1873-1913 • Revolutionary Leader and President
Francisco I. Madero was born on October 30, 1873, into a family of wealthy landowners, cattle ranchers, mine owners, and industrialists in northern Mexico. In 1886, at the age of 13, Madero was sent to study in the United States, and from 1888 to 1892 he attended the École des Hautes Études Commerciales in Paris. In 1893 he entered the University of California at Berkeley to study agriculture.
Madero's thinking matured while he was studying abroad. He saw how the U.S. electoral system worked and developed an admiration for French and U.S. democracy. He also was exposed to spiritism in France in 1891, acquiring a huge library of books on spiritism and beginning a lifelong involvement in spiritist teachings and movements. In 1893 Madero returned to Mexico to manage one of his father's cotton plantations in San Pedro de la Colonias, Coahuila. He introduced irrigation and other agricultural improvements and set up hostels, schools, and homeopathy centers for the poor. In 1903 he married Sara Pérez. Rather than continuing to work on family properties, however, Madero decided to concentrate on politics.
Madero long had been concerned about national and regional problems in Mexico, writing articles for a variety of journals in Coahuila and Mexico City and using his family's wealth to subsidize opposition political clubs and newspapers. In 1904 Madero, various friends, and members of his family organized the Benito Juárez Democratic Club in San Pedro de la Colonias to elect a candidate in the municipal elections; Maderowas its first president. Through the newspaper El Demdcrata they persuaded people in other municipalities in Coahuila to form affiliated clubs. In 1905 delegates from each club met to name a candidate for governor. Madero played a pivotal role in the campaign, financing part of the costs himself, finding other contributors to fund the balance, proposing candidates, and drawing on a vast network of editors, journalists, friends, and relatives to develop a coordinated plan of action and to disseminate political propaganda. Nonetheless, during the elections the incumbent governor violated national electoral law by standing for reelection. The clubs demanded that the elections be nullified, to no avail. This experience helped Madero solidify his ideas about universal suffrage and nonreelection.
In 1908, for reasons that still are not entirely clear, longtime Mexican dictatorPorfirio Díaz announced in an interview with a U.S. journalist that he would not stand for reelection, spawning a flood of opposition political activity. In 1909 Madero published The Presidential Succession of 1910:The National Democratic Party. Madero demanded that the electoral provision of the Constitution of 1857 be honored, allowing free and fair elections to take place with no incumbents allowed to stand for reelection. He criticized the government of Porfirio Díaz for being absolutist and centralist, keeping a closed network of cronies in power, creating a lapdog press, and preventing the formation of opposition parties. Madero also found much to praise in the Porfirian regime, however, particularly Díaz's administrative acumen and the apparent social peace and material progress of his decades-long rule. Nonetheless, Madero insisted that Mexico needed political change and proposed that a National Democratic Party (later called the Partido Anti-Reeleccionista, or Anti-Reelectionist Party) be created. He suggested that anyone sharing his ideas should organize political clubs, spreading anti-reelectionist ideas through the press and eventually creating a national club. Each state would name a delegate to a national convention, which would propose candidates for president, vice president, and the judiciary.
In 1909 Madero, together with other figures such as the philosopher José Vasconcelos, founded the Centro Anti- Reeleccionista de México (Mexican Anti-Reelectionist Center) in Mexico City. Madero traveled throughout the country on behalf of the center, converting to the antireelectionist cause former followers of potential candidate Bernardo Reyes, middle-class voters, and wavering supporters of Díaz (who by now had decided to seek reelection despite his previous declaration that he would not). In gathering this support, however, Madero also helped catalyze a network of opposition to his candidacy among supporters of Porfirio Díaz's regime.
In April 1910 an order went out for Madero's arrest on the grounds that he was an accomplice in a theft of guayule (a valuable, rubber-producing crop) from a hacienda in Coahuila. He managed to evade arrest and attend the Anti- Reelectionists' national convention, however, where he was named the party's candidate for president. Madero traveled throughout Mexico, but on the eve of the election he was arrested and imprisoned. Porfirio Díaz was reelected as president and Ramón Corral vice president.
After the elections Madero was freed on bail and returned to the city of San Luis Potosí, where he wrote the Plan de San Luis Potosf. Madero declared the June 1910 elections null and void, calling on the nation to protest the