The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

"An Enemy Closer to Us Than Any European
Power": The Impact of Mexico on Texan Public
Opinion before World War I
PATRICK L. Cox*
AFEW DAYS AFTER PRESIDENT WOODROW WILSON ASKED CONGRESS
for a declaration of war against Germany in April 1917, the San
Antonio Express told its readers, "the reason is plain: we fight in defense
of liberty." As the nation prepared to fight its first major overseas con-
flict of the twentieth century, the overwhelming majority of Texans and
the state's daily newspapers joined other Americans in jumping on the
Allies' bandwagon in the struggle against Germany and the Central
Powers. These spirited convictions stood in stark contrast to the popular
mood when the war began three years earlier. When the shooting start-
ed in August 1914, people in Texas and the entire nation rejoiced in the
geographic and political isolation that seemingly kept Americans out of
harm's way. In Texas, however, the Mexican Revolution of 1910o to 192o
and the violence it inspired on both sides of the Rio Grande played a sig-
nificant role in shaping the attitudes of Texans on the issues of war pre-
paredness and military intervention on the eve of World War I.
In retrospect, in spite of the altruistic explanation provided by the San
Antonio Express, the reasons Texans chose to support entry into the over-
seas fight were not so plain. Texans' enthusiasm for war evolved not only
from patriotic commitment but also from a more complex set of reasons
that set them apart from the rest of the nation. Until the United States
declared war, public opinion in Texas, as in other states, remained very
circumspect when it came to the issue of direct involvement in European
* Dr. Patrick Cox is historian and coordinator of the Institute of American News Media
History at the Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of the
forthcoming book, Ralph W Yarborough, the People's Senator, by University of Texas Press and the
first pubhcation of the Focus on American History Series by the Center for American History.
Dr. Cox is currently researching a history of Texas daily newspaper publishers m the twentieth
century. Funding for this research is provided by the A H. Belo Corporation Foundation, the
Houston Endowment Inc., and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

VOL. CV, No. 1

JULY, 2oo001

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed July 24, 2014.