The Chargé in Mexico (Summerlin) to the Secretary of State

No. 3949

Sir: Supplementing my confidential No. 3929, of June 3, 1921, and in confirmation of the Embassy’s telegram No. 119, June 4, six P.M.,12 I have the honor to forward herewith translation of Memorandum No. 1 and its enclosure,13 and copy and translation of Memorandum No. 2. In view of Mr. Pani’s statement that Memorandum No. 1, and its enclosure, has been left at the Department, I am enclosing translations only of those papers.

I gave the Department, in my confidential telegram No. 121, of June 5, 9 A.M.,12 a condensed account of Mr. Pani’s remarks after he had read the Memorandums to me.

On June 6th, upon receipt of the Department’s confidential telegram No. 83, June 6, 5 P.M., I sought an interview with Mr. Pani. I transmitted verbally the Department’s request for information as to what specific action was contemplated by the three branches of the Government of the present regime looking to the adequate protection of American interests. Mr. Pani asked for a memorandum of the subject after I had requested a reply as soon as possible. I also furnished him with a paraphrased résumé of my telegram No. 12112 to the Department, as I had promised to do.

Late yesterday afternoon I received an informal communication from Mr. Pani, enclosing a memorandum of his remarks made on the fourth instant. This appeared to be a revision, or as he stated, a “modification”, of those remarks. I am enclosing herewith a copy and translation of this memorandum. Evidently, Mr. Pani considered that this revision and amplification of his remarks was sufficient to meet my request for information as to what specific action was contemplated, as he said, by the Executive, by the Congress, and by the Supreme Court.

At once, I endeavored to make an appointment with him, but I was unable to see him until noon today, when he dictated the three specific actions reported in my telegram, No. 134, 3 P.M. today.14 It appears that General Obregón now proposes to make use of the Extraordinary Powers conferred on the Executive, by the law of May 8, 1917, to promulgate a Law of Claims, in which, Mr. Pani says, provision will be made for a mixed claims commission. Mr. Pani’s statement as to the declarations made by “the President of [Page 409] the Republic” are those made by General Obregón on April 3rd [2d] last.15 These declarations were reported in full by the Embassy, and are referred to briefly on page 4 of the accompanying Memorandum No. 1. I am unable to attach the importance to the reported declarations of individuals of the Chamber of Deputies, whether members of Petroleum Committees, or not, that Mr. Pani does. The statements he referred to were made more than two months ago, but I have not been able to learn that there has been even an informal report made by either of the two Petroleum Committees. Nor may any action by the Congress be expected, in the near future, unless very strong pressure is immediately brought to bear on the members of the Congress, and it is a question whether General Obregón feels himself strong enough to attempt to do this.

I am enclosing summaries in translation of all local Editorials16 on the matter of the negotiations. Short summaries of them have been telegraphed daily.

I shall continue to keep the Department fully advised by cable as to all developments in the matter.

I have [etc.]

George T. Summerlin
[Enclosure 1—Translation]17

The Mexican Foreign Office to the American Embassy18

Memorandum No. 1

Ever since Mr. Adolfo de la Huerta occupied the Presidency of the Mexican Republic by the designation of the Federal Congress made in accordance with law, the relations between Mexico and the United States of America have been incomplete and abnormal. The intensity of the everyday life which the two countries for obvious reasons necessarily observe maintains the normal aspect in everything which refers to commerce between the two; the Mexican consulates in the United States and the North American consulates in Mexico function normally; the desire of each of the two countries to extend its mercantile operations with the other is continually made manifest, sometimes in an eloquent way by means of excursions of chambers of commerce, etc.; North American public opinion daily expresses its desire that a good understanding with Mexico be cultivated, and Mexican public opinion, in turn, responds to this in similar terms. Notwithstanding all this, purely diplomatic relations [Page 410] are in suspense. Undoubtedly the interdependence of the two countries and their desire daily to reach a better understanding would begin to manifest itself to the benefit of the two peoples if the state of diplomatic relations were an open highway to a good understanding, instead of being (as at present) a dike between the interests of Mexico and the interests of the United States.

In the opinion of the Mexican Government, the present anomalous situation would be completely remedied by the simple act of having diplomatic representatives duly accredited in Washington as well as in Mexico. In this way all pending questions between the two Governments would be easily arranged, and the study of a treaty of amity and commerce, which Mexico would enter into with pleasure, and a revision of existing treaties could be undertaken.

The Government of Mexico would have no objection to immediately requesting of the Washington Government an agrément for an ambassador, provided it should previously receive assurances that the Government of the United States would view with pleasure this first step of the Government of Mexico, and that the former would indicate its willingness to respond in the same way.

