The Secretary of State to the German Ambassador.

No. 347.]

Excellency: It may be useful for me to restate in writing the answer of the United States, already given to you orally, to the questions which you have asked regarding our course upon the proposal made by Austria on the 8th instant in the Algeciras conference.b

We do not approve that proposal. We regard it as an essential departure from the principle declared by Germany Und adhered to by the United States, that all commercial nations are entitled to have the door of equal commercial opportunity in Morocco kept open, and the corollary to that principle that no one power ought to acquire such a control over the territory of Morocco as to justify the belief that she might ultimately come to regard and treat that territory as her own, to the exclusion of others.

This view of international right was interposed against the claim of France to organize the police in Moroccan ports through the agency of her officers alone. France has yielded to this view of international right to the extent of offering to become, jointly with Spain, the mandatory of all the powers for the purpose of at once maintaining order and preserving equal commercial opportunities for all of them. It was further proposed that an officer of a third power, acting in behalf of all the powers, should have the right of [Page 1482] general inspection for the purpose of keeping the powers advised whether their agents, France and Spain, were observing the limits and performing the duties of their agency. This arrangement seemed accomplish the desired purpose. It seemed with the mandatories jointly charged, no individual claim of possession or control was likely to grow up; that with the constant reminder of the general right involved in the inspectorship the duties of the agency were not likely to be forgotten; and it seemed that the proximity of France and Spain to Morocco and their special interest in having order maintained in that territory made it reasonable that they should be selected as the mandatories rather than any other powers.

The Austrian proposal offers an alternative to the arrangement which I have described. It is that the eight Moroccan ports shall be distributed; that in four the police shall be organized by the French, in three the police shall be organized by the Spanish, and that in the eighth port the police shall be organized by the Swiss or Dutch. This seems to us to provide for a potential partition of the territory in violation of the principle upon which we have agreed with Germany. From our point of view all the reasons which existed against leaving to France the control of all the ports exist against leaving to France the control of some, to Spain the control of some, and to Switzerland, either in its own interest or in the interests of any other power, the control of one. The very fact of division of the ports implied the existence of a special right on the part of the three countries in the ports assigned to them respectively. The immediate effect can only be the creation of three separate spheres of influence, with inferior right and opportunity on the part of all other powers. And the nations to whom these spheres are assigned may be expected in the ordinary course of events to enter into complete control. We do not care whether the inspector, if there shall be one, is Italian or Swiss.

We do not care whether he reports to his own Government, or to the corps diplomatique in Tangier, or communicates the information he obtains to the powers in any other way. We do consider that the distribution of ports to separate single powers is wrong in principle and destructive of the declared purpose of both Germany and the United States. If we had sufficient interest in Morocco to make it worth our while, we should seriously object, on our own account, to the adoption of any such arrangement.

We have not, however, any such substantial interest in Morocco as to lead us to take that course. Our chief wish is to be of service in promoting a peaceable settlement of the controversy which brought the conference together. Under the guidance of that wish we shall accept whatever arrangement the European powers represented at Algeciras agree upon. If the agreement is upon the Austrian proposal, or upon any modification of it which includes the principle of distribution of ports, we shall regret what we deem to be the failure of the true principle to which we have given our adherence. We still hope that there may be no such result.

Accept etc.,

Elihu Root.
  1. See dispatch No. 8 of March 27 infra.