The Alternate Chairman of the International Committee of Bankers on Mexico ( Lamont ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Davis )

Dear Mr. Davis: Thank you for your letter of October 1st.53 For your information I will summarize, as briefly as possible, the facts regarding the organization of this Committee.

In the autumn of 1918, after learning that the leading investment interests in London and Paris felt that it would be wise to have organized an international committee so as to enable Mexico, when the time came, to deal with one instead of many diverse bodies of creditors, I conferred, by appointment, on October 4th with Mr. Polk and Mr. Auchincloss at the Department of State. They expressed hearty approval of the plan for the formation of an International Committee of Bankers on Mexico. We arranged together that this Committee was to be made up with a member of this firm54 as chairman, the remaining members to be selected from representative American banking houses interested in the handling of Mexican securities, as well as adequate representation of French and British interests. It was further decided that before the organization of the committee was finally effected and before any announcement was made, the Department should ask Ambassador Fletcher to sound out President Carranza with the idea that Carranza might [Page 233] possibly request the formation of such a committee. This he did but at the time Carranza made no constructive suggestions.

We kept the Department informed of our communications to London and Paris and in turn informed those two centers of the stipulation which the Department had very properly laid down, namely, that in any attitude the whole International Committee might take the policy of the United States should prevail. The exact language of the Department on this point was “He (Secretary Lansing) agrees with me, however, that it is important that the control be effectively American.” This is from Mr. Fletcher’s letter of August 6th, 1919,55 and was reiterated in Mr. Phillips’s letter of November 5th, 1919.55

There was further cable correspondence and further unofficial conferences with the Department and finally it was agreed to form the Committee on the basis of ten members from the United States and five each from England and France, this line-up indicating the preponderance of American interests, as requested by the Department.

After everything was in shape, I prepared an announcement prior to my departure for the Peace Conference at Paris. This formal announcement was published simultaneously in New York, London and Paris. I enclose a photostat copy of the New York Times of February 24th, 1919.55 The formation of the Committee at the time created a good deal of favorable comment and Carranza, seeing which way the wind was blowing, came out with a cordial statement approving of the organization of the Committee.

In August, 1919, the question of enlarging the Committee came up, as it seemed advisable that Holland and Switzerland be represented. At first we thought it might be well to enlarge the American Committee proportionately and the Department of State thought so, too, but upon discussion it seemed rather impolitic to insist upon the exact proportion, America having such a large preponderance anyway. Accordingly, upon this point, I wrote Mr. Fletcher on December 23rd, 1919,56 and he replied on December 27th that he had discussed the matter with Mr. Polk, Acting Secretary, who authorized him to inform us “that the Department was willing to leave the details of the composition of the Committee to our [sic] judgment, provided, of course, that the effective control of policy remains in our hands.”57

All the record covering the foregoing is on file in the Department but simply for your convenience I have had the Secretary of [Page 234] the Committee summarize it, and I have supplemented it with one or two points from my own recollection. The whole point I have in mind is to remind the present officials of the Department (there having occurred in the Department some changes of personnel since October, 1918) that our Committee was formed largely at the instance, and fully under the instructions of the Department, with the hope of being able to render the government a distinct service in its solution of the Mexican questions.

I am glad to know that you and I are in accord as to the part to be played by this Committee when the time for conferences finally arrives.

Sincerely yours,

T. W. Lamont
  1. Not printed.
  2. J. P. Morgan & Co.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Foreign Relations, 1919, vol. ii, p. 648.
  7. Ibid., p. 649.