In 1930 the United States was still recovering from its involvement in the first World War when the Great Depression hit. The Mexican economy also began to suffer because it was dependent on trade with the United States. The Great Depression caused tension in the American job market because Mexican workers were viewed as competition for jobs. Early on, Mexican workers started to feel prejudice against them, which culminated the mass repatriation of 1929. Another major U.S. economic concern during the Great Depression was fear that Mexico would expropriate all of the petroleum resources they had, driving United States investors out of Mexico. This heightened conflict in the two countries’ bilateral relationship led to Dwight W. Morrow’s appointment as Ambassador to Mexico. John Knott’s political cartoon, “New International Bridge,” published in 1930 in the Dallas Morning News, depicts border tensions between Mexico and the United States and illustrates the diplomatic issues Morrow had to overcome with Mexico. The accompanying editorial, “Dwight W. Morrow,” explains the positive characteristics Morrow exemplified and how his unconventional leadership tactics shaped future politics and diplomacy.
The U.S. petroleum oil business began to boom in January of 1901 with the discovery of the Spindletop Oilfield which sat on a salt dome formation south of Beaumont, Texas (“Spindletop”). After many failed attempts, all the hard work of the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company finally paid off. The company eventually struck oil and estimated that they produced around 100,000 barrels per day (Wooster). In an effort to find similar oil deposits, investors spent billions of dollars in search of more petroleum resources all over Texas. As a result, the Texas economy flourished, bringing thousands of people in search of work to the South (Wooster). Despite a flourishing economy, conflict surrounding oil increased. Due to overproduction of petroleum, exceeding quotas became an issue driving the price of oil down. However, as the U.S. government tried to regulate the oil industry, a rush of drilling occurred leading to national guardsmen being sent to shut down and regulate oil wells (Gard).
Due to the fact that American oil companies also had significant investments in Mexico, they feared Mexico would expropriated their oil “based on the language in the Mexican Constitution” (“Timeline: U.S.-Mexico Relations”). Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution “declared that the country’s land and all of its natural resources were the patrimony of the Mexican nation and could only be used by foreigners with the government’s consent” (Keller). The United States protested the idea of oil expropriation because it feared Mexico would nationalize all of the petroleum oil reserves on its land. This fear immediately lead to political leaders signing the Bucareli Agreement of 1923 which protected the investments of foreign investors from the Mexican government (“Timeline: U.S.-Mexico Relations”). Although this agreement was implemented, questions still surfaced about foreign investments in Mexico, which caused President Calvin Coolidge to take action. In 1927 Coolidge appointed Dwight W. Morrow as ambassador. He began his journey to help the two countries overcome their differences and communicate more effectively about oil and other issues in the bilateral relationship. (“MORROW APPOINTED AMBASSADOR IN 1927″).
Obviously, oil was a huge issue causing tensions between Mexico and America in 1930. To illustrate the point, cartoonist John Knott replaced the river of “water” that runs under the bridge with oil, further making oil a barrier between the two countries. The Rio Grande is the natural border between the United States and Mexico. However, Knott illustrated the division between the two countries with a messy, toxic substance, further showing the relationship between America and Mexico as a “sticky” one.
A second point of major diplomatic contention dealt with the exacerbated economic woes of the Great Depression. Mexico depended heavily on the United States economy. Therefore, when the American economy suffered, it magnified the economic suffering in Mexico. Consequently, during the Great Depression Mexican workers in the United States were viewed as competition for jobs and wages in the United States. Therefore, tensions escalated and led to a “massive repatriation of Mexicans from the United States” (Aguila). During the Depression, “more than a million people of Mexican descent were sent to Mexico” due to the political climate and to feelings of “prejudice” against them (“America’s Forgotten History”). Along with repatriation and people returning to Mexico, Mexico took another hit from America due to the fact that their economy was “built almost entirely” around the United States (Aguila). At that point Mexican-American conflicts increased as both countries’ economies continued to struggle.
This division between Mexico and America over economic competition and labor repatriation was also illustrated in Knott’s cartoon. The words “Rio Prejudice” are flowing through the river that separates the two countries, further illustrating Mexico’s feelings of discrimination during the Great Depression. Ambassador Morrow’s importance was also depicted in the cartoon. He was the “builder of the bridge” that stretched over the river, and the bridge symbolized his efforts to overcome prejudice accusations against the U.S. and strengthen the overall relationship between the two countries.
Morrow was originally appointed ambassador because relations were tense due to “Mexican attacks on the American oil industry and land-holders” (“Dwight Whitley Morrow”). While his “diplomacy was unconventional,” it was nonetheless successful. For example, he had breakfast with the President of Mexico at his private ranch and accompanied him on trips (“Dwight Whitley Morrow”). Morrow ultimately strengthened relations with Mexico by “building up goodwill” and having a “knack for understanding views other than his own” (“Dwight Whitley Morrow”). Due to Morrow’s unconventional tactics he became responsible for mending the bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico in the 1930’s.
As illustrated in Knott’s political cartoon, Dwight Morrow was the architect of the diplomatic bridge. He was able to reconstruct relations between the two countries due to his “good-will and understanding.” Those two words, inscribed on the bridge, directly parallel how Ambassador Morrow was described in his biography (“Dwight Whitley Morrow”).
The “Dwight W. Morrow” editorial in the Dallas Morning News, accompanied by the “New International Bridge” political cartoon, further displayed the positive influence of Dwight Morrow and allowed both Mexico and America to understand his vital role in mending relations between the two counties. In his last ambassadorial radio address, Morrow stated, “that other men have as much pride of their Nation as we have in our own” and that “we can best defend the rights of our own country when we understand the rights of other countries” (“Dwight W. Morrow”). The “Dwight W. Morrow” editorial reiterates the fact that Morrow’s tactics “set standards worthy of imitation” and that these tactics “strengthen[ed] friendships and the ties of peace among Nations” (“Dwight W. Morrow”).
Morrow’s diplomatic actions as ambassador foreshadowed the Good Neighbor Policy implemented by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Good Neighbor Policy was a foreign policy enacted in order to engage in equal exchanges with Latin America (“Good Neighbor Policy, 1933.”).The Good Neighbor Policy “opposes any armed intervention in Latin America and aims to reassure the region that the United States will not pursue interventionist policies” (“Timeline: U.S.-Mexico Relations”). In Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural speech he stated, “I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others” (“Timeline: U.S.-Mexico Relations”).
Thanks to the implementation of the Good Neighbor Policy, Roosevelt avoided invading Mexico when they eventually nationalized petroleum resources in 1938 in violation of the Bucareli Treaty. Despite their violation of that agreement, the Good Neighbor Policy encouraged better relations between the two countries during World War II. For example, Mexico officially declared war against the Axis Powers “following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor” (“Timeline: U.S.-Mexico Relations”). This benefited the United States by having “Mexican pilots fight alongside the U.S. Air Force” (“Timeline: U.S.-Mexico Relations”) during World War II. By 1944 Mexican-American relations were on the uptick when Mexico agreed to “pay U.S. oil companies $24 million plus interest for properties expropriated in 1938” (“Timeline: U.S.-Mexico Relations”). Overall, John Knott’s cartoon, “New International Bridge,” created a snapshot of the multitude of political issues within the 1930’s-era political climate and highlighted how Dwight Morrow was responsible for positively influencing foreign relations.
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