Monday, February 17, 2014

Sobel Wiki: Chapultepec and Tyler Too!

Considering how many wars the United States of Mexico has fought, the country has had surprisingly few military leaders running for president. In the United States of America, we've had George Washington, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower run for president and win, while Winfield Scott, George B. McClellan, and Wesley Clark have run and lost. In addition, Douglas MacArthur, Colin Powell, and David Petraeus might have run, but chose not to.

In contrast, only two military leaders in the U.S.M. have run for president: Admiral Paul Suarez, and the subject of this week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki: General Emiliano Calles, the victor of the 1914 Battle of Chapultepec and hero of the Hundred Day War. (Marshal Felix Garcia and Colonel Vincent Mercator have also served as president, but they appointed themselves following a military coup.) Calles appeared on the scene during a critical period of Mexican history, when the Chapultepec Incident of 1916 made slavery the paramount issue in Mexican politics.

The Chapultepec Incident left incumbent President Victoriano Consalus with an insoluble dilemma. The continued existence of slavery in the U.S.M. was intolerable due to international pressure and growing popular fear of a slave insurrection and/or invasion by an abolitionist Confederation of North America. However, most Mexicans were opposed to freeing the slaves, especially the majority Mexicanos, who still suffered considerable institutional prejudice themselves from the country's Anglo-Hispano ruling class. As Consalus himself put it, "If I retain the institution I will be pilloried. Should I ask for its end, I will be crushed."

In 1920, Calles ran against Consalus and won, then gave an address to Congress in which he announced his determination to abolish slavery. Sobel records that Calles cut a deal with Douglas Benedict, the President of Kramer Associates. Calles would agree not to interfere with the corporation's operations, if Benedict would agree to use K.A.'s financial power to gain passage of a manumission bill. Benedict was able to twist enough arms in the Mexican Congress to pass Calles's bill, and over the next two years, Mexico's slaves were all freed.

When Calles ran for re-election in 1926, he was decisively defeated by Assemblyman Pedro Fuentes, who rode to power on a wave of popular anger against K.A. His campaign to bring the company under control ultimately led Kramer Associates to leave Mexico in 1936.

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