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ter educated, gifted with a surprising every canon of decent and honest genius and temperament for self-gov- politics. “The most fruitful source of ernment, and deeply imbued with that the revolutions which have marked the Anglo-Saxon philosophy which has independent existence of the Latin always insisted that liberty must some American States,' wrote John W. how be reconciled with authority and Foster, United States Minister to that freedom, instead of serving the Mexico in 1872, ‘has been the effort of purposes of anarchy and confusion, the public men of these countries to must always serve the purposes of continue themselves in power or to peace and order.
attain the Presidency by other than Another great weakness of self- peaceful and constitutional methods.' government in Mexico is the country's And, when the motives which lie bewoeful lack of capable and unselfish hind this eager desire for public office leaders. 'A democracy without great are carefully sifted out, it will be found men is a dangerous democracy. And that the revenue which the office can in the last hundred years Mexico has be made to yield is almost always the produced only two or three political supreme objective. It is indeed no figures whose unselfish devotion to the exaggeration to say that if a seal could public good and whose unquestioned be placed on the Mexican treasury, capacity and statesmanship place them which could not be broken except to in the category of great men. Few meet the nation's legitimate needs, the indeed have been the Mexican leaders revolutionary spirit of that country who could command the devotion of would speedily wither away and disthe Mexican masses, understand and appear. sympathize with their vague and form- These statements are not made in less aspirations, formulate a programme any spirit of hostility. Almost every at once just and practical for improv- page of Mexican history bears witness ing their condition, and carry that to the truth of what I have just said. programme forward until it became an Those familiar with Mexican condiactual reality.
tions know I have not exaggerated. The weakness arising from this lack The Mexican people themselves of commanding leadership is greatly frankly acknowledge the evils here intensified by the dishonesty, ineffi- described. Nearly every administraciency, and corruption which char- tion coming into power truthfully acacterize almost every branch of the cuses its predecessor of having played public service. One can scarcely exag- fast and loose with the public funds. gerate the evils which spring from And, finally, the low state of political these conditions. Public office is rarely morality which has characterized Mexa public trust. The great ambition of ican history for a hundred years (with the Mexican politician is to attain here and there some notable exceppower in order to acquire wealth. tions) is the natural product of factors And, by devices too numerous to men and conditions which lie deeply rooted tion, a government position is made to in the nation's life. yield a revenue far beyond the meagre Mexico, in the first place, inherited salary which the law attaches to it. the Spanish conception of public office
Sometimes these practices are only and for three hundred years lived questionable from the standpoint of under that conception as a colony. public ethics, but quite commonly they She saw the Crown officials openly buy are flagrant and open violations of and sell their offices. She saw the
anding, Lea dishonesty, char- tioses its prede with the
Mexican people and United
country impoverished, its defenses twelve or fourteen years particularly, neglected, the royal revenues squan- many men of undoubted capacity for dered and diverted to private ends; government have withdrawn themand she grew so accustomed to these selves from public life. They may not things that she came to regard them as be more timid, perhaps, than the officethe natural and normal characteristics holders produced by the revolutions, of every government. A hundred years but they are at least more prudent. have not been sufficient to uproot this And thus it happens in Mexico that old Spanish tradition of public office, the danger which surrounds the office or to render its continued practice often keeps the man of intelligence and particularly obnoxious to the public property from seeking it, while men of mind.
little education and less ability become Nor is it surprising that public the country's leaders — just as in the affairs are conducted on a low and United States the fear of newspaper inefficient plane among a people so criticism and campaign slander often uneducated as the Mexican people. keeps our most capable citizens out of Except in matters of the most out politics while less sensitive, less able, standing kind, public officials are not and less honest men become our rulers. restrained by public opinion and feel But this is not the only serious effect almost no responsibility to public of the revolutionary evil upon the opinion, because public opinion in question of genuine leadership in MexMexico is normally too vague, too dis- ican politics. How can a government organized, and too impotent to hold which is being overturned as frethem to account. ‘All free govern- quently as the Mexican government is ments,' said James Russell Lowell, overturned carry out a single con‘whatever their name, are in reality structive programme or accomplish governments by public opinion, and it those things which the land so badly is on the quality of this public opinion needs? With every successful revoluthat their prosperity depends.' But if tion not only is the treasury drained of a country has no such thing as public funds, but every office, from the highopinion, how can it maintain a free est to the lowest, is filled by a new government or how can it develop the and often untrained man. Policies and leadership upon which a free govern- programmes undertaken by the former ment depends?
