to Mr. Fish.
Mexico , March 28, 1874. (Received April 14.)
Sir: On the 22d instant I received from the minister resident at this capital, of the German Empire, Count Enzenberg, a communication, (inclosure 1,) with which he transmitted a note which he had received [Page 739] from the Mexican minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Lafragua, in reply to a note conveying the information that on the 22d instant, the birthday of the Emperor of Germany, the flag of that empire would be displayed from the house of the German legation; in which reply Mr. Lafragua stated, that as the foreign ministers had not raised their flags on the 21st instant, which was the anniversary of the birth of the illustrious citizen, Benito Juarez, the government of Mexico would limit itself to observing due reciprocity.
In view of the allusion to the conduct of all the foreign ministers, in the note of Mr. Lafragua, and at the unanimous request of the diplomatic representatives resident at this capital, I, as dean thereof, called a meeting of the diplomatic corps at this legation, on the 23d instant, at which a joint note to Mr. Lafragua was drawn up and “signed by all the representatives at present in this capital, except the German minister, Count Enzenberg, who desired to reply separately to Mr. Lafragua. This note, of which a copy is inclosed herewith, (2,) expresses our surprise that the Mexican government should have thought proper to address to a single member of the diplomatic corps observations upon the conduct of the entire corps, and states that the omission to raise the flags of our respective nations on the anniversary of the birth of the late President Juarez ought not to have been interpreted into an intentional discourtesy to either the Mexican government or the memory of that illustrious statesman, in view of our conduct on former similar occasions, and also of the fact that, although the first legal observance of said anniversary took place this year, it was not brought to our attention either by your excellency or by the official or other journals of this capital; and, in conclusion, we express our regret that said omission, which was neither intentional nor concerted by us, and due solely to the circumstances above stated, should have been made the occasion for the Mexican government to deliberately refuse to observe its customary public mark of respect and courtesy to a sovereign and a government which sustains friendly relations both with the republic of Mexico and with the governments we have the honor to represent.
The note of Mr. Lafragua was construed by all the representatives as an indication of the intention of the Mexican government to abstain from its customary recognition of our national anniversaries, on account of our single omission on the 21st instant, notwithstanding it was our well-known practice to raise our flags on the frequent Mexican national days, and the further fact that all of us had recently displayed our flags on the birthday of President Lerdo; for which reason, in addition to those stated in our joint note, we felt constrained to take the action above indicated.
It has been my practice, following the precedent of my predecessors, to raise my flag over the legation on the days indicated and observed as national by the Mexican government, which I find, in examining the calendar, are twelve in number. I have never addressed to either the Mexican government or the legations of foreign governments any note, directly or indirectly, inviting them to display their flags on the days observed by the United States as national holidays, but their usual practice is to honor the 22d of February and the 4th of July, and I have always made acknowledgment of their courtesy by a personal visit in an unofficial manner.
On the 27th instant, Mr. Lafragua sent to me (as also to the representatives of Spain and Italy) a reply to our joint note of the 23d instant, (inclosure 3,) in which he states that it has not been the practice of the department of foreign affairs to inform the foreign legations [Page 740] of the days when the Mexican government raises its flag, as their observance by the legations is entirely voluntary; calls our attention to the fact of the passage of the law of the 18th of April, 1873, decreeing the observance of the birthday of Juarez, and expresses regret that our omission should have occurred on the anniversary of the birthday of this illustrious man.
The diplomatic representatives who joined in the first note (2) to Mr. Lafragua to-day sent to him an acknowledgment of the receipt of his note of the 27th instant, stating that while we regretted that it was not more satisfactory in its character, and that as the object of our joint note was not to provoke a controversy, we would content ourselves with reiterating that our past conduct did not justify the allusion, in his note to Count Enzenberg, to our omission on the 21st instant, or the course of his government on the 22d instant, (inclosure 4.)
I am, &c.,