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Francisco Indalecio Madero was born on October 30, 1873, in Parras de la Fuente, State of Coahuila, the first son of Francisco Madero and Mercedes González Treviño, members of wealthy and aristocratic families.
Francisco studied abroad, in Baltimore, in Versailles and at the University of California. After traveling extensively throughout Europe and the United States, he returned to Coahuila to manage the family business.
The compassion and involvement of Madero with the peasants of his haciendas, allowed him to witness the suffering of the poor brought about by the unfairness of the Porfiriato. In 1904, Madero became involved in politics, with a vision towards change in the public administration. The opportunity came as a result of the imminent appointment by the Dictator of Frumencio Fuentes as Governor of Coahuila. Determined to block this election, Madero contacted many influential people in the region and founded the "Benito Juárez Democratic Club", which had in sight reforms far beyond local politics. Madero's first incursions in politics did not have the most favorable results, his efforts were thwarted by political up and downs, divisions and lack of support.
In 1908, Madero published the book La Sucesión Presidencial de 1910, shortly after Porfirio Díaz expressed a favorable view of opposition in the coming elections of 1910 to James Creelman, in the famous Díaz-Creelman interview. The book, according to many critics, was poorly written, but its novelty was the fact that it represented a frontal attack to the dictatorship.
Opposition to Díaz was widespread. The brutal repression of the miners' strikes in Cananea and the textile workers in Río Blanco in 1906 and 1907, was still fresh in the minds of many, but there was also fear. The dictatorship was an extraordinary force to be reckoned with, supported by the elites, the army and the church.
In 1909 Madero met José María Pino Suárez, an anti-reelectionist from Yucatán. At the time, Madero wanted to give respectability to his movement by attracting intellectuals and educated men, like Dr. Francisco Vázquez Gomez and Venustiano Carranza to his camp.
On April 16, 1910, after Madero had been nominated as presidential candidate for the Anti-reelectionist movement, he was granted an interview with Porfirio Díaz. Madero realized that only a revolution would provide the people with political freedom. The next day, Madero and Dr. Francisco Vazquez Gómez accepted their nominations as candidates. National enthusiasm followed. Madero initiated a campaign aided by the anti-reelectionist press and he confirmed the widespread support to his candidacy, although repression and persecution also increased. Madero was arrested on June 4th, accused of mounting a rebellion and insulting authorities. Many anti-reelectionists were also arrested. Violence erupted in many states. On July 19, 1910, Madero and others were granted conditional releases. At this time, differences between Madero and Vázquez Gómez increased, mainly because of Vázquez Gómez insistence to reach a pacific settlement with the Government.
On October 4th, Díaz and Corral were declared victorious by the Electoral College, however, the dictator had won a battle and not the war. Madero fled to the U.S. on October 7th, and during his last day in Mexico, the Plan of San Luis Potosí was drafted by Federico González Garza, Roque Estrada, Juan Sánchez Azcona, and Enrique Bordas Mangel following Madero's instructions. In the Plan, Madero declared the recent elections null, assumed the provisional presidency, and designated November 20 for the start of the Revolution. Unfortunately, the Plan did not have many provisions for agrarian reform, and totally ignored the labor problem. Stanley Ross, in his book Francisco Madero, Apostle of Mexican Democracy is of the opinion that " Madero did not create the Revolution. The Mexican Revolution already had a foundation and would have erupted with or without a program". In any case, a date was set for it to start.
Before the rebellion started, the government discovered the actions being prepared. Carmen and Aquiles Serdán, in Puebla, were the first martyrs, but in Tlaxcala, Michoacán, Guerrero, Hidalgo and Veracruz, hundreds were arrested on sedition charges. Francisco Madero returned to San Antonio, while the government assured the U.S. ambassador that the rebellion would be quashed in three days. Knowing the forceful effectiveness of the Dictator, nobody doubted it, but the spark of the Revolution had spread to the northern states, where Francisco Villa and Pascual Orozco had occupied important cities, like Chihuahua and Ciudad Juárez. The Revolution carried on until May 17, when Madero signed the Treaty of Ciudad Juárez, in which he demanded the resignation of Díaz and his Vice President as conditions for an armistice. Many revolutionaries did not like the conciliatory tone of the treaty, but when Díaz and Corral resigned on May 25, 1911, everything seemed to be just fine.
However, at this point, Madero made one of the biggest mistakes as Chief of the Revolution: He named Francisco Leon de la Barra, a conservative, as Interim President. León de la Barra immediately named a cabinet with conservative elements who steadily neutralized the effervescence of the movement. Madero was labeled a traitor by the revolutionary chiefs. Emiliano Zapata felt betrayed and turned away from Madero. When Madero and Pino Suárez finally won the elections in November 6, 1911, the division among the revolutionaries was enormous and many saw the new government with distrust. Madero himself oscillated between conservative and revolutionary forces, and although he leaned more to the side of the Revolution, he did not recognize the urgency for satisfying the demands of the revolution. According to Stanley Ross, Madero considered his electoral triumph as the victory of democratic principles and expected to accomplish other changes in time. His desire to for "everything within the law" is questionable, or at best, illusory, since "the law" had not been changed and the people in Congress were really just extras in Díaz's show.
Political instability and conflict ravaged the country until the early months of 1913. The conservatives were gaining more territory and armed confrontations were the daily bread for Madero's presidency, since disarmament of the revolutionaries had not taken place. The conservatives were extremely vicious in their attacks and at that time, Madero brought upon himself the gratuitous enmity of the American Ambassador, Henry Lane Wilson. Some modest progress was attained in the agrarian problem, but not enough to satisfy public demand, although history has vindicated Madero as a good agrarist, given the short time of his presidency. The labor demand was handled with reduction of hours, right to strike, protection for women and children in industry and workingmen's accident compensation. On the area of public works, he concentrated more on reconstruction, rather than new projects.
Because reform was slow, the Zapatistas soon were in full rebellion against Madero, proclaiming the Plan de Ayala and disavowing Madero. The president was the target of bitter criticism in all flanks.
Finally, militarism showed again its ugly face in Mexican politics. On an environment of bitter distrust, Madero committed his biggest mistake yet. In spite of warnings from close associates, among them his own brother Gustavo A. Madero, the president named Victoriano Huerta as Chief of the Armed Forces. Huerta immediately saw the opportunity of a lifetime. He started secretly plotting with Félix Díaz and Henry Lane Wilson on how to bring down Madero's government. A conspiracy within the army took place with full knowledge and support of the American ambassador. Madero was placed under arrest. A pact was made in the offices of the American Embassy, stating that Victoriano Huerta would serve as provisional president and that Félix Díaz would then be supported as candidate for the presidency. In the same meeting, the fate of Madero was sealed with a total indifference from the American Ambassador. On February 21, 1913, Madero and Pino Suárez were forced to resign and then they were assassinated. The coup d'etat had been successfully accomplished, but the traitors could not enjoy the fruit of their treachery. Henry Lane Wilson was called to Washington and forced to retire. In Mexico, the Revolution raged against Huerta and Díaz.