(The MEXICAN REVOLUTION – continued)

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The Madero Presidency: 1911-13

Madero arrived in Mexico City in June 1911, and there he met with other rebel leaders who recognized him as the provisional president of Mexico. Madero arranged for elections to be held in October. He relished the widespread support among the citizenry of Mexico, and to extend the good feeling he advocated unlimited reconciliation.


The revolution was in fact still only potential. Wanting order, Madero left the Diaz's civil servants at their posts, and he left in place the federal army and its officer corps, who hated the rebel forces that had defeated them. Believing that those who had supported the old order had learned their lesson and that the military would never turn against him, he called for the revolutionary armies to lay down their arms, return home and go back to work – while many among Mexico City's elite were sneering at him.

In meeting with Zapata that first month in Mexico City, Madero insisted that land stolen from the Indians could not be forcibly returned to the Indians, that Zapata and his people would have to wait for legal procedures and that lands that had been taken by force and illegal means would be given back by legal means. Zapata, on the other hand, wanted justice without delay. After a lot of fighting and dying he wanted to return to Morelos with some fruits of victory. But Madero instead demanded that Zapata disarm his army. Madero needed the backing of loyal revolutionary armies, not the power of the established military men. Zapata returned to Morelos with only promises, and he refused to disarm. His followers and some others rebel groups who had celebrated Madero's rise now felt that Madero had betrayed them.

In new elections Madero won the presidency and was sworn in on November 6th, 1911. In the coming year, he budgeted twice the amount of money for education as had Díaz. He called for the restoration of lands stolen from the Indians, and he spoke in support of labor unions. People to Madero's political right, who felt threatened by Madero's policies, rallied. Almost all of Mexico's important newspapers began a campaign against him. Oil companies and other foreign businesses in Mexico – which had enjoyed a good relationship with Díaz – were unhappy with Madero's land policy and joined those opposed to him.

Against Madero's government, various malcontents tried repeating the armed risings that had been popular the year before. One was led by Bernardo Reyes, a former general under Díaz, and another was led by the rebel leader, Pascual Orozco in Chihuahua, who was backed by cattle barons unhappy over a reform bill that would limit their land holdings to roughly twenty square miles.

In Chihuahua, Villa's army remained loyal to Madero, and Villa's forces together with government forces defeated Orozco, who took refuge in the United States. Reyes and another coup leader, Felix Díaz, nephew of the former dictator, were also defeated, and they were imprisoned.

By 1912, Madero was concerned about the reliability of military leaders who had fought on the side of Díaz and were still commanding military units. In October, 1912, he tried to reform the army by drafting Mexicans into military service, believing that this would make the army a more popular force and less likely to follow reactionary commanders. But Mexico's common people were unenthusiastic about military conscription, and they were disappointed that Madero had not produced the great change in their lives that they had expected. They were losing their enthusiasm for the Madero regime.

Madero had been mismanaging his revolution since having acquired power, and his ways would be no inspiration or model for those interested in revolution.

The anti-Madero newspapers found an issue with which to attack Madero: nepotism. Unlike Díaz, who had never given government positions to his relatives, Madero's government had become a family affair, Madero feeling the need of people around him whom he could trust. The press claimed that the Madero family was no longer content with its opulence and was trying to make itself Mexico's ruling dynasty.

The US ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, saw Madero as muddled, and he befriended anti-Madero forces. Encouraged, anti-Madero elements in Mexico's army rebelled against the government. They freed Reyes and Felix Díaz from prison. Leading a rebel army, Reyes was killed by forces that remained loyal to Madero, but Díaz survived and he and his men took possession of a military arsenal and garrison in Mexico City. A government force led by General Victoriano Huerta dueled with Díaz with artillery, killing many civilians and destroying buildings.

Then Huerta abandoned the Madero government and reached an agreement with Díaz, in the office of US Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson. Huerta's men seized Madero and a few of his close supporters. At gunpoint they forced Mexico's congress to give Huerta power. Huerta became Mexico's 35th president on February 19, 1913. The following day Huerta asked Ambassador Wilson what he should do with Madero, and Wilson told him to do "whatever was best for Mexico." On February 22, Huerta had Madero shot. President William Howard Taft thought that Ambassador Wilson had gone too far and ordered him to stay out of Mexican politics.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.