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

No. 7509

Sir: With reference to the Department’s Circular telegram, dated May 3, 6 P.M.,8 the substance of which, in regard to the Supreme Court decision, construing the National Prohibition Act, was communicated informally to the Foreign Office on May 4th, I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy in translation of Mr. Pani’s informal note No. 8120 of June 5, 1923, in friendly protest against the Supreme Court Decision in reference.

I have the honor to enclose also a copy in translation of Mr. Pani’s informal note No. 8148, of June 6, 1923,9 received today, in acknowledgment of my informal note No. 840 of the 2nd instant, in which I transmitted to the Foreign Office the substance of the Department’s Circular telegram of May 29, 6 PM, regarding the paragraph included in the Treasury Department’s Regulations, exempting from seizure liquors for beverage purposes on board foreign vessels which leave foreign ports for American ports before June 10, 1923.

I have [etc.]

George T. Summerlin

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

No. 8120

My Dear Mr. Summerlin: I am pleased to acknowledge receipt of your courteous communication No. 790, dated May 4th last, in which you were so kind as to notify this Department that the Supreme Court of the United States, in a recent decision, sustained that it is illegal for any vessel, either national or foreign, to enter the territorial waters of the United States with intoxicating beverages on board.

[Page 148]

To this proposition, the Government of Mexico permits itself to make the following friendly representation to the United States of America:

The decision taken by the Supreme Court of the United States will certainly react in prejudice to international commerce, restricting the facilities of Mexican merchant ships in arriving within the waters or ports of the United States of America. As in Mexico there exists no law similar to that which prohibits the use of intoxicating beverages in the territory of the United States, Mexican vessels commonly carry such beverages for the convenience of their passengers and crews. It will, then, be truly difficult for these vessels to discharge their stores of wines and liquors before arriving within the territorial waters of the United States, and it will be much more difficult for them to sail from Mexican ports or from other ports without such wines or liquors. This which places an obstacle in the way of commerce should be enough to cause one friendly nation to make certain exceptions, which deal with customs of another nation, in favor of the interchange of commerce; but, furthermore, the procedure contemplated appears to result, as it is especially intended, that it is prejudicial to the commerce of the United States in no way. The fact of the Mexican vessels being admitted into North American waters carrying stores of wines and liquors could affect the public order of the United States in no way provided these wines and liquors are not taken off the ship nor given to any persons on board other than those who pertain to it. As to the granting of the exemption mentioned, allow me to call your attention to the practice of nations and the modern tendency of always giving all classes of facilities to foreign merchant marine and to the fact that in many cases nations renounce their jurisdiction over foreign vessels within their waters. The formation of opinion in this respect has been so strong that it has given place to the practice, which is almost general, of exempting merchant ships from criminal jurisdiction, which is the most strict, when the crimes committed on board do not affect the tranquility of the port wherein they lie.

In the particular case to which we refer, it might be alleged in the same order of ideas that even while the introduction and consumption of intoxicating liquors may be lawless in the United States of America, if these acts are effected on board a foreign ship anchored in territorial waters, as they in no way disturb the tranquility of the port, exemption from territorial jurisdiction would be justified.

Finally, permit me to invite your attention to the recent case of the S. S. Harvester10 over which Mexico claimed jurisdiction because of certain criminal acts committed on board that ship, and which jurisdiction [Page 149] was disputed by the United States, Mexico finally agreeing not to exercise it in view of a declaration of reciprocity on the part of the United States. The declaration the United States made was that it would not claim jurisdiction over crimes committed on board Mexican ships anchored in its waters provided that the tranquility of the port be not disturbed.

Such is the present case and Mexico hopes that the Government of the United States of America will find a way in order that the decision of the Supreme Court be not applied to Mexican ships, which disposition is but a law or municipal disposition without force, therefore, to annul international principles and conventions.

I have [etc.]

A. J. Pani
  1. See footnote 1, p. 133.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Correspondence not printed.