government are abandoned and new The constant recurrence of revolu- policies and new programmes are set tion is another powerful factor which on foot. Before these can possibly discourages the development of true reach a successful end, the government leadership and also makes it quite im- which started them is in turn overpossible for public office in Mexico to thrown, and the same futile and costly be administered in an honest and effi- process is begun all over again. cient manner. It requires true phys- Under such conditions, it is not to be ical courage to be president of Mexico, wondered at that men of honesty and or to hold any other high political posi- ability are discouraged from seeking tion; and unless one is willing to face office, or that they find it almost imthe certainty of revolution and the possible to do anything worth while probability of exile from his native soil if they obtain office. Nor is it to be or death by violence, he will not aspire wondered at that men of less sincerity very eagerly to an important political of purpose, knowing how soon they office. For this reason, during the last will be forced out of their positions, and realizing the futility of attempting to sary mechanism through which public carry through the tasks before them in opinion acts, and without some form of so short a time, neglect the public good party government it is difficult for a and seek only to use the resources of practical man to see how a democracy the office for their own advantage can exist at all. while they have the opportunity.
The Opposition in Mexico, like the Another serious handicap Mexico Administration, is also greatly handilabors under in her government is an capped because it lacks the cohesion utter lack of definite political parties. and effectiveness which come only from One might write the history of the organized party action. It is commonly United States or the history of England a mixture of heterogeneous and often (at least for the last two centuries and rival factions, united only in their a half) around its great political par. common hostility to the group which ties. But the historian who should happens to be in power and knit toattempt to perform this service for gether only by their determination to Mexico would soon go mad. Politics effect a change of government. in that country are personal or fac- The attainment of this end is never tional but they are never of a true sought by the normal methods emparty character. The so-called parties ployed in other countries and prewhich spring into existence with every scribed by the Mexican Constitution, election are not much longer-lived than but resort is always had to revolution. Jonah's gourd. Mexicans do not group When this succeeds and the new govthemselves around great political prin- ernment comes into power, the unciples, but only around individuals. natural combination which comprised They are not Democrats or Republic- the Opposition dissolves into its comans, Liberals or Conservatives, but ponent parts; and some of these, formJuaristas or Porfiristas or Villistas or ing a new alliance, begin almost immeCarranzistas or Callistas or Floristas. diately to intrigue against the very
This lack of definite, organized, per government they have themselves so manent political parties in Mexico is recently established. a weakness of the first importance. Certainly as one views the long hunPresidents, Cabinet Members, and Con- dred years of Mexican independence gressmen are not accountable to any- he finds much to discourage him in the one except to the small faction which early prospect of true self-government places them in control. A president is coming to that country. Even the past not the spokesman of a great party, and year in Mexican politics, to judge at he cannot bring party pressure to bear least by actual occurrences, has difupon members of congress, or appeal to fered in no respect from most of its party loyalty to secure favorable legis predecessors. It has witnessed one lation either on foreign or domestic widespread and destructive revoluissues. He can do nothing at all except tion, which was subdued only by as he appeals to the self-interest of his external aid. It has witnessed political followers or uses force to break down assassinations, and the frequent use of opposition.
the firing squad to free the country Political parties, moreover, at their from rebellion. It has witnessed the best are powerful factors in moulding stagnation of business, the demoralpublic opinion and in educating a ization of the national finances, and the nation in matters of politics and gove development of serious international ernment. They furnish, also, the neces- complications. Finally, it has wit
nessed a presidential election in which in this problem of self-government the administration candidate's claim to across the border that will not admit an overwhelming victory is answered of indefinite delay. by the threat of revolution, and seri- Mexico's obligations to the outously embarrassed by violent dissen- side world and her peculiar and sions among his own supporters. complete economic dependence upon
To some degree offsetting these con- other nations vastly complicate the ditions, one gladly confesses that a situation. Whether that country's new spirit is abroad in Mexico to-day “fictitious and rickety independence' which is profoundly affecting the great (to borrow a phrase from Professor masses of the common people. It Priestley's recent history of the Meximanifests itself in a great variety of can Nation) can withstand another ways, chiefly up to this time along generation of chronic revolution, or social and economic lines. But no one even a single decade, is altogether can as yet define this spirit or say pre doubtful. cisely what it is. It may be like the In this whole matter one thing at wind that comes before the dawn. It least is inescapable: the United States may be like the leaven that leaveneth is almost as vitally concerned in the the whole lump. It may be the fore success or failure of self-government in runner of that ordered liberty and Mexico as Mexico herself. The success genuine self-government for which the of self-government will give us a prosdistressed nation has waited these perous and contented neighbor, and hundred years.
