The Ambassador in Great Britain (Houghton) to the Secretary of State

No. 431

Sir: Referring to my telegram No. 318 of October 14, 12 noon, 1925,36 I have the honor to enclose a copy, in triplicate, of a note from the Foreign Office, dated October 13, 1925, relative to the Palestine Mandate Convention.

I have [etc.]

For the Ambassador:
F. A. Sterling

Counselor of Embassy

The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Chamberlain) to the American Ambassador (Houghton)37

No. E 4182/214/65

Your Excellency: I have the honour to inform you that His Majesty’s Government have considered sympathetically the various questions dealt with in Your Excellency’s note of December 19th 1924,38 and memoranda of May 4th39 and July 3rd last,40 relative to the position of United States citizens in Palestine prior to and pending the entry into force of the Anglo-American Palestine Mandate Convention of December 3rd 1924. His Majesty’s Government understand that the United States Government desire to reach a friendly settlement of [Page 227] the outstanding cases that have arisen in connection with this subject, before the Convention concerned is actually brought into force by the formal exchange of the ratifications which have already taken place. As from the date of this exchange the position will of course be fully regularised, and no further cases of this type can arise. It is therefore desirable from every point of view that the exchange of ratifications should take place with the least possible delay.

The particular cases of which a settlement is desired fall into two main categories—administrative and legal. As regards the former, His Majesty’s Government fully understand the position taken up by the Government of the United States, that their prior assent is indispensable to the imposition of any dues or taxes upon United States citizens in Palestine pending the entry into force of the Convention. His Majesty’s Government realize, moreover, that this position has not been changed by the mere signature of the Convention. It appears, however, that only one case in this category—that of Mr. Sachs—has formed the subject of protest by the United States authorities. I understand from your memorandum of July 3rd last that the views of your government in this matter could be satisfactorily met by the remittance of the accrued storage dues on the shipment of matches to Mr. Sachs; by his indemnification for the difference between the market value in Palestine of the shipment and its original cost, together with the present Customs duty thereon; by Mr. Sachs being relieved of any loss of accrued interest which he may have sustained as a result of the action of the Palestine authorities in this matter; and by his receiving an amount equal to such reasonable profit as might have accrued on the sale of this shipment had the new duty not been put into effect. His Majesty’s Government while adhering to their own views in regard to the questions of principle involved, which, as you are aware, are in conflict with those held by your government, are willing to undertake, on behalf of the Palestine Government, that the steps suggested above as regards the particular case of Mr. Sachs’ shipment of matches will be taken by the Palestine Government immediately after the entry into force of the Convention. As regards the question of principle, His Majesty’s Government consider now that adequate provision has been made for the future, the situation will be adequately met if each government takes formal note of the view held by the other, while at the same time expressing its regret that it is unable on grounds of principle to conform thereto.
With regard to the Skora case41 and other cases involving the question of jurisdiction over American citizens prior to the entry [Page 228] into force of the Palestine Mandate Convention, His Majesty’s Government notice with satisfaction that the United States Government have no objection to the retrial by the Palestinian Courts of the cases concerned, but regret that it is not possible for them to take the measures suggested in your notes under reply. Such measures would involve ex post facto legislation of the kind which is as contrary to British as to United States constitutional practice. Here again it appears that the only solution is that suggested above: that is, for each government to take formal note of the view held by the other, while expressing its regret that it is unable on principle to conform to it.
If there is any civil case, however, in which a United States citizen has refused to appear in the Palestinian courts, relying upon his rights under the former capitulatory system, and where he alleges that he had a good defence and that, had he appeared, the judgment would therefore not have been entered against him, the Palestinian Government will be prepared to request the Chief Justice, or some other responsible officer, to investigate the case. Should this officer, as a result of his investigations, form the opinion that the defence, which would have been put forward by the American citizen had he appeared, would have succeeded, His Majesty’s Government will undertake that the Palestine Government will offer fair compensation to the United States citizen concerned as an act of diplomatic courtesy not affecting the question of principle involved.
It does not appear to His Majesty’s Government that any useful purpose would be served by a further discussion of the complicated legal position arising out of the abolition of the capitulations prior to the entry into force of the Convention. It is apparent that the views held by His Majesty’s Government, as Mandatories for Palestine, and those held by the United States Government on this matter cannot be reconciled, and, in view of the conclusion of the Mandate Convention, further attempts to reconcile these views appear unnecessary. His Majesty’s Government have, however, no desire to obtain from the Government of the United States any formal abandonment of the capitulatory rights of United States citizens in Palestine prior to the entry into force of the Convention. On the contrary, they readily take formal note of the fact that the claim to these rights was not abandoned by the United States Government. At the same time they feel convinced that the United States Government will equally appreciate the position of His Majesty’s Government, and will as a friendly act refrain from pressing them to recede therefrom.

I have [etc.]

(In the absence of the Secretary of State)
Lancelot Oliphant
  1. Not printed.
  2. For the American Ambassador’s reply to this note, see Department’s instruction No. 224 to the Ambassador in Great Britain, supra.
  3. See telegram No. 473, Dec. 17, 1924, 4 p.m., to the Ambassador in Great Britain, Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. ii, p. 202.
  4. See instruction No. 631, Apr. 21, 1925, to the Chargé in Great Britain, p. 217.
  5. See instruction No. 68, June 23, 1925, to the Ambassador in Great Britain, p. 220.
  6. See telegram No. 365, Oct. 18, 1924, 2 p.m., to the Ambassador in Great Britain, Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. ii, p. 201.