Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Empire and Revolution

Empire and Revolution: The Americans in Mexico since the Civil War

JOHN MASON HART
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 688
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp4v0
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Empire and Revolution
    Book Description:

    The deep relationship between the United States and Mexico has had repercussions felt around the world. This sweeping and unprecedented chronicle of the economic and social connections between the two nations opens a new window onto history from the Civil War to today and brilliantly illuminates the course of events that made the United States a global empire. The Mexican Revolution, Manifest Destiny, World War II, and NAFTA are all part of the story, but John Mason Hart's narrative transcends these moments of economic and political drama, resonating with the themes of wealth and power. Combining economic and historical analysis with personal memoirs and vivid descriptions of key episodes and players,Empire and Revolutionis based on substantial amounts of previously unexplored source material. Hart excavated recently declassified documents in the archives of the United States government and traveled extensively in rural Mexico to uncover the rich sources for this gripping story of 135 years of intervention, cooperation, and corruption. Beginning just after the American Civil War, Hart traces the activities of an elite group of financiers and industrialists who, sensing opportunities for wealth to the south, began to develop Mexico's infrastructure. He charts their activities through the pivotal regime of Porfirio Díaz, when Americans began to gain ownership of Mexico's natural resources, and through the Mexican Revolution, when Americans lost many of their holdings in Mexico. Hart concentrates less on traditional political history in the twentieth century and more on the hidden interactions between Americans and Mexicans, especially the unfolding story of industrial production in Mexico for export to the United States. Throughout, this masterful narrative illuminates the development and expansion of the American railroad, oil, mining, and banking industries. Hart also shows how the export of the "American Dream" has shaped such areas as religion and work attitudes in Mexico.Empire and Revolutionreveals much about the American psyche, especially the compulsion of American elites toward wealth, global power, and contact with other peoples, often in order to "save" them. These characteristics were first expressed internationally in Mexico, and Hart shows that the Mexican experience was and continues to be a prototype for U.S. expansion around the world. His work demonstrates the often inconspicuous yet profoundly damaging impact of American investment in the underdeveloped countries of Latin America, Asia, and Africa.Empire and Revolutionwill be the definitive book on U.S.-Mexico relations and their local and global ramifications.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93929-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xi)
  4. Introduction: Imperial Ambition
    (pp. 1-6)

    In 1883 a group of the most prominent capitalists and politicians of the United States gathered with their Mexican counterparts in the banquet hall of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. The cabinet members and financiers took their seats at the long dining table. Facing each other at the left and the right of the head chair were General Porfirio Díaz and Ulysses S. Grant, both former presidents. Collis P. Huntington, one of the leading railroad industrialists and financiers of his time, took the head chair. In the meeting that ensued, the Mexican officials presented their case for pervasive...

  5. I. THE RISE OF AMERICAN INFLUENCE, 1865–1876

    • 1 Arms and Capital
      (pp. 9-45)

      At the end of the American Civil War, as the expanding American population began to move west in search of land and opportunity, the Mexican government was engaged in a struggle to expel the occupation forces of Napoleon III. The Liberals had gained control of Mexico in 1860, after two years of fighting the Conservative army in the Wars of the Reform. The following year France occupied Mexico in an attempt to establish an overseas empire that would not only provide markets and raw materials but also check the expansion of the United States. In 1863 the French troops, aided...

    • 2 Rival Concessionaires
      (pp. 46-70)

      During the last third of the nineteenth century, as the United States grew ever more powerful, it asserted a more forceful role in Mexico and in the global competition for empire that preoccupied the Western powers. American concerns, spearheaded by financiers, industrialists, and politicians, quickly deepened in Mexico and the Caribbean and then spread to the Pacific Basin and to Asia. The purchase of Alaska presaged the later occupation of Hawaii and the Philippines. By the end of the century the Americans had consolidated control over the western reaches of North America and dominated trade in the Pacific.

      During the...

  6. II. THE DÍAZ REGIME, 1876–1910

    • 3 Ubiquitous Financiers
      (pp. 73-105)

      Díaz and his followers were determined to modernize what they believed was a poor and backward country, but the Mexican government was deeply in debt and had few cash reserves. Díaz viewed the Americans as essential to the task of creating a prosperous and growing nation. He believed that only American involvement in all aspects of the Mexican economy could transform the country. The changes would be spearheaded by the development of railroads and communication systems and the privatization of agriculture. The Americans who had been frustrated by the cautious Lerdo were optimistic about American opportunities under the new regime....

