Who was Francisco I. Madero? In this lesson, you will learn about the life and times of the Mexican pro-democracy revolutionary and his wild ride to the Mexican presidency.

Early Life and Education

Francisco Indalecio Madero (try saying that three times fast!) was born on October 30, 1873 to a very wealthy family in Parras, Mexico. Although he was raised in Mexico, young Madero spent a significant time studying abroad. From 1886 to 1888, he studied at Mount St. Mary’s College in Maryland, then spent some time at a business school in Paris, and eventually made his way to University of California at Berkeley as well. Throughout his travels, he began to develop a strong belief in democracy, in addition to becoming a vegetarian (something he probably picked up in California).

Early Political Career

After his years of wandering and studying and eating vegetables, Madero found his way back to Mexico. At the turn of the 20th century, Mexico had a president but not a democracy. Porfirio D;az, Mexican president and dictator extraordinaire, had a firm grasp on the country and became a symbol of government corruption. For Madero, this was simply unacceptable. He began actively promoting democratic ideals by starting the Benito Ju;rez Democratic Club, and even founded his own political club to get elected as the governor of Coahuila. Unfortunately for Madero, these early attempts at democracy in Mexico were a fail.

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Road to the Presidency

In 1908, Madero saw a window of opportunity. President D;az floated a rumor that he was maybe kinda/sorta interested in democracy in Mexico. After years of bossing people around and promoting corruption, retiring in a few years was starting to look like a good option. Madero was elated. He was overjoyed. He was totally going to capitalize on D;az’s retirement and bring about change in Mexico. Madero encouraged the press to write about change and democracy. He personally wrote a book called La sucesión presidencial en 1910 that outlined all Madero’s grand plans after D;az left office, including awesome democratic things like free elections and limiting presidential terms.

Francisco I. Madero
Francisco I. Madero

President D;az, however, saw Madero’s efforts and basically said ‘SYKE!’…he wasn’t retiring, and he was going to run for president again. At that point in Mexico’s history, ‘running for president’ was code for, ‘rigging the election’ and ‘using force to suppress the masses’. Madero was undeterred. He helped form the Antireelectionist Party that worked against Díaz’s reelection as president, and Madero became the party’s candidate. Díaz realized that Madero’s popularity was growing. No way was D;az going to lose the election to some pro-democracy vegetarian punk. The dictator did the only reasonable thing he could to stop his opponent: he arrested him for allegedly stirring up a rebellion.

Madero escaped from his captors and found a safe haven in Texas in 1910. From his hideout, Madero continued to rile his supporters and encouraged them to resist the government. Supporters like Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa kept the hope alive and rallied a rag-tag army of pro-democracy freedom fighters. By November of 1910, Madero’s supporters were working to capture key cities and fought against Díaz’s government. Ultimately, D;az was forced to resign and a provisional government was set up to temporarily run the country before an official election could be held. Madero won the election handily and became president of Mexico in 1911.

President Madero

Despite Madero’s popularity during Díaz’s downfall, his presidency was not a good one. Madero was very idealistic and super inexperienced. He had never held political office before, and he had definitely never run a country. Let alone a country that had corruption oozing from every little nook and cranny. Madero faced three major issues:

  • His supporters had ulterior motives.
  • Revolutionaries wanted more significant changes.
  • Pro-D;az supporters were a giant pain in the you-know-what.

Within his first year as president, Madero had to put down several small rebellions. In 1913, men he considered to be his allies stirred up their own mini-rebellions and were sent to jail. They continued to plot and scheme from jail. Conspirators and former allies betrayed Madero, captured him, and then assassinated him in Mexico City on February 22, 1913. The assassination made Madero a martyr and a symbol of revolution in Mexico.


In October of 1910, Madero addressed the Mexican army and called them to action against their dictator, Porfirio D;az. In his rousing speech, Madero pointed out the ways D;az had failed the country and how he exploited his people. Madero claimed that regardless of the army’s help, the revolution was going to happen, but could be achieved faster with their help.

‘The triumph of the revolution is certain, but with you it rests whether it shall be quickly or slowly gained, whether there shall be a greater or a less degree of bloodshed, whether you yourselves will gain for us more quickly our liberty, for it is well known that you are those who suffer the most from the dictatorship…’

He appealed their better natures and reminded them what their true job was as members of the army.

‘Soldiers of the Republic! Remember that the mission of the army is to defend the institutions and not that of being the conscienceless supporter of tyranny!’

Within a month, Francisco Madero’s campaign was in full-swing and he continued to rally his supporters with the slogan, ‘sufragio efectivo, no reelección’, or in English, ‘effective suffrage, no reelection’. Suffrage is the right to vote; Madero’s call to action reminded his fellow Mexicans that Díaz denied them this right and it was time to bring his rule to an end.

Lesson Summary

Francisco I. Madero was born in 1873 to a wealthy family in Mexico. He spent several years studying abroad and developing strong democratic ideals before returning to Mexico. He worked hard to promote democracy in Mexico despite the fact Mexico was led by dictator Porfirio Díaz. When Díaz announced in 1908 he planned to retire in 1910, Madero actively worked to promote his democratic ideas across Mexico. In a crazy turn of events, Díaz decided to run for reelection, and arrested Madero who was running as the Antireelectionist Party candidate. Madero escaped to Texas where he continued to incite rebellion against Díaz’s government. Madero became president of Mexico in 1911. After two years of turbulence and discontent in Mexico, Madero was captured and assassinated on February 22, 1913.