No. 354.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Evarts.

No. 964.]

Sir: Referring to your dispatch No. 609, of March 26 last, relating to the contract made by the Mexican Government for the colonization of the island of Ciari, I have to report that, in a note dated on the 21st ultimo, I communicated to the Mexican foreign office the substance of your said dispatch, protesting against the invidious distinction made by the Mexican Government in excluding American citizens from the rights conceded to other foreigners as to the ownership of real estate in the frontier States.

The minister of foreign affairs, in reply thereto, sent me a note on yesterday, of which I inclose herewith a translation. It will be seen that he claims for Mexico the full right to place limitations upon the privilege conceded to foreigners to acquire and hold real estate in this country, and that he maintains that such limitations or prohibition as to citizens of the United States are not a violation of either the letter or the spirit of the treaty of 1831. It will also be noticed that he plainly indicates that such prohibition against American citizens holding real estate in the frontier States is inspired by the fear of territorial encroachment to the danger of the Mexican autonomy.

In acknowledging the minister’s note to-day, I have limited myself to saying I would forward a copy to you and await your indication before making a reply thereto.

If your dispatch and protest have had no other result, they have at least led the Mexican Government to state its real feeling in regard to frontier intercourse with our people, which is a fear that the acquisition [Page 810] of American interests across the border may result in the dismemberment of its territory.

This feeling has been most marked in the present session of Congress, which adjourns on the 31st instant, wherein the most decided hostility has been manifested against any railroad connection with the United States, the two bills for that object pending in that body having made no successful progress towards their passage.

Awaiting your further instructions on the subject of this dispatch.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 964.—Translation.]

Mr. Ruelas to Mr. Foster.

Mr. Minister: I have received the note of your excellency dated the 21st of April last past, in which you are pleased to inform me that the Department of State of the United States of America, to which your excellency transmitted a translation of the contract made on the 4th of February last by the department of public works for the colonization of the island of Ciari, in the Gulf of California, has called your attention to the second clause of that contract, which does not admit as colonists the native or naturalized citizens of a foreign country bordering on the State of Sonora, to which the island of Ciari belongs. The Department of State, as your excellency states, considers that exclusion invidious, and in direct opposition to article 3 of the treaty of 1831, which stipulates for perfect equality between citizens of the United States and other foreigners who may visit or reside in Mexico.

Your excellency adds that, under instructions from the Department of State, you protest in the name of the Government of the United States against the exclusion and discrimination adverted to, characterizing them as a direct violation of the treaty.

Your excellency further adds that the Government of the United States considers that the Mexican law prohibitirlg citizens of the United States from holding real estate in the country, within certain limits, while that privilege is open to other aliens, may be regarded as incompatible, if not with the letter, certainly with the spirit of the treaty, the purpose of which was to provide for equality generally between American citizens and other foreigners in this republic; and your excellency concludes by expressing the opinion that these injurious discriminations cannot fail to occasion distrust of the friendly disposition of the Mexican Government in respect to the Government and citizens of the United States.

Having informed the President of the republic of the contents of this note, by his direction I have the honor to make the following reply:

The right which a sovereign state has to concede or refuse to foreigners the privilege of acquiring real estate in its territory is indisputable and universally recognized, as well as to establish a limit to this right when it has been conceded. In use of that right, in exercise of its sovereignty, Mexico has issued different laws upon the subject, among them that of the 11th of March, 1842, which, on permitting foreigners established and resident in the republic to acquire and possess city and rural property in the territory, made exceptions of those departments adjoining or fronting other nations, determining that in them foreigners could not acquire real estate without express permission from the government; and that of the 20th of July, 1863, which prohibits native or naturalized citizens of the adjoining countries to acquire public lands in the States of the republic bordering on those countries.

Mexico, upon issuing these laws, has not infringed the stipulations of article 3 of the treaty of 1831, nor has it violated the spirit which prevailed in that convention, because nothing is established in them which should be considered as contrary to the liberty, privileges, and security guaranteed to North American citizens, in order that they may go with their vessels and cargoes to any market, port, or river of the republic to which other foreigners are admitted; nor are said citizens prevented from renting houses and warehouses for the purposes of their commerce; nor are they prevented from dealing in all kinds of products, manufactures, and goods; nor are they obliged to pay higher duties, imports, or emoluments than are paid by the citizens of the most favored nations; nor is there anything, in a word, conceded to the latter with respect to navigation and commerce which is denied to North American citizens.

On the other hand, the equality of privileges, exemptions, and rights with the most favored nations, stipulated with the United States in article 3 of the treaty of 1831, [Page 811] refers to navigation and commerce; but, although it should extend to another subject (capitulo), that equality should be understood to be under circumstances also equal; and with reference to the acquisition of lands in the frontier States, it cannot be sustained that the United States, which adjoin Mexico, are in the same condition as the nations of Europe or of South America. For instance, I should at the same time call the attention of your excellency to the exception contained in the law of July 20, 1863, which is the most peremptory disposition referred to by the clause of the contract which gave rise to this note, which should not be considered as referring exclusively to the citizens of the United States, as it also comprehends those of the neighboring Republic of Guatemala, having the same conditions of boundary with Mexico; hence there is not nor can there be any justifiable motive for the Government of the United States to consider the prohibition established by the aforesaid law as an exclusion injurious to its citizens, and which refers to the nations bordering on the republic. I consider it proper to conclude this note by stating to your excellency that the Government of Mexico, upon exercising its right to limit the permission granted to foreigners of the adjoining nations to acquire real estate in this territory, making the exception of not allowing them to acquire in the frontier States, is not wanting in powerful reasons upon which to found its action; it acts in this manner guided by experience which is furnished by not very remote events recorded in its own history.

The separation of the vast territory of Texas, which, being colonized by North American citizens in virtue of the generous concessions of the same government, cut loose its destinies from those of the Mexican nation, is a severe lesson, which the latter should not forget, that it may be more cautious and far-seeing in the future. Its want of foresight then, judged by a representative of the United States was thrown in its face when its prejudicial effects were scarcely realized. In a note of the 17th of March, 1846, addressed to the department of foreign affairs of Mexico, Mr. Slidell said:

“* * * It has never been pretended that the project of colonizing the territory of Texas with citizens of the United States was suggested by that government. It was the effect of the deliberate policy adopted by Mexico, and she should blame herself for the result, which the slightest foresight might have anticipated, of introducing a population whose character, habits, and opinions were so extremely opposite from those of the people with whom it was intended to amalgamate them. * * *”

Consequently, it is not to be wondered at that the Government of Mexico, taking advantage of these lessons and these admonitions, has taken care to avoid the recurrence of such great evils in the future; and these precautionary measures should not be considered by the Government of the United States as the expression of unfriendly sentiments, or of an offensive distrust on the part of Mexico, but a just and legitimate resort in defense of the dearest interests of the republic.

Upon making the foregoing statement to your excellency, in compliance with the instructions which I have received, I have the honor to reiterate to you the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.