The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Argentina (White)

No. 639

Sir: The Department has had under consideration the request of the All America Cables Company that the Department use its good offices in assisting that Company to have declared valid a concession to land a direct cable from Brazil to the Argentine, which was obtained from the Argentine Government in the year 1885. A memorandum submitted by the All America Cables Company calls the attention of the Department to the following facts:

In 1885, upon the instruction of the Department, the then American Minister to Buenos Aires, General Osborn, assisted the Central and South America Telegraph Company in obtaining necessary authorization to lay a cable between Buenos Aires and Brazil. The concession reads as follows:

[Here follow the terms of the concession printed in Foreign Relations, 1918, page 36.]

Before the Company could avail itself of the privileges of this concession in a practicable way, it was necessary for the Company to control the land line telegraphic system between Valparaiso and Buenos Aires. The Company, after several unsuccessful attempts, finally purchased the Transandine Telegraph Company’s lines between Valparaiso and Buenos Aires in 1892.

The Company then sought authorization from the Government of Brazil to land on the shores of that Republic, the proposed cable from the Argentine. Further delay was encountered, owing to the existence of an exclusive concession, covering a period of twenty years to control cable communications between Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, granted in 1893 to the Western Telegraph Company by the Brazilian Government. It is to be noted, however, that the Argentine Government has at no time declared that the concession of 1885 has expired through lapse of time.

In 1913, upon the expiration of the Western Telegraph Company’s concession, the Central and South America Telegraph Company once more tried to get a concession to lay a cable directly from [Page 264] Brazil to the Argentine. Due to the opposition of the Western Telegraph Company and the consequent litigation, it was not until August 11, 1917 that the concession was granted by the Brazilian Government.2

Although the Company obtained a concession from the Government of Argentina in 1919 to lay a sub-fluvial cable from Buenos Aires to Montevideo3 and was granted a further concession by the Brazilian Government to connect by cable the city of Montevideo with Rio de Janeiro and by another cable Montevideo with Santos,4 the Company desires to put into effect the provisions of its 1885 concession which the Company still regards as valid and which permits the landing in the Argentine of a direct cable from Brazil.

In this connection, the Company calls the Department’s attention to a memorandum presented in 1914 to the Argentine Government by the then Minister, Mr. Charles Sherrill, at the direction of the Department of State,5 setting forth that the Company could not be considered delinquent in availing itself of the terms of the concession, in view of the action of the Brazilian Government in 1895 [1893], in granting the Western Telegraph Company a twenty-year monopoly for cable communications between Brazil and the Argentine.

In view of the special importance which this Government attaches to the development of an all-American cable system on the American continent, you are instructed to render all appropriate assistance to Dr. Beccar Varela, Counsel for the All America Cables Company in Buenos Aires, in his efforts to cause the Argentine Government to recognize as valid the concession of 1885. In this connection, the Department understands that Dr. Beccar Varela is ready to place at the disposal of the Embassy any information in his possession.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Henry P. Fletcher
  1. Foreign Relations, 1918, p. 52.
  2. Ibid., 1919, vol. i, p. 175.
  3. See Ibid, pp. 193 ff.
  4. The Department’s instruction of Sept. 4, 1914, and the memorandum of Sept. 9, 1914, to the Argentine Government are not printed. The memorandum was not presented by Charles Sherrill; it was presented by George Lorillard, Chargé during the absence of John W. Garrett, the American Minister at that time, Charles Sherrill having been superseded by Mr. Garrett in 1911.