The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Mexico (Summerlin)
85. The following statement was made public by the Department last night:
“The fundamental question which confronts the Government of the United States in considering its relations with Mexico is the safeguarding of property rights against confiscation. Mexico is free to adopt any policy which she pleases with respect to her public lands, but she is not free to destroy without compensation valid titles which have been obtained by American citizens under Mexican laws. A confiscatory policy strikes not only at the interests of particular individuals, but at the foundations of international intercourse, for it is only on the basis of the security of property validly possessed under the laws existing at the time of its acquisition, that commercial transactions between the peoples of two countries and the conduct of activities in helpful cooperation are possible.
This question should not be confused with any matter of personalities or of the recognition of any particular administration. Whenever [Page 407] Mexico is ready to give assurances that she will perform her fundamental obligation in the protection both of persons and of rights of property validly acquired, there will be no obstacles to the most advantageous relations between the two peoples.
This question is vital because of the provisions inserted in the Mexican Constitution promulgated in 1917. If these provisions are to be put into effect retroactively, the properties of American citizens will be confiscated on a great scale. This would constitute an international wrong of the gravest character and this Government could not submit to its accomplishment. If it be said that this wrong is not intended, and that the Constitution of Mexico of 1917 will not be construed to permit, or enforced so as to effect, confiscation, then it is important that this should be made clear by guarantees in proper form. The provisions of the Constitution and the Executive Decrees which have been formulated with confiscatory purposes, make it obviously necessary that the purposes of Mexico should be definitely set forth.
Accordingly this Government has proposed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with Mexico, in which Mexico will agree to safeguard the rights of property which attached before the Constitution of 1917 was promulgated. The question, it will be observed, is not one of a particular administration but of the agreement of the nation in proper form which has become necessary as an international matter because of the provisions of its domestic legislation. If Mexico does not contemplate a confiscatory policy, the Government of the United States can conceive of no possible objection to the Treaty.
The proposed treaty also contains the conventional stipulations as to commerce and reciprocal rights in both countries. It also provides for the conclusion of a convention for the settlement of claims for losses of life and property, which of course means the prompt establishment of a suitable claims commission in which both countries would be represented, in order to effect a just settlement. There is also a provision for a just settlement of boundary matters.
The question of recognition is a subordinate one, but there will be no difficulty as to this, for if General Obregon is ready to negotiate a proper treaty it is drawn so as to be negotiated with him and the making of the treaty in proper form will accomplish the recognition of the Government that makes it. In short, when it appears that there is a government in Mexico willing to bind itself to the discharge of primary international obligations, concurrently with that act its recognition will take place. This Government desires immediate and cordial relations of mutual helpfulness and simply wishes that the basis of international intercourse should be properly maintained.
Accordingly on the 27th of May last, Mr. Summerlin, American Chargé d’Affaires at Mexico City, presented to General Obregon a proposed Treaty covering the matters to which reference has been made. The matter is now in the course of negotiations and it is to be hoped that when the nature of the precise question is fully appreciated the obstacles which have stood in the way of a satisfactory settlement will disappear.”