Mr. Manning to Mr. Bayard.
Mexico , December 11, 1886. (Received December 20.)
Sir: I had an interview yesterday with Mr. Mariscal, for the purpose of urging upon him an extension of the time within which Americans may declare their intention to retain their nationality.
By the law of May 28, 1886, foreigners who have bought real estate in Mexico, and those who have had children born to them in Mexico, and who failed in the deed of sale or in the act of baptism to declare their intention to retain their nationality, become ipso facto Mexicans, and six months are allowed by the law from its promulgation for such declaration of intention to be made. The law was promulgated June 6. The time expired on 6th of present month.
I began by calling Mr. Mariscal’s attention to the fact that I had already denied in the most emphatic manner the right or power of the Mexican Government to convert an American into a Mexican citizen of its own accord and by its sole act and without the consent or volition of the American, and that denial, made, as I then’ stated, under express instructions from my Government, was accompanied by the declaration that the notice given by this legation and by our consuls to Americans resident in Mexico to declare their nationality under the law of May, 1886, must not be construed as an admission of the right of Mexico to change by legislation the national status of American citizens.
I then called his excellency’s attention to the fact that the time prescribed by the law within which Americans might make their declaration expired four days ago, and in that short time numerous applications had been made by Americans for permission to make their declaration, which had not been presented because of the construction put on the law by the Mexican Government that the time had expired. I expressed to Mr. Mariscal my belief that these applications would continue to come in, and I desired, therefore, that some mode should be adopted by which these later applicants should be relieved as were the earlier.
In this connection I begged Mr. Mariscal to note the fact that the delay of these later applicants was not from perverseness, or negligence, or indifference, but was caused by his Government; for the law of May, 1880, recited that regulations for its execution would be made and issued (C. V., Art. 3), and Americans, in either of the categories mentioned in the law and who desired to take advantage of it, naturally waited for the Government to issue the regulations so that they might conform to its wishes. None were ever issued. Time was slipping by and three months were already gone when the foreign legations and consuls advised their countrymen to make their “declaration of nationality,” and so the whole six months expired before all had time to comply with this advice or direction. To be told now that the door was shut and no more applications to preserve nationality could be received, when the Mexican Government’s failure to do what it had promised to do in the text of the law was the cause of the delay to make those applications, would not be listened to by any Government. Here I pressed upon his excellency’s attention how inequitable it was that his Government, after putting those later applicants in duriori casu than the others by its own act or failure to act, should now refuse to grant them relief, and I said this relief should be immediate, if possible, be [Page 682] cause some case would arise when the question would come up squarely. Some one of these numerous Americans who had not made his declaration would very likely have litigation or trouble of some kind and when his nationality became an issue the Mexican Government would claim that he was a Mexican because he had not made this declaration under the law of May, and he would claim that he was an American in spite of the law of May, and most assuredly his Government will support him in that claim and will maintain it.
Mr. Mariscal listened to me with the close and courteous attention characteristic of him, and observed that the law of May could be changed only by legislation, and that the extension of time could only be made in that way. I reminded him that Congress was in session. He said that he admitted the force of my observations and would give the subject his serious attention, and while he could not now say what would be done, he said something should be done to arrest future trouble or any complication which would be equally disagreeable to both Governments.
He then intimated that the number of these Americans who had been shut out might be very few, and asked if I had any idea how many there were.
I, in turn, asked his excellency if his Government periodically took a census wherein the resident foreigners were classified, as my Government did, because that was the only source from which I could get the information that would enable me to answer his question. He said his Government had never taken such a census. Besides, I said, if there were only one of my countrymen thus shut out, he was entitled to relief as he was not at fault.
And with mutual expressions of esteem the conversation here ended, the minister again expressing his determination to give the matter his careful and instant attention.
I am, sir, etc.,