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(1) MEXICO: THE RECORD OF A CONVERSATION WITH PRESIDENT
By Samuel G. Blythe
"My ideal is an orderly and righteous government in Mexico; but my passion is for the submerged 85 per cent of the people of that Republic, who are now struggling toward liberty."
The President closed his fingers into a sinewy fist. He leaned forward in his chair-leaned forward as a man leans forward who is about to start on a race, his body taut, his muscles tense. I could see the cords stand out on the back of his neck. His eyes were narrowed, his lips slightly parted, his vigor and earnestness impressive.
Bang! He hit the desk with that clenched fist. The paper knife rattled against the tray and a few open letters stirred a bit from the jar of the blow.
"I challenge you," he said, "to cite me an instance in all the history of the world where liberty was handed down from above. Liberty always is attained by the forces working below, underneath, by the great movement of the people. That, leavened by the sense of wrong and oppression and injustice, by the ferment of human rights to be attained, brings freedom." The President relaxed from his tense attitude and smiled.
"It is a curious thing," he continued, "that every demand for the establishment of order in Mexico takes into consideration, not order for the benefit of the people of Mexico, the great mass of the population, but order for the benefit of the old-time régime, for the aristocrats, for the vested interests, for the men who are responsible for this very condition of disorder. No one asks for order because order will help the masses of the people to get a portion of their rights and their land; but all demand it so that the great owners of property, the overlords, the hidalgos, the men who have exploited that rich. country for their own selfish purposes, shall be able to continue their processes undisturbed by the protests of the people from whom their wealth and power have been obtained.
"The dangers that beset the Republic are held to be the individual
1Congressional Record, May 23, 1914.
and corporate troubles of these men, not the aggregated injustices that have been heaped on this vastly greater section of the population that is now struggling to recover by force what has always been theirs by right.
"They want order-the old order; but I say to you that the old order is dead. It is my part, as I see it, to aid in composing those differences so far as I may be able, that the new order, which will have its foundation on human liberty and human rights, shall prevail."
We were sitting in the old Cabinet room, on the second floor of the White House, now changed to a library and workroom for the President. Two sides of the walls are lined with books, and opposite the mantel there hangs a great picture of the signing of the Spanish War peace treaty, showing President McKinley gazing benignantly at Secretary Day and the Spanish commissioner, who, seated side by side, are writing their names on the document that formally ended the war of 1898. A great globe stands in the cornera great blue globe, with many lines traced on it, many lines running from Washington to the south. There was a cluster of red roses in the corner, and a little breeze fluttered the curtains of the windows that looked out on the fountain, the wonderful masses of bloom on the flowering trees, the new, soft green of the leaves, and the velvet of the grass. A searchlight played on the tip of the Washington Monument, and, far back, the Dome of the Capitol swam mistily in the silver light of the new moon.
The President was in evening dress, and he seemed strong and vigorous as he sat facing me at the side of his desk. He was waiting to go to a conference between the Attorney General, the Secretary of War, and Senator Thomas, of Colorado, over the mining strike in the Senator's State.
We talked for three-quarters of an hour. The President went freely and frankly into the situation-told his ideals, his hopes, his plans, his conclusions-dealing, of course, with the subject in a general rather than in a specific way, because of the length of time I told him must ensue between the talk and the publication of what I might write concerning it, and the knowledge that in a day-to-day event like this, with its constantly shifting series of happenings, summaries must be resorted to rather than immediate comment.
As a result of my conversation with the President, which was on the evening of April 27, only a few hours after word had come that Huerta would accept the offer of mediation made by the representatives of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, I can state these conclusions,
which will endure regardless of the outcome of mediation negotiations. The settled policy of the President in regard to Mexico will be as follows:
First. The United States, so long as Mr. Wilson is President, will not seek to gain a foot of Mexican territory in any way or under any pretext. When we have finished with Mexico, Mexico will be territorially intact.
Second. No personal aggrandizement by American investors or adventurers or capitalists, or exploitation of that country, will be permitted. Legitimate business interests that seek to develop rather than exploit will be encouraged.
Third. A settlement of the agrarian land question by constitutional means-such as that followed in New Zealand, for examplewill be insisted on.
These are the materialistic ideals of President Wilson, the main points he has firmly in his mind. His future policy will rest on these foundations, regardless of what the moment may inject into the situation in the way of minor questions.
We talked for a few moments on that April evening of the historic associations of the portion of the White House where we were, which, until the time of President Roosevelt, was used by the Presidents as office and workroom by the clerical force, by the Cabinet, and as the public reception room. It was in this part of the White House that all the preliminaries of the Spanish War were decided on by President McKinley, and it was this portion of the White House that President. Lincoln occupied as his office and workroom during the Civil War. Now it makes up a part of the home space in the White House; but in that library where we were sitting, and where McKinley's Cabinet debated the Spanish War and Lincoln's Cabinet debated the Civil War, a great many of the problems of Mexico, whether war problems or peace problems, have been and will be considered by President Wilson.
"Mr. President," I began, "I have recently been through the country somewhat, and I am constantly meeting men who have arrived from various States. I find and they find that, though the people of this country are patriotic and are loyally standing by the administration they do not, as a whole, know just what they are patriotic about." "I have found that to be true, in a measure, myself," said the President, "and I am glad of an opportunity to explain my ideas. and my ideals on the subject."
He stopped for a moment, as though to select a place for beginning. I noticed that his face, instead of being pale, as it was the