after it had been picketed for hours by hundreds of men in uniform and after the disturbance at its entrance had gone to such extremes that two mob rushes had been attempted, rotten eggs had been hurled, and police and provost guard forces had been reinforced until they numbered thirty-five men."
"Ten days later the same newspaper announced that at a meeting of the Loyal American Film League it had been decided to send a representative to Chicago, New York, Washington and other cities in an effort to spread the campaign against German-made motion pictures."
When reading these and similar disclosures about a well-ordered State whose official guides preach righteousness and aspire for their country to the moral overlordship of a Continent, we cannot but feel that we are living through a period when the foundations of political and social institutions are sapped and rotten, and caprice and self-delusion are taking their place. Some of the established landmarks of old-world civilisation are being moved, the cement of the social organism is crumbling and the place of ethical maxims is being usurped by the catchwords of cant and the unctuous jargon of pharisaism. The Governments and the press of the military and plutocratic States which rule the world today are apt to lay great stress upon justice, humanity, righteousness and other lofty ideals and to allege these as the motives of policies which in truth render an approach to these ideals a sheer impossibility. Secretary Hughes announced that the fundamental issue between the United States Government and Mexico turns upon the safeguarding of property rights. In plainer words, the material rewards accruing to industrial initiative, however exaggerated they may appear in the light of the latter-day conceptions of private wealth and public needs, must take precedence over the material and spiritual welfare of an entire people. "There is no form of privilege and monopoly," writes an influential periodical 16 "so open to criticism as that in natural resources, which belong of right to the citizens of a country at large and to no particular group of men, much less to a, group of outlanders. Does not President Obregón's assertion mean something for Americans as well as Mexicans?
" 'We stand today,' writes Obregón, on the principle that the natural resources of a nation belong to the nation. Never again will the people of Mexico tolerate a Government that does not support this principle. . . . What Mexico will ask in the future is a fair partnership in development. `We are through for ever with the policy of gift, graft and surrender. The same journal, discussing the transition of natural rights into the legal phase of concessions granted, continues : "When in consequence of a development of civilisation natural resources come to possess a value undreamed of before, has not the Government the right to readjust the terms of the original grant in the interests of society at large? At one time no one questioned the right of a man to exclusive interest in the air above his land. With the invention of the aeroplane the interest of the community in this air leads to governmental action which is certainly retroactive. When this substance, as in the case of oil, becomes of such importance that it may be vital to national existence, does not a government's right to self-preservation extend to the recovery of title in return for a fair pecuniary compensation?
"But these subtleties are ours—not President Obregón's. He says emphatically : 'Every private right acquired prior to May 1st, 1917, when the new Constitution was adopted, will be respected and fully protected. The famous Article 27, one clause of which declares the nation's ownership of subsoil rights in petroleum, will never be given retroactive effect, nor has it ever been given retroactive effect.' "
"Right," Mazzini tells us, "is the faith of the individual. Duty is the common collective faith. Right can but organise existence; it may destroy, it cannot found. Duty builds up, associates and unites. t is derived from a general law, whereas right is derived only from human will. There is nothing therefore to forbid a struggle against right." Nothing but might.
Respecting the protection of the lives of aliens in Mexico, on which Mr. Fall's Report laid so much stress, nothing more is heard for the time being. Mr. Hughes doubtless understands that excesses committed at the time of Madero and Huerta have passed into history as completely as the lynching of the eleven Italians by a mob in New Orleans in the year 1891. But it is not generally known in Europe that the murder of foreigners resident in the United States outside the Federal District, even though it amount to a massacre, is a crime which the Federal Courts of the United States are incompetent to try. Nay, if one of the States of the Union should violate an international treaty, the Federal tribunals may not take cognisance of it.17 This is a fact well worthy of the attention of those who blame President Obregón for not taking action against the backsliding States of the Mexican Union it brings us face to face with the crux of the situation today—the obnoxious treaty which is to render recognition of the Obregón Government possible. The tenacity with which the demand is being pressed and the seemingly intense faith which is proclaimed in the force of a treaty—as though it possessed a sacramental virtue in this era of Haitian Conventions and other scraps of paper—compel one to ask what benefit a compact of that kind would import into the relations of the two countries? A covenant purporting to establish friendship between two governments, one of which con-strains the other by economic strangulation to accept it, frankly deserves some other name. Its effect would hardly be friend-ship or cordiality, and it is somewhat difficult to apprehend the line of thought by which statesmen can have reached the conclusion that it would be that.
But eliminating the two essential aspects of means and end, and keeping solely to that of the force inherent in the form, one feels tempted to ask what difference a written compact would make to Mexico's international relations from any point of view worth considering. Would it add a moral to an international obligation? Hardly. Promises made under duress are seldom respected and never deemed to be obligatory in the political world, if they can be shirked or broken with impunity. This remark is not to be taken as a reflection upon either of the two Republics in question, but merely as an additional illustration of the mysterious nature of the predilection and respect which one of them displays for a formal bond in the case of the Mexican Republic, but repudiates in the case of the Haitian Republic. Involuntarily one asks what sort of a picture do those politicians conjure up in their mind's eye of the binding nature and enduring effects of a treaty generally.
A Mexican press organ contributes data for an answer. "In the United States," it writes, "there is much talk about a treaty, but seemingly no recollection of the circumstances that there is one actually in force to-day. It was signed by the two governments at the close of an unjust war in which the weaker was forced to surrender to the stronger one-half of its territory—a much harsher condition than any that was imposed by the victors on the vanquished after the four years' world war waged on the other shore of the Atlantic.
"And it may not be amiss to recall to mind Article XXI of that treaty, which runs: 'If unhappily at some future time any disagreement should arise between the governments of the two republics respecting the meaning of any stipulation of this treaty or any other aspect of the political or commercial relations of the two nations, the aforesaid Governments in their name undertake to endeavour in the most sincere and strenuous manner to settle the differences and to preserve the state of peace and amity hereby established between the two countries, and to employ for this purpose 'reciprocal representations and pacific negotiations. And should they not succeed in coming to an agreement by these means, recourse will not on that account be had to reprisals, aggression or hostilities of any kind by one republic against the other, until the government of the country which deems itself aggrieved has considered ripely and in a spirit of peace and good neighbourliness whether it would not be better to compose the disaccord by arbitration of commissioners appointed by both parties or by a friendly nation.
"And with all our blood transmuted into eloquence we might exclaim : 'How is it possible for us to conclude a treaty with a State which does not know how to respect a treaty?'
"In what thrilling tones might we say : 'The United States have taken part in a war against a people whose government treated as mere scraps of paper the covenants which it had signed with various States. To Belgium, the mutilated nation, went out the sympathy of the whole civilised world, which unanimously condemned the conduct of the German Empire towards a weak neighbour, who took it for granted that the promise registered in a scrap of paper was binding on its honour. And for what purpose? In order that the Republic of the North, which stood forth as the ally of right and justice, should treat its signature exactly as the German Empire had treated the scrap of paper which guaranteed Belgium's neutrality!