to Mr. Morgan.
Washington, February 4, 1881.
Sir: Upon several occasions the chargé d’ affaires ad interim of Mexico in this country has brought to the attention of the department the complaint, on behalf of his government, that its citizens had suffered serious injuries from the depredations of a band of robbers and thieves headed by one Robert E. Martin, whose habitation was on American territory. Your own dispatches have also referred to this subject, and it is, therefore, one with which you are already familiar.
Although this Department has unvariably taken the means within its power to prevent, if possible, the acts of the persons complained of, its efforts have not been entirely successful. And I am now in receipt of a letter from the Secretary of War, dated the 25th ultimo, inclosing a copy of a report from General Pope, commanding the Department of the Missouri, to whom the matter was referred by the War Department for appropriate action in the premises.
General Pope in turn submitted the subject to the commanding officer of the district of New Mexico for report, and he observes:
That bands of thieves infest the whole southwest, and plunder citizens in both countries. In all probability they would select the Hatchet Mountains, and are sometimes occupied in smuggling, at others in stealing. When not so occupied they can usually be found in the lower towns on the Rio Grande and about Silver City. The military has no authority to arrest them; that pertains to the civil authorities.
And the report concludes that should the citizens of Mexico make the proper effort the band could readily be broken up, as they occupy that country at pleasure.
This government conceives that the citizens of Mexico, being equally affected with those of the United States by the operations of these outlaws, may in like manner properly take an equal share in the work of suppressing them, by pursuit and arrest when within Mexican territory, thus co-operating with the earnest efforts made and making by the citizens and authorities of the United States on this side of the frontier.[Page 757]
As respects the concurrent action of the United States in the premises, the civil remedy indicated seems properly one to be accomplished, so far as the co-operation of the Federal with the territorial authorities is concerned, by the appropriate action of the Department of Justice, and I have accordingly requested of the Secretary of War the reference of the matter to the Attorney-General.
Meanwhile, it seems proper to acquaint you with the actual posture of the matter, observing that the general delicacy of the subject and the difficulties in the way of prompt repressive action by the Federal Executive, make it advisable that your statements to the Mexican Government should be guarded and confined to the expression of the desire to do on our part all that goodwill and mutual consideration demand, rather than the assumption of any obligations on the part of this government to punish Martin and followers.
You should, however, clearly convey the impression that the efforts of this government to end these raids do not absolve the Mexican Government from the concurrent obligation to pursue and punish, if possible, the raiders when within Mexican jurisdiction.
I am, &c.,