The Minister in Colombia (Philip) to the Secretary of State

No. 208

Sir: Adverting to my cable message No. 176 of November 22, 11 a.m., I have the honor to transmit herewith copy and translation of the complete text of the Decision of the Colombian Supreme Court61 relative to the question of the ownership of non-metalliferous deposits in private lands, dated the 21st ultimo.

This Decision has been generally accepted in all quarters here as the final and authoritative word in this much disputed question, as far as the rights of the owners of private lands to such subsoil deposits is concerned. By this Decision, which I am given to understand is considered by all Colombians as final and irrevocable, the provisions of the Executive Decree of June 20th last which affected privately acquired rights to subsoil deposits are declared to have been unconstitutional. …

I respectfully express the hope that this action by the highest Court of this country will have the effect of quieting some of the anxiety which appears to exist in the United States concerning the petroleum situation in Colombia at least to the extent of permitting some relaxation of the attitude assumed by the Senate of the United States in the matter of the Treaty with Colombia regarding the Panama question.

I beg to transmit also copies and translations of three newspaper articles62 … which will serve to illustrate the tone with which this important Decision was received by the press of Bogota, the majority of which appeared to favor nationalization prior to the Decision, together with copy and translation of an Executive Decree … dated the 26th ultimo which formally annulls that of June 20th last.

I have [etc.]

Hoffman Philip
[Page 781]

Executive Decree No. 2251, November 26, 1919, Annulling Decree No. 1255 bis

The President of the Republic in the use of his legal faculties, and


That the Supreme Court of Justice by Decision No. 52 of the 21st instant declared unattainable articles 3, 4 and 5 of the Executive Decree No. 1255 bis of June 20th of the present year;
That in virtue of such decision the principal dispositions and those which may be called the very substance of the decree remain without application;
That several other dispositions of said document have been left impossible of application for the reason that they were subordinate to those which the Court declared to be unattainable;
That the other dispositions of the Decree which regulate the exploration of petroleum lands and arrange the method of compiling suitable statistics will be without effect when the law that is now discussed in Congress is passed, whereby the exploration and exploitation of deposits of hydrocarbons will be completely organized, hereby


Sole article. That the Decree No. 1255 bis of June 20 of this year, which regulates the exploration of petroleum lands and arranges the compilation of statistics of mines of that material, be annulled.

Communicate and publish.

Marco Fidel Suárez

Minister of Treasury, in charge of Ministry of Public Works,
Estéban Jaramillo
  1. As published in the Bogotá El Siglo, Nov. 24, 1919; not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Substituted for file translation.