| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
WILSON—TROUBLES WITH MEXICO
 IN 1913 Mr. Taft's term of office came to an end, and Mr. Woodrow
Wilson was elected President. He came into office at no easy time.
At home many things needed reform and on the borders there was
trouble. For two years the republic of Mexico, which had always
been a troublous neighbor, had been in a constant state of anarchy.
One revolution followed another, battles and bloodshed became common
events. Many Americans had settled in Mexico and in the turmoil
American lives were lost and American property ruined.
Taft was in office he tried to protect the Americans in Mexico.
But he could do little, as the Mexicans made it plain that any
interference on the part of America would mean war. Mr. Taft avoided
war, but the state of things in Mexico went from bad to worse, and
when Mr. Wilson became President a settlement with Mexico was one
of the problems he had to face.
But first of all the new President
turned his thoughts to home matters.
Ever since the McKinley Tariff the duties on goods imported into
the country had remained high. Many people, however, had come to
believe that high tariffs were a mistake, for while they enriched
a few they made living dearer than need be for many. These people
wished to have tariffs "for revenue only." That is, they thought
duties should only be high enough to produce sufficient income for
the needs of the government. They
 objected to tariffs merely for
"protection." That is, they objected to tariffs which "protected"
the manufacturer at the expense of the consumer.
President Wilson held these opinions strongly, and during the first
year of his presidency a bill was passed by which mere luxuries,
things which only rich people bought, were heavily taxed, while the
taxes on foodstuffs and wool, things which the poorest need, were
made much lighter. These changes in the tariff brought in much less
income for the government, and to make up for the loss an Income
Tax was levied for the first time, every one who had more than 4,000
dollars a year having to pay it. In this way again the burden of
taxes was shifted from the poor to the rich.
The President next turned his attention to the banks. Little change
had been made in their way of doing business since the Civil War,
and for some time it had been felt that to meet the growing needs
of trade a change was wanted. Many people had tried to think out
a new system, but it was not easy, and they failed. Mr. Wilson,
however, succeeded, and in December, 1913, the Currency Bill was
It would take too long, and would be rather difficult, to explain
just what this Act was. Shortly it was meant to keep too much money
from getting into the hands of a few people, and to give every one
with energy and enterprise a chance.
Other Acts connected with the trade of the country followed these,
all of which intended to make the life of the weak and poor easier.
Of these perhaps the most interesting for us is the Child Labour
Act. This Act was meant to keep people from making young children
work too hard, and in order to make child labour less profitable to
"exploiters" the Act forbids the sending of goods made by children
under fourteen from one state to another. If the
chil-  dren are
obliged to work at night, or for more than eight hours during the
day, the age is raised to sixteen. This Act was signed in September,
1916, but did not come into force until September, 1917.
these things were being done within the country troubles beyond
its boarders were increasing. First there was trouble with Mexico.
A few days before Mr. Wilson was inaugurated Madero, the President of
Mexico, was deposed and murdered, and a rebel leader named Huerta
at once proclaimed himself President. That he had anything to do
with the murder of Madero has never been openly proved, but Mr.
Wilson, believing that he had, looked upon him as an assassin, and
refused to acknowledge him as head of the neighboring republic. But
beyond that Mr. Wilson hesitated to mix himself or his country in
the Mexican quarrel, believing that the Mexicans themselves could
best settle their own affairs.
"Shall we deny to Mexico," he asked, a little later, "because she
is weak, the right to settle her own affairs? No, I say. I am proud
to belong to a great nation that says, 'this country which we could
crush shall have as much freedom in her own affairs as we have in
Whether the President was wise or unwise in his dealings with Mexico
we cannot say. The trouble is too close to us. It is not settled yet.
But the one thing we can clearly see is that Mr. Wilson loved and
desired peace, not only with Mexico but with the whole of America.
