File No. 312.112W892/30.

Special Agent Carothers to the Secretary of State.


Sir: * * * Referring to enclosure, General Villa is very anxious that you give the matter consideration, as he considers that a great injustice is being done the country and the pacification retarded by the fact that we insist that border towns be not attacked, at the same time permitting the forces in possession of those towns to arm and equip revolutionary forces from the United States. He is willing to have it work against all factions, including himself.

I have [etc.]

G. C. Carothers.

Private Correspondence of the Official in Charge of Foreign Relations and Justice.

Mr. George Carothers,
Confidential Agent of the American Government.

Very dear Sir and Friend:

Referring to the conversation which we had this afternoon in regard to the difficulties which may arise in connection with the occupation of frontier towns bordering on the United States by belligerent forces of the factions now disputing with one another the supremacy, and realizing the just reasons which the White House Government has for trying to prevent fighting between these forces on the boundary line and especially in the vicinity of American cities, I have thought it suitable to submit to the consideration of your Government, through your worthy agency, the following propositions which I will undertake briefly to justify.

I repeat that I find your Government’s attitude explainable, owing to the injuries and losses of lives that have already been caused on various occasions on the American side as a result of the attacks on Mexican towns made by some of the contending leaders. But at the same time your Government will surely take into account that the belligerent force cannot permit the troops of the enemy to remain undisturbed and indefinitely in possession of a frontier town which they may and actually do use in most cases as a base of military supplies.

If this practice were permitted unconditionally, the opposing factions would find themselves prevented from weakening their enemy, who could easily continue in possession of a customhouse without owing obedience to the Federal Government or to the local government of the State to which the customhouse belonged, which would of course make it impossible to pacify and regularize the commercial traffic between the United States and Mexico.

The right of any of the political parties in a civil war to reduce the adversary to impotence, to dislodge him from points which he may occupy (especially his base of military operations) and to deprive him of any source of supply is incontestable in theory; and only in special cases, such as that with which we are dealing, does the desire to avoid international complications counsel refraining from an armed attack on the frontier cities.

But this does not mean that the contending parties lack other permissible means from the standpoint of the law of war for attaining the ends referred to in the foregoing paragraph, these being means which the bordering countries cannot consider as infringing upon their rights.

Among other means, there is that of establishing a genuine blockade on the national territory in order to prevent the arrival of reinforcements, pecuniary aid, provisions, etc., of any kind.

Such an operation would, however, prove useless if the American frontier port continued nevertheless to remain open unconditionally so that the blockaded [Page 796] forces might supply themselves freely with provisions, arms and ammunition.

And I not only consider that any effort on the part of the besieging belligerents would prove useless, but that it might even perhaps be regarded as a violation of neutrality on the part of the American Government if it failed to order the closure of the frontier port, for it would practically be rendering at that point material aid to one of the parties as against the other.

At the same time there would appear to be a lack of international reciprocity, for if an attack on these places is not carried out owing to the possible risk to the lives and property of the residents on the American side, it seems natural that the Government of that country ought in turn to abstain from acts which would favor the besieged to the detriment of the besiegers.

Under these circumstances I believe it is possible to apply to the case of a blockade by land of frontier ports or places, principles in some respects similar to those of maritime blockade. And thus, as a supplement to the agreement concluded by General Scott, it might be arranged that whenever either of the belligerents effectively blockaded an American frontier port—that is, with sufficient forces to prevent any access thereto of persons, pecuniary aid, arms, ammunition, etc.—the President of the United States should temporarily decree the closure of the port in question, in order that the Government might preserve strict neutrality in the case.

If this action were taken, the blockaded forces would be obliged to give battle outside the city and away from the boundary line in order to break the siege, or else they would have to surrender or intern themselves in the United States, where they would be disarmed if they were permitted to enter.

Of course, just as in a sea blockade, the necessary notice would first have to be given and the blockade would have to be effective.

I beg of you, Mr. Carothers, to do me the favor of submitting these reflections to the consideration of your Government, which I hope will find them just and equitable, inasmuch as their provisions would be applicable to any of the political parties who might happen to be in the situation contemplated.

I remain [etc.]

Miguel Diaz Lombardo.