The Secretary of State to the Minister in Colombia (Philip)
In order that you may understand present position of treaty you are advised as follows. The Senate was not disposed to consent to [Page 773] ratification of Thomson-Urrutia treaty as originally written, but, as you were informally advised before leaving for Colombia, it was probable that favorable action could be had if treaty were modified.
One of the most serious international questions that ever confronted this Government has arisen in recent years through the disposition on the part of Mexico to nationalize petroleum deposits. Mexico’s tendency in this direction was first evidenced in a relatively unimportant manner during 1914. With the passage of time this tendency seems to have crystallized into policy, and the complications growing out of Mexico’s policy not only threaten the confiscation of vested rights in oil properties but also include the essential principles upon which amicable international relations are founded.
Colombia herself has injected this question of subsoil rights into the international affairs of her country and our own, at the moment when the treaty seemed about to receive favorable consideration here. The recent receipt of the Colombian decree of June 20th, and of the petroleum reports of prominent Colombian officials, which were made after studies in Mexico, and the accumulation of other evidence along this line appear to indicate Colombia’s disposition to enact legislation relating to subsoil rights, which would not only affect injuriously American rights in Colombia but would if overlooked and allowed to pass unchallenged probably establish a precedent embarassing to this Government in relation to similar matters in Mexico and possibly other countries.
The Mexican Congress after long agitation, is now contemplating some final legislation relating to subsoil rights. In these circumstances it is but natural that this Government should look with grave concern upon an effort by Colombia or any other Latin-American country to adopt a nationalization policy, injurious to American citizens, similar to that now being attempted by Mexico, against the retroactive application of which our Government has repeatedly protested. The disposition of the Senate Committee therefore was to make its position clear, not offensively so, but with sufficient definiteness to remove the slightest doubt as to such position. Hence the Department’s telegram of August 9, 5 p.m.56
There has never been a time when the present treaty was looked upon by Senate with marked approval. An effort to obtain Senate’s consent to ratify the treaty as your August 15, 10 p.m.57 suggests, would probably fail, and it seems important therefore to avoid carefully the taking of any steps that might produce strained relations between Colombia and the United States.[Page 774]
The Department awaits the draft of the amendment or protocol to which Colombia might agree and when received will study it and then express an opinion as to the feasibility of entering into a separate agreement or protocol to be signed at the same time as the treaty.
The Sub-Committee of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee has revised the first draft of its proposed amendment which stands as cabled in Department’s August 9, 5 p.m., with the following addition. “Except that the laws of metalliferous mining reservations are affirmatively recognized.”