He wanted to unite the whole of America, both North and South, in
bonds of kindness. He wanted to make the small weak republics of
South America feel that the great republic of North America was
a watchful friend, and not a watchful enemy, eager, and able when
she chose, to crush them. Had the United States put forth her
strength Mexico could have been conquered, doubtless, in no long
time. But Mr. Wilson took a wider view than those who counselled such
 course. Instead of crushing Mexico, and thereby perhaps arousing
the jealousy and suspicion of other weak republics, he tried to
use the trouble to increase the good will of these republics toward
the United States. He tried to show them that the United States
was one with them, and had no desire to enlarge her borders at the
expense of another. Whether the means he used were wise or not time
For the most part the country was with the President in his desire
to keep out of war with Mexico. This was partly because they believed
that America was not prepared for war, partly because they knew
that war must certainly end in the defeat of the Mexicans. Having
defeated them the United States would be forced to annex their
territory, and this no one wanted.
But to keep out of war was no easy matter. The wild disorder
in Mexico increased daily. Besides Huerta other claimants for the
presidency appeared and the country swarmed with bandit forces
under various leaders, all fighting against each other.
At length in April, 1914, some United States sailors who had landed
at the Mexican port of Tampico were taken prisoner by the Huertists.
They were soon set free again, but Huerta refused to apologise
in a satisfactory way, and an American squadron was sent to take
possession of Vera Cruz.
War seemed now certain. But it was averted,
and after holding Vera Cruz for more than seven months the American
troops were withdrawn. "We do not want to fight the Mexicans," said
Mr. Wilson, at the funeral of the sailors who lost their lives in
the attack. "We do not want to fight the Mexicans; we want to serve
them if we can. A war of aggression is not a proud thing in which
to die. But a war of service is one in which it is a grand thing
On the invitation of the United States three of the South
republics, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, known from their names as
the A. B. C. Powers, now joined with the United States in trying to
settle the Mexican difficulty. In May, 1914, they held a Mediation
Conference at Niagara Falls in Canada. But nothing came of it, and
the disorder in Mexico continued as before.
In July, however, there seemed some hope of a settlement. Huerta
fled to Europe leaving his friend, Francisco Carbajal, as President.
For a month Carbajal kept his post. Then anarchy worse than ever
broke loose. Three men, Carranza, Villa, and Zapata, each declaring
themselves President, filled the land with bloodshed and ruin.
Once again on the invitation of the United States South America
intervened, delegates from six South American republics meeting
at Washington to consider what could be done to bring peace to the
distracted country. They decided to give the Mexicans three months
in which to settle their quarrels, and warned them that if by that
time order was not restored United America would be forced to take
Soon after this, however, Carranza succeeded in subduing his rivals
to a certain extent, and got possession of the greater part of the
country. The United States, therefore, recognised him as President
of Mexico, and very shortly many of the European powers did the
It seemed as if peace might really come at last to Mexico.
But although Villa was worsted he was by no means crushed, and he
and his undisciplined followers still kept the country in a state
of unrest, doing many deeds of violence. In January, 1916, these
marauding troops seized and murdered a party of Americans. A little
later they crossed frontiers, and were only driven back after a
sharp encounter with United States troops.
This brigandage had to be stopped, and, as Carranza seemed unable
to subdue the rebels, five thousand
Ameri-  can troops entered
Mexico intent on punishing Villa and his bandits. But the task was
no easy one. Villa was well suited to be a bandit leader, and he
was thoroughly at home in the wild and mountainous country. The
Americans, however, pressed him hard, and a battle was fought in
which he was believed for a time to have been killed. Soon, however,
he was discovered to be alive, and as aggressive as before.
Meanwhile President Carranza had grown restless and suspicious
of American interference, and demanded that the United States
troops should be withdrawn from Mexican soil. Indeed he became so
threatening that Mr. Wilson called out the militia, and ordered a
squadron of war vessels to Mexican waters.
Scarcely was this done when the news reached Washington that a
skirmish had taken place between Mexican and United States troops,
in which forty had been killed, and seventeen taken prisoners.
War now seemed certain. But once more it was averted. Carranza set his
prisoners free and proposed that the two republics should settle
their differences by arbitration.
To this Mr. Wilson agreed, and in the beginning of September a
Commission composed of delegates from both countries came together.
The Commission suggested that both Mexico and the United States
should work together to patrol the frontiers, and safeguard them
from further raids. But to this Carranza would not agree, and in
February, 1917, the United States troops were withdrawn, and Mexico
was once more left "to save herself."
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