1919: William Jenkins, Robert Lansing, and
the Mexican Interlude
URING THE TWENTY YEARS HE HAD SPENT IN MEXICO, WILLIAM O.
Jenkins had done his best to live a quiet, contemplative life
on his ranch and in his elaborate dwelling in the city of Puebla, ap-
proximately eighty miles southwest of Mexico City. Like many
Americans in a land torn by revolution since 9g io, he had found this
to be the best policy. Consequently, he amassed his wealth, tended
his health as best he could, and, when time allowed, fulfilled the
modest duties that were demanded of an American consular agent
in those trying times.' It was a good life, anonymous and rewarding.
It was about to end.
The change came abruptly and with it international fame for
Jenkins and the threat of war between Mexico and the United States.
In the process, the precedent for a new chapter in United States-
Latin American relations would be established, as forbearance now
slowly replaced intervention by armed force in America's disputes
with her neighbors. Additionally, the American secretary of state,
Robert Lansing, would prove himself a strong and determined, even
devious, statesman as he moved toward a confrontation with Mexico.
On the night of October 19, 1919, five masked men slipped into
Jenkins' textile factory in downtown Puebla, overpowered the night
watchman, and waited until Jenkins made his nightly appearance
to inspect the premises. Upon arriving he was first forced to open
a safe and provide their revolutionary coffers with approximately
6o,ooo pesos; he was then bound." Mrs. Jenkins appeared, only to
be told that these men-rebels under the leadership of Federico Cor-
*David Glaser is associate professor of history at New York State University College,
Plattsburgh, New York. He has published several articles on American foreign policy
and its domestic ramifications. The present article, research for which was conducted
under the auspices of a fellowship from the State University of New York, grew out
of a forthcoming study of the career of Robert Lansing.
1H. S. Creighton to Secretary of the Treasury, November 26, 1919, File 125.61388J41/1
(Record Group 59, National Archives). References to these records are hereafter cited as
RG 59, NA.
'George Summerlin to Secretary of State, October 21, 1919g, File 125.61383/x18, ibid.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101200/. Accessed May 22, 2015.