In 1917, Germany offered a proposition to Mexico.
The proposition was that if Mexico joined the cause of the Central Powers and
took up arms against the United States, then Germany promised that all
territory that the United States owned would be returned to Mexico. The telegram
gets its name from Arthur Zimmerman who in 1917 was the German Foreign
Secretary. Zimmerman, when questioned about the telegram, admitted that he
intended to send the message to Mexico in hope of generating an anti-American
atmosphere. This messaged was encountered by British intelligence and then
promptly reported to the United States. When the message was discovered,
American citizens were enraged which pushed public opinion to favor going to
the United States, the tension was already high due to the outbreak of war in
1914. Plans had been established just in case the war was brought to America.
Prior to the Zimmerman Telegram being discovered, the United States’ opinion of
Mexico was already poor. The reason for this anti-Mexican sentiment was because
of Poncho Villa’s raid in New Mexico. In response to Villa’s raids, General
John J. Pershing was instructed to chase after Villa on an expedition into
Mexico. While Americans already disliked the fact that a Mexican outlaw had
attacked the United States, military involvement ushered a greater rise in
Mexican response was not what the Germans expected. Mexico declined the offer
that Germany had given them, mainly because they did not want to be dragged
into a European war or even a war with the United States. The German promise of
land, as well as financial support for the war, seemed unreliable at best to
the Mexican government. From the military perspective of Mexico, they did not
have a large enough army to take former Mexican territories in America. If
Mexico could in some way receive German support and take the territories, the
government would not be able to support or help the English-speaking Americans.
The final reason Mexico declined the Zimmerman Telegram was due to foreign
relations. The nations of Argentina,
Brazil, and Chile were a part of a peace conference which was set up in the
event that America or Mexico invaded one another. The reason for this was due
to the American invasion of Veracruz in 1914. If Mexico retaliated, it would
damage the relationship between the three countries and Mexico.
the telegram that offered a proposition to Mexico also stated that it would
resume unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic Ocean. With the
unrestricted submarine warfare policy instituted by Germany, nobody was safe
including neutral American ships. Therefore, American ships were sunk by German
submarines. As a result, the American outcry for war seemed very strong.