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

No. 5437

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 2044, of April 15, 1922, relative to your desire to leave nothing undone to promote friendly relations with Mexico and to bring about an early and satisfactory solution of existing questions. I am enclosing herewith a copy of my informal note No. 187, of April 20, 1922,10 to Mr. Pani, in which I addressed him in the sense of your above-mentioned instruction.

I am now in receipt of Mr. Pani’s informal reply, dated May 4, 1922, a copy and translation are enclosed herewith. Mr. Pani stated to me that in his informal note he was replying frankly and in detail to my informal note and in a like friendly manner. Mr. Pani stated that the “religious” article in your proposed Treaty of Amity and Commerce was directly in violation of the Mexican Constitution (of 1917), Article 130, seventh paragraph, final sentence, which reads as follows:—

“Only a Mexican by birth may be a minister of any religious creed in Mexico.”

[Page 653]

In this connection, Mr. Pani stated that foreigners, who are ministers of religious creeds in Mexico are now practising their profession without molestation on the part of the Mexican authorities.

I have [etc.]

George T. Summerlin

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

My Dear Mr. Summerlin: Pursuant to instructions which the President of the Republic has given me, I have the honor to refer to your informal note number 187 of the 20th ultimo,12 in which you were pleased to inform me of the attitude of the Government of the United States towards the contents of my informal note of February 9th, and towards my other statements, likewise unofficial.

The Government of Mexico appreciates highly the feelings which animate the Government of the United States with regard to the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, as well as its purpose to spare no efforts to bring about this desirable object through a prompt and satisfactory solution of the questions which are now pending. You may rest assured that so far as my Government is concerned it is animated by feelings and aims no less ardent and firm.

I fear, however, that despite its high purpose, the Government of the United States has not given due consideration to that which is essential in the attitude of the Government of Mexico towards the problem in question, for thus only can I explain how my informal note of February 9th could have been interpreted as an admission that it is “consistent with the friendship between the two peoples and compatible with a proper sense of national dignity, that recognition should be given concurrently with the signing of a treaty,” be this treaty convention no. 1 relating to claims, or the proposed Treaty of Amity and Commerce; and how this interpretation could have given rise to the statement contained in your note under reply that “all objection to recognition through the signing of a treaty apparently having disappeared,” and that the Government of the United States “is disposed to sign first the claims convention or conventions, provided it is clearly understood that the signing of a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, with provisions previously agreed upon and [Page 654] put in draft form (as in the ease of the claims conventions) shall follow without delay.”

I have reread carefully the text of my note of February 9th and therein I find nothing, either in spirit or in letter, that could be understood in the above sense, and in support of this I take the liberty to quote at length the two paragraphs which, without any doubt, constitute the principal motive of that note, although incidentally I may have mentioned therein—out of deference to your repeated verbal requests and the desires expressed in a previous informal note from you of February 6th—some of the most serious objections, of a political and legal character, which could be made against the proposed Treaty of Amity and Commerce.

The first one of the said paragraphs reads as follows:

“The Mexican Government, as I have expressed to you on other occasions, is disposed to sign immediately the conventions on claims the drafts of which it submitted to the Government of the United States as a result of the general invitation which this Government extended to the governments of all countries whose nationals have claims pending against Mexico. With the signing of convention number 1, upon the Government of Mexico’s being implicitly recognized and diplomatic relations being resumed, concurrently all the difficulties emanating from the present revolution would be eliminated. With the signing of convention number 2 the difficulties of the past which still persist and which might impede the friendly rapprochement of the two peoples would disappear. And thus the field being cleared of obstacles, past and present, the Government of Mexico would be enabled to enter into a discussion of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, if such a treaty should serve as a factor in strengthening the future bonds between the two countries.”

And, as I said before, after incidentally mentioning some objections to the Treaty of Amity and Commerce of a political and legal character, from the Mexican point of view, my note of February 9th concludes with the following paragraph, which does naught else but confirm, in a most concrete and positive manner, the contents of the paragraph just quoted, namely:

“I sincerely hope that the Department of State will appreciate the force of these observations in the same cordial spirit in which they are made, as well as the natural just scruples of the President of the Republic for the dignity of the country, in obtaining recognition for his Government on the basis of previous pledges; and that, in view of all this, the American Government will accept these observations and will respect his scruples. This being the case, the signing of convention number 1, to which I made reference at the beginning of this note, would signify implicitly the recognition of the Government of Mexico, and, diplomatic relations between the two Governments being thus resumed, the signing of convention number 2 could be proceeded with, and the designation of the respective [Page 655] Ambassadors, through the medium of whom details of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce which the American Chancellery desires could be studied …”

I have made the preceding rectification because my Government considers that its present position as clearly defined in the above paragraphs quoted from my note of February 9th, a position approved not only by Congress, as shown by the intense and eloquent manifestations of approval which followed the reading of the pertinent part of the Presidential message in the solemn session of September 1st of last year, but also by the entire people of Mexico, as expressed in many ways by public opinion; I say, my Government considers that its present position represents the fullest measure of its sentiments of friendship toward the American people, since it is placed in the best possible position to satisfy the claims, repeatedly formulated, by the Chancellery of the White House, naturally with the approval of Congress and the people, and without exceeding the bounds imposed by the dignity of Mexico, a nation whose sovereignty has not been questioned for more than one hundred years of autonomous life.

