The Liberty Party was one of the major political parties of the independent State of Jefferson, and after 1820 in the United States of Mexico. The Liberty Party was suppressed by Chief of State Benito Hermión in 1881, revived after Hermión's overthrow in 1901, then suppressed again by Secretary of War Vincent Mercator in 1950. The Liberty Party remains illegal as of 1971.
The Liberty Party first appeared in Jefferson in the late 1790s, during the Trans-Oceanic War, when Alexander Hamilton was leading Jeffersonian armies in a war of conquests across the Spanish province of Tejas. The Libertarians believed that the new state of Jefferson ought to remain committed to the egalitarian ideals of the North American Rebellion, as articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. They opposed the continuation of Negro slavery in the new state, and also opposed the aggressive foreign policy of the Continentalist Party, which sought to create a "Greater Jefferson" through a policy of territorial conquest. Sobel mentions several young Jeffersonians at the Lafayette Convention of 1793 who he says spoke up for democracy "in an almost anarchistic fashion." These would have been the founding members of the Liberty Party: William Sayre, Edwin Corbitt, Sam Curtis, and Martin Collins.
The Liberty Party gained an experienced leader in 1816 when John Gaillard, one of the three Governors of Jefferson, learned that he had been deceived by Hamilton about the true purpose of John Quincy Adams' mission to Mexico City the year before. Gaillard resigned as Governor and joined the Libertarians. After Colonel Andrew Jackson carried out a coup d'etat against Mexican President Simón Figueroa in June 1817, Hamilton sought to engineer a merger of Jefferson and Mexico. The proposed union of the two nations became the central issue of the 1818 elections to the Chamber of Representatives. Gaillard joined with William Bibb and Eligius Fromentin at the head of the Libertarian ticket, while Hamilton and James Monroe chose Jackson to join them on the Continentalist ticket. The Continentalists won an overwhelming victory, and within two years Jackson had overseen the Mexico City Convention, which drafted a new constitution creating the United States of Mexico.
At the convention, Gaillard spoke out against Jackson's proposed constitution, saying that the Jeffersonians had conquered Mexico through subterfuge and force, and now intended "to give tyranny the mask of republicanism." Bibb called for the proposed lower house of the Mexican Congress, the Assembly, to be more representative and more powerful, while Fromentin claimed that the president "would be monarch in all but name, and that may follow in time."
By the terms of the Mexico City Constitution, participation in the national government was restricted to English-speakers, and the franchise was limited to free men, which excluded the peons who made up the vast majority of Mexico's population. Under these circumstances, most of the U.S.M.'s voting population was concentrated among the Anglo inhabitants of Jefferson, and most of the seats were contested by the two Jeffersonian political parties. In the Congressional elections of 12 August 1821, the Libertarians won 30 of 100 Assembly seats, and 6 of 24 Senate seats.
Despite the party's loss in the national elections, the Libertarian candidate for governor of Jefferson, Leslie Folger, was able to win in the statewide elections on 18 July 1821, and within three years had become the leader of the Liberty Party. Folger became the party's presidential nominee in the 1827 Mexican elections, and in the course of his campaign was responsible for spreading flagrant lies about Jackson's personal life and wealth. Folger's efforts were unsuccessful, and Jackson was elected to a second presidential term. Folger's tactics also cost him his position as party leader, which was taken up by Senate Minority Leader Arthur Younger of Mexico del Norte.
As Jackson's second term progressed, several events occurred that improved the Liberty Party's political position. Increased prosperity in the U.S.M. allowed growing numbers of Mexican peons, known as Mexicanos, to leave their farms and plantations in the states of Chiapas and Durango, and find work in the textile mills in those states and in Jefferson. Now able to vote, the former peons tended to support the Liberty Party. With more free residents in Chiapas, Durango, and California, those states saw their representation in the Assembly increase after the reapportionment of 1830.
Jefferson suffered at least a dozen major slave revolts, all of which were swiftly and ruthlessly put down. This coincided with the formation of the abolitionist Southern Union in the Southern Confederation, and Jackson blamed the revolts on abolitionist infiltrators from the S.C. Jackson twice sent strongly worded notes to the S.C. government in Norfolk, Virginia condemning the supposed infiltration, and war was narrowly averted in 1832. The growing free Mexicano population, as well as anti-slavery Anglos, opposed Jackson's bellicose foreign policy.
Finally, Jackson's opposition to railroad construction and industrialization in general put him in conflict with a group of wealthy men in Henrytown who wished to see Jefferson follow the lead of Great Britain and the Northern Confederation in manufacturing. The leader of the Henrytown industrialists, George McDuffie, broke away from the Continentalists in 1832 to form the Progress Party. By 1833, McDuffie and his allies had merged with the Libertarians, providing them with funding and experienced leadership.
The most capable member of the Liberty Party was Miguel Huddleston, a Jeffersonian Anglo who had married into a prominent Hispano family in Mexico City, converted to Catholicism, and won election to the Senate from Durango in 1827. At a meeting of the Libertarian caucus in advance of the 1833 Mexican elections, Huddleston won the support of Minority Leader Younger, and was able to fend off an attempt by Henry Morris of Jefferson and Senator Douglas Watson of Chiapas and to deny him the party's presidential nomination. On election day in August 1833, the Libertarians were able to increase their delegation in the Assembly to 46 seats, although the Continentalists continued to control 18 of the 24 Senate seats, ensuring a third term for Jackson. However, Senator John Shelby of California later admitted that "we cast our ballots in '33 for the ghost of '17, not the man who stood before us." Once Jackson was gone from the political scene, Huddleston was seen by many in both parties as his logical successor.
By the end of Jackson's third term in 1839, the Continentalist Party was in disarray. Jackson himself was brought low by the death of his wife in 1836 and a bout with typhoid fever the following year. The discovery of gold in California in 1838 made the pressure for railroads and industrialization irresistible, and the McDuffie faction of the Liberty Party took the lead in promoting the formation of the Jefferson and California Railroad Company that year. As campaigning began for the 1839 Mexican elections, Huddleston easily won the nomination of the Libertarian caucus. Under the slogan "Progress Together", Huddleston pledged to work for equal rights for all Mexicans, and to use the wealth of the California gold fields to improve conditions in Chiapas, Durango, and the western states. On the other hand, Huddleston was careful to avoid attacking slavery, and largely avoided the issue altogether. When pressed, he stated that he would allow the institution to remain as it was, and do nothing on the national level to disturb it in Jefferson.
