Francisco I. Madero, a leader of the Mexican Revolution and president of Mexico known as the "apostle of democracy," was born in Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila, Mexico, on October 30, 1873, the son of Francisco Madero Hernández and Mercedes González Treviño. His was a leading family in northern Mexico. Madero received his education at the Jesuit-run San Juan school in Saltillo and then (1886–88) at Mount St. Mary in Baltimore, Maryland. He and his brother Gustavo left Mexico in October 1887 to study in Versailles and subsequently in Paris at a business school (1889–91). After spending the summer of 1892 at home in Mexico, the brothers studied agriculture at the University of California at Berkeley for a year. After returning home, Madero became a leader in the development of the Laguna cotton region. He married Sara Pérez in 1903, but their union was without issue. Despite his family's well-being under President Porfirio Díaz, Madero deplored the callous treatment the majority received during the porfiriato. Unsuccessful local efforts convinced him of the necessity of a national democratic movement to overcome the dictatorship. He conducted correspondence encouraging political organization and supported independent journalists, including Jesús and Ricardo Flores Magón, publishers of Regeneración in San Antonio, Texas.
Madero himself was a more moderate opposition member than the Flores brothers. His widely received La sucesión presidencial en 1910 often praised the near octogenarian Díaz while blaming his advisors, the "científicos," for Mexico's ills. In 1909, in the wake of Díaz's broken promise not to run again for the presidency, Madero formed the National Antireelectionist Party. His courage in opposing the dictator inspired enthusiastic crowds, and he was nominated in April 1910 by his party to run for the presidency. Díaz, in reaction, ordered Madero's arrest and the suppression of the party. Election day in June 1910 saw Madero behind bars in San Luis Potosí. Upon release, like the Flores brothers before him, he jumped bail and fled to San Antonio, where he established revolutionary headquarters. From San Antonio, Madero could call upon his political and financial ties throughout the border region. His moderate political views gained him support on both sides of the border. Through his contacts and personal wealth he was able to mount an intelligence operation and hire legal assistance.
His first step in San Antonio was to declare himself president of a revolutionary junta. A plan of action was set forth and distributed in November under the name Plan de San Luis Potosí and pre-dated to his last night in that town, October 5. This was done to avoid the appearance of violating the rather vague United States neutrality act. Because Madero believed that political reform had to take precedence over social and economic goals, the plan did not set forth a blueprint for the revolutionary society. Nevertheless, an ambiguous promise to redistribute lands illegally taken during the porfiriato later led to disillusionment among Madero's more radical supporters. Mounting pressure from Díaz for the United States government to act against Madero combined with a lag in revolutionary readiness. In a bid for time, Madero moved his operations to New Orleans and then in January 1911 to Dallas. Finally, in the face of an order for his arrest and the apparent need of the rebels to have their leader in Mexico, Madero reentered Mexico from El Paso on February 14.
Díaz resigned the presidency on May 25, leaving his vice president in charge. But in the same month the Flores brothers broke with Madero. Radical dissatisfaction with the moderate revolutionary manifested itself again in November with the breaking of ties by Emiliano Zapata, who believed Madero would not honor the agrarian-reform promises in the Plan of San Luis Potosí. Despite these and other defections, Madero took office as president on November 6, 1911. A successful coup by Gen. Victoriano Huerta forced him to resign the presidency on February 19, 1913. Huerta had Madero shot on February 22.