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But to return from this digression. surely, to indicate that the present Few will dispute the weakness and state of Mexican politics shows any futility of the Mexican government great improvement over that which before the time of Diaz or deny the has gone before. What has happened, absolute nature of the latter's rule. indeed, is really this: The thirty years But many (on the first impulse) will of tranquillity and peace under Diaz vigorously object to going any fur- misled public opinion in the United ther. Granted, they will say, that States and taught us to look upon the self-government in Mexico before 1910 present revolutionary period in Mexico proved a failure. Conditions since that as an abnormal and unnatural state. time have changed, and it is both In reality, however, the confusion and unjust and foolish to speak of the violent political upheavals Mexico has Mexico of to-day as though she still experienced since 1910 are the norfollowed the practices and suffered mal characteristics of her government. from the evils of an outlived yesterday. This is no new idea. Nearly a century
If the premise is correct, this posi- ago, De Tocqueville, that keen student tion certainly cannot be questioned. of American political institutions, But in any matter of history facts are wrote: "To the present day Mexico is of some importance in reaching right alternately the victim of anarchy and conclusions, as they are in science. the slave of military despotism. ... And these are the facts of recent The incessant revolutions which have Mexican politics.
convulsed the South American provFrom 1910 to 1924, a period of four- inces for the last quarter of a century teen years, Mexico has had five major have frequently been adverted to with presidents — Diaz, Madero, Huerta, astonishment, and expectations have Carranza, and Obregón. She has had been expressed that those states would in addition six temporary or provi- soon return to their natural state. But sional presidents, two of whom held can it be affirmed that the turmoil of office for nearly six months each, and revolution is not actually the natural one of whom was in power less than state of the South American Spaniards fifty minutes. She has had as many as at the present time? The inhabitants three different presidents of one kind of that fair portion of the Western or another in a single day. She has Hemisphere seem obstinately bent on seen her capital more than once or pursuing the work of inward havoc. twice fall into the hands of bandit- If they fall into a momentary repose revolutionists, such as Villa and Za- from the effects of exhaustion, that pata. She has seen two of her five repose prepares them for a fresh state major presidents assassinated in the of frenzy.' revolutions which brought about their In this similarity of political condioverthrow. She has seen two others tions in modern Mexico to the political driven into exile, where they died. And conditions of De Tocqueville's day (or the fifth, Obregón, she has seen escape of any other day for that matter, exthe certain fate of exile or death cept at the time of Diaz) lies the greatwithin the past year only because the est discouragement for the believer in United States Government came to his self-government across the border. support at the crisis of his administra- Revolutions now are quite as numerous tion.
as they ever were. Elections are still These facts are worthy of sober con important only as they register the sideration. In them there is not much, will of the faction in control, or ratify ph, hymen. an anves the reato
tions, howevernalyze the factors, use. housing here is no middle
the results of a revolution just'accom- certainly had greater opportunities to plished, or usher in an insurrection profit from the operations of the fedagainst the administration. The great eral government than any of their purposes of government still wait to be fellow countrymen. The following accomplished; and the common people paragraph, however, from the conof the land, when they progress at all, sular bulletin thus describes these go forward only on slow and halting people: feet.
Most of the inhabitants outside of To the impartial and candid student the cities are full-blood Indians. Of the of Mexican history, it is thus obvious total population at least eighty per that the government of that country cent are illiterate and indigent, having has failed lamentably during the past the lowest standards of living, making hundred years to do the things it ought use of the barest necessities of clothing, to have done; that it has done many food, and shelter, and enjoying no luxthings it ought not to have done, and uries. Corn and beans constitute the that the true spirit of democracy has staple articles of food. Scant cotton not yet manifested itself in free insti- covering for the body, with perhaps a tutions and the firm establishment of native blanket for a winter coat and law and order.
