The Secretary of Stale to the American Ambassador.
Washington, January 14, 1913.
Sir: Referring to the Department’s instruction of July 1st last transmitting for your information a copy of tentative bases for a convention between the United States and Mexico for the settlement of the pending Chamizal controversy and other related questions, which bases had been communicated to the Mexican Embassy in this city in June last, I will state for your further confidential information in connection with this case, the substance of a conference at the Department on the 3rd instant between the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lascurain, and myself.
Mr. Lascurain expressed a desire on behalf of his Government to reach a prompt adjustment of the Chamizal controversy, but he stated that he personally was not familiar with the situation or the [Page 970] course of the negotiations up to the present time, and asked that the position of the United States Government and its wishes be explained to him. In compliance with this request he was informed that tentative bases for a settlement which would be acceptable to this Government had been communicated to the Mexican Embassy here last spring, and that these bases, together with certain alternative suggestions brought forth by the Mexican Ambassador, had been exhaustively discussed at that time; that early in the negotiations it appeared that the Mexican Government was prepared to effect a settlement on the basis of exchanging its claim to the Chamizal tract for a guaranteed supply of water somewhere along the boundary for irrigation purposes, either from the Rio Grande by increasing the amount to be delivered under the treaty of 1906 with Mexico, or from the Colorado River in connection with the settlement of the question of the distribution of the waters of that river and other related questions; that, however, a careful examination of the situation had shown that it was impossible to enlarge the supply of water from the Rio Grande guaranteed by the treaty of 1906; and that combining the negotiations for the settlement of the Chamizal question with those for the adjustment of the Colorado River matters would lead to delays and complications which would unduly postpone the settlement of the question, and inasmuch as the subjects of the two controversies were wholly unrelated, it was finally decided that it would be advisable to deal with them separately. Finally the Ambassador was left with the tentative proposition of the United States that the Mexican Government exchange its claim to a portion of the Chamizal for the Horcón Bar tract, which was considerably larger in surface area, although not equal in value; and that the difference in value between the latter tract and that portion of the Chamizal claimed by the Mexican Government be offset by the payment to Mexico of an amount of money to be agreed upon, which the Mexican Government should use as compensation for the holders of Mexican titles which would be eliminated by the surrender of the Mexican claim to the Chamizal. Mr. Lascurain was further informed that when these negotiations were suspended last summer in consequence of the temporary absence of the Mexican Ambassador, this Government had been assured by the Ambassador that he would confer with the President of Mexico and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs with a view to obtaining new instructions, and that he expected upon his return here to be able to bring with him two draft treaties, one arranging for the settlement of the Colorado River question and one for the settlement of the Chamizal question; that notwithstanding these assurances this Government had received no further communication from the Mexican Ambassador on the subject of the Chamizal since his return to Washington this fall, except a vague suggestion of a possibility of an arrangement of the Chamizal matter on advantageous terms if it was delayed until the settlement of the Colorado River question, or, in the alternative, a more prompt settlement of the Chamizal if some entirely new bases of settlement could be agreed upon. This suggestion was not in writing, but was communicated orally at an interview which was secured after great delay and apparently with considerable reluctance on the part of the Ambassador.[Page 971]
The Minister for Foreign Affairs then stated that it would be impossible for him to make any positive reply without consulting the records of the case, which he could not do until his return to the Foreign Office; that he was opposed to delay, and saw no reason why the case could not be settled at once in a way which would be satisfactory to both Governments.
At this point in the conference the Minister’s attention was called to the importance to Mexico as well as to the United States of reaching a prompt settlement of this and several other questions which had been unnecessarily delayed, and were likely to occasion considerable friction between the two Governments. In this connection it was stated to the Minister that although the portion of the Chamizal tract claimed by Mexico was comparatively small in area and of no great value, nevertheless it so happened that a number of important American interests were centered in it, including the railroad terminal facilities at that point; and that the delay of the Mexican Government in proceeding with these negotiations had roused strong criticism and feeling among those interests, which were far-reaching in their influence.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs then stated that he was anxious to take the matter up at once, and would do so immediately upon his return to Mexico, and he assured me that a proposal for a settlement of the Chamizal question would be immediately made by the Mexican Government and that no further delays in negotiations would be permitted, as he was aware of the importance of settling the question promptly, and particularly before the expiration of the two years’ period from the date of the award of the Chamizal Arbitration Tribunal of June 15, 1911.
This outline of the conference with Mr. Lascurain is sent to you for your information merely, and it is not desired that any action be taken thereon except upon further instructions from the Department.
I am [etc.]