Exhibition: George White, Barings' Troubleshooter

5: Mexico

In March 1862 George White, acting as Agent of the Committee of Mexican Bondholders arrived off Vera Cruz with a junior clerk, Carey Bowden, to negotiate with the government for settlement of its sterling debt in default.

One thing is certain that the country is entirely exhausted by the long state of anarchy under which it has been labouring, that business is almost wholly suspended, and the government without resources - White to Barings, March 1862

Their arrival coincided with the shabby military and naval expedition to Mexico by France, Britain and Spain which ended up with France placing Mexico under its puppet, the Emperor Maximillian. White was an observant witness to the to-ing and fro-ing of the French army across the Mexican landscape.

On the 20th April, the French established their control over Orizaba and issued a ‘pronunciamento’ in favour of their puppet, General Almonte. It was the first real manifestation of their desire to control Mexico and White found himself unwittingly in the midst of it. ‘I witnessed… [the pronunciamento] as it occurred in the hotel in which I am living,’ he reported ‘A crowd of people ran into the General’s room and went through a series of “vivas”, let off two or three rockets on the balcony and then retired. Some three or four hundred people then marched down the street repeating the “vivas” and the ceremony was complete’.

Despite the political situation White was doggedly determined to carry out his mission. He kept the partners well informed with his colourful accounts of Mexico's turmoil.

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