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The Forgotten Peace

Mediation at Niagara Falls

Michael Small

Publication Year: 2009

In the early hours of April 22, 1914, American President Woodrow Wilson sent Marines to seize the port of Veracruz in an attempt to alter the course of the Mexican Revolution. As a result, the United States seemed on the brink of war with Mexico. An international uproar ensued. The governments of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile offered to mediate a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Surprisingly, both the United States and Mexico accepted their offer and all parties agreed to meet at an international peace conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario. For Canadians, the conference provided an unexpected spectacle on their doorstep, combining high diplomacy and low intrigue around the gardens and cataracts of Canada's most famous natural attraction. For the diplomats involved, it proved to be an ephemeral high point in the nascent pan-American movement. After it ended, the conference dropped out of historical memory. This is the first full account of the Niagara Falls Peace Conference to be published in North America since 1914. The author carefully reconstructs what happened at Niagara Falls, examining its historical significance for Canada's relationship with the Americas. From this almost forgotten event he draws important lessons on the conduct of international mediation and the perils of middle-power diplomacy.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Series: Governance Series

Cover Page

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Title Page

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pp. iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv


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pp. v


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

In the late summer of 1993, I was studying Spanish in Cuernavaca in preparation for a diplomatic assignment to the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City. While reading a general history of the Mexican Revolution by a British writer, Ronald Atkins, I came across a single paragraph that mentioned that after four years of upheaval there ...

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Chapter 1: Breaking news

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pp. 1-4

Readers of the Toronto Globe opening their newspapers on the morning of Friday, April 24, 1914 would have been alarmed to read the following headline stretching across the page: “Declaration of War Against Mexico Expected.” Different reports from the Canadian Press covered facets of the crisis that had been triggered by the ...

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Chapter 2: Prelude to intervention

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pp. 5-40

The Mexican Revolution of 1910–1920 was the cataclysmic event in that nation’s modern history. Successive waves of rebellion transformed a corrupt and backward dictatorship, heavily dependent on foreign capital, into a modern, centralized state committed to a nationalist, populist program of economic development. Given the extensive foreign investment ...

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Chapter 3: A ray of light

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pp. 41-66

In the words of one contemporary American observer, Frank H. Severance: “At this juncture, when the blockade of Mexican ports, the bombardment of Mexican cities, and the invasion of her territory by the United States troops seemed to be the next step, an offer of mediation came like a ray of light through the storm clouds.”1 ...

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Chapter 4: Diplomatic distractions

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pp. 67-82

Upon arrival at Niagara, the Latin American and American delegates installed themselves in their respective hotels on either side of the Falls. Justice Lamar’s wife, Clarinda, described the scene: The three South American Ambassadors, with their suites, and the three Mexican Commissioners, ...

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Chapter 5: The mediation

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pp. 83-114

Woodrow Wilson made it clear from the outset that accepting the mediators’ offer implied no change in his fundamental goal of ousting Huerta. He followed Bryan’s formal reply to the mediators with his own confidential memo to them, which declared in typically sweeping terms that “no settlement could have any prospect of ...

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Chapter 6: The aftermath

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pp. 115-124

After the conference had ended there was the usual diplomatic round of congratulatory speeches and messages. At a farewell lunch to thank the reporters who had covered the conference “at this now historic spot,” Ambassador da Gama congratulated his fellow mediators “for appearing before you as probably the most ...

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Chapter 7: Failures and accomplishments

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pp. 125-134

Why did the Niagara Falls Peace Conference fail? Among the many reasons, the most fundamental was stated by Robert Lansing before the conference even began: it was never really a mediation between countries, but a mediation between two factions in a civil war, and one of those factions never came to the table. All the parties ...

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Chapter 8: Looking back from today

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pp. 135-142

From the vantage point of today, what is there of interest in a failed peace conference that took place more than ninety years ago? It does not lie in its impact on the course of the Mexican Revolution. From that vantage point, it appears as an inconsequential Edwardian diversion from the course of a titanic struggle. ...

Appendix 1: Images of the conference

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pp. 143-166

Appendix 2: “Mediation” (from Punch)

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pp. 167-170


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pp. 171-174


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pp. 175-179

E-ISBN-13: 9780776618791
E-ISBN-10: 0776618792
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776607122
Print-ISBN-10: 077660712X

Page Count: 198
Illustrations: 22 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Governance Series