The interview set off a frenzy of political activity in Mexico over the presidential elections and succession of power. In the words of historian Howard F. Cline , the "Creelman Interview marks a major turning point in the genesis of the Mexican Revolution. His first job was in the print shop of the Episcopalian newspaper Church and State.
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FROM the heights of Chapultepec Castle President Diaz looked down upon the venerable capital of his country, spread out on a vast plain, with a ring of mountains flung up grandly about it, and I, who had come nearly four thousand miles from New York to see the master and hero of modern Mexico—the inscrutable leader in whose veins is blended the blood of the primitive Mixtecs with that of the invading Spaniards—watched the slender, erect form, the strong, soldierly head and commanding, but sensitive, countenance with an interest beyond words to express.
It is the intense, magnetic something in the wide-open, fearless, dark eyes and the sense of nervous challenge in the sensitive, spread nostrils, that seem to connect the man with the immensity of the landscape, as some elemental force. There is not a more romantic or heroic figure in all the world, nor one more intensely watched by both the friends and foes of democracy, than the soldier-statesman whose adventurous youth pales the pages of Dumas, and whose iron rule has converted the warring, ignorant, superstitious and impoverished masses of Mexico, oppressed by centuries of Spanish cruelty and greed, into a strong, steady, peaceful, debt-paying and progressive nation.
For twenty-seven years he has governed the Mexican Republic with such power that national elections have become mere formalities. He might easily have set a crown upon his head. Yet to-day, in the supremacy of his career, this astonishing man—foremost figure of the American hemisphere and unreadable mystery to students of human government—announces that he will insist on retiring from the Presidency at the end of his present term, so that he may see his successor peacefully established and that, with his assistance, the people of the Mexican Republic may show the world that they have entered serenely and preparedly upon the last complete phase of their liberties, that the nation is emerging from ignorance and revolutionary passion, and that it can choose and change presidents without weakness or war.
The President surveyed the majestic, sunlit scene below the ancient castle and turned away with a smile, brushing a curtain of scarlet trumpet-flowers and vine-like pink geraniums as he moved along the terrace toward the inner garden, where a fountain set among palms and flowers sparkled with water from the spring at which Montezuma used to drink, under the mighty cypresses that still rear their branches about the rock on which we stood.
For a moment the straight figure paused and the brown eyes looked over the great valley to where snow-covered Popocatapetl lifted its volcanic peak nearly eighteen thousand feet among the clouds beside the snowy craters of Ixtaccihuatl—a land of dead volcanoes, human and otherwise.
The green landscape, the smoking city, the blue tumult of mountains, the thin, exhilarating, scented air, seemed to stir him, and the color came to his cheeks as he clasped his hands behind him and threw his head backward. His nostrils opened wide.
He smiled and then looked grave, nodding his head gently and pursing his lips. It is hard to describe the look of concentrated interest that suddenly came into his strong, intelligent countenance. I agree with that sentiment. It seemed hard to realize that I was listening to a soldier who had ruled a republic continuously for more than a quarter of a century with a personal authority unknown to most kings.
Yet he spoke with a simple and convincing manner, as one whose place was great and secure beyond the need of hypocrisy. I believe that he has thought more of his country than of himself.
I look upon the trusts as a great and real power in the United States, and President Roosevelt has had the patriotism and courage to defy them. Mankind understands the meaning of his attitude and its bearing upon the future.
He stands before the world as a statesman whose victories have been moral victories. Roosevelt, has faced the crisis like a great man. Roosevelt is a strong, pure man, a patriot who understands his country and loves it well. The American fear of a third term seems to me to be without any just reason. There can be no question of principle in the matter if a majority of the people of the United States approve his policies and want him to continue his work.
That is the real, the vital thing—whether a majority of the people need him and desire him to go on. I received this Government from the hands of a victorious army at a time when the people were divided and unprepared for the exercise of the extreme principles of democratic government.
To have thrown upon the masses the whole responsibility of government at once would have produced conditions that might have discredited the cause of free government. I have tried to leave the Presidency several times, but it has been pressed upon me and I remained in office for the sake of the nation which trusted me. The fact that the price of Mexican securities dropped eleven points when I was ill at Cuernavaca indicates the kind of evidence that persuaded me to overcome my personal inclination to retire to private life.
We defended the theory and kept it intact. I believe that day has come. Again the soldierly figure turned toward the glorious scene lying between the mountains.
It was plain to see that the President was deeply moved. The dark eyes were moist. The middle class is the active element of society, here as elsewhere. Their children do not try very hard to improve their education or their character. It is the middle class that concerns itself with politics and with the general progress.
Spanish tyranny and misgovernment had disorganized society. The productive activities of the nation were abandoned in successive struggles. There was general confusion. Neither life nor property was safe.
A middle class could not appear under such conditions. For thirty years the destinies of this nation have been in your hands, to mold them as you will; but men die, while nations must continue to live.
Do you believe that Mexico can continue to exist in peace as a republic? Are you satisfied that its future is assured under free institutions? Strength, patriotism, warriorship, prophethood seemed suddenly to shine in his brown eyes. But the nation has grown and it loves liberty. Our difficulty has been that the people do not concern themselves enough about public matters for a democracy.
The individual Mexican as a rule thinks much about his own rights and is always ready to assert them. But he does not think so much about the rights of others. He thinks of his privileges, but not of his duties.
Capacity for self-restraint is the basis of democratic government, and self-restraint is possible only to those who recognize the rights of their neighbors. They are accustomed to look to those in authority for leadership instead of thinking for themselves. That is a tendency they inherited from the Spaniards, who taught them to refrain from meddling in public affairs and rely on the Government for guidance. I have so many friends in the republic that my enemies seem unwilling to identify themselves with so small a minority.
I appreciate the kindness of my friends and the confidence of my country; but such absolute confidence imposes responsibilities and duties that tire me more and more. I shall be eighty years old then. My friends have praised my merits and overlooked my faults. But they may not be willing to deal so generously with my successor and he may need my advice and support; therefore I desire to be alive when he assumes office so that I may help him.
And if it can develop power, not to exploit but to govern, I will stand by it, support it, advise it and forget myself in the successful inauguration of complete democratic government in the country. I have no desire to continue in the Presidency. This nation is ready for her ultimate life of freedom. At the age of seventy-seven years I am satisfied with robust health.
That is one thing which neither law nor force can create. I would not exchange it for all the millions of your American oil king. March,
He also called for the formation of opposition political parties, which effectively had been banned during his thirty-year dictatorship. Finally, it may have been designed to bring into the open those who opposed him. Cumberland, Charles C. Mexican Revolution : Genesis Under Madero Gonzales, Michael J.
Document #3: “President Diaz: Hero of the Americas,” James Creelman (1908)