In 1917, Germany offered a proposition to Mexico.The proposition was that if Mexico joined the cause of the Central Powers andtook up arms against the United States, then Germany promised that allterritory that the United States owned would be returned to Mexico. The telegramgets its name from Arthur Zimmerman who in 1917 was the German ForeignSecretary. Zimmerman, when questioned about the telegram, admitted that heintended to send the message to Mexico in hope of generating an anti-Americanatmosphere. This messaged was encountered by British intelligence and thenpromptly reported to the United States. When the message was discovered,American citizens were enraged which pushed public opinion to favor going towar.
Forthe United States, the tension was already high due to the outbreak of war in1914. Plans had been established just in case the war was brought to America.Prior to the Zimmerman Telegram being discovered, the United States’ opinion ofMexico was already poor. The reason for this anti-Mexican sentiment was becauseof Poncho Villa’s raid in New Mexico. In response to Villa’s raids, GeneralJohn J. Pershing was instructed to chase after Villa on an expedition intoMexico. While Americans already disliked the fact that a Mexican outlaw hadattacked the United States, military involvement ushered a greater rise inanti-Mexican sentiment. TheMexican response was not what the Germans expected.
Mexico declined the offerthat Germany had given them, mainly because they did not want to be draggedinto a European war or even a war with the United States. The German promise ofland, as well as financial support for the war, seemed unreliable at best tothe Mexican government. From the military perspective of Mexico, they did nothave a large enough army to take former Mexican territories in America. IfMexico could in some way receive German support and take the territories, thegovernment would not be able to support or help the English-speaking Americans.The final reason Mexico declined the Zimmerman Telegram was due to foreignrelations. The nations of Argentina,Brazil, and Chile were a part of a peace conference which was set up in theevent that America or Mexico invaded one another.
The reason for this was dueto the American invasion of Veracruz in 1914. If Mexico retaliated, it woulddamage the relationship between the three countries and Mexico. Ultimately,the telegram that offered a proposition to Mexico also stated that it wouldresume unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic Ocean. With theunrestricted submarine warfare policy instituted by Germany, nobody was safeincluding neutral American ships. Therefore, American ships were sunk by Germansubmarines.
As a result, the American outcry for war seemed very strong.