« PreviousContinue »
it up. In closing, Poinsett said he would await information from King concerning opinion in London about Ward's activities before he attempted to retaliate for the insult which he felt Ward had offered.2
Later in explaining to Clay the attack of the legislature of the state of Vera Cruz upon him, discussed below in this chapter, Poinsett said the most serious charge made against him was that he had established the York Masons; and explained to Clay just what part he had taken in their organization. He regretted that Masonry should have been made an instrument of political intrigue. He said that lodges of York Masons had already existed in Mexico before his arrival, but that they were without charters. Members of these had asked him to secure a charter from the grand lodge of New York, which he had not hesitated to do. The persons who made the request were all members of the government or interested in maintaining the existing order of things and in preserving the tranquility of the country. He said they were General Guerrero, a distinguished revolutionary officer; Esteva, secretary of the treasury; Arispe, secretary of grace and justice; Zavala, a member of the Senate and later governor of the state of Mexico; and Alpuche, a member of the Senate. He said he had no notion that such men had in view any project to disorganize the government. As soon as the Yorkinos. were publicly accused of perverting the organization to political purposes, he said he had withdrawn from
2 Poinsett to Rufus King, October 14, 1825, MS., Department of State, Despatches from Mexico, I.
their meetings. But he excused them by saying that the Scottish rite Masons had long been organized, and that their opponents had only followed their example in political activity. He said further that the progress of the Yorkino cause had been so rapid as to lead the people to attribute it to some secret cause. They see in this "the direction of some able hand, and have thought proper to attribute the success of the republican party, the consolidation of the federal system, and the establishment of liberal principles exclusively to my influence."3
Zavala, to whom Poinsett referred as friendly and useful and a leading member of the Yorkino lodge, later published a brief account of the formation of the lodges. He says the project was formed by Alpuche and joined by Esteva, Arispe, Victoria and others; that its purpose was to oppose the Escoceses (Scots); that five lodges were formed; and that Poinsett was then asked to obtain for them a charter from the grand lodge of New York. This step and the installation of the grand lodge in Mexico, he says, was the only interference by this American, who, he continues, because of his share in the movement has been calumniated by aristocrats and various European agents in Mexico who have taken more part than he in the affairs of the country. Tornel, the bitter enemy of
3 Poinsett to Clay, July 8, 1827, MS., Department of State, Despatches from Mexico, III.
4 Zavala, Ensayo Historico, I, 346. This was published in 1831. On page 385 he says: "los periódicos del otro bando le acusaban de haber faltado á la primera obligacion de un min
Poinsett, gives an account as prejudiced against him as Zavala's is in his favor. Nearly every writer on Mexican history of this period has expressed an opinion on Poinsett's merit or demerit in the matter. Most of these writers have followed either Tornel or Zavala, and show their prejudice either for or against him.
Poinsett did not say that the purpose of the movement was political, neither did he say that it was not, istro extrangero, que es la de no mezclarse en las cuestiones interiores del pais en que egercen su mision, y en donde no estan de consiguiente sugetos á los leyes comunes. La acusacion en el fondo era injusta." On page 339, he pays a glowing tribute to Poinsett's ability and acknowledges his uninterrupted friendship, which shows, of course, that he is a prejudiced witness.
5 Tornel, Breve Reseña, 45.
• Accounts bitterly condemning him are: Alaman, Historia de Mejico, V, 822, 824; Bocanegra, Memorias para la Historia de Mexico, I, 382, 389-395, II, 13, 17-22; Rivera, Historia de Jalapa, II, 366–369; and Zamacois, Historia de Mejico, XI, 620.
H. H. Bancroft, History of Mexico, V, 32, quotes Zavala and exonerates Poinsett. Romero, Mexico and the United States, 349, says, "It seems that while he desired the success of the Yorkinos, he was not the founder of that lodge." Robinson, Mexico and Her Military Chieftains, shows his lack of accuracy by saying, page 146, "Mr. Poinsett, it may be presumed, never had any connection with either branch of the order in Mexico." McMaster, History of the People of the United States, V, 540, states correctly but very briefly the part Poinsett took in organizing the lodges. Yoakum, in Comprehensive History of Texas, I, 124, gives a brief and substantially correct statement.
Rives, United States and Mexico, 1821-1848, I, 164-165, also gives a brief and substantially correct account, though he seems unnecessarily harsh in his criticism of Poinsett, and says little about the extenuating circumstances.
Justin H. Smith has recently published a defense of Poinsett in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society.
although he said that it had been reported to be such. However, the fact that the organization was effected at the very time that he was forming what he repeatedly spoke of as an American party, and that the leaders of that party were also leaders in the lodges, is presumptive evidence that he had some notion of the use to which they would be put. But later when the Yorkinos had enjoyed a phenomenal growth and when the names of the old centralista and federalista parties had everywhere been abandoned for the respective designations, Escoceses and Yorkinos, he said, in August, 1826, that he was sorry the Masonic meetings had become political. But he suggested an excuse for the faction which he favored by saying that the Escoceses had long existed and been hostile to the United States before the Yorkinos were organized. Two months later he reported that the election which had just taken place for members of the state legislatures had gone generally in favor of the Yorkinos. The legislature of the state of Mexico, hitherto controlled by the Escoceses, all of whom had been defeated in the election, refused to yield their seats to their victorious rivals. Thus triumphant in the state elections of 1826, the Yorkinos
7 Poinsett to Clay, August 26, 1826, MS., Department of State, Despatches from Mexico, II. In this he said there was a third party called Los Piadosos, opposed to all Masonic influence, but that it received almost no support. In January he had written that Masonry was flourishing and that, except the president, all the cabinet and all the leading men in the country were Masons, even some of the higher clergy being members.
planned already to capture the presidency two years later; and Poinsett knew their plans. In a cipher paragraph of this despatch of October 21, 1826, he said: "The man who is held up as ostensible head of the party and who will be their candidate for the next presidency is General Guerrero, one of the most distinguished chiefs of the revolution. Guerrero is uneducated but possesses excellent natural talents, combined with great decision of character and undaunted courage. His violent temper renders him difficult to control, and therefore I consider Zavala's presence here indispensably necessary, as he possesses great influence over the general." He had just told of Zavala's having been offered the position of Mexican minister to the United States and said: "I was not sorry that he declined it; he is one of the most efficient leaders of the party friendly to the United States, the Yorkinos, and is more useful here than he would be in Washington." He told of the schemes of those in the cabinet who were endeavoring to rid that body of the Yorkino dominance, said they exercised great influence over the indecisive character of the President, and declared that if their schemes succeeded that official would find himself, as before Poinsett's arrival, surrounded by a few supporters hostile to the majority in Congress and the country. A month later he reported that there were election disturbances; but that he did not expect a violent rup
8 Poinsett to Clay, October 21, 1826, nearly all of the facts here given being in cipher, MS., Department of State, Despatches from Mexico, II.