By contrast, with Jackson choosing to retire from politics, the Continentalists had no leading candidate. The nomination eventually went to John Mason, a Jefferson planter who had made a quick fortune in the California gold fields. Mason ran an inept campaign, and the Libertarians were able to win 17 seats in the Senate, assuring Huddleston's selection as president.
Despite the expectations of his supporters, Huddelston did not expel the French bankers and investors who dominated Mexican finance, or nationalize the California gold mines. Huddleston shifted public investment to Chiapas and Durango, and promised a railroad to Baja California and a survey of a possible canal through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Chiapas. As he indicated during the campaign, Huddleston made no moves to interfere with slavery. Meanwhile, his efforts to promote racial harmony in Mexico were unsuccessful. Hispanos claimed that California gold was going to enrich "Huddleston's Anglo friends", while Mexicanos and Indians were dissatisfied by the lack of progress in ending discrimination against them. Libertarians and Continentalists alike were unhappy with Huddleston's temporizing on the issues of slavery and French influence. Finally, Huddleston's Secretary of the Exchequer, William Wilson, was accused of misappropriating public funds. Although nothing could be proved, several minor officials in the customs and treasury departments were convicted of theft and accepting bribes.
War with the C.N.A.
Huddleston's chief difficulty was the growing animosity towards the Confederation of North America in the U.S.M. The British colonies of the C.N.A. formed a unified state in 1842, and in the first national elections under the Second Britannic Design, North American voters had elected the ruthless and bloodthirsty General Winfield Scott and former Governor of the Northern Confederation Henry Gilpin to lead the country. Gilpin, the new Minister of War in Governor-General Scott's Cabinet, called for a contest with the "anarchists and half-breeds of Mexico," as he put it. The discovery of copper and silver in Mexico del Norte's disputed border with the C.N.A. attracted miners from both nations, and the two groups soon came into conflict with each other.
While Huddleston sought to improve relations with the C.N.A., Assemblyman Pedro Hermión of Jefferson warned of imminent conflict with the North Americans, most notably in his Scorpions in a Bottle speech of 7 May 1843. Huddleston responded to Hermión's speech by telling a group of reporters, "We have troubles enough in our own land without seeking new ones abroad. Mexican gold and silver will be used for the benefit of all, not the destruction of property and the murder of men."
Hermión's power and popularity continued to grow, as he was appointed to a vacant Senate seat in 1844 and was chosen as the Continentalist presidential candidate in 1845. Libertarian Senator Hernando Montoya of Chiapas remarked, "We face the prospect of choosing between two unusual men. On the one side we have an Anglo who has accepted Hispano ways and has a Hispana wife, and who leads the forces of reform and change. On the other we find a Hispano who has become the savior of the Anglo party, and who stands for the kind of aggression his father and people have always opposed."
During the campaign for the 1845 Mexican elections, Huddleston spoke of Mexico's growing wealth, his social welfare programs in Chiapas and Durango, and the country's increasing racial harmony (which, as Sobel notes, was not true). Hermión focused on what he called "the coming struggle for the continent. He called on all Mexicans to remember the nation's roots in the North American Rebellion, and what he called "the martyrs of Morelos," a settlement in the disputed border area that had been destroyed by North American vigilantes. Hermión's oratory, combined with news of further fighting in the mining camps, led to a Continentalist victory. The Liberty Party lost seven seats, and its majority, in the Senate, and Pedro Hermión was inaugurated as president on 6 September 1845.
Huddleston retired from politics after his defeat, and other men such as Montoya assumed the leadership of the Libertarians. The Rocky Mountain War broke out shortly after Hermión's inauguration, and his popularity grew as the North Americans suffered a series of defeats. At the height of Hermión's popularity, after Chief Running Deer defeated General Harry Chapin at the Battle of Arroyo de Quatros Hombres in 1848, even the Libertarians voiced their approval for his leadership. The sole exception was Huddleston, who claimed that Hermión had exaggerated the border fighting out of proportion, and who called for a cease fire and immediate negotiations with the C.N.A. This prompted Secretary of War Yves St. Just to denounce Huddleston as "a man who is not really a Mexican, or even a Mexicano, and whose heart may still be found east of the Mississippi." Senator Joseph Marro of Mexico del Norte went further, calling Huddleston "a traitor, pure and simple." A statue of Huddleston in Constitution Square was blown up, and Hermión had to assign a squad of men to protect him from angry pro-war mobs.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Williams Pass in 1851, popular sentiment turned against Hermión, and Libertarian leaders grew confident of victory in the upcoming 1851 Mexican elections. There were several attempts on the president's life, and street battles between his supporters and opponents became commonplace. The agitation on both sides ended abruptly with Hermión's assassination on 19 June following a rousing speech to Congress. The Senate met the next day to choose an interim presidet to serve out the remainder of Hermión's term, settling on former Secretary of State Senator Raphael Blaine of Arizona.
Hermión's assassin, Emiliano Zangora, had shouted "Viva Huddleston y paz!" after the attack, and suspicion immediately fell on the former president. Although the Fuentes Commission eventually cleared Huddleston of any involvement in the assassination, Zangora's words left the Libertarians in a delicate position as it sought a presidential candidate. After serious deliberation, the Libertarian caucus chose Assemblyman Hector Niles, a California businessman. Niles had opposed the war, but had not been outspoken on the subject, and he had spent much of the war as head of a special subcommittee in charge of armaments. During the campaign, Niles said little other than to pledge himself to end the war "in such a manner as to preserve our integrity and honor."
The Continentalists chose Acting President Blaine as their candidate. Blaine ran on Hermión's memory, calling the late president "a true lover of peace, who went to war sadly, and only when his nation was threatened." Blaine also spent the campaign ridiculing Niles as the "Faceless Wonder of San Francisco," and sarcastically calling him "the best butterfly collector Mexico has ever seen." Niles' reserve proved more effective than Blaine's scorn, and the Libertarians won 52 Assembly seats, along with 15 Senate seats, enough to secure the presidency for Niles.
