File No. 2151/77.

The French Minister for Foreign Affairs to the French Ambassador at Washington.1


The murders committed at Casablanca on French, Spanish, and Italian subjects led the Government of the Republic some weeks ago to take, jointly with Spain, the military measures demanded of it for the repression of those crimes and the protection of the foreign colonies threatened since the massacre of July 30 by the aggressive attitude of the tribes. It has endeavored to keep its intervention within the terms it had set for itself from the outset, the moderation of which has been unanimously appreciated by the powers.

Thanks to the swiftness of the measures adopted, the lives of the foreigners were saved. The greater number of the tribes that had taken part in the murder of the harbor laborers, the sack of the town, and the hostilities against our forces have already surrendered. And so it seems to us that the time has now come to meet another urgent requirement of the situation by devising the means of repairing the grave damage caused by the attack of the tribes and the consequences it involved.

The shereefian government is responsible for the events it was unable to forestall or check. It does not dispute their gravity and will undoubtedly acknowledge itself bound to indemnify the sufferers. We believe that the cooperation of the powers whose citizens and protégés have sustained the serious consequences of those disturbances would be useful and ought to be assured to it so as to facilitate a thorough and impartial inquiry and thus determine under unassailable conditions the true amount of loss and the appraisement of compensation. We first exchanged views on this point with the Spanish Government, which joined in our military action at Casablanca and with which we share the mandate with which the powers have vested us in Morocco. We have agreed upon defining as follows the general principles which should govern the decision of the shereefian government in this matter.

The Sultan would organize a commission to which he would invite delegates of the countries whose nationals have suffered most from the disturbances who would act with his own representatives.

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It would be presided over by Shereef Moulay Lamin, whose situation and personal authority particularly fit him for the place. The other Moorish members might be the present khalifa to the Government of Casablanca, whose character could be appreciated during these last weeks, and a cadi. The latter person would be helpful in determining points of local law and usage.

The commission would include a member designated by the French Government, an Englishman, a German, a Portuguese, and an Italian; that is to say, a total of nine members with the Moroccans.

Countries not represented could, nevertheless, attach to the commission an officer of their legation to Morocco, who would take part in the examination and settlement of the claims of their nationals.

The governments would be requested to select their delegates from without the local consular personnel upon which the responsibilities of an inquiry pecuniarily involving the claims of persons subject to their jurisdiction ought not to be placed.

The commission would appoint a native secretary as well as the interpreters it would deem necessary.

Being thus organized, it would determine the amount of direct damages caused by the sack of the town of Casablanca by the tribes and by the repressive action that followed. The principle of indemnification for indirect losses—that is to say, losses that were not caused by pillage or arson—does not appear to be admissible. By entertaining claims of this character the way would be opened for demands that could not be verified under any positive principle of appraisement and the result would doubtless be to increase the amount of the indemnities to such a figure that they would not be likely to be paid.

This, moreover, was the opinion arrived at when the two Governments reached a decision in regard to the compensation for losses caused by the disturbances and bombardment of Alexandria.

As regards murders, an international commission does not appear to be qualified to determine the amount of indemnity suitable for each case. The settlement of questions of this class would more properly be made the subject of direct negotiations between the Governments concerned. The demands to be presented to the Maghzen by the French and Spanish Governments, to cover the cost of their intervention, should likewise not be referred to the commission.

It would seem equitable to grant the largest possible measure of relief to the native residents of Casablanca, who, like the foreigners, suffered from the sacking of the town. It will be recalled that this principle was justly admitted in the case of the Alexandria indemnities.

The commission would examine and pass upon the claims in equity without restricting itself to any particular judicial procedure. It would be allowed full liberty to regulate as it sees fit its internal action, the order and the details of its business. It should, however, find it to its interest to be guided as far as possible in all matters not definitely provided in its own constitution by the performance of the Egyptian indemnity commission.

The question relative to the mode of payment of the indemnities can not be settled at this time, and it is not necessary that it be settled before proceeding with the urgent inquiry proposed by us. It will, however, not fail to be examined in good time and is connected with [Page 630] the more general question of the payment of the debts contracted by the Moorish Government.

We should be glad to obtain the assent of the powers to these several points. As soon as an agreement shall have been reached we propose to commend, through the representatives of France and Spain, to the examination of the Sultan these foregoing suggestions, which appear to us to be such as to protect all the interests concerned.

  1. Transmitted to the Department of State by the French ambassador.