free us from one of our gravest and But one's hopes should not make most irritating international dilemhim blindly optimistic. Men said that mas. The continued failure of selfDiaz had ushered in the Golden Age government will lay upon us a direct nearly forty years ago. They said the and very sobering responsibility, the same thing of Madero, and later of ultimate outcome of which no man Carranza. Now they are saying the can foretell. same thing of Obregón, and of Obre- It is not for the writer to prophesy gón's probable successor, Calles. And what the political future of Mexico if the Obregón-Calles faction should will be, for he is mindful of Lowell's be deposed to-morrow, and a new dic- statement that the course of events tator come to power, they would say “is apt to show itself humorously carethe same thing of him also.
less of the reputation of prophets.' “There is nothing more arduous than But at least to-day there is an imperthe apprenticeship of liberty,' wrote ative necessity for the people of this De Tocqueville nearly a hundred years country to obtain a more perfect, a ago. This is true, and every nation more intelligent, and a more sympathat has passed through that hard and thetic understanding of the exceedbitter training should bear patiently ingly complicated and disheartening with Mexico in her present struggle. problem in democracy which Mexico But there are factors and circum- still faces after more than a century of stances of an international character hard and unpromising experiment.
THE CONTRIBUTORS' CLUB
Aower-les of men ir maturin Gold
warm, wi haze thahout blinkin not often
stice Day in 1918. What an outburst
of primitive joy that was, formless, Last night I inquired for my uniform. unorganized, exuberant. Since then we It could n't be found on such short have evolved ceremonies, always dutinotice. Things seldom used have a fully attended by me until now. The way of disappearing in busy house proceedings seldom vary. A lawyer holds. That was just as well for, when talks patriotism and sacrifice before the sun rose crimson, this was obviously a flower-decked shrine. Around him the day to prune the pear orchard. stand ranks of men in khaki and blue a
Noon came before I could begin -a trifle tight for their maturing figures, warm, windless, Indian Summer noon; keen Boy Scouts, sad-faced Gold Star so much haze that you could look the mothers, Red Cross nurses, officials, sun in the eye without blinking. There and civic leaders in their Sunday is a coziness in the scene not often clothes. The public frames the picture, caught in our high clear country. No the great soft-hearted general public. longer lured to far horizons, the eye With each volley from the firing squad examines contentedly things near at a shiver runs through the public; but it hand. This field, yielding hay as well pulls itself together in the first verse of as pears, runs too much to that in the Star-Spangled Banner and lets gratiating pest — wild carrot. Pleas- down again in the second. antly the white houses of the village march up the hill toward the white I sit awhile in a sunny fence-corner church.
plying the whetstone. The dogs that All quiet here. Quiet, too, the kept me random company up and throng in Arlington through which the down the files of trees quit burrowing President will soon pass to lay a wreath and bickering to court my favor. They on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier interfere. The young Airedale insists In many a cemetery bugles are sound- upon being tousled, while the dignified ing Taps over the heads of hushed collie believes one arm belongs of right throngs. Before the sun sets hardly a around his neck. He wins; dignified township in America but shall have senescence, in man or beast, ought to heard again those falling notes: ‘Go to have its day. The whetstone is finally rest, go to rest, go to rest.' — Sleep pocketed and the Airedale grows conwell, friends! I know you would ap- tent with having his ears scratched. prove my staying at home and pruning We three gaze upon our worlds. My pear trees, task conducive to reflections world may be larger than theirs; yet which, if roused often enough in enough — is n't this pear orchard the world of us, might go some way toward end- in little? ing war, famine, and miseries too These hands — the left has little numerous to mention.
smears of blood drying on the skin, As luck would have it, I marched the right is blistered inside the thumb. down — and also up — Pennsylvania Queer how one never notices slivers or Avenue in Washington that first Armi- blisters till he stops working. Blood