File No. 881.111

The American Chargé d’Affaires to the Secretary of State.

No. 363.]

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that on December 21st, 1912, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps put into circulation a letter addressed to him by Sid Mohamed Ben Mohamed El Guebbass, the Sultan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs at Tangier, drawing the attention of the representatives of the Powers to the insecurity existing in various parts of the Shereefian Empire, and requesting the members of the Diplomatic Corps to warn their respective nationals who may be traveling or sojourning in the said regions of the dangers to which they are consequently exposed. Sid Guebbass expresses the hope that this regrettable state of affairs will shortly be brought to an end and states that the Diplomatic Corps shall be duly notified of any modification in the long list of districts now alleged to be unsafe for European travel or residence.

In his annotation upon the Dean’s circular, the British Chargé d’Affaires recalls the fact that as similar communications in the past were addressed to the Diplomatic Corps by the Sultan’s Foreign Minister at Tangier, he suggests that it would be advantageous if the Dean would submit to his colleagues the Decanat dossier on this subject in order that they might acquaint themselves with the attitude of the representatives of the Powers on former occasions concerning this question.

In compliance with the British Chargé d’Affaires’ suggestion, the Dean in a second tournee circulated the documents from the archives of the Decanat relating to the question under consideration and in view of the possible importance of the subject the following historical outline of the former correspondence is now laid before the Department.

On the 5th of July, 1895, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps circulated a copy of the minutes of a meeting of the Diplomatic Corps called to discuss a circular from Sid Mohamed Torres—the Sultan’s Foreign Minister at that time—prohibiting the circulation of foreigners in the interior of the Empire and stating that the Maghzen1 declined all responsibility for the security of foreigners ignoring this prohibition and requesting the representatives of the Powers accordingly to restrain their respective nationals from undertaking journeys into the interior. Annexed to the Décanat [Page 1012] circular were drafts of a reply to the Maghzen from Mr. White, the British Chargé d’Affaires, and also from the Minister of Spain.

The British Chargé d’Affaires stated that he had submitted Sid Torres’ letter to the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, and that he was instructed to reply that his Government could not countenance any measures involving a general prohibition to foreigners to circulate in the interior of the Empire. This was contrary to treaties which explicitly stipulated that British subjects should enjoy the right to travel and trade throughout the country in all security. The failure of the Maghzen to repress disorder and brigandage could in no way absolve the Moorish authorities from their responsibility in respect to public security and the protection of the lives and property of foreign subjects. The British Government considered that it was reasonable to request that British subjects should be warned of the danger that they would be exposed to by entering the District of Rahamna—at that time in open revolt against the Maghzen—but that even in this rebellious territory, in the event of misfortune befalling a British subject, the Maghzen would still be bound to do justice to the victims of any molestation. The British Government further reserved to itself the right to decide, in each case, as to the responsibility of the Maghzen, for whatever might befall a British subject traveling in Morocco. As to the requirements that foreign travelers in the interior should be accompanied by a soldier of the Maghzen, British subjects had always been instructed to comply with this regulation, but that the Maghzen’s attention must be drawn to the fact that the charges for this military escort were often exorbitant.

The terms of this draft reply from the British Chargé d’Affaires were approved by the other members of the Diplomatic Corps with the exception of his attitude regarding the requirement of military escort. Upon this point the majority favored the point of view advanced by the Minister of Spain, which was to the effect that the Government of Spain reserved to itself the right to judge under what circumstances Spanish travelers in Morocco should be accompanied by a Maghzen soldier, but that in normal times, it could not admit that the Maghzen should not be responsible for the security of persons traveling without such escort. In other respects the Spanish Minister’s reply was identical with that of the British Chargé d’Affaires.

