The Consul in Charge of the Legation in Honduras ( Lawton ) to the Secretary of State

No. 516

Sir: I have the honor and the pleasure of informing the Department that after a very strenuous fight I have secured an Executive Order in favor of the application of the Alien Property Law. Since the moment of my arrival and after having read over the correspondence between the Department and this Legation for some months past, I endeavored to secure definite action in support of the Alien Property Custodian and the Honduranean Law on the subject of German property. I found the President entirely ignorant of what the Law contained, and he claimed that while he was in sympathy with the Law, he had had no opportunity to inform himself about it. He finally agreed to present my recommendation to his Ministers, and the following day I learned that the Minister of Hacienda had been instructed to prepare a Decree, which was shown to me and of which I enclose a translation. (See enclosure # 1.)32

Several days passed and I very soon found that the German representatives of the firms involved were marshalling their forces and bringing every possible influence to bear, including the expenditure of large sums of money, to prevent any definite action, because they were quite sure that the Lopez Gutierrez party would see that the Alien Property Law was annulled. They very openly boasted of this and presented written demands to Custodian Weddle to turn over the moneys he has deposited as profits of the property sequestered. The attorney of the Custodian with Mr. Weddle and the Minister of Hacienda had frequent conferences with me in this Legation. I also spoke several times to President Bogran about the matter and reminded him of his promise to Minister Jones to favor the Alien Property Law and its application for the liquidation of German properties.

On November 3rd. the Minister of Hacienda finally presented to me, in company with the Custodian and Lawyer Zelaya, a proposed Executive Decree which was manifestly an attempt to discredit the [Page 408] Custodian and the Alien Property Law, to reduce the salaries of the Custodian and the Attorney and reorganize the Intervention in various ways and which it is not improbable would have vitiated the original Law.

I frankly told the Minister that I considered the document very inappropriate in consideration of the fact that the Alien Property Law in Honduras was suggested by our Government and that I could only see in it an attempt to ridicule the efforts of our representative, Mr. Ames. I subsequently called upon the Minister of Foreign Relations and presented the matter to him as forcibly as I could without offense. A translation of that document is enclosed herewith marked enclosure No. 2.32

The Attorney of the Custodian of the Intervention suggested drafting the simplest form of a decree as it was evident that the Government was anxious to put the matter up to the coming Congress, with as little activity in the meanwhile as possible. The result was a decree to be signed by the President and Council of Ministers, of which a translation is enclosed herewith and marked enclosure No. 3.32 I felt very well satisfied with this disposition and the President personally assured me that he would have no trouble in getting the cooperation of his Ministers. In this he evidently was over sanguine because the Cabinet refused to concur and argued particularly that Article second was usurping of the powers of the Courts and that the Executive had no power to order the cancellation of real estate transfers. The net result was that Article second was eliminated and the document became a Presidential Order instead of a decree. I enclose herewith a copy and a translation of the signed order marked enclosures four and five respectively.32

I am very dubious about the future of the Alien Property Law in Honduras. The German firms will naturally go to any extreme or spend any amount of money to have Congress annul the Law. I recommend that representations be made to Doctor Bonilla33 or any other Honduranean representative in Washington and have them send to the Foreign Office here a plain statement of Honduras’ duty in the matter. I also think that this Legation should be definitely instructed to the same end, and among other things, that our Government’s objection to the return of German control in Amapala be strongly stated.

In this connection, it is appropriate for me to explain that General Rafael Lopez Gutierrez called upon me some days before the Presidential elections. He was accompanied by Doctor Philip Davis, an [Page 409] American of this city, and, in his presence, General Lopez G. told the story of his military campaign and that at that time he had made no political promises of any character. I told him that it was currently reported that his campaign had been financed by German money. This he strongly denied and explained that while Guillermo Debbe was in his house frequently, he is a nephew by marriage and he (Lopez) had had no money relations with him. I then asked General Lopez G. what his attitude would be towards the Alien Property Law, and he stated that he would be in favor of it. I told him that I was very glad to learn this, and in the event that he was the successful candidate at the elections, I would communicate his reply to my Government as an expression of his attitude towards the German interests in Honduras. …

I have [etc.]

E. M. Lawton
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  5. Señor Don Policarpo Bonilla, in Washington on special mission in connection with boundary dispute; see vol. i, pp. 85 ff.