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Diplomatic end-runs… more from the book to be

27 December 2006

I’m really not writing a diplomatic history of Mexico, but a generic one… but after posting on Joel Poinsett and HIS conspiracies, I couldn’t pass up posting this on another ambasadorial conspirator… hey, the bowl season is starting.  

Obregón had risked his presidency to gain U.S. diplomatic recognition.  Warren G. Harding sent James Rockwell Sheffield, who tried his best to work in the tradition of Joel Poinsett and Henry Lane Wilson.  Poinsett had organized Masonic lodges among the political elite to gain control; Wilson had sponsored a bloody coup d’etat;
Sheffield organized football games. 

Convinced “Soviet Mexico” (as he called it, especially after Mexico and the Soviet Union exchanged ambassadors in 1927) was doomed to Catholicism, Socialism and worse, likely take its ownership of oil resources seriously, unless they learned to play football.  “Futbal” or soccer was only for Europeans – and, even worse, RUSSIANS.  According to Sheffield, only an American style game could produce American style (or rather, pro-American) governments. 

And so, with great secrecy, the Ambassador contacted universities throughout the United States.  College students were recruited as secret agents – their mission (paid for by the United States government): infiltrate Mexican schools and recreation programs and teach the Mexicans the American Way of Life, and the lateral pass.

More seriously, the Ambassador listened to oilmen like William F. Buckley, who wanted the United States to militarily intervene to protect their investments.  When the United States intervened in a Nicaraguan civil war in 1927 (to protect American investments in that country), Mexican soldiers were sent to help the opposing side.  The two armies spent most of their time avoiding each other, while their governments issued inflammatory warnings. 

 President Coolidge (Harding died in office) said that Mexico was on “probation” and could be attacked if it didn’t withdraw its troops; President Calles responded that he would order the oil fields torched if American soldiers entered the country.  More practically, Calles suggested both countries leave Nicaragua, and that the matter be turned over to the International Court in The Hague. 

Meanwhile, the luckless Ambassador Sheffield who had to publicly deny there was any plan to invade, unwisely left papers outlining his suggestions for just such a plan in his office.  The Mexican cleaning staff “expropriated” the Ambassador’s papers.  President Coolidge had no choice but to cancel the invasion and the football program. 

Anyone was bound to be an improvement, but Coolidge surprised the Mexicans, and himself, when he chose Wall Street banker Dwight Morrow to replace the disgraced and discredited Sheffield.  Morrow’s task was to avoid at any cost a complete breakdown in relations.  Oilmen and other American businessmen were willing to take advice from a professional business advisor.  Morrow’s advice was simple – the Revolution was a fact, and if the American’s wanted to do business, they had to play by the new rules. 

The United States government could help them learn the rules, but it couldn’t change them.  Unlike his predecessors, Morrow – who had made his fortune listening to the experts who disagreed with him, and then advising wealthy investors on how to handle their money – did not arrive with preconceived notions of how Mexico should react.  He was quite willing to listen to people like Lazaro Cardenás and the American radical, Frank Tannenbaum. 

Morrow, being independently wealthy, was able to pursue his personal interests in collecting art.  His home in Cuernavaca was filled with contemporary and pre-Columbian Mexican art[2].  At his own expense, the millionaire banker hired Communist Diego Rivera to paint the murals in the old Cortés Palace in that city.  He entertained and financially supported artists and intellectuals. 

Finally, aircraft – and aviators – fascinated Mexicans.  It didn’t hurt Morrow’s popularity at all when his daughter married Charles Lindberg. Several minor diplomatic incidents were avoided when Mexican officials who might snub the foreign power for political reasons were not about to pass up the chance to meet the Ambassador’s heroic son-in-law. 


[1]     Mexicans have started playing, and watching American football in recent years, and several universities and high schools (especially in the North) play the sport.  But this has more to do with recent Mexican migration to the
United States, and cable television than with adopting American values. 

[2]     The house is now a restaurant, La Bonita India, on calle Dwight Morrow.  Mexican streets are named after almost everyone, but this is the only street ever named for a United States Ambassador. 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 December 2006 10:33 am

    Cool historical fact. What I find interesting, Time Magazine‘s account on the documents. You wrote

    Meanwhile, the luckless Ambassador Sheffield who had to publicly deny there was any plan to invade, unwisely left papers outlining his suggestions for just such a plan in his office. The Mexican cleaning staff “expropriated” the Ambassador’s papers. President Coolidge had no choice but to cancel the invasion and the football program.

    Time wrote:

    Later there were the documents stolen from the U. S. Department of State and discovered in the custody of the Mexican Government. These documents were particularly annoying inasmuch as they contained many unpleasant reflections on the Mexican Government, but their most sensational passages were later found to be forgeries, interpolated by the same knavish hand which first had stolen them.

    But no matter what, there is one common trend between US-Mexico relations, the US has always wanted to invade and take over Mexico. It was planned before WWI, with War Plan Green and obvious it was planned before WWII as you documented in your post. The same thing occurs with the press, it is always covered up or played down. Just like the War Plans to invade Canada and Mexico. And with this one, Time covered it up by stating the documents were a fake. Very interesting….we have been living in an Orwellian world since the time Orwell wrote 1984, only thing is, we are just now acknowledging it.

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