In order to respond in an affirmative way to this first step of the Government of Mexico, the Government of the United States could take the following considerations into account:

The Mexican Republic being a state whose existence and complete sovereignty have not been questioned for a hundred years, its governments have the right to be recognized by the governments of the other countries, in accordance with established usage, without other condition than their legality and their capacity to fulfill the international duties and obligations of Mexico. The reference from Moore’s International Law Digest (volume 1, section 27, page 73), according to which “it may happen, by way of exception, that the recognition is conditional or is given sub modo”, would not be applicable, because this refers to cases which treat of a new state, and not a new government of a state already universally recognized.
In accordance with the foregoing principle, the Government of Mexico, presided over by General Alvaro Obregon, has been recognized already by the Governments of the following countries: Germany, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, China, Japan, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Salvador, Uruguay, and Nicaragua. Likewise, the following countries have requested and obtained recognition of the Mexican Government presided over by General Alvaro Obregon: Finland, Czechoslovakia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Poland.
In like manner, diplomatic relations are actually maintained with other countries with which recognition is now nothing more than a question of details.
The legality of the Government presided over by General Alvaro Obregon, which cannot be objected to from any point of view, [Page 411] as might have been the case with the interim Government of Mr. de la Huerta in the eyes of those theoretical jurists who feigned not to understand the popular sanction which that Government had, is eloquently manifested by the immediate pacification of the whole country. The present Government has, besides this sanction, the strength which is derived from its origin in an irreproachable popular election.
The present diplomatic condition of the Mexican Republic, and the good disposition of the people and of the Government of Mexico to comply with everything which they are legally obliged to comply with relative to private interests of nationals and foreigners, as was stated by the President of the Republic in his declarations of April 3 [2],19 and as he has demonstrated by many acts of his Government; the return of the banks of emission taken over by the Government of Mr. Carranza, which was fully recognized by the United States; the settlement of the debt which the Government of Mr. Carranza contracted with these banks, and all prior debts; the invitation to the International Bankers Committee, presided over by Mr. Lamont, and the Speyer house to come to the city of Mexico and arrange everything relative to the public foreign debt,20 an invitation made almost coincident with the inauguration of the present Government; the extension of time for receiving claims for damages occasioned by the revolution,21 and the study which is being made of reforms in the respective law, which reforms will soon be promulgated and will duly guarantee, not only the interests of the Government, but also those of foreign claimants; the proposition repeatedly expressed by the Government to the effect that the regulations under article 27 of the Constitution22 will not be confiscatory or retroactive in their effects, and the previously made statements of the Chamber of Deputies to the same effect, etc., etc.
The certainty that, as soon as diplomatic relations are renewed, nothing will prevent Mexico and the United States from reaching a satisfactory understanding relative to the pending questions between the two countries, because, so far as Mexico is concerned, a sincere desire exists to reach this understanding with a spirit of justice and concord.
The popular opinion of the North American people, already sufficiently indicated by acts so conclusive as the resolutions favorable to recognition approved by the Legislatures of California and Arizona, by the convention of the Mississippi Valley Association, in which 27 States were represented, and by innumerable chambers of commerce and other organizations of that country.
The fact that recognition of the Government of Mexico should be extended under such conditions as will strengthen its prestige and be a motive for closer relations between the two countries in the future, and not under conditions which deprive it of the capacity for [Page 412] friendly cooperation with the Government of the White House, to the benefit not only of the mutual interests of the two countries, but also to the general interests of the American continent.

If the information which the Department of State of the White House has with respect to the present Mexican situation and of the intentions of the Government of Mexico does not agree with the spirit and the text of this memorandum, the Government of Mexico would prefer to leave matters in their present condition until the Government of the United States becomes convinced of the reality of events. A complete recognition only is desired by the Government of Mexico, not only because it believes it has a right to it, but also because only such recognition would be useful in the development of its internal policy and its continental policy, as stated before, in friendly cooperation with the Government of the White House.

[Enclosure 2—Translation]

The Mexican Foreign Office to the American Embassy23

Memorandum No. 2

With respect to the memorandum relative to a Treaty of Amity and Commerce delivered by Mr. Summerlin to the President of the Republic,24 it is deemed opportune to make the following observations.

It is not possible nor expedient to sign a Convention or Treaty between the Governments of Mexico and the United States of North America before the first is fully recognized by the second. The priority of the convention or treaty with respect to recognition, or the simultaneity of these two acts or their fusion, considering that the signing of the former could imply or signify at the same time the renewal of diplomatic relations between the two countries, would give recognition a conditional character and would gravely injure the sovereignty of Mexico.

The Mexican Republic being a State whose complete existence and sovereignty have not been questioned for one hundred years, its governments have the right to be recognized by the governments of the other countries in accordance with established usage without other condition than the legality and capacity to comply with the international duties and obligations of Mexico; therefore, in the light of international law, the exaction that General Obregon should previously [Page 413] contract obligations of any nature in order that recognition be extended him is not justifiable. Aside from this reason of law, neither is such an exaction justifiable because General Obregon, first as a candidate and afterwards as an executive, has made repeated statements to adjust his policy to the dictates of law and morality, has offered to repair equitably the damages caused by the past revolution and has given, by his capacity to develop that policy and to fulfill those obligations, sufficient proofs, recognized not only by his own country in maintaining itself in almost perfect tranquility but also by many governments of European and Asiatic countries in renewing their diplomatic relations with Mexico.

