The Wilson administration that had taken office literally days after the coup against and assassination of President Madero had a difficult time formulating a sensible foreign policy towards Mexico. State Department officials who consisted mainly of holdovers from the previous republican administrations as well as a hawkish group in the US Senate pleaded for military intervention as the only way to create order. Before Henry Lane Wilson had been fired in the summer of 1913, he, as well, consistently sent inflated reports of violence against Americans and businesses in Mexico.

Going behind the back of his own State Department, President Wilson decided to use his trusted friend William Bayard Hale for a second time. Hale had been in Mexico in the spring on a mission to find out the truth of Madero's assassination. His mission had resulted in the verification of H. L. Wilson’s role in Madero’s downfall and led to the ambassador’s eventual firing. However, according to Sommerfeld’s testimony in 1918, the mission turned out to be harder than expected. Hale had a hard time to even get an appointment with Carranza. The First Chief refused to see Wilson’s emissary since Hale he did not have official government credentials. Always a stickler for process, Carranza wanted to force Wilson into a de-facto recognition that mandated a diplomatic representative to be dispatched to Carranza. Naturally, not lacking a measure of pigheadedness himself, Wilson did not accept. In November 1913, in order to prevent the issue from coming to a head, the Wilson administration relied on Felix Sommerfeld to intercede with Carranza.

“While in Sonora Mr. William Hale came there and we went to the border and arranged a meeting between Carranza and Hale and acted as a go-between.” It took Sommerfeld from November 2nd until November 12th to get Carranza to grant the audience. However, Sommerfeld’s job had just started. Carranza refused to discuss anything that, in his opinion, touched upon affairs of a domestic nature. At issue was President Wilson’s attempt to somehow arrive at a compromise government for Mexico that would be able to allow for and set up national elections. Of course, by November the Constitutionalists had just won several major battles and had no interest in compromise. The talks quickly stalled. According to historian Cumberland, Hale threatened U.S. intervention and Carranza retorted with the threat of war. Sommerfeld recalled, “…they [Hale and Carranza] were always sparring around and after the meetings I would go and talk to Carranza.” The efforts of the German agent came to nothing. Hale and Carranza split in a huff. The First Chief’s mode of operation, being dilatory, delegating, and insisting on written communication, directly contradicted Hale’s “go-getter” energy.

 The "First Chief" with his staff.

The "First Chief" with his staff.

Sommerfeld tried again to bridge the gap. At the urging of Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, the German agent rushed to Tucson, Arizona on November 10th 1913, where Hale waited in vain to be received by Carranza: “I came back because I heard that Dr. Hale had left Carranza in disgust or anger. I met Dr. Hale in Arizona and told him not to lose his patience because Carranza was stubborn and wouldn’t let the United States interfere in Mexican politics. He wouldn’t discuss politics with Dr. Hale. I told him ‘sit still, I am going down to see him.’…I tried to coax him to come off the high horse. He wouldn’t… The problems Hale faced in relating to the First Chief were symptomatic for many who had dealings with the stubborn politician from Coahuila. In part because of his failed attempts to broker an agreement between Hale and Carranza, Sommerfeld realized that he as well could not get along with Carranza. It is unclear whether, as Sommerfeld recounted, Carranza asked him to work with Villa, or whether Sommerfeld was fired as a result of the Hale intervention. However, around Christmas 1913, Sommerfeld switched from the Carranza to the Villa camp. From that moment on Carranza is not known to have ever again personally interacted with Sommerfeld. Historical sources after December 1913 show only Sherburne G. Hopkins officially working for Carranza. One other fact, however, became painfully apparent: The American embassy in Mexico City as well as the Latin American desk in the State Department in 1913 and beyond had lost their roles as policy advisers of the American President.

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