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HOME > Classical Novels > The Boy Travellers in Mexico > CHAPTER XXIII.
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It was a fortunate thing for the youths that they did not remain another day at the cattle-hacienda of Señor Sanchez. After listening to a short account of what they had seen, Doctor Bronson told them that he had a pleasurable surprise in store for the next day.
"If it's a surprise," said Frank, "I suppose we must wait and ask no questions."
"There's no occasion for secrecy," responded the Doctor. "The American Minister has arranged for me to have an interview to-morrow with the President of the Republic, and you can accompany me."
"That is a pleasurable surprise, indeed," said Frank, and Fred promptly expressed a similar opinion.
"I am to go to the legation at eleven o'clock," continued Doctor Bronson, "and meet the Minister, who is to present me to the President. The interview is fixed for half-past eleven at the National Palace."
It is unnecessary to add that Frank and Fred were ready at the appointed time, and that a carriage left the door of the hotel early enough to deposit the trio at the door of the legation a few minutes before eleven. The arrival at the palace was duly arranged, and the party was in the anteroom of the President when an official came to call them to an audience with the President.
The time of the chief of a nation is valuable, and the interview was over in about twenty minutes. There was nothing official about it, and the visitors came away much pleased with the way they had been received. The conversation ran upon general topics; it related chiefly to what the strangers had seen during their visit to the country, and some pleasant
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 allusions on the part of the President to the United States and a few of its public men. He did not follow the customary form of politeness by saying that his house and all it contained were theirs, but as they rose to leave he shook hands with them cordially, and said that if he could be of any service during the rest of their stay, he hoped they would not hesitate to apply to him through his and their friend, the American Minister.
"A more courteous gentleman than President Diaz," wrote Frank, "it would be difficult to find, and I believe this is the testimony of his opponents as well as of his friends. Perhaps you would like to know something about his history; well, here it is:
"Porfirio Diaz was born in August, 1830, in Oajaca, and was educated
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 there. He began the study of law, but in the war between the United States and Mexico he entered the army and fought in defence of his country. He remained in the army and studied military science for several years, when he went back to law again, on account of the triumph of the party that gave the Dictatorship of Mexico to Santa Anna. He fought in the revolution that drove Santa Anna away in 1855, and a few years later he joined the Liberal party in the War of the Reform. He continued with the Liberals during the French occupation; at the capture of Puebla by the French, in 1863, he was made prisoner, but escaped. He was then given the command of the Liberal army, but accepted it on the condition that he should soon be replaced, as he was afraid that his youth might cause the older generals to be jealous of him.
"He fought all through the war under great discouragements, was captured a second time, and a second time escaped. After the retirement of the French from Mexico, in 1867, he rapidly increased his army,
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 and besieged and captured Puebla; then he laid siege to the city of Mexico at the same time that Maximilian was being besieged by another part of the Liberal army at Queretaro. In the following autumn he was a candidate for the Presidency, but was defeated by Juarez; then he laid plans for a revolution, but was unsuccessful and obliged to flee from the country. He went to New Orleans, and after a time was permitted to return; then he was concerned in another revolution, and went again into exile, whence he was called back by his friends in Oajaca, who had revolted against the Government.
"In his return he ran a great risk, as he was obliged to come to Mexico by way of Vera Cruz. He took passage under an assumed name, and remained in his room on the steamer under pretence of being sea-sick. When the steamer was leaving Tampico he suspected that his identity had been discovered by the officers of a Mexican regiment, which had been taken on board at that port. Discovery and arrest meant execution, and he jumped overboard and endeavored to swim to the shore, which was about ten miles away. The captain thought he was a lunatic, and sent a boat after him; he fought against being rescued, but was taken into the boat and returned to the ship. The purser took charge of him, and Diaz immediately told who he was, and asked for protection.
"The purser promised it. The colonel of the regiment suspected that Diaz was on board, and in the hearing of the latter offered $50,000 for information that would lead to his capture. Diaz tells how his heart sank
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 when he heard the offer, and how it beat with satisfaction when the purser replied that he knew nothing about the insurgent leader.
"The purser smuggled him on shore disguised as a coal-heaver, and Diaz reached Oajaca in safety. After his elevation to the Presidency one of the first things he did was to appoint that purser a consul to represent Mexico at a French seaport, and afterwards gave him the consulship at San Francisco.
"The Oajaca revolution was successful; Lerdo, who was then (1876) President, was driven out of the country, and there was a very disturbed state of affairs for a time. It ended in the election of Diaz as President; he held the office from May, 1877, till November, 1880, when he was succeeded by President Gonzales, the Constitution then in force, and originally proposed by Diaz, forbidding the President to succeed himself. He succeeded Gonzales in 1884 for a second term of four years; in 1887 the Constitution was modified so as to permit the President to serve for a third term, and in consequence of this modification he was again elected in that year. On the 1st of December, 1888, he took the oath of office, in accordance with the Constitutional provisions, and began his third term, which will expire December 1, 1892.
