File No. 812.113/3776a.

The Secretary of State to the Attorney General. 55

Sir: The Department of State is anxious to have from you a ruling on the following points, with reference to the interpretation to be put on the term “munitions of war” within the meaning of the President’s proclamation of October 19, 1915, prohibiting the exportation of such munitions into Mexico.

Can empty cars belonging to the National Railway of Mexico, or to other Mexican railways, brought over from Juarez, be detained at El Paso as munitions of war? These cars, if allowed to return, would afford convenient transportation to the parties in rebellion against the recognized de facto government of Mexico.
Can coal and coke destined for use by any faction in rebellion against the de facto government of Mexico, or for use in the territory [Page 783] of the rebellious faction and which could therefore be easily requisitioned by it, be classed as munitions of war? Such coal would be used to operate trains in the military movements of those in revolt against the de facto government, and the coke would be used to operate American-owned smelters which would probably be damaged beyond repair because of the inexperience of the revolutionary operatives.

In connection with the importation of cattle and other live stock from territory occupied by the revolutionists, the proceeds of which would be used to continue revolutionary activities, I have the honor to ask whether there is any authority of law that could be invoked to prohibit such importation. The ruling is desired to cover confiscated or stolen live stock, or stock that is snipped by or in the interest of those involved in the continuance of revolutionary conditions in the Republic of Mexico.

In further relation to this matter, I have the honor to state that Mr. Juan N. Amador, who is temporarily representing the interests of the recognized de facto government of Mexico in Washington, has called to the attention of the Department a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of the United States against Sheldon, 2 Wheat., 119, which he seems to think has some bearing on the matter under discussion.

Hoping that the Department may be favored with an early reply, in view of the conditions existing on the Mexican border,

I have [etc.]

Robert Lansing.
  1. In connection with the subject of this letter and the following one in reply, see For. Rel. 1913, p. 872; For. Rel. 1912, pp. 759, 771.