In his inaugural address, Niles pledged himself to bring the war to an end. Immediately after taking office, he ordered the army to cease all offensive actions, and concentrate on defensive measures. He also offered to meet Gilpin, who had succeeded Scott as governor-general, "at a place of the Governor-General's choice, where we may end this sad conflict in good will." Gilpin, however, interpreted Niles' actions as an admission of weakness, and he redoubled his efforts to conquer Mexico. Niles' defensive strategy proved successful, and a series of North American armies suffered defeat. Popular opinion in the C.N.A. ran strongly against Gilpin and the Unified Liberal Party, and the 1853 Grand Council elections brought a National Conservative Party majority under Councilman William Johnson, a peace candidate.
Johnson took control of the North American government on 16 February 1853. Two months later, on 15 April, he sent a message to Niles that he would accept the offer of negotiations made to Gilpin two years earlier, and suggested that the two nations' negotiators meet in The Hague for preliminary discussions. Niles' emissary, Senator Frank Rinehart of Arizona, met with Minister of War John Wolff, and the two agreed to establish an international arbitration panel made up of representatives from the Germanic Confederation, Spain, and the Netherlands, which would begin meeting in November. In the meantime, the two nations agreed to an armistice, which would take effect on 1 August 1853. Both nations' armies would withdraw ten miles from the front lines, creating a 20-mile-wide neutral zone running from the Gulf of Mexico to Russian Alaska.
Once the armistice was in effect, Niles ordered his Secretary of Home Affairs, Fidel Sonora, to "make an inventory of assets and liabilities, to determine where we stand." Sonora reported back that conditions were better than expected, since the majority of the fighting had taken place in the undeveloped areas of Mexico del Norte, Arizona, and California. He recommended that federal aid go mainly to Indian tribes living in the war zones. Sonora also reported that the war had not interrupted gold production in California, and since little had been exported for sale since 1845, the reserves would provide the nation with reconstruction capital.
The end of hostilities with the C.N.A. also allowed cotton exports to Europe to resume, and prosperity returned to the Jefferson cotton plantations for the first time since the Panic of 1836. Increasing mechanization of cotton production was reducing the need for slave labor, and the cotton barons of Jefferson found themselves in the embarrassing position of having surplus slaves they neither wanted nor needed. Their ideological commitment to Jackson's racial caste system made manumission unthinkable, so the plantation owners ended up turning a blind eye as the slaves escaped across the border into the C.N.A. As a result, despite natural increase, the slave population of Mexico fell by half between 1855 and 1890.
The arbitration panel produced a final report on 15 June 1855. The report recommended that most of the disputed area be awarded to the C.N.A., which was already in possession of it. Sobel states that a clause was inserted into the report at Mexican insistence that the territory should have been part of the C.N.A. under the 1799 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Both nations accepted the panel's findings, and the Hague Treaty was signed on 7 August 1855, bringing the Rocky Mountain War officially to an end.
If Niles hoped the inclusion of the clause would fend off criticism of the peace terms, he was mistaken. Continentalist leader Benito Calzón insisted that the treaty was a "betrayal of the memory of Pedro Hermión," and that Niles had "bartered away our birthright in Mexico del Norte for a questionable peace with a dastardly foe." The "lost provinces" of Mexico del Norte became a perennial political issue of which the Continentalists took full advantage. The reaction against the Hague Treaty and Niles was so great that he was unable to leave the Presidential Palace for fear of assassination attempts.
Niles received the presidential nomination of the Libertarian caucus in 1857, and ran on his record of ending the war and rebuilding Mexican prosperity afterwards. However, the issue of the "lost provinces" was too potent to resist, and the Continentalist candidate, Arizona Governor Arthur Conroy, won a convincing victory, leading his party to win 59 out of 100 Assembly seats and 14 out of 24 Senate seats. The next six years revealed Conroy to be a moderate reformer who won legislative approval for a Railroad Control Commission, a Harbors Act to widen and dredge the country's Pacific and Gulf Coast ports, and a bill to make elementary education compulsory in all the states (which was ultimately declared unconstitutional by the Mexico Tribunal. Conroy had no interest in foreign adventures, instead working to improve Mexican relations with the Germanic Confederation and Great Britain, and increasing the professionalism of the Mexican diplomatic corps. Conroy had no difficulty winning a second term in the 1863 Mexican elections.
Thomas Rogers and Carlos Concepción
Conroy's second term saw the appearance of a new phenomenon in the U.S.M.: the rise of a class of wealthy businessmen who sought to use their wealth to influence Mexican politics. Foremost among these was Bernard Kramer, President of the San Francisco-based transportation consortium Kramer Associates, and Jeffersonian petroleum magnate Monte Benedict. Kramer in particular sought government backing for the digging of an interoceanic canal in Guatemala. When Conroy proved unreceptive to Kramer's arguments, Kramer used his monetary power to support Senator Omar Kinkaid for the leadership of the Continentalists. With Kramer's backing, Kinkaid easily gained the party's presidential nomination, leading an astonished Conroy to remark, "I knew Kramer had power, but I did not realize its extent."
The Libertarians had been unprepared for Conroy's reformist streak, which in his second term included passage of constitutional amendments that resulted in direct presidential elections and the democratization of the Assembly. Former President Niles applauded Conroy's reforms, but Senator Carlos Concepción of Chiapas warned, "Under the guise of reformism, this man has managed to solidify his class's control over the nation. We are doomed to many more years of Conroyism, unless the people wake up to what this Machiavelli has done to deceive them." Concepción was a Mexicano nationalist who was determined to end the Anglo domination of Mexico, peacefully if possible, violently if necessary. He sought the Liberty Party's presidential candidacy in 1869, arguing that, whatever their intent, Conroy's electoral reforms had made it possible for a Mexicano candidate to win the presidency. However, Concepción had no support from the party's leadership, which was unwilling to unite around a Mexicano. The Libertarian caucus instead decided to remove the "lost provinces" issue from the campaign by nominating Mexico del Norte Governor Henry Colbert, who was as expansionist as any Continentalist candidate.
