File No. 881.00/622

The Secretary of State to the French Ambassador

No. 1640

Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of October 29, 1915,2 informing the Department that the Tunisian and Moroccan Governments have decided that merchandise shipped from neutral countries to either Tunisia or the French zone in Morocco shall not be admitted in the future unless accompanied by a certificate of the customs authorities of the said countries, duly viséd by a French consul and testifying that the said merchandise is the product of the country from which it comes.

In so far as this decision applies to merchandise imported into Morocco, the Department cannot recognize the legality or binding effect of this decision. The attitude of the United States in respect to its rights in Morocco has been previously explained to your excellency. The United States has consistently maintained the position that the rights granted to it by capitulations in any of the extraterritorial countries have been irrevocably granted and cannot be taken away without the consent of this country. That this view is also held by the Government of the French Republic is evidenced by the following quotation from a note, dated August 14, 1915, from the French Foreign Office to the American Ambassador at Paris, where, referring to the attempt by the Ottoman Government to abrogate the rights of French subjects and protégés under the capitulations, it is stated:

These pretensions cannot be admitted by the French Government, which has not recognized the abrogation, decreed before the rupture of diplomatic relations, of the capitulations, which were a mutual contract which could not be broken by a unilateral declaration.

The Department is ready at any time to take up with your excellency or with the French Government the conditions under which it will consent to the abolition or modification of the American capitulatory rights in Morocco.

Accept [etc.]

Robert Lansing
  1. Not printed.