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

No. 2472

Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 7509 dated June 9, 1923, enclosing copies of communications you have received from the Mexican authorities concerning the effect of the decision of the Supreme Court construing the National Prohibition Act in the case of the Cunard Steamship Company, Ltd. v. Mellon et al. Copies of your despatch and of its enclosures have been forwarded to the Secretary of the Treasury for his information.

You are instructed informally to state to the appropriate authorities of the administration now functioning in Mexico that this Government cannot undertake to discuss the legality, in an international sense, of the operation of an Act of Congress the scope of which, within the territorial limits of the United States, has been authoritatively determined by the Supreme Court of the United States. You may say that this Government is not indisposed to consider in a friendly spirit views such as those expressed in the communication which you forwarded dealing with the operation of the Act upon Mexican vessels. You will state that this Government is giving very careful consideration to the measures which might be taken to remove [Page 163] any results of a serious character arising from the operation of the Act in question.

You will also state that this Government does not perceive that the case of the S. S. Harvester, referred to in the penultimate paragraph of Mr. Pani’s note of June 5, is relevant since the understanding reached provided reciprocally for jurisdiction over criminals who committed crimes on board a ship after the ship had entered the territorial jurisdiction of the United States or Mexico, whereas the effect of the regulations issued under the Prohibition Act is to exclude from transportation within the territorial waters of the United States intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes, and involves the seizure of such liquors when “transported, sold or possessed in violation of the National Prohibition Act, as amended and supplemented, and the regulations thereunder.”

You will refer to Section 19 of the Regulations contained in Treasury Decision No. 3484, approved June 2, 1923, which reads as follows:20a

Sec. 19. All liquors found by customs officers on board any vessel, either foreign or American, in ports or territorial waters of the United States, and which shall be transported, sold or possessed in violation of the National Prohibition Act, as amended and supplemented, and the regulations thereunder, as distinguished from the customs laws, shall be seized by the said customs officers under the prohibition laws and a receipt given the master or other person in charge of the vessel, showing the name of the vessel and master, the date, the number of cases, bottles or other containers, with their unit capacity, and whether the liquors were carried as cargo or sea stores. This receipt shall be made in duplicate and a copy retained by the collector of customs.”

I am [etc.]

Charles E. Hughes
  1. Treasury Decisions, Internal Revenue, vol. 25, p. 144.