Gateway to the Classics: Growth of the British Empire by M. B. Synge
Growth of the British Empire by  M. B. Synge

The Mexican Revolution

"New occasions teach new duties;

Time makes ancient good uncouth.

They must upward still and onward,

who would keep abreast of Truth.

Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires,

we ourselves must Pilgrims be,

Launch our Mayflower and steer boldly

through the desperate winter sea,

Nor attempt the Future's portal

with the Past's blood-rusted key."

— Lowell

T HE American war had spent its passionate fever, and the title of United States was no longer a mockery, when Napoleon III. set out on his crazy expedition to conquer Mexico. Heedless of the Monroe doctrine, which decreed "America for the Americans," he landed a French army on the shores of Mexico, and declared the country to be an empire. He persuaded the Archduke Maximilian of Austria and his wife Charlotte, daughter of the King of Belgium, to become emperor and empress of his new empire.

There is nothing more pathetic in history, than the tragedy of these two young lives. The young couple started forth on their ill-fated journey in the highest spirits, and were crowned Emperor and Empress of Mexico in 1865, amid some semblance of enthusiasm. A French army protected them, and Napoleon himself found money to build a gorgeous palace at Chapultepec, where they kept open court for a time. But when the Civil War was ended in America, the United States refused to recognise the new Mexican empire, and Napoleon was obliged to withdraw his troops. Thus deserted, there seemed nothing left the young Emperor Maximilian, but abdication. He took up his pen to sign away his empire, but his wife seized his hand.

"I will go to Europe," she cried, "and make a personal appeal to Napoleon."

The interview with Napoleon in Paris was long and heated. In vain the young empress wept, in vain she pleaded for the empire. Napoleon refused to help. The strain proved too much for the heart-broken empress—she lost her reason, and, though yet alive, has never realised her husband's fate. Finding that his wife's efforts were in vain, Maximilian lost heart, and realising the hopelessness of his position, surrendered to the Mexican authorities.

"I am Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico," he said proudly, as he gave up his sword.

"You are a Mexican citizen and a prisoner," was the rough answer.

He was tried and shot. The Mexican tragedy was ended.

A new Mexico has now arisen on the ruins of the past. In 1876, Porfirio Diaz was elected President of the Mexican Republic, and under his wise and capable rule, Mexico has awakened and strengthened herself to take her place among the nations of the world. Six times has Diaz been elected to the Presidency, and to-day he lives in the palace, which the unfortunate Empress Charlotte had loved, and which Maximilian had adorned for her enjoyment at the expense of France. Civilisation has advanced with rapid strides, and two great railway lines already connect her with the United States, which country had stood by her through her darkest days.

The year 1881 was an eventful one in the history of the United States, for in it, President Garfield began and ended his short term of well-won office. Like Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield rose from a log-cabin to the White House at Washington, occupied by the President of the United States of America. He was born in the Ohio wilderness, where his parents had cleared a tract of land and built a log-hut. One summer day, the dry leaves and branches in the adjacent woods caught fire, and fearing for his crops of ripening corn, James Garfield's father, by tremendous exertions, stayed the fire and saved his little homestead. But, weary and overheated, he took a chill and died in the prime of manhood, leaving his widow and four small children to struggle on, as best they might.

The future President was a year and a half old at this time. At three he was sent to a little school in the district; at four, he had received a prize for being the best reader in his class. At eight, he had read every book within his reach. His outdoor life made him a very giant of strength, and it was soon recognised that young James Garfield stood mentally and physically above his fellows. He earned money as a carpenter, as a labourer, as a canal-hand, so that he might educate himself. Few men ever worked harder than the future President of the United States. With cheerful perseverance, he taught himself Latin, Greek, and mathematics. At last he had earned enough to go through college. He took the highest possible honours, and was made President of the Hiram College in Ohio. An enthusiastic teacher, it has been said of him that "he revealed the world to the student and the student to himself."

Wider fields of activity soon claimed him. In 1860, he was elected a member of the Ohio Senate, where, though by far the youngest member, he soon distinguished himself. The great conflict against slavery was raging in the Northern States. Lincoln was President, and the South had risen to arms. On the declaration of war, Garfield sprang to his feet in the Senate and moved enthusiastically, "That Ohio contribute 20,000 men and 3,000,000 dollars" to the State. Taking command of a regiment himself, he soon proved as victorious in war as he had been successful in times of peace. After faithful service in the Civil War for over two years, he entered Congress, and soon became a prominent member. The crowning honour of his life came in 1881, when he was elected President of the United States of America. For four short months, he showed himself worthy of his high post; then he was shot by a disappointed office-seeker, and the whole nation broke into mourning.

James Garfield was a man of whom America might well be proud. Upright, steadfast, hard-working, true as steel, he grew from boyhood to manhood, until he became an example to all peoples and all nations. The words he used of others are true of himself: "The victory was won, when death stamped on them the great seal of heroic character, and closed a record which years can never blot."

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