No. 576.
Mr. Evarts to Mr. Fairchild.

No. 4.]

Sir: It is desired that one of your first official acts, after the presentation of your credentials as minister at Madrid, shall be to notify the minister of state of His Majesty that you are authorized, on behalf of the United States, to take part in a friendly conference of foreign representatives which it is proposed to hold at Madrid for the purpose of discussing the question of the protection extended to native Moors, in Morocco, by the diplomatic and consular agents of foreign states resident in that country.

In order that you may understandingly take part in that projected conference, and appreciate with as much exactness as possible the nature of the questions to be brought up before it, it will be necessary to give you a brief résumé of the facts so far as they appear in the correspondence of this Department, with transcripts of the pertinent papers.*

On the 14th of June, 1877, Mr. Plunkett, the British chargé d’affaires in Washington, addressed the Department, inclosing a printed extract from a dispatch from the British minister at Tangier to the Earl of Derby, with a memorandum of what took place at the meeting of the foreign representatives at the house of the Moorish minister for foreign affairs on the 10th of March, 1877. The dispatch of Sir J. H. Drummond Hay, thus referred to, contains various allegations as to the abuses which have grown up from the practice of giving protection to Moorish subjects by foreign diplomatic and consular officers, particularly by exempting them from the payment of taxes. It was therein stated that [Page 894] the evil is a growing one, “more especially on the part of those foreign officers who represent countries which have no trade and hardly any residents in Morocco belonging to their respective nationalities.” The several representatives who took part in that meeting discussed this question and seem to have admitted the existence of the evil and deprecated the practice.

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The matter, however, speedily passed beyond this stage, and its next phase was a series of meetings held at Tangier, by the foreign representatives resident there, for the discussion of various points of administration and foreign intercourse, among them the question of irregular foreign protection. The details of these conferences were communicated to the Department by Mr. Mathews, in his No. 258, of November 9, 1877, with full copies of the procès-verbal of the meetings, and information of these proceedings was likewise received from the British chargé d’affaires here, under date of October 8, 1877, with accompanying copies of the correspondence of Sir J. H. Drummond Hay, and extracts of the pertinent portions of the procès-verbal. I have to refer you to these several papers, herewith transmitted in copy, an attentive perusal of which will acquaint you with all the facts in relation thereto in the possession of the Department, merely citing for your present information, in connection with this instruction, the language used by Sir J. H. Drummond Hay with reference to the action of Mr. Mathews. He says:

The United States consul-general presented lists of thirty-seven persons protected throughout the empire. On observing that he protected ten native Jews as agents at Tangier, four at Meknas, three at Fas, and two at Alcassar, I said that it appeared strange that the United States consul should find it necessary to place these persons on the list of protected natives, when the trade of the United States with Morocco was almost nil, whereas Great Britain, which had two-thirds of the trade of the empire, did not protect a single native at any one of these towns.

Colonel Mathews declared that Cid Mohammed Bargash had frequently stated to him that he gave no trouble to the Moorish Government by these protections.

I have to remark that I did not find the list presented by the United States consul-general to his colleagues corresponded with that delivered by him to the local authorities.

It appears from the reports of the proceedings then had, that, although the greater part of the demands put forward by the Moorish Government were agreed to, yet some important questions were left undecided on account of the objections made by several of the powers—France, Italy, Portugal and Brazil.

Under instructions from his government the British minister at this capital brought this circumstance to the attention of this government on the 4th of November last, stating that it was thought that a continuance of the discussion was not likely to further an agreement upon the questions left undecided, and that unless the governments concerned were disposed to send positive instructions to their agents of a nature to satisfy the Moorish Government, the best prospect of a solution lay in a reference of the question to a commission or meeting of representatives at some foreign court in which the Moorish Government may be represented by a delegate or delegates deputed for the purpose, and suggesting the choice of Madrid for such a meeting. This course was represented as enabling, among other benefits, the removal of the discussion from the hands of those who have hitherto conducted it, and avoiding any difficulties which may have arisen from personal feelings or opinions, in which view I fully coincide.

It now appears from a telegraphic dispatch yesterday received from Mr. Reed, that the Spanish Government has taken the initiative in [Page 895] bringing about the conference suggested, and looks to the proper representation of this government thereat.

It is, in many respects, desirable that we should be competently represented at such a conference, and you have accordingly been designated for the purpose.

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It is sincerely hoped that the anticipation of Lord Salisbury, conveyed in Sir Edward Thornton’s note of November 4, 1879, may be well founded, and that the discussion may proceed without any of the personal feeling which seems unhappily to have characterized its progress at Tangier hitherto. In principle, this government is cordially in favor of the adoption by common consent of an equitable rule which may do away with the excessive and injurious exercise of the prerogative of foreign protection of natives which has grown up under the shadow of treaty stipulations and native usage, and which is represented as burdensome to the Moorish exchequer and unjust to its government, but in reaching a due settlement regard must be had to the proper maintenance and security of consular establishments in that country and the necessary employment of natives as guards, interpreters, and servants, and in such-capacities as may be essential to the proper representation and protection of foreign commercial interests. This government could not, however, see with complacent indifference any proceedings on the part of the proposed conference looking to an investigation of the past conduct of foreign representatives at Tangier, and sitting in ex parte judgment on their motives and morality.

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You will make full and prompt report to the Department of the proceedings of the conference, transmitting the procès verbal, and seeking, in your dispatches thereon, to elucidate for the better information of the Department, the points which may arise in the discussion.

It is not understood, from the invitation of the Spanish Government whether a formal full power will be needed by you. One is, however, transmitted herewith, in case you should find that your colleagues are required to present other credentials than those of their respective offices.

I am, &c.,

  1. Inclosure omitted herefrom owing to their length.