Exhibition: George White, Barings' Troubleshooter

6: The result of White's mission

White's first contact with the Mexican government came in late April 1862 when an interview with the new Finance Minister, General Doblado was granted him.

I lost my watch and all the money I had with me, only a few dollars, and received several wounds to the head - White to Barings, April 1863

The bondholders' case was listened to with patience but the minister responded that "the government was now without resources, not having even the Customs House at Vera Cruz in its hands"; from May it had been controlled by the French. Matters did not improve and late May found White pursuing Doblado to Puebla - having a narrow escape from death at the hands of a drunken Mexican soldier and becoming embroiled in a general French retreat that sent White hotfoot to Mexico City.

Doblado did sterling work in holding the Mexican government together until his resignation in August, but there was nothing to be done for the bondholders.

On the face of it there was little point in remaining in Mexico. White freely admitted, except to prevent "mischief" in the absence of a British force to counterbalance the other powers. So he remained, watching the defences of Mexico City being erected and learning of the terrible atrocities inflicted as the French finally captured Puebla after a bloody siege lasting two months. White had his own safety to consider: in early April 1863, when walking outside Mexico City, ruffians set upon him. A month later he was still confined to his quarters, not, he said, "from inability to go out, but from the necessity of still wearing complicated bandages". Only on the 22 May could he report that "the wounds in my head are now healed".

White's recovery came not a moment too soon. The French were about to invade Mexico City.

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