    • 4 Building the Railroads
      (pp. 106-130)

      In late 1876 Díaz inaugurated an ambitious program of reform that would continue for a generation, undoing much of what had existed in Mexico for centuries and changing the trajectory of the nation until the end of the century. Díaz and his alter ego, General Manuel González, who served as president from 1880 to 1884, radically altered the previously irregular balance of power between contending collectivist-owned pueblos and private landowners in the Mexican countryside. Their policies sealed the fate of the communities that had been trying to save their collective properties from private interests.

      The leading American capitalists recognized that...

    • 5 Silver, Copper, Gold, and Oil
      (pp. 131-166)

      The heads of the American mining companies were among the first industrialists to understand the richness of Mexico’s resources. The nation contained major deposits of essential metals and one of the world’s largest petroleum fields. The completion of the Mexican Central Railroad coincided with congressional approval of the 1884 mining code, which was written specifically to attract foreign investment. The legislation reversed the colonial-era law that declared that Mexico’s subsoil resources were owned by the government. The new legislation provoked public protests, but it worked. American mining companies began to arrive in earnest, searching for silver, copper, oil, lead, zinc,...

    • 6 Absentee Landlords
      (pp. 167-200)

      As Díaz anticipated, inexpensive land, cheap labor, and valuable products caused wealthy and powerful Americans seeking profit to rush in and buy up properties. The most powerful among them constituted a new elite class of absentee landowners. By the late 1890s businessmen from across the United States were investing in sugar and henequen plantations, sawmills, and cattle ranches. As American capitalists arrived, they extended into Mexico the strategies of land development that they had carried out in the western United States. They also adopted the labor practices that were prevalent in the Mexican countryside. The ease with which American entrepreneurs...

    • 7 Resident American Elite
      (pp. 201-234)

      In the late 1890s and the early 1900s an impressive number of Americans bought great estates in Mexico and took up residence on them. These buyers were no longer a select group of New York financiers or railroad men. Now they came from every state in the Union, eager to join the Mexican experience. Sometimes they fled legal or other problems in their homeland; sometimes the threat of prosecution impelled them to immigrate south, particularly along the border, where activities that were illegal in the United States flourished. The relatively low cost of land and houses allowed them to live...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 8 Boomers, Sooners, and Settlers
      (pp. 235-268)

      During the late nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century American immigrants entered Mexico as colonists and settlers in increasing numbers. Many of those who chose to live in the northern part of the nation believed that those provinces would soon become a part of the United States despite the fact that their economic and political leaders no longer regarded the acquisition of Mexican territory as a desirable undertaking. American financial elites, facing the demographic strength and the growing resistance of what they regarded as an inferior people, saw commercial empire as not only more desirable than...

  7. III. THE YEARS OF REVOLUTION, 1910–1940

    • 9 Mexico for the Mexicans
      (pp. 271-304)

      The policies of President Díaz were, ultimately, a terrible failure. The Porfirian program of privatization and foreign investment had enriched the oligarchy, failed to deliver economic betterment for the majority, and denied the latter group political power. By 1910, when the revolution began, American financiers and industrialists had successfully established their dominance in Mexico and were strengthening their interests in other nations. They were gaining greater influence in Panama, the Caribbean, and the rest of Central America compared with their European partners and were participating as junior associates of their British partners in South America, Africa, and Asia. The revolutionary...

    • 10 Interventions and Firestorms
      (pp. 305-342)

      When the American Group purchased the bonds issued by the Mexican government in 1912, they hoped that their participation would help stabilize the nation’s economy and renew prosperity in the Mexican oil fields. In July 1913, when James Stillman and George Baker withdrew from the loan, the remaining bondholders expected that the revolutionaries led by Venustiano Carranza would win. The revolution continued, however, and investors were discouraged. Colonies, mines, haciendas, and plantations were abandoned. Occasionally the depredations were accompanied with declarations that the “gringos” had to leave. Between late 1912 and April 1914 American interests in Mexico suffered major losses...