In this sense, I take the liberty of reminding you that the paragraph of the said Presidential message which relates to the Mexican-American international situation, after declaring explicitly that “Our Government is concerned as much as that of the United States with the protection of American interests in Mexico, since this protection is one of its most urgent duties toward that great country, not only because of the material bonds which their geographical position necessarily creates, but also owing to those moral bonds—even stronger—of our sympathy with its democratic institutions and the noble qualities of its people.” After that explicit declaration, I repeat, the diplomatic problem growing out of this embarrassing international situation is reduced to the following statement:

“The two Governments, then, are in accord in this aim, and the Government of Mexico, with a view to cooperating more effectively in its realization, that is, in order that this realization may take a form such as may strengthen the prestige of the Mexican Government, and enable it better to fulfill the duty of protection, referred to above, and be at the same time the basis of closer future relations between the two countries, has preferred to eliminate, by the natural development of its political and administrative policy, the occasion for promises which might humiliate it, and it proposes to follow this course until the field appears sufficiently free of obstacles to permit its being recognized without prejudice to its national dignity and sovereignty, and to be able later, under equal conditions, to conclude and celebrate such treaties as it may deem necessary for the greatest cordiality in the resumed diplomatic relations between the two countries.”

[Page 656]

Such is our course; and in keeping with our national sentiment, the Government of Mexico has always endeavored to clear it of all obstacles; in domestic affairs by seeking to put into force the political and administrative policy which we have adopted, a policy better and more effective for the protection of foreign interests than any written guarantee and one which affords the maximum development consistent with human possibilities and the nature and magnitude of the work undertaken; in foreign affairs by adjusting ourselves to everything which is not in opposition to that policy and which does not affect the dignity of the Nation. This conciliatory policy was, precisely, the one which inspired this Chancellery, towards the end of last year, to propose to the Chancellery of the United States a convention which would create a Mixed Commission to decide all American claims for damages arising from the last Mexican revolution.

The Government of Mexico sincerely believes that a similar convention might with advantage be substituted, with the object of resuming diplomatic relations between the two countries, for any treaty of amity and commerce, thought out and written in the tenor proposed by the Department of State of Washington, not only from the Mexican viewpoint, but also—and chiefly—from the American. To this end, I again take the liberty to bring to the attention of the Department of State, through you, the following points:

1. The imposition of fixed obligations as an indispensable condition for granting recognition to a legitimate government, which has the support of all the governed, and whose authority is exercised peacefully throughout the land over a sovereign people and in accordance with the laws in force, is an affront to the dignity of that people, and, if such an event should take place, the Government so recognizing the other, would, by this act alone, alienate the confidence and sympathy of the people concerned, and would undermine future international friendship. Moreover, such an unfortunate event would set a regrettable precedent regarding small nations and international ethics and, moreover, would be contrary to the humanitarian doctrine of which the Government of the White House has proved itself to be a manifest supporter and advocate, namely, the doctrine that the government of a weak country merits the friendship of governments of strong nations all the more when its power of resistance in defense of its national dignity and sovereignty is less.

It may be said, in this respect, that the situation has not been improved by reason of the concession made by the Department of State which you formulated in your last informal note of April 20th as follows: [Page 657]

“My Government is disposed to sign first the claims convention (or conventions), provided it is clearly understood that the signing of a treaty of amity and commerce with provisions previously agreed upon and put in draft form (as in the case of the conventions) shall follow without delay.”

2. The material part of the proposed Treaty of Amity and Commerce, the part which really interests the American Government because it constitutes the written guarantee which it desires in respect of the rights of its nationals in Mexico, contains flagrant violations of the Constitution of this country and interpretations of some of the precepts thereof not regulated yet by the Honorable Congress of the Union which is the sole authority to which the Mexican people has delegated powers so to do. The truth of this assertion persists, as I have proved to you verbally, notwithstanding the refutation and the modifications included in the body of your note of April 20. Again, inasmuch as the Mexican Government holds that frankness is one of the best characteristics of real friendship, it does not hesitate to state frankly its belief that, in the present state of things, any wording of the pertinent clauses of the treaty which might be altogether satisfactory to the wishes of the American Chancellery—according as those wishes have been expressed—would be subject to the same defect, and would place the President of the Mexican Republic, were he to sign said treaty, in a position in opposition to the organic act defining his powers, and in opposition to his solemn declaration to comply with, and to enforce compliance with, the Constitution, or, at least, of invading, by undue interpretations, the exclusive sphere of the legislative power.

