January saw the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. One of his election pledges was to build a wall between Mexico and the United States which has taken an awful lot of criticism. But perhaps had he been nominated in 1917 with the pledge, he would have been fully supported. Let me explain why.
In January 1917, Germany had declared unrestricted submarine warfare, in effect sinking any vessel they suspected of carrying arms and goods to the allies no matter what nationality it was. In 1915 they had sunk the Lusitania and almost brought the United States into the war. This was averted by the then President Woodrow Wilson (pictured left). However, it was looking more and more likely that the United States would enter the war and this was something that the Germans needed to stop if at all possible and if they couldn’t stop the Americans, then perhaps they could persuade them to send supplies and troops elsewhere, and what better way than to seek an ally in the Americas to do this.
In 1917 Mexico had just appointed a new president, Venustiano Carranza (pictured below right), and the country was in the throes of a full scale civil war. So, Germany saw a chance to gain a much sought ally in the form of Mexico, a country that bordered the United States.
German agents approached the exiled former president Victoriano Huerta who agreed to help them if they would aid him to overcome Carranza and regain his position as president. In doing this, Mexico would end up allied with Germany against the United States.
Huerta traveled from Spain to the US, but was promptly arrested and imprisoned where he later died. With Huerta now out of the picture, the Germans sought an alliance with Pancho Villa who accepted German weapons and attacked Columbus, New Mexico, which prompted the US military to enter Mexico and conduct an unsuccessful search for him.
Having failed with two attempts, a third was sought. The Foreign Secretary of the German Empire, Arthur Zimmermann, sent a telegram to the German ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, to seek a rapprochement with the government of Carranza.
In this famous telegram, the German government asked its ambassador to speak with the Mexican president Carranza and convince him to go to war with the United States. In return for this action, Germany would inject funds into the Mexican economy and return the states of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico which were lost in the war of 1847. When Carranza learned of the German offer, he organised a special commission to investigate the matter and make a decision. Regaining lost territory would have been a good opportunity for the country, but that would mean war with the United States at a time when Mexico still faced internal division, so Carranza refused.
Later in 1917 the United States joined the War and sent troops to fight in Europe aiding in the final victory with the Great War ending on 11 November 1918. In Mexico, Carranza ruled with a new constitution. By 1919 the United States had recognised his government and it seemed that after nine years of unrest, the country was headed for peace.
But seeing as there was no love lost between Mexico and the United States at this volatile stage in world history, one has to say that if a wall was proposed back then, perhaps there would have been no objections.