sandals for the feet, supply the usual Merely to point out these condi- clothing. Four walls and a roof, with tions, however, without seeking to dirt floor and no heating or sanitary discover and analyze the factors that accommodations, is the customary lie behind them, would be of little use. housing for a family of this numerous The thoughtful man must ask himself class. There is no middle class outside at once why the problem of self-gov- of the cities, where clerks, small tradesernment in Mexico (as indeed in al- men, and minor government officials most all Spanish-American countries) form a limited class between the two has been found so difficult and in some extremities.' respects is seemingly so impossible. In that brief description, if one reads
The first answer to this question it carefully, are surely to be found lies, of course, in the type of people sufficient serious obstacles in the path with which the problem has to deal. of self-government in Mexico. Let us ‘No polity,' wrote Bagehot, 'can get consider in the first place the question out of a nation more than there is in of race. Less than ten per cent of the nation. And, at the very outset, Mexico's 15,000,000 citizens are of pure it is worth while pausing for a moment white extraction. Of the remainder, to see what sort of stuff has gone into about one half are of mixed white and the making of the Mexican nation. Indian blood; but even in this mestizo The office of the American Consul- or mixed class the Indian strain so General in Mexico City two years ago greatly predominates that it is almost issued a general information bulletin impossible to differentiate the great on the consular district directly under majority from the pure Indian element. its jurisdiction. This district includes Lastly come the Indians themselves, the central part of Mexico and con- who, without the slightest trace of tains approximately 6,000,000 people, Caucasian or other foreign blood, conor nearly half the population of the stitute nearly fifty per cent of the enentire country. The inhabitants are tire population of the country. This further advanced than any other large great substratum of the Mexican nabody of the Mexican people, and have tion presents a problem in self-gov
hasst all Spanishigo (as indeedeli-soy
ernment so difficult and complex as to to transport their commerce by means discourage any but the most exalted of river highways. Regions far reand ardent believers in democracy. moved from the older centres of popThey are people but little affected by ulation were made accessible, the the veneer of civilization under which national life was unified, and widely they have lived for four hundred years. separated states were given a true In large part they still follow the old community of interest and a mutual customs of their fathers, live the old understanding by such great rivers as Indian life, speak in many cases the the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Hudson, old Indian dialects, retain the Indian and the Missouri. outlook upon life, cherish the old In- Mexico, on the other hand, posdian conception of social and political sessed none of these aids to national relationships, know nothing of national unity and political homogeneity. Inpatriotism or ties of unity outside stead of a network of navigable rivers their tribal or small community asso- to knit the land together, there were ciations, and have neither any under- only great mountain ranges, and wide standing of the alien form of gov- deserts, and impenetrable jungles to ernment under which they live nor any foster extreme provincialism and podesire to participate in its operations. litical disunity. Such is the great body of raw material Even the construction of railroads, out of which Mexico must build her which did not begin until about 1880, popular institutions and fashion her failed to overcome these physical hindemocratic government!
drances which so seriously retard the Another of the great drawbacks to development of an effective demoself-government in Mexico is the lack cratic government; and even to-day of education among the people. It is only a handful of states in the republic certainly a very conservative state enjoy anything like an adequate railment to say that eighty per cent of the way service, and many vast areas, such entire population are illiterate, and as Lower California and the Yucatan probably not half of the twenty per Peninsula, have no rail connection cent who can read and write possess whatever with any other section of more than these bare rudiments of an the country. education. How can a democracy be Nor has the coming of the automosuccessfully erected on such a founda- bile to any great degree broken down tion? Is there some peculiar spirit these barriers of isolation. For autoabroad in Mexico which makes it pos- mobile roads, except in a few of the sible for a free government to flourish larger cities, are as yet almost nonthere under such conditions of illit- existent. To go from the border, or eracy and gross ignorance when else from a single Mexican seaport, to the where it demands intelligence and capital by automobile is virtually imeducation to survive?
possible. And nowhere in the country A third difficulty in the way of self is a journey of a hundred miles to be government in Mexico is the isolation undertaken lightly or without careful and lack of adequate means of com- preparation. munication from which the country One of the most practical benefits suffers. In the early years of national any government could render Mexico, development, before the coming of the whether one considers the matter from railroads, the people of the United the social, the economic, or the political States found it possible to travel and standpoint, would be to construct servVOL. 134 - NO. 6
stagnaonomically me raphically is long intorni
iceable automobile highways through- stantaneously made citizens by teachout the country, and make easily ac- ing them to read and write. True cessible those vast areas which so long information is mainly derived from have remained geographically isolat- experience; and if the Americans had ed, economically backward, culturally not been gradually accustomed to govstagnant, and politically untrained and ern themselves, their book learning unfitted for self-government.