In a third circular from the Dean, on the 14th of July, 1895, a draft reply from the French Minister was submitted to the Diplomatic Corps, which stated that the French Government could not adhere to the measures initially proposed by the Sultan’s Foreign Minister. These measures resolved themselves into an absolute prohibition to foreigners to travel in Morocco. They were detrimental to commercial interests and contrary to treaties which stipulated that French subjects should without molestation travel and trade by land and sea in complete security throughout the Empire. The Maghzen could not disown its responsibility to safeguard the lives and property of foreign travelers, nor shirk its duty to maintain the security of the roads of the country.

The French Government appreciated the reasons advanced for the necessity of military escort, and accordingly instructed its consular [Page 1013] authorities to recommend such escort to French nationals but providing that travelers incurred no expenses thereby.

On the 2nd of October, 1903, the Dean circulated another letter from the Sultan’s Foreign Minister drawing the attention of the Diplomatic Corps to the insecurity of the territory surrounding the town of Rabat and stating that the Governor of that part declined all responsibility for the safety of foreign subjects venturing away from the town. The Moorish Minister for Foreign Affairs therefore requested the ministers to issue instructions to their consuls and subjects prohibiting their excursions to the country surrounding Rabat.

The draft of the Dean’s reply was unanimously adopted by the Diplomatic Corps. It was to the effect that while the representatives of the Powers took into consideration the unsettled state of the country, these conditions could not remove the responsibilities of the authorities nor relieve them of their duty to provide for the security of the country, but that on the contrary under these conditions their responsibility was actually accentuated. The Sultan’s Foreign Minister was therefore requested to instruct the Governor of Rabat that he should take proper measures to restore order and security. The consuls would no doubt act with prudence and would properly counsel their respective nationals but that the responsibility of the Moorish officials could in no way be diminished by a state of affairs which demanded the full exercise of their authority.

Again in November of the same year, the Sultan’s Foreign Minister requested the members of the Diplomatic Corps to notify their respective subjects of a Shereefian order that no Europeans, either employes of the Maghzen or others, should undertake a journey to Fez or to Marrakesh without securing special permission, and adding that the Moorish Government declined responsibility in respect to Europeans who should travel unprovided with special authorization.

In his reply, which was unanimously approved by the Diplomatic Corps, the Dean stated that his colleagues requested him to say that while they regretted that circumstances demanded the restriction of free circulation in the Empire, they hoped that these measures were entirely temporary and at the same time they could not discharge the Maghzen from its responsibility for the security of the lives and property of their nationals traveling in Morocco.

From the above it will be conspicuously noted that in every instance in which the insecurity of the country was signalised by the Moorish Government the Powers invariably laid special stress upon the fact of the responsibility of the Maghzen and made it quite unmistakable that no circumstances would warrant any diminution of its liability regarding the safety of foreign subjects.

In accordance with this consistent attitude, the British Chargé d’Affaires, in the second tournee of Dean’s circular referred to in my opening paragraph, the object of the present despatch, stated in his annotation that he was willing to issue instructions to British consular authorities that they should warn their subjects not to venture into the regions where the Maghzen had no authority, but he was of opinion that Sid Guebbass should be reminded that the [Page 1014] treaties granted to foreigners the right to travel everywhere in Morocco and that the responsibility for the security of their lives and property devolved upon the Maghzen.

I put myself in harmony with the annotation of the British Chargé d’Affaires as several of my colleagues have done.

A rather interesting detail lies in the fact that the Moorish Minister’s letter at present in circulation contains no explicit reference to the Maghzen’s desire to repudiate its responsibilities, though no doubt this is the inference to be drawn from the mere fact that the dangerous regions have been specifically indicated as well as from the request that the representatives of the Powers should notify their subjects of the dangers attending them in these districts.

This attitude on the part of the Maghzen seems to receive subtle support from the French Chargé d’Affaires who states in his annotation on the Dean’s circular that he agrees with Mr. White, but that it should be understood that the Maghzen, as in the past, remains free to indicate the regions where it will not answer for security.

Inasmuch as this question is still under discussion I respectfully solicit instructions from the Department as to what attitude I shall assume in the matter,

I have [etc.]

Maxwell Blake.
  1. Maghzen or Makhzen means Central Government of Morocco.