The campaign for the 1869 Mexican elections was awkwardly-run by both parties, since neither had any experience running a national campaign, and both had chosen their presidential candidates only weeks before election day, as they always had in the past. The Continentalists were able to take advantage of the financial support provided by Kramer and Benedict to hire a small army of paid speakers to spread their message, and to plaster every house in Mexico with campaign posters and pictures of Kinkaid. Colbert was forced to rely on unpaid volunteers, and advertisements in major newspapers. On election day, the Continentalists' superior numbers in Jefferson and California were able to overcome Libertarian majorities in the other four states, and Kinkaid was elected.
Kinkaid ignored the polarized electorate that was revealed by his victory, and by the control exercised over the Mexican political system by his wealthy benefactors. When Kramer financed a coup d'etat in Guatemala in pursuit of his interoceanic canal, Kinkaid was content to recognize K.A.'s newly-installed government. However, the Libertarians regarded the growing private control over the Mexican government as a threat to the public good. At the Libertarian caucus meeting in May 1875, Concepción spoke of "Mexico's wealth having fallen to a few, while the rest of the nation remains in chains. Concepción's chief rival within the party, Arizona Governor Thomas Rogers, focused on his opposition to slavery, and pledged to "destroy this evil, root and branch." Unlike Concepción, he believed in the benefits of capitalism, and refused to go along with "those who would destroy, not create."
Concepción warned his fellow Libertarians that "If I am defeated at this caucus, it will be because of my race and the opposition of powerful interests opposed to the well-being of all Mexicans." When Rogers won the presidential nomination on the second ballot, Concepción and his followers left the caucus and organized a third party called the Workers' Coalition. The result was the most divisive election in Mexican history. Concepción refused to campaign in Anglo areas of the country, calling for "a union of Mexicanos against our oppressors" and the nationalization of K.A. By late July, he was campaigning mostly in Spanish, and on one occasion called for "the removal of those who stole our country from us." By then, Concepción had given up hope of winning the election, and instead was laying the groundwork for a revolutionary movement.
For his part, Governor Rogers promised a program of social insurance and aid to education, and a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. He also began promising to "investigate big business," by which he clearly meant Kramer and Benedict, and "redirect our effort toward making a better Mexico, for all Mexicans." He responded to Concepción's radical agenda by criticizing him for "having lost faith in our people, and substituting force for reason," while also castigating "the plutocracy of the Constitutionalists, and the hypocrisy of a president who is on a leash, but does not know it, or does not care."
Between the division of the Liberty Party and the financial advantage of the Continentalists, Kinkaid was able to win the 1875 Mexican elections by an even larger margin than in 1869. For his part, Concepción won 11% of the vote, which he described as a moral victory. At a public rally after the election results had been announced, Concepción declared, "We have shown the plutocrats of Mexico City and Paris that we are united. We have been heard. We will be heard in the future. Mexico will shake to the sound of our voices, united in the cause of justice. God is speaking to us today, just as he spoke to Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, to Revillagigedo and to José Morelos when he first dared defy the might of the white devils of Jefferson. The Workers' Coalition is dead, killed by the cynics of the north. Long live the Moralistas!" After delivering this address, Concepción and his chief lieutenants disappeared into the western Sierra Madre, to begin a guerrilla campaign aimed at the overthrow of the government.
The bitterness of the campaign, and the outbreak of the Moralista uprising, shook Kinkaid out of his complacency. He determined to free the Continentalist Party of its control by Kramer and Benedict, and embraced Rogers' reform program. In the teeth of opposition by Kramer, and with the help of Rogers and the Libertarians, Kinkaid gained passage of legislation regulating railroads, creating social insurance programs, and taxing corporations (the last of which was ruled unconstitutional by the Mexico Tribunal).
The Hermión Coup
Kinkaid's reform program came to an abrupt end with his assassination on 7 December 1879. The assassin's identity was never learned, and as a result speculation was rife on who was responsible: Rogers blamed Concepción, Concepción blamed Kramer and Benedict, and Kramer blamed Rogers. When the Senate met on 9 December to choose an acting president, Rogers refused to withdraw his name or concede defeat, despite being a suspect in Kinkaid's death. The Senate went through several ballot before Rogers was willing to consider a compromise candidate. The final choice was Senator George Vining of Jefferson, an elderly, unambitious Continentalist.
Although it was widely assumed that Vining's would be nothing more than a caretaker government, the urgency of the ongoing Moralista uprising made that impossible. Vining called on the Mexican Congress to confirm his exercise of the full powers of the presidency. He then deployed the Mexican army in a major campaign to root out the Moralistas. Finally, he created a secret police force called the Constabulary, appointing Pedro Hermión's son Benito Hermión to head it. Hermión, however, was under the control of Bernard Kramer. At Kramer's instigation (though Sobel never states as much), Constabulary agents raided the Workers' Coalition convention in Palenque, Chiapas on 15 July 1881, killing 23 delegates, including party leader José Godoy. The result was a nationwide Mexicano uprising that turned the U.S.M. into a battleground between the Moralistas and an increasingly authoritarian government.
On 12 September 1881, nine days before the delayed 1881 Mexican elections, President vining died of an apparent heart attack, and four days later Commandant Hermión launched a coup d'etat, making himself dictator of the U.S.M. under the title of Chief of State. Libertarian leaders who refused to go along were killed, imprisoned, or, like Rogers, forced to flee Mexico.
Hermión and K.A. continued to work in tandem under Kramer's successor, Diego Cortez y Catalán. Hermión expropriated most of Mexico's French-owned businesses and awarded them to Cortez. As Cortez expanded K.A. control of the Mexican economy and began extending his interests outside the country, Hermión occupied Guatemala, New Granada, Hawaii, and Alaska, the latter two at Cortez's instigation. However, as Hermión gradually escaped Cortez's control, the businessman turned against him, finally having him deposed in October 1901 by Martin Cole, Commandant of the Kramer Guard.