It is certain, therefore, that even if the President were to sign the said Treaty of Amity and Commerce, or a similar instrument, such a treaty would not be ratified by the Senate, and the conditions under which recognition had been granted to the Government of Mexico, being unfulfilled, diplomatic relations between the two countries would again be broken; the international situation would be graver than it is now; and the unconstitutional guarantees of protection to American interests, embodied in that treaty, would be without effect, and American interests would be, indeed, in a state less favorable than the present one.

3. The substantial agreement which exists between the American demands and the topics of the political and administrative program which the present Government of Mexico has adopted in respect of interests of foreigners, is evident. Now, the signing of the treaty in question would divest the governmental acts in execution of the said program of their character of spontaneity, by giving them [Page 658] the character of a forced obedience imposed by a foreign power, and no one doubts that, in such a case, all chances of success which the Executive would have, in virtue of his right to propose laws to Congress, would be doomed to failure; and the signing of the treaty would not only obstruct further the development of our domestic policy (which policy includes due protection to foreign interests in Mexico), but also would greatly complicate the international question, even though the aforesaid treaty might have been signed by the President and ratified by the Senate.

4. The identity, therefore, of the aims by both Governments in that which relates to the due protection of American interests in Mexico, are identical. On July 12, 1921, this Chancellery extended an invitation to all governments whose nationals had claims pending for damages caused during the recent Mexican revolution, to enter into agreements to set up mixed commissions which should study and decide such claims. This invitation was based on article 5 of the decree of May 10, 1913, issued by the First Chief of the Constitutional Army, Señor don Venustiano Carranza, and on amended article 13 of the law of December 24, 1917. Last year the Government of Mexico submitted to the Government of the United States, as a lawful and spontaneous act, a proposed convention, which, while incidentally resuming diplomatic relations between the two countries, without impairing the dignity and sovereignty of either, and in form almost identical with the one proposed by the Department of State at Washington, (the signing of a treaty) might, at the same time, contribute to making more effective the protection desired for said American interests and be an augury of closer international relations.

5. The Government of Mexico has gone even farther. Considering that the above-mentioned convention did not include within its jurisdictional capacity many other claims which were pending between the two countries which might even diminish the cordiality of their diplomatic relations, my Government submitted for the consideration of the Department of State at Washington, at the same time when it submitted that convention, another convention to create, subsequently, a Mixed Commission which should hear and decide all pending claims mentioned, according to the principles of international law.

Finally, as a complement to the five preceding points, I can do no less than submit for the consideration of the Department of State, in the problem under consideration, that it is necessary to dissociate the moral entities called “American Government” and “Mexican Government” from the physical persons who direct or form these [Page 659] entities, since, in the present case, the change in the physical persons who constitute the Public Administration of Mexico has been brought about legally, and without any break in continuity of the entity “Mexican Government” which was established after the revolution of 1913; and it appears somewhat inexplicable that the same moral entity “Government of the United States” should maintain and suspend successively its diplomatic relations with the same moral entity “Government of Mexico”; and that the former of these acts, that is, the resumption and maintenance of diplomatic relations, should have taken place precisely when great portions of the national territory were still separated from legal authority and when the application of the laws was still impaired by harsh and revolutionary radicalism; and that the latter of these acts, that is, the suspension of diplomatic relations, should have taken place when the legal authority had succeeded in establishing itself in all the country and when the application of those same laws had been modified as much as possible in order to reach an equilibrium in respect of all national interests.

I am pleased, Mr. Summerlin, to close and sum up my above statement by declaring that the road followed by the Government of Mexico, in a thorny field, has not been blindly marked out by any preconceived arbitrary idea; rather, and very much to the contrary, it is the result of compromises through constant efforts made by the Government to reconcile its moral obligations and the political conditions and necessities of the country with the demands—without doubt well-intentioned—of the American Chancellery; and this Government has the deep conviction that its efforts in this direction have brought it considerably closer—as I have said in another part of this note—to the position embodied in the American demands. There is only lacking, then, that the Government of the White House, actuated by the good will which it has manifested toward the Mexican people, and in accordance with its desires to see diplomatic relations between the two neighbor countries resumed, as well as to see present and future protection of American interests in Mexico rendered more effective, shall give its friendly sanction to the policy established by this Government, in order that such act—which will be duly appreciated in Mexico and throughout the entire world—may satisfactorily solve a problem, an act which without any doubt will be of great benefit to both countries, to the American continent, and to humanity.

I remain [etc.]

A. J. Pani
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  2. File translation revised.
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