The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1976, Volume 22, Number 3
James E. Moss, Editor

Book Reviews

Luther T. Ellsworth: U.S. Consul on the Border During the Mexican Revolution. By Dorothy Pierson Kerig. El Paso: University of Texas at El Paso Press, Southwestern Studies, Monograph No. 47, 1975. Illustrations. Notes. 80 pages. Softbound. $3.00

Reviewed by Kenneth J. Grieb, Professor of History and Coordinator of Latin American Studies, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, author of The United States and Huerta (1969) and The Latin American Policy of Warren G. Harding (1976), Co-author of Latin American Government Leaders (1st ed., 1970, 2nd ed., 1975), and author of numerous articles in professional journals.

This brief study, excerpted from a master’s thesis done at San Diego State University, narrates the activities of a United States Consul who was stationed at Ciudad Porfirio Diaz (now Piedras Negras) from 1907 to 1913, and was particularly active in efforts to counter arms smuggling along the frontier. His tenure coincided with the turbulent years spanning the decline and collapse of the regime of General Porfirio Díaz, and the early stages of the Mexican Revolution, a period during which arms traffic was rampant. Ellsworth devoted prodigious amounts of time to countering such smuggling, to the extent that at times he neglected his regular duties. He assumed a dual role, reporting to both the Justice and State departments, and assisted agents of the various branches involved in attempting to curtail the movement of weapons and munitions into Mexico. Although his relations with the Justice Department varied, Ellsworth continued his extensive reporting on smuggling throughout his tenure as Consul. Ellsworth clearly enjoyed intelligence work and proved effective in that field. These efforts rendered him unpopular with the border populace on both sides of the frontier, since they sympathized with the Revolution. At times Ellsworth’s stance placed him out of step with the administration in Washington, since attitudes towards smuggling fluctuated with the various incumbencies in both Washington and Mexico City.

The author sketches Ellsworth’s activities, relying principally upon thorough research in State Department records, employing the Decimal Files, Consular Records, Post Records, and the Personnel File of the Consul. Emphasis is placed on the initial years of Ellsworth’s tenure, focusing upon the period of the Díaz regime and the Madero Revolution against it, with more than half the brief study dealing with this era. Consequently, the years after 1911 receive only scanty coverage. The study is primarily narrative rather than interpretative, providing an account of the activities of a figure who, though deserving of study, is clearly peripheral both to events in Mexico and policy making in Washington. As such, this work offers insights into the varied activities of a particular Consul in a key location, and provides some indication of the role of the border populace in the arms smuggling and the Revolution, but sheds little new light on the course of the Revolution, or United States policy.