With Hermión gone, Cortez decided against installing another dictator. Instead, he chose to restore the forms of representative government. However, Cortez saw to it that his favored candidate, Anthony Flores, received the company's support, and Flores was able to win a plurality of the vote in a run-off election against two other candidates. With the restoration of civil liberties under Flores, partisan politics resumed, and the Liberty Party was revived as an opposition party. Flores chose not to revive the name Continentalist Party for his own supporters, probably due to the association of the name with the Hermión dictatorship. Instead, he and his supporters called themselves the United Mexican Party. Sobel denies that the U.M.P. was under the control of Kramer Associates, insisting that Kramer money went to "friendly" politicians of both parties. However, the Libertarians did make the claim, and accused K.A. of backing the Hermión dictatorship for the sake of its own enrichment. The post-restoration Liberty Party included Mexico's remaining independent businessmen and farmers, along with professionals and intellectuals. Its platform called for the abolition of slavery, government support for small businesses, and a high tariff to protect infant industries.
Flores's popularity was so great that he was able to win 61.5% of the popular vote in the 1908 Mexican elections against Libertarian candidate Frank Everhart. His popularity continued throughtout his second term, so that the Libertarians had little hope of winning against Flores's handpicked successor, Secretary of State Victoriano Consalus. At their convention in 1914, the Libertarians nominated California Senator Albert Ullman, a former history professor at Kinkaid University.
The primary issue of the 1914 Mexican elections was the threat posed by France under its aggressive President Henri Fanchon. A week before the election, President Flores consulted Consalus and Ullman on possible responses to the French threat. Sobel relies on biased contemporary news reports of the meeting, so his description is not entirely reliable. Sobel's sources claim that Ullman proposed a conference with Fanchon, and stated his belief that some of the French leader's criticisms of the U.S.M. were partially justified. Consalus went on to win 61% of the popular vote, including majorities in every state except Arizona and Mexico del Norte. The day after Consalus's inauguration, Ullman reminded a reporter from the Mexico City Times that "Not since 1857 -- over half a century ago -- has a Libertarian occupied the Presidential Palace. Our last successful candidate, Hector Niles, was elected when the public turned against the Rocky Mountain War. Perhaps it will take a similar tragedy to get us back in office." As it turned out, Ullman was right.
The Chapultepec Incident
War with France came in June, and reached its climax at the Battle of Chapultepec, when General Emiliano Calles defeated a French invasion force advancing on Mexico City. The French invaders had liberated some 8,000 slaves during their drive on the capital, and after their surrender, President Consalus had them all arrested and tried en mass for treason. Senator Ullman protested that their actions had been understandable, and that under the circumstances it would make more sense to abolish slavery completely. He also observed that, technically, the slaves were incapable of committing treason, since they were not considered citizens.
The Chapultepec Treason Trials created an enormous backlash in the C.N.A., leading to the founding of the Friends of Black Mexico, an organization dedicated to ending slavery in the U.S.M. On 4 January 1916, thousands of young North Americans stormed the Federal Prison in Chapultepec, freeing the slaves at a cost of thousands of dead and injured. Consalus and North American Governor-General Albert Merriman were barely able to avert war between the two countries.
In the wake of the Chapultepec Incident, slavery became the central political issue in the U.S.M. Libertarian politicians known to favor manumission were denounced by their opponents, and in March Ullman was shot at while entering his home. President Consalus established a number of government commissions to study the problem, and a series of reports were issued in 1916 and 1917. A public opinion poll conducted in January 1917 found 60.5% of free Mexicans were "dissatisfied" with the institution; 79.8% would be happy if the slaves "vanished," and 61.2% wanted the government to conduct more studies. Ullman responded to the poll results by saying, "We are harvesting the crop sown even before the Wilderness Walk. Do the people of Mexico actually believe they can avoid responsibility for their past?" Consalus himself was stymied, saying, "If I retain the institution I will be pilloried. Should I ask for its end, I will be crushed."
A possible end to the impasse appeared suddenly in the summer of 1919, when General Calles, the hero of Chapultepec, made several short political speeches, showing he was aware of the problem slavery posed, though he offered no solution. Ullman was initially opposed to a possible Calles presidency, since he feared the General would establish a new dictatorship, be unsympathetic to the plight of the slaves, and, like Benito Hermión, act as a willing tool of K.A., now under the control of Cortez's hand-picked successor, Douglas Benedict. After meeting Calles at a government dinner on 15 February 1920, at which the two discussed slavery in Mexico and "related subjects," Ullman began to set in motion a plan to have Calles "drafted" at the upcoming Libertarian national convention.
At the convention, after Ullman's name was presented to the assembly, a carefully-planned demonstration for Calles took place. Senator Frank Armstrong of Jefferson took the podium to nominate Calles, who won the nomination on the first ballot. Calles had not been told details of the "draft Calles" movement, but he was told that he might be nominated "by acclimation." Calles accepted the Libertarian nomination, pledging himself in trivialities and meaningless generalizations. As the North American historian Samuel Slate later put it, "It was the worst acceptance speech in the history of Mexican politics. Yet the crowd cheered as they did in the old days when El Jefe delivered one of his diatribes." Ullman himself supposedly told Armstrong, "I think I know what we are getting, but I'm not certain. We are throwing dice with destiny."
After the convention, Ullman suggested that Calles challenge Consalus to a vitavised debate, thinking Consalus would refuse. Instead, Consalus accepted the challenge, and on the evening of 29 March, gave a masterful debate performance. Consalus pointed out that Calles had no political experience; had gone back on his word that he would not run for office; and had no solutions to the country's problems. None of it mattered. Calles' popularity allowed him to win 54% of the popular vote in the 1920 Mexican elections, including majorities in every state except Jefferson and California.
Calles appointed Ullman Secretary of State, and for the first two years of his administration, Ullman served as his mentor and chief advisor. Calles announced on 15 April that he would present his legislative program to the Senate within a week. On 21 April he appeared in person before the Senate, the first Mexican president to do so since the Restoration. In a blunt address lasting less than four minutes, Calles spoke exclusively on slavery, calling for its abolition. "We shall try to do so by constitutional amendment, but if this is not possible, other ways will be found. We have talked long enough of this subject. In all the reports I have yet to find one reasonable argument in favor of keeping the Negro enslaved. The free population of Mexico numbers 132 million. There are some 103 thousand Negro slaves in the country. Giving these poor wretches their liberty will not dilute our national bloodstream; nor will it poison our lives. It is a small price to pay for the benefits manumission will bring."
