New Laws and Nationalism in Mexico

FOR some thirty years Mexico was at peace with herself and the world. Her people were law-abiding and respectful of all authority. Her national finance was sound and her credit good. Foreigners and foreign capital were welcomed and accorded generous protection. Large enterprises received governmental encouragement, and business prospered. Church and state coöperated in the maintenance of law and order.

Then, in 1911, as the outcome of a short and decisive rebellion, the military dictator who had ruled Mexico for some three decades was supplanted by a civilian outsider. From 1910 until the middle of 1924 armed revolutions prevailed. In the last seventeen years the Republic has set up twelve presidents, of whom two were shot to death and most of the others forced into exile. Only one has succeeded in serving out the full presidential term.

The Diaz régime, which Madero so easily overturned, had outlived its purpose. A new political order had become inevitable. At that time the control of public affairs had long been in the hands of an exclusive and venerable coterie known popularly as the Cientificos -- the scientific rulers. Although entirely without official corporate recognition, this body of men constituted a sort of presidential privy council. Even the Supreme Court and the national congress took orders from them. Such orders were always transmitted orally and were appropriately dubbed consignas, or watchwords. Political elections throughout the country were purely formal, the candidates to be chosen being designated in advance from the president's palace. Clearly, such a régime was too aristocratic to endure indefinitely. It made no provision for the civic development of the middle classes. The slogan of the victorious Maderistas, "Effective Suffrage -- no Reëlection," is still the official national motto.

A second important factor in the success of the anti-Diaz and later rebellions was the condition of the indigenous population, the peasantry. As a result of ill-advised legislation the Indians had, for the most part, lost possession of their lands, and of course readily espoused any cause which promised their restitution.

THE NEW POLICIES

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