    • 11 Crisis in the New Regime
      (pp. 343-370)

      In 1920 a new era in relations between Mexico and the United States began. Following the assassination of Carranzo, de la Huerta led the first Mexican government since 1910 that did not face widespread violence. The new leaders sought stability and, in some cases, social justice. Francisco Villa struck a deal with de la Huerta, agreeing to retire from politics and to begin ranching in Durango. The four-year term of de la Huerta’s mentor, the formally elected President Alvaro Obregón Salido, began in September.

      As American and Mexican officials sought a working relationship satisfactory to both sides, their respective publics...

    • 12 Nationalization of Land and Industry
      (pp. 371-400)

      The agrarian and labor demands asserted during the revolutionary decade became increasingly tied to the state and its programs during the 1920s and 1930s. Presidential and gubernatorial land seizures through nullifications of grants, assertions of eminent domain, agrarian reform, and sheriffs’ auctions of properties for unpaid taxes redistributed over 100,000,000 acres of Mexico’s surface to its citizenry and provided a broadly participatory material basis for the emergence of the one-party state.

      Although Plutarco Elías Calles was the Mexican president for only four years, from 1924 to 1928, he controlled the government until 1935. Subsequent presidents—Emilio Portes Gil, Pascuál Ortiz...

  8. IV. THE REENCOUNTER, 1940–2000

    • 13 Cooperation and Accommodation
      (pp. 403-431)

      Mexico remained independent of direct U.S. economic and political control during World War II and its aftermath, despite the American move toward global hegemony that gained momentum after December 1941. After the war the United States assumed the role of leading the Western nations in economic recovery and anticommunist political reorganization. Americans, Japanese, and Western Europeans developed a market economy that underscored a global network of military alliances against the Soviet Union, and the partners recognized the hegemony of the United States over Latin America and Mexico.

      During the 1940s the role of Americans in Mexico moved from the lost...

    • 14 Return of the American Financiers
      (pp. 432-458)

      Economic stagnation continued to concern Mexico during the 1980s and 1990s. The disparity of per capita income between Americans and Mexicans increased at a rate comparable to that between the industrialized West and the underdeveloped world in general. The Mexican leadership, noting the rapid economic growth of Asia’s “Four Tigers”—Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan—adopted the strategy of selling private industries and encouraging free trade with the United States. The privatization of most of Mexico’s state-owned enterprises and the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement brought the largest U.S. firms back to the Mexican marketplace....

    • 15 Mexico in the New World Order
      (pp. 459-498)

      As the end of the millennium approached, the political leadership of Mexico continued to pursue foreign investments, privatization, and free trade despite a lack of evidence that the program was actually benefiting the majority of its citizens. Members of the Mexican elite profited enormously in the new partnership arrangements, as had their Porfirian predecessors, but farmers, laborers and the middle class faced increasing hardship brought on by stagnant wages, rising inflation, and skyrocketing interest rates.

      President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, whose term began in 1994, believed that the only solution for Mexico’s economic woes was privatization combined with the...

  9. Conclusion: Imperial America
    (pp. 499-508)

    The American presence in Mexico constitutes a continuing story in which thousands of new faces appear every day in the midst of profound continuities. By 2000 the descendants of immigrants from the United States lived in virtually every town in Mexico, and every city had a visible American presence. American anthropologists and archaeologists scoured the most remote regions, American sociologists examined urban complexities, and American historians searched the archives. Many other Americans, retirees and those seeking escape, went to Mexico with high expectations. Some have stayed, and others have left in disappointment.

    By 2000 the Mexican presence in the United...

  10. Endpiece
    (pp. 509-510)
  11. Appendix 1. Partial List of American Landholdings and Ownership in Mexico, 100,000 Acres and More, 1910–1913
    (pp. 511-525)
  12. Appendix 2. Partial List of American Properties of More Than 100,000 Acres or of Special Significance, Derived via Government Portions of Land Surveys or from the Land Survey Companies, 1876–1910
    (pp. 526-530)
  13. Appendix 3. American Banking Syndicates Formed to Render Financial Support to Britain and Her Allies during World War I, September 1914–April 1917
    (pp. 531-540)
  14. Notes on Archival Sources
    (pp. 541-546)
  15. Abbreviations
    (pp. 547-550)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 551-606)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 607-638)
  18. Index
    (pp. 639-677)