As Ullman advised, Calles did not spell out the details of any particular plan. Ullman later said, "We had no specific plan worked out in advance. All we knew was that freedom was the only answer. We were willing to allow the defenders of slavery to guide us in the way they would end the institution, and listened carefully in the next two weeks. Then we acted." Calles' popularity was sufficient to intimidate most potential opponents of his program into silence, and the plan itself was too vague to attack.
The single most important factor in the political situation was Douglas Benedict, President of Kramer Associates. Benedict weilded more power than the government itself, and his support would ensure the success of manumission. Benedict had remained neutral on the issue since the Chapultepec Incident, since he could no benefit for his company either way. What decided him was Calles himself, the most popular man in Mexico since the Restoration; Benedict decided that it would be better to have the president's friendship than his enmity.
Benedict's support soon made itself felt. On 29 April, Ullman received word that Senator Rodrigo de la Casa of Durango, a major supporter of slavery, wished to meet with him. He agreed to meet with the Senator in his office at noon the following day. At the same time, Benedict arranged to meet with Calles on the morning of the 30th. At their meeting Benedict expressed the hope that the slavery issue could be settled with as little disturbance as possible, and Calles agreed. Benedict called slavery "a barbaric practice that has no place is modern society," and said that he had long favored its abolition. Calles revealed that he knew that K.A. refused to do business with companies that employed slave labor, and would not allow company executives to use household slaves. Benedict responded that he saw no reason why "the institution of slavery should receive official sanction for another season." Thus, an unspoken agreement was reached: Benedict would use his political influence to ensure the end of slavery, and Calles would maintain a hands-off policy towards K.A.
Hours later, De la Casa expressed concern about Calles' speech. He argued that a constitutional amendment would be too unpopular to pass, and that Calles ought to think twice before resorting to it. Ullman then asked how De la Casa thought the president should proceed -- given that he was determined to end slavery. The Senator indicated that the legislators would prefer that a simple bill should be submitted to the Congress and passed by a voice vote. Ullman ended the meeting by saying that he would report the discussion favorably to the president.
Over the next two weeks, word went out to U.M.P. legislators who had received financial aid from K.A. to support a manumission bill. Events went as expected in the Senate, but in the Assembly a revolt against the manumission bill was led by Assemblyman Pedro Fuentes of Chiapas. After the Manumission Act was submitted to the Assembly on 13 May, Fuentes spoke out against it, calling it "legal theft," and reciting the history of slavery in the U.S.M. Finally, he turned to Hernando Cromwell, who was spearheading the manumission effort, pointed his finger, and declared, "We know who is behind you in this. It is Kramer Associates, more particularly Douglas Benedict. Kramer gold put you where you are, and Kramer gold is buying manumission for the administration. You were elected on a pledge to retain slavery, and now you have conventiently changed your mind. I challenge you to tell us why you have so acted." Cromwell simply smiled and shrugged his shoulders. The Manumission Bill passed the Assembly by a voice vote that day. There was no similar revolt by any of the Senators, and the bill passed by a voice vote there as well on 14 May. Calles signed the Manumission Act into law on 21 May 1920.
Passage of the Manumission Act left the U.S.M. deeply divided. Benedict used his power to compel acceptance in the areas K.A. controlled, and support for manumission was strongest in California and Jefferson, the two states with the largest Anglo and Hispano populations. The Indians of Arizona and Mexico del Norte also supported manumission. However, the Mexicano-majority states of Durango and Chiapas were centers of the anti-manumission movement led by Fuentes. During the Bloody Season in the summer of 1920, slaves were attacked by hooded gangs, beaten, and in 154 cases, murdered. Pro-manumission legislators were also attacked; seventeen Assemblymen and two Senators were forced to resign in the face of overwhelming pressure from constituents. The riots and demonstrations were so severe that President Calles was obliged to call out the Mexican army to separate supporters and opponents of manumission, and had it not been for Calles' great personal following in the army, many officers might have deserted to the anti-manumission side. By late August, the opposition had taken to burning down Manumission Bureau offices, and threatening its officials with death if they attempted to rebuild them.
Ullman did his best to calm the anti-manumission movement. He pointed out that although the freedman would no longer be bound to their masters, "most will doubtless prefer to remain where they are." In fact, few household servants left their masters, becoming paid employees rather than bound servants. However, there was a great exodus of fieldhands and dockhands. Only 42% of freed industrial workers remained at their jobs, with the rest leaving either voluntarily or under pressure from Mexicano-led labor unions. Many freedmen made their way to Arizona and Mexico del Norte, where they found refuge and employment in Indian areas. The Bloody season ended after President Calles personally confronted an armed mob in front of the Mexico City Manumission Bureau in the company of the capital's first freed slave, John Walker, on the morning of 22 September 1920.
Eighteen months later, Calles dropped a second bombshell on the Mexican Congress, this time against Ullman's advice. With slavery settled, he was determined to settle the status of the territories that had been conquered or annexed during the dictatorship of Benito Hermión: Guatemala, New Granada, Hawaii, Alaska, and Siberia. "The Mexican flag does not fly over these lands; each is led by its own government, but otherwise, they are as Mexican as California or Chiapas. We control them, but they have no voice in what we do. I propose, therefore, that we permit them to make a choice. Plebiscites shall be scheduled in these nations; I have communicated with their leaders, and believe that they will accept. If the peoples there want to join us, they shall be permitted to do so. If not, then we should remove ourselves from their midst."
Fuentes, the anti-manumission leader, applauded the proposal, saying, "the President will not expunge all his mistakes with this act, but it is right nonetheless, and should be supported." On the other hand, Assemblyman Franklin Adams of California, who had replaced Cromwell as Benedict's unofficial spokesman in the Assembly, called the proposal "harebrained," and vowed to oppose it. Although Benedict's health was deteriorating at this point, he was determined to remain at the head of the company and work to oppose the president's proposal. K.A. had held economic control of the five territories ever since the nineteenth century, and Benedict was determined to maintain that control. However, his failing health hampered his efforts; Premier Oleg Khmirinovsky of Siberia and President Carl Hermión of New Granada rejected the plebiscite proposal, but the governments of the other three territories accepted it, and in early 1923 Hawaii and Alaska voted to join the U.S.M., though Guatemala did not. In November, the two territories were granted Mexican statehood.