"There you have a personal history boiled down. President Diaz is a thorough believer in general education, and in railways, telegraphs, and other modern enterprises; in this belief he has been bitterly opposed by the Reactionary party, which is principally composed of the old aristocracy. In his first term concessions were granted for the construction of railways by American companies, and other concessions have been made since that time. One writer who is not particularly friendly to the President says: 'Under the administration of Diaz manufactures have increased, the resources of the country have been developed, commerce has multiplied, education has been advanced, the revenues have been appropriated to the purposes for which they were designed, travel is safe, bandits have been dispersed, and railroads and telegraphs are extending.' And from all we can learn this is by no means an overstatement of the case."
For the benefit of his young lady friends at home Fred added to Frank's sketch that President Diaz had been twice married, his present wife being the daughter of Hon. Romero Rubio, Secretary of the Interior. She is said to be a beauty of the brunette type, charming in manners, an accomplished linguist, speaking several languages, of which English is one, and an exquisite judge of feminine apparel. Her dresses are made by Worth, the famous man-milliner of Paris, and therefore she may justly be considered the leader of fashion in the capital of Mexico. Her duties are
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 less onerous than those of the wife of the President of the United States, as there are no receptions similar to those of the White House, and consequently the Mexican capital is free from the social ferment which is constantly going on at Washington.
Doctor Bronson added a note to the effect that there was a considerable amount of diplomacy in the marriage of President Diaz with his present wife. Her father was one of the leaders of the Church party, and the marriage strengthened Diaz with the Conservatives by making them less hostile to him and his policy; the party was further conciliated when Señor Rubio became Secretary of the Interior, and other members of the old opposition were provided with places under the Government. But though the hostility of the Church party has been diminished it still exists; its leaders are ready to take advantage of any mistake of the Government, and if they could again obtain control they would speedily overthrow the present Constitution, whose authority they have never acknowledged.
"The hostility of the two political parties in Mexico to each other," added the Doctor, "is far greater than that between the two great parties of the United States. The Liberal party in Mexico believes in general education, in the construction of railways, the encouragement of manufacturing and other commercial enterprises, and a complete separation of Church and State. The Clerical party believes in the condition of affairs which existed before 1858, in a union of Church and State, and the control of education by the Church, and it has been a steady and consistent opponent of the railways that connect Mexico with the United States. It looks with alarm upon the present influx of foreigners and the
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 adoption of their ideas by the Mexicans. It is proper to add that this alarm is shared by many adherents of the Liberal party, who fear that their country is being denationalized, and will some day be gathered into the fold of the United States."
Frank and Fred examined the Constitution of Mexico, and found that it had many points of resemblance to that of the United States. Each of the States has the right to manage its own local affairs, but all are bound together for general governmental purposes. The central government consists of legislative, judicial, and executive branches, as in the United States; the President is the executive head, and the Senate and House of Representatives form the legislative branches. There are two Senators for each State, and one Representative for every forty thousand inhabitants; Senators and Representatives alike receive $3000 a year. Congress meets on April 1st and September 16th, and each of its sessions lasts two months. During the interim between the sessions a permanent committee of both Houses remains at the capital. Representatives must be twenty-five years of age, and Senators thirty years, and both must be residents of the States they represent. All religions are tolerated, but no ecclesiastical body is allowed to acquire landed property.
Regarding the army and navy Fred wrote as follows:
"The President is commander-in-chief of the military and naval forces, just as he is in the United States. According to the official figures, the war footing of the army comprises 3700 officers and 160,963 men; these are divided into 131,523 infantry, 25,790 dragoons, and 3650 artillerymen. On a peace footing the army includes about 30,000 men of all arms of the service, including the Rurales, who keep the brigands in order, as we have described elsewhere. A friend at my elbow says the officers are almost as numerous as the privates, and he has known a garrison where there were twenty-nine officers and only twenty-seven soldiers.
"The navy won't take long to describe, as it contains three small gunboats and two larger ones. The small gunboats each carry one 20-pound gun, and the larger boats two guns of the same calibre. They are unarmored vessels, are not fast, and from all we can learn we don't think the navy of the United States need have any fear of that of Mexico, at any rate, after we complete some of the ships we are now building."
"While we are considering public matters," wrote Frank, "let us look at the Postal Department. There are about 1200 post-offices in the republic, or one for every 8750 inhabitants; in the United States we have a post-office for every 1200 inhabitants, or seven times as many as Mexico in proportion to the population. The number of pieces of mail
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 matter handled in a year in Mexico is an average of two to each inhabitant, while in the United States the average is fifty-one. The Mexican mails are increasing in importance every year, and will continue to do so as the people become better educated. The extension of the railways causes many new post-offices ............
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