Mr. Olney to Mr. Ransom.
Washington , December 13, 1895.
Sir: Mr. Butler’s dispatch No. 40, of July 30 last, has been received and its contents considered.
It contains the text and a translation of the reply of the Mexican minister of foreign affairs to this Government’s demand for the extradition of Chester W. Bo we upon the charge of embezzlement. Extradition was refused on the ground that Rowe had become a citizen of Mexico by naturalization under the constitution and laws of that Republic, and that Mexico was not bound under the treaty to surrender its citizens to the United States.
The method of this man’s naturalization is peculiar, and when the antecedents, the manifest purpose, and the-announced result are considered, is startling. Yet it is not within the province or intent of this Department to find fault with the laws of Mexico, nor to deny the effect attributed to them by Mr. Mariscal in this case. Rowe, it is believed, basely betrayed the public trust reposed in him by the community of which he was a native and an honored member, and under a false name sought a hiding place for himself among the people of a friendly, neighbor Republic, whose laws he violated in the very act of crossing its border with his ill-gotten gains. With a part of the proceeds of his crime, and taking advantage of a provision in Mexico’s constitution and laws obviously designed to encourage the immigration of industrious and law-abiding settlers from other lands, he obtained, as a cover to his flight and as a barrier to pursuing justice, the shield of Mexican citizenship. The result is that this criminal has escaped unpunished from the people whom he has wronged and is a fellow-citizen of the people against whom his very presence is a wrong. He has escaped the penalty of embezzlement in the United States and awaits trial in his new home for the offense of coming there with his stolen gains.
If Chester W. Rowe is a bona fide citizen of Mexico, the refusal of the Mexican Government to surrender him for extradition is perfectly satisfactory. The United States asks nothing which may not be demanded under the treaty. Nothing is sought upon the ground of favor of comity; for the United States is powerless to reciprocate, the Executive being bound under our law to surrender or to refuse to surrender according as upon facts the case is within or without the obligation of the treaty. I can not refrain, however, from calling attention to certain provisions of the Mexican law of naturalization as it has been published in the United States, and inquiring whether Rowe’s adoption of Mexican citizenship as a cloak to his crime is not inconsistent with the spirit if not the letter of the law, and subversive of its intent.
The law, as I have said before, was doubtless intended as an invitation to immigrants of probity and industry who desired to own homes. It guaranties them, without any period of long waiting as strangers in the land of their adoption, the rights and privileges accorded to native-born Mexicans as soon as they shall manifest their intent to abide and cast their lot with the Mexican people by acquiring real estate in Mexico with intent to become citizens of Mexico. I refer here to the law promulgated May 28, 1886, in its entirety, and with special reference to Article I, section 10, and to Articles VII, VIII and XXII. This law would seem to exclude such incomers as Rowe from naturalization, and to make null any formal naturalization obtained by a fugitive from the justice of a neighboring country.[Page 1009]
The inevitable consequence of protecting Chester Rowe from extradition will be to induce other criminals in the United States to flee to Mexico as the most accessible and the safest haven for the lawbreaker on the continent. If they have but the price of a bit of land they will flock to the Mexican border like the criminals of old to the city of refuge, and there, unwhipped of justice and rejoicing in evil, they will take on the highest honor and privilege the Mexican nation can bestow—its citizenship. The detriment to the peace and good order of both countries which perseverance in the course now threatened by the Mexican Executive would cause is inestimable. The protection of Rowe from extradition would be an invitation to lawlessness in the United States and to an invasion of lawbreakers into Mexico.
In the contemplation of these results this Government feels justified and constrained to appeal to the Government of Mexico for a judicial interpretation of the law in question as it affects the treaty rights of the United States and the case of Chester W. Rowe. You are, therefore, instructed to suggest to Mr. Mariscal that if there is any way in which the validity of Rowe’s naturalization and its effects with reference to our extradition treaty can be judicially determined, proper proceedings ought, in the interest of both countries, to be instituted and prosecuted to a conclusion while Rowe is undergoing trial for the offense against Mexico with which he stands charged.
The right of Mexico to hold Rowe for trial upon the charge of bringing stolen property into Mexico is acknowledged, and the United States has no desire to interfere with the execution of the Mexican law upon him; but the offense for which he is arraigned in Mexico is not the offense for which he is wanted in the United States, and the punishment which may be administered in the Mexican court is no vindication of the law of the State of Iowa which was violated and set at naught by Rowe. There is, furthermore, another reason why it is important that Rowe should be brought back to the place where he committed the crime and there tried and punished for it, and why any amount of punishment in Mexico will not suffice. In our law, the end of punishment judicially administered is not in the nature of atonement or expiation for the crime committed, but it is a precaution against future offenses of the same kind, and has for its prime object and purpose the deterrent influence of the offender’s example upon others who were cognizant of his crime and might otherwise be tempted to imitate it. This element of the effect of legally administered punishment is wanting when the crime is committed in one place and the consequent punishment is inflicted at another and a distant place. The State of Iowa earnestly desires, not to avenge itself upon Rowe, but to make an example of him for the benefit of those who may otherwise be tempted to do as he has done—embezzle trust funds and escape to Mexico.
The suggestion of Mr. Mariscal that a repetition of this disappointment of justice can be avoided by amending the treaty has not escaped attention. The United States is ever ready to annul or to narrow the exemptions contained in its extradition treaties based on the citizenship of the fugitive; but it hopes and believes that the Mexican Government will find it practicable to submit its laws, upon which Rowe bases his claim to Mexican citizenship and to exemption from the extradition treaty, to judicial interpretation before proclaiming for them the international effect indicated in the note inclosed by Mr. Butler.
You are instructed to present this matter to the minister for foreign affairs for his consideration. The United States claims nothing in the [Page 1010] premises as a right, but earnestly solicits the judgment of a court on Rowe’s Mexican citizenship and his right to exemption from extradition under the treaty.
I am, etc.,