Calles wished to pursue futher reforms, including the establishment of a minimum wage, increases in social welfare benefits, and a center for scientific research in Mexico City. However, the manumission bill and the plebiscites had cost the president most of his support in Congress, and he was unable to win passage for any of them. Despite this, Calles was determined to win re-election to prevent Fuentes from winning the presidency and overturning the manumission bill. Initially, the 1926 Mexican elections saw both candidates attack the others, with Calles calling Fuentes a "would-be tyrant," while Fuentes described Calles as "a failure, simple and complete." During a vitavised debate on 5 January 1926, both candidates were more circumspect. Then, five days later, Fuentes told an audience in Tampico that he considered both the slavery and annexation issues closed. After that, neither candidate made a major speech. On election day, Calles won only 47% of the popular vote, and only won a majority in Arizona.
As he had indicated in his Tampico speech, Fuentes made no effort to reverse either of Calles' major reforms. However, his experiences during the Calles administration had convinced him that Kramer Associates was a menace to the U.S.M., and he devoted his own presidency to bringing the company under control. Following the example of North American Governor-General Henderson Dewey, Fuentes established a government commission chaired by Secretary of the Exchequer Stanley Zwicker to "investigate large corporations in the United States of Mexico, and make suggestions for legislation."
Benedict's successor as head of K.A., John Jackson, was determined to thwart Fuentes. For the next three years, Jackson combined a public relations campaign against Fuentes with a vast, complex reorganization of K.A. to stymie the Zwicker Commission's investigation. Although the Liberty Party had a long history of opposition to K.A., Calles' deal with Benedict had established a truce between the party and the company that continued after Calles' defeat. Now that the U.M.P. had declared war on Kramer Associates, Libertarian Senator Alvin Silva came to the company's defense. In 1931 he published a book, The Search for the Mexican Soul, in which he called for an end to "old programs and ideas that were useful when conceived, but which mean nothing today," referring to the Zwicker Commission, as well as to his own party's longstanding antagonism with K.A.
Silva was first elected to the Senate from Durango in 1920, and he had faithfully supported Calles' manumission and plebiscite programs, as well as his unsuccessful social programs. He was a strong believer in national unity, and in the defense of traditionally oppressed groups such as the Negroes and Mexicanos. Silva was also apparently an adherent of the Moral Imperative, a late-nineteenth century philosophy that held that it was the "moral imperative" of advanced nations to raise up more backward peoples, if necessary through imperialism. In The Search for the Mexican Soul, he wrote, "We must search out the national destiny. It is to be found within ourselves, but also outside the country. Mexico has a destiny in the world which it has long ignored. This can continue no longer." In a vitavision interview, Silva went further: "While the President worries about Kramer Associates, the world is changing rapidly. A visit to Honolulu would do him a world of good, not only to refresh his sagging spirit, but to give him a better perspective on the world as it is, not as it was." Thus, Silva had reversed the longstanding Libertarian opposition to imperialism, as well as the opposition to Kramer Associates.
When the Libertarians held their national convention, they chose Silva as their presidential nominee. The result was a spirited campaign between Senator Silva and President Fuentes, with Silva criticizing Fuentes as inept, "even when he concentrates his attention on a single objective," while Fuentes denounced Silva as a tool of K.A. and a pawn for Jackson. Fuentes's attacks backfired, and Silva was able to win 55% of the vote in the 1932 Mexican elections, along with majorities in every state except Alaska and Durango.
Silva in Power
Once in office, Silva wound up the Zwicker Commission and began to focus on foreign affairs. Earlier, he had told Tito Señada, who would serve as his Secretary of the Exchequer, "No matter what the people receive, they will always want more, and will look to their neighbors for it." True unity, he said, could only come through foreign adventures, particularly war. "Mexico fought as one people in the Rocky Mountain War; Mexicans rejoiced in the Great Northern War; with all its drawbacks and problems, the Hundred Day War was fought by a united people. I do not say we should seek war; rather, our goal should be national greatness. But if national greatness requires a clash with a foreign power, so be it." In his inaugural address, he spoke of foreigners "who would threaten our nation. Even now, Hawaii is in danger of attack," paraphrasing a speech delivered by Benito Hermión just before the outbreak of the Great Northern War. This was noted by the North American journalist Charles Martin of the Burgoyne Herald, who wrote four years later that "The voice was Silva's but the words sounded suspiciously like those of El Jefe."
Silva began his foreign policy initiative in 1933 by fortifying Hawaii and seeking to renew Hermión's alliance with the Germanic Confederation. Although German companies were competing with K.A. for markets in Africa and South America, the Mexicans and Germans both faced Japanese opposition to their efforts to gain increased influence in China. Word of the imminent alliance reached Marshall Gipson, the North American ambassador to Mexico City, who revealed it during Governor-General Douglas Watson's special Cabinet meeting on 8 May 1933. Silva signed an accord with German Chancellor Karl Bruning in 1934, and both men watched with interest as Watson attempted to increase North American defense spending while their own nations enlarged their armed forces in preparation for war.
Although Silva had roundly criticized Fuentes' attack on Kramer Associates, his own foreign policy brought him into conflict with the company. Silva regarded Japan as the U.S.M.'s chief foreign rival, while Jackson saw it as a lucrative market he wished to cultivate. This conflict may be the reason Jackson chose to move K.A.'s corporate headquarters from San Francisco to the Philippines in February 1936.
Jackson's announcement of the move on Monday, 24 February caught the world by surprise; Silva himself had spent the weekend vacationing in Acapulco. The result was a worldwide financial panic that was worsened the following month when the C.N.A.'s National Financial Administration went bankrupt. Most of K.A.'s business was still located in Mexico, and although the company's profits fell in 1936 and 1937, the Mexican economy suffered less from the Panic of 1936 than any other major power.
