The Minister in Siam ( Brodie ) to the Secretary of State

No. 26

Sir: The Department will recall that in the course of the Note of November 23, 1921,11 transmitted as an enclosure to the Legation’s despatch No. 191, of November 26, 1921, the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated that enquiry had been made of the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture by American citizens with regard to their rights, if any, of assumption of land mortgages in Siam. Inasmuch as the particular provisions of the present Treaty were reciprocal, Prince Devawongse sought accordingly information as to the extent of corresponding Siamese rights in America.

The Legation had prior to that date invited the attention of the Department to the mortgage-privilege phase of the land-ownership question, by a detailed statement of the present position in despatches Nos. 167, and 169, of October 28, and 29, 1921. In view, therefore, of the raising of the question anew by the Siamese Government, the Chief of Mission requested, under date of November 26, 1921, telegraphic instructions upon the general subject. In due course, the Legation was accordingly informed by the Department’s telegram No. 4, of January 18, 3 p.m., that definite instructions based upon the despatches enumerated above had been forwarded by mail.

I now have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the Department’s mail instruction No. 28, of January 11, 1922, notifying to the Legation that,— [Page 903]

“The Treaty of December 16, 1920, does not appear to the Department to be fairly open to the construction that it was intended to confer upon American citizens and corporations or other concerns the right to own land in Siam.”

The Legation is instructed further that,—

“If, however, the Siamese Government should take the initiative in the matter, you may bring to the attention of that Government the facts … in regard to the Federal and State laws of the United States concerning the ownership of land by aliens. …”12

Reference has not been made specifically to the circumstance that American corporations have explained to the Legation the practice of utilizing mortgage rights for business purposes in the provinces, to the present Ministerial regulation that cases involving mortgage features must be referred to the Foreign Office for decision, nor to the request of Prince Devawongse for information as to mortgage rights of Siamese subjects under American Federal and State legislation.

I would therefore respectfully request explicit instructions as to the rights of Siamese subjects resident in the United States to assume mortgage rights over Federal lands,—in either contingency, whether or not legal title to the property passes to the lender immediately upon conclusion of the mortgage. I venture further to enquire, for the general information of the Foreign Office, the permissive or discriminatory nature of the present trend of legislation in a majority of states upon this issue.

The unusual status of the question of land ownership in Far Eastern countries has made fundamentally necessary clear instruction from the Department upon this subject. The Siamese Government have taken the viewpoint that such provisions of the Treaty are reciprocal. Enquiry has accordingly been made of the Legation both by the Foreign Office and by American citizens as to the exact status of Siamese rights in the United States, since that position will determine the corresponding status of Americans resident in Siam “in respect of land title and interests.” I wish, therefore, to renew to the Department the Legation’s previous requests for information.

I have [etc.]

Edward E. Brodie
  1. Not printed.
  2. The omissions in this quotation are indicated in the original despatch.