Therefore, any exaction of promise whatsoever on the part of the American Government from that of Mexico, precedent to the renewal of diplomatic relations, would be unnecessary besides unjust and more than this prejudicial to both countries because it would incapacitate the Mexican Government to fulfill the obligation contracted and would deprive it of strength to accomplish its purposes of friendly cooperation with the Government of the United States, not only in behalf of the interests of the two countries but also the general interests of the American continent.

With respect to the Treaty of Amity, and Commerce, in the form in which it has been prepared, it is objectionable because it contains stipulations which are opposed to some precepts of the Mexican Constitution. The President of the Republic, whose primary duty is to comply and to enforce compliance with the Constitution, would not be empowered to accept those stipulations. Even in case he should accept them the Senate would reject them when they should be submitted to it for its ratification. And moreover, in the remote possibility that the Senate should not reject them, they would continue to lack all validity, not only because the Mexican Constitution expressly prohibits in its Article 15 “to enter into conventions or treaties which abridge or modify the guarantees and rights which the Constitution grants to the individual and to the citizen”, but also because, following the criterion of our jurists also held by North American commentators, if a conflict arises between the text of a Constitution and a treaty preference is always given to the former.

Besides, it is known that the Mexican Constitution, in Article 135, establishes the legal procedure to amend or add to it, and that General Obregon has already proposed the reglementary laws and indicated in accordance with that article the Constitutional amendments and additions required for the development of his policy of interior reconstruction and of good understanding with other countries.

Finally, the Mexican Government considers, as does the American Government, that the conclusion of a Treaty of Amity and Commerce [Page 414] between both nations would be of great mutual benefits. The treaty could be concluded with the complete goodwill of the Government of Mexico as soon as this Government is internationally capacitated for that purpose.

[Enclosure 3—Translation26]

The Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Pani) to the American Chargé (Summerlin)

My Dear Mr. Summerlin: I have the pleasure to refer to your letter of the 7th instant, with which I received the summary of one of the telegrams sent by you to the Department of State in Washington, in connection with the conversation which we held on Saturday last in regard to memorandum no. 2.

With this letter I transmit the summary referred to, after having made some small indispensable modifications to make it agree exactly with my statements.

I remain [etc.]

A. J. Pani

Memorandum by the American Chargé (Summerlin) of a Conversation with the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Pani), Modified by the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs

After Mr. Pani read me memorandum no. 2, he said that since General Obregon was firmly determined to satisfy the just demands of foreign governments, he did not wish to lose the spontaneity of his acts before Mexico and the world by accomplishing this purpose under the appearance of foreign pressure. “If this happened,” continued Mr. Pani, “aside from wounding the dignity of Mexico and of the President, the Government over which he presides would be weakened, as would be the tendency with any government which appeared capable of complying with its international duties only under pressure from a foreign power.”

Referring to the proposed Treaty of Amity and Commerce, Mr. Pani mentioned that it embraces two parts—commercial and political; that the clauses relating to the first are acceptable in general, requiring only slight changes of form or detail and some amplifications; that the clauses of a political character, relating principally to article 27 of the Constitution, to foreign claims for damages caused by the Revolution, and to the religious question, either agree fundamentally with the political program which General Obregon is developing and are unnecessary or undesirable in said treaty, or [Page 415] they are opposed to the Mexican Constitution and therefore unacceptable.

“What really could affect American interests,” added Mr. Pani, “are, on one hand, the reglementation which may be made of article 27 of the Constitution, and, on the other hand, the form in which the claims commission is made up.

“With respect to the future reglementation of article 27 of the Constitution, the agreement of the executive and the legislative powers in favor of the principle of nonretroactivity has already been stated in various ways and on various occasions. What can the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation do other than to align itself with the other powers of the Government in such an equitable proposal? I believe that a very short time will elapse before we see this presumption confirmed.”

With respect to damages caused by the revolution, Mr. Pani spoke of a law which General Obregon has prepared and which is to be promulgated soon, which provides in a practical way for a mixed claims commission.

“Finally, as to the religious question,” said Mr. Pani, “it is dangerous and unnecessary: dangerous because the Mexican people—although this may appear untrue—are as fanatic about their religion as about the reform laws which they consider written with their own blood; and unnecessary because in Mexico—despite what may be said to the contrary—religious tolerance is enjoyed normally to the extent that it should be in a civilized country.”

  1. Not printed.
  2. Enclosure with memorandum no. 1 not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Post, p. 415.
  6. Ante, p. 395.
  7. Not printed.
  8. File translation revised.
  9. Handed to the American Chargé by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs June 4, 1921.
  10. Ante, p. 395.
  11. For discussions between the Obregon government and the International Committee of Bankers on Mexico, see pp. 493504.
  12. For negotiations looking toward the establishment of a mixed claims commission, see pp. 504514.
  13. For papers relating to the proposed organic law to give effect to art. 27, see pp. 439446.
  14. Handed to the American Chargé by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs June 4, 1921.
  15. For text of draft treaty, see p. 397.
  16. File translation revised.
  17. File translation revised.