Re-election and War
Silva was renominated by the Liberty Party in the 1938 Mexican elections. In his acceptance speech, he claimed credit for the country's continued prosperity. "All around us there is poverty, yet we are rich; all around there is weakness, yet we are strong." Watson's loss to Councilman Bruce Hogg in the February 1938 Grand Council elections made it clear that the C.N.A. would not support the United Empire in the event of war, and this was interpreted by the Mexican public as a sign that war would come soon. The Mexico City Diario opined that "Now that North America has opted for neutralism, war seems inevitable, and Silva is the man for such a task." Silva was able to defeat his U.M.P. opponent, Richard Brace of Jefferson, gaining 54% of the popular vote, with a majority in every state except Hawaii and Jefferson.
War finally began in August 1939, initially caused by an Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The following month, Bruning chose to provide military support for the Arab rebels, and the British responded by sending troops to reinforce the Turks. A clash between the Germans and the British near Damascus on 30 September 1939 led to the outbreak of the Global War.
Silva had hoped to gain German support for a war against Japan. Now that the Germans were fighting the British in the Middle East, Silva's plans were in disarray. When Bruning requested Mexican assistance against the British and the Turks, Silva declined. As it turned out, the Germans had no need for Mexican assistance. By the end of 1939, the Germans had defeated Britain's French allies, gained control of the Victoria Canal, and nearly succeeded in invading Great Britain itself. A year later, the Germans had conquered the Ottoman Empire and launched an invasion of India. By the end of 1941, India had fallen, and the Germans were poised to invade Southeast Asia.
Silva grew increasingly uneasy as his German allies won a series of victories that placed Europe and southern Asia under their control. Fearing that the Germans were preparing to invade China, and also fearing an attack from Japan, Silva began making preparations in late 1941 to enter the war. In early December he signed a secret treaty with Siberia for a joint invasion of China. On 1 January 1942 Mexican and Siberian airmobiles bombed the Japanese city of Nagasaki, while a second flight of Mexican airmobiles launched from carriers bombed Tokyo. The U.S.M. declared war on Japan the next day.
Throughout 1942, Mexican and Siberian troops drove into China, while the Mexican Pacific Fleet under Admiral Paul Suarez seized Pacific islands from the United Empire and the Japanese. The Germans meanwhile took Japanese Indo-China and invaded the Dutch East Indies. The two nations' conquests slowed in 1943; the Germans were driven from Borneo, and attempted Mexican invasions of Japan, Taiwan, and Australia all failed. In 1944, the invasion of China stalled, and the Mexicans and Siberians began to lose ground, while the Japanese began recovering control of the Pacific from the Mexican Navy. By then, it was clear to both Bruning and Silva that their efforts were being hindered by the two supposedly "neutral" powers, K.A. and the C.N.A. "We fight in the Pacific," Silva said, "but the real enemy is in the Atlantic."
K.A. executives had been holding talks with the Japanese and Australian governments in 1939 and 1940, warning them of the coming Mexican attacks. By the time Silva went to war, the two countries had entered into an informal alliance with K.A. Silva responded by cancelling the upcoming 1944 Mexican elections and seizing control of the Mexican media. This prompted the start of the Rainbow War, an anti-government insurgency led by the Black Justice Party and Causa de Justicia. With his control of the media, Silva was able to convince the public that the insurgency was being funded and led by Kramer Associates, so that Jackson was considered a war criminal of the first magnitude in Mexico City. Silva also announced on 22 March 1944 that all K.A. property in Mexico would be seized and nationalized. However, this proved ineffective, since Jackson's reorganization of K.A.'s assets in the early 1930s made it difficult to determine which Mexican businesses the company actually owned.
Silva was forced to withdraw Mexican troops from Asia to combat the insurgency, with the result that the Mexicans and Siberians were driven from China by the beginning of 1947. Meanwhile, a Japanese airmobile carrier task force bombed Honolulu in December 1944, and Silva was forced to withdraw his forces to Hawaii against the possibility of a Japanese invasion in the summer of 1945.
Silva pledged to resume the offensive in Asia in 1948. Instead, two Japanese armies invaded Siberia, and by December 1948 had carried out invasion attempts against Hawaii and Alaska which were driven off with heavy losses. The military defeats in the war and the continued insurgencies at home caused Silva's support to erode, and in July 1949 he announced that national elections would be held in January 1950.
The U.M.P. had opposed entry into the war, and Silva's control of the media meant that the party's leaders had been branded as little better than traitors. In desparation, the U.M.P. leaders nominated Admiral Suarez as their presidential candidate. Suarez had resigned as commander of the Pacific Fleet in 1944 in protest against Silva's leadership. Although Suarez intended to continue the war, he became the de facto peace candidate. The 1950 Mexican elections were marred by violence, as each side sought to intimidate the other's supporters. Suarez criticized Silva for not making provisions for servicemen's ballots, while Silva denounced Suarez for "demagoguery of the meanest kind, and serving the interests of the warlords of Japan and Taiwan.
Silva was narrowly defeated by Suarez, gaining 49% of the popular vote and majorities in the states of Hawaii and Arizona. After the election, Silva claimed that there had been irregularities in the California and Jefferson balloting, which Suarez disputed. The political violence continued to escalate as the date of Suarez's inauguration approached. The day before the inauguration, Colonel Vincent Mercator, the commander of the Guadalajara garrison, met with ten other garrison commanders, then announced that Suarez would not be allowed to take office. Silva was arrested for "crimes against the republic" and Mercator became the head of a military junta that took control of the Mexican government. Both the Liberty Party and the U.M.P. were banned. When Mercator finally allowed national elections in 1965, only candidates from his own newly-formed Progressive Party were permitted to run.
Sobel's sources for the Liberty Party are Lewis Rains's John Gaillard: Nobility in Chains (Mexico City, 1943); Peter Collins's The Liberty Party in Old Jefferson (Mexico City, 1954); David Christman's The Origins of Political Parties in Jefferson (Mexico City, 1960); and David Adkins's Always the Bridesmaid: The Liberty Party, 1851-1960 (Mexico City, 1961).
This was the Featured Article for the month of September 2015.