File No. 882.00/612

Ambassador Sharp to the Secretary of State

No. 1989

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s No. 793 of December 29 last3 enclosing copy of a despatch from the American Chargé d’Affaires at Tangiers, relative to an order of the resident general of Morocco to the effect that certain cases which previously were tried before the civil courts, are now placed within the competence of the French military tribunals, and instructing me to call to the attention of the French Government, this action of the resident general, and to protest against such as being contrary to the rights guaranteed to American citizens in Morocco by the Act of Algeciras.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has replied to the communication I addressed him in compliance with your instruction. I beg to enclose herewith, in copy and translation, Mr. Briand’s letter, from which it will be seen that he states that the order of the resident general is made entirely as a military order necessitated by a state of siege in that territory, and is not intended as a permanent change of judiciary régime. The letter further says that the residents of Morocco have benefited by this order of General Lyautey and that due to the placing of certain cases under the competence of the military authorities, the good order of Morocco has been maintained.

I have [etc.]

Wm. G. Sharp

The Minister of Foreign Affairs to Ambassador Sharp

Mr. Ambassador: On the 22d ultimo, referring to a letter written by the Consul of France at Mogador to the American consular agent at that city under date of September 5, your excellency was pleased to protest against an order issued by the resident general, commander-in-chief in Morocco, placing under the sole jurisdiction of the military authority, and for the duration of the state of siege, the repression of any infractions to the provisions of the Dahir of Ramadam 26, 1333, concerning military requisitions.

I have the honor to inform your excellency that in issuing the order in question, General Lyautey has not exceeded the rights which have, at all times and in all places, been conferred upon commanders of armies in the field for the purpose of ensuring the safety of their troops. The said order in fact, refers specifically to the order of the commander-in-chief of the troops occupying Morocco, dated August 1914, instituting martial law and proclaiming the state of siege over the whole extent of the French zone in the Shereefian Empire. The publication of the said martial law, which by reason of the war conditions was as imperative in Morocco as in any other French territory or possession, was duly communicated to the consular representatives of the foreign Powers at Casablanca, among whom was the British Consul charged with American consular interests. Neither at that time nor later, did this action give rise to any protest on the part of the allied or neutral Governments, nor was any protest made at any subsequent applications of the law.

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The consequences of the state of siege instituted by the said martial law result, it is true, in divesting in favor of the military jurisdiction of the occupying army, all civil courts—either French or consular belonging to the Powers which still hold judicial privileges in the French zone in Morocco—of the jurisdiction of certain crimes or attempts against the safety of the French troops, or of actions prejudicial to public order or safety, which it is the duty of the resident general, commander-in-chief, to assure in the very interest of the foreign colonies. But such a measure which is of a military character and quite exceptional and temporary, like the circumstances which require and justify it, does not affect in any way the fundamental principle of the privileges of jurisdiction still claimed by the Federal Government in the Shereefian Empire; it merely suspends its action pending the duration of the state of siege and in certain cases. Among such cases, the resident general, commander-in-chief, has deemed it necessary to include the application of the dahir regulating in a very liberal manner, moreover, all requisitions purporting to ensure the victualling and operations of the army in occupation, the presence and activity of which have allowed Morocco to enjoy since the beginning of the war a tranquillity from which American citizens have benefited to the same extent as the subjects of other Powers.

I feel convinced that the forgoing explanation will enable your excellency to reassure fully the Federal Government as to the reasons and the import of the action taken by General Lyautey, which formed the subject of your communication of January 22 last.

With assurances [etc.]

A. Briand