Mr. Hay to Mr. Clayton.
Washington, July 16, 1901.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch, No. 998, of the 27th ultimo, containing a very exhaustive report on the arrest and imprisonment in Mexico of American citizens employed on Mexican railroads for criminal negligence in causing accidents to the trains in their charge.[Page 411]
You will continue to remonstrate on all proper occasions against the delay in discharging or bringing to trial Americans charged With responsibility for such accidents, and you will lose no opportunity to impress upon Mr. Mariscal the proposition that the preventive and remedial objects of Mexican legislation in respect to railway accidents would be no less well—and perhaps better—subserved by following the general rule of law in that regard in other countries.
The policy of protecting the public against loss of life or physical injury in railway travel, through the criminal negligence of railway employees, is enforced by penal legislation in the United States, and we should not, of course, indicate any opposition to that policy in Mexico, although keeping on the alert to remonstrate against abusive procedure thereunder. But, while not shifting criminal accountability from the shoulders of the employee, the same laws hold the employing company responsible in damages for injury to life, person, or property through the acts of its agents. As the case now stands, it is not easy to see how the family of a person killed or the owners of property destroyed in such cases may be materially benefited by the prolonged imprisonment of a mere railway subordinate while the sufferers remain without recourse against the company. An equitable division of responsibility in such matters would, it is thought, tend to the prevention of accidents and remove, to a considerable extent, the causes of complaint we are so often called upon to make in view of the needless and protracted confinement of our citizens in Mexico, besides distinctly inuring to the benefit of sufferers by such accidents.
A copy of the Department’s letter to the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, informing that body of the substance of your report and stating the action taken thereon, is herewith inclosed for your information.
I am, etc.,