would not assist them much at the Another cause of the ill success of present day. popular government in Mexico is the In any comparison between the failure of Mexican society to develop development of democracy in Mexico a middle class. No nation has ever and in the United States, it is essential yet succeeded as a democracy, or ever to keep this point in mind. Long bewill succeed, in which all wealth and fore the American people established education and culture and political themselves as an independent nation, power are lodged in the hands of a they had served their apprenticeship small minority and denied utterly to in self-government as colonists. They the great masses of the population were Englishmen, moreover, and the Time out of mind Mexico has suffered sons of Englishmen. As such they from this social malady, nor has she were accustomed to the theory and to-day by any means found a remedy practices of government. They were for the evil, though there is now some well acquainted with the customs ground for hope that the movement which obtain in the political world' started by Madero, if it does not and ‘familiar with the mechanism of degenerate too far into an irresponsi- the laws.' They were already pracble and destructive radicalism, may tised in the discipline of partial indegradually ameliorate the situation. pendence and had been tempered by
Still another handicap to self-gov- more than a century's schooling in ernment, and one that must stand at self-government. Accordingly they the very forefront in importance, is the knew not only how to make their own lack of training and tradition of self- laws, but also how to abide by the government from which the Mexican results of a political contest without people suffer. There is no virtue, no resort to revolution. They were, in supernatural power, in the word de substance, masters of the art of govmocracy that can immediately trans- ernment long before they attempted form a people, ignorant, disunited, , to govern themselves. utterly unskilled in the difficult busi- “The citizen of the United States,' ness of politics, and wholly unac- wrote De Tocqueville, ‘does not acquainted with the complex processes quire his practical science and his of self-government, into a society that positive notions from books; the inknows at once how to make its own struction he has acquired may have laws, administer its own affairs, fashion prepared him for receiving those ideas, the political institutions necessary to but it did not furnish them. The meet its own peculiar needs, and keep American learns to know the laws by the machinery of government in oper- participating in the acts of legislation; ation.
and he takes a lesson in the forms 'I am still further from thinking, as of government from governing. The so many people do,' wrote a very able great work of society is ever going on student of government early in the beneath his eyes, and, as it were, last century, 'that men can be in- under his hands.'
But this knowledge of the actual introduce the spirit and the sense workings of free government was not which give it life. Or, to borrow all that the American colonist had Lowell's more homely figure, they when he freed himself from the re- were 'seduced by the French fallacy straints and guidance of the mother that a new government could be orcountry. He had also behind him the dered like a new suit of clothes.' splendid tradition of English freedom. H. G. Ward, the earliest of the BritHe was determined that none should ish historians of Mexico, also called take from him those 'ancient and attention to this same fundamental undoubted rights' from which that defect of the Mexican political profreedom sprung. But both his tem- gramme. “No change of government,' perament and his experience convinced he wrote in 1827, “can be productive of him that liberty was only valuable as a simultaneous change in the habits men held it in restraint and that it and opinions of the people governed. would soon degenerate into the tyr. It may — indeed it must — ultimately anny of despotism or of anarchy unless affect them. It may exalt or debase it was guarded from excess.
the national character, strengthen or The Mexican, on the contrary, when enervate it, according as it affords he severed himself from Spain, had more or less scope for the development none of the advantages which the of individual talent, and more or less citizens of the Thirteen Colonies pos- encouragement for its application to sessed. For three hundred years he the public service. But no constituhad been under an absolutism which tion, even if it came down from Heaven gave him no training whatsoever in with the stamp of perfection upon it, self-government, and consequently he could eradicate at once the vices enknew nothing of its principles or its gendered by three centuries of bondpractices. In his mind authority was age, or give the independent feelings always associated with tyranny, and of free men to a people to whom until he had no knowledge of how to fashion lately the very name of freedom was a government in which liberty and unknown.' force should be combined in right pro- In other words, when Mexico beportions. He had no great tradition came independent the overwhelming running back across the centuries by majority of her people, as I have alwhich he could interpret the meaning ready said, were densely ignorant; of freedom and define its limits, and he they were held apart by almost impossessed no fixed ideas of liberty by passable racial and social divisions; which to order and direct his political they were separated by great physical experiments.
barriers; they had no tradition of selfKnowing no free institutions of government, no training in self-govtheir own, and lacking the tradition of ernment, no instinct or aptitude for self-government, the Mexicans did the self-government; and they were called obvious and natural thing when they upon immediately to set up a democcame to establish their own republic. racy — the most complex of all govThey borrowed the ideas of govern ernments, the most difficult to operate, ment and even its very forms from and the most easily impaired — and to their Anglo-Saxon neighbors. But in adopt as their own the political instidoing this, as De Tocqueville says, tutions and practices of another peo‘although they copied the letter of the ple, a people much further advanced law, they were unable to create or to in national consciousness, tenfold bet