The Chargé in Morocco ( Murphy ) to the Secretary of State

No. 399

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my telegram No. 7 of May 31st, 1925, reporting the action taken by the Mendoob, or Sultan’s Representative in Tangier, in regard to the suppression of the Sanitary Council, concomitantly with the formal introduction of the new Tangier Administrative Régime, on June 1st, 1925, and I beg to transmit a brief outline of events in this connection.

This notification by the Mendoob appears not to have been delivered to the Italian Diplomatic Agent, President of the Sanitary Council, until Saturday morning, May 30th, and was brought to my attention only at noon on that day. It was therefore impossible for the American Government to be advised, and to have an opportunity to express its attitude or transmit its instructions to this Agency on the question, until after the dissolution of the Sanitary Council was held to be an accomplished fact by the Maghzen.

Although the Maghzen may consider itself justified in withdrawing the powers conceded by it since 1840 to the Sanitary Council, it certainly appears that it is open to the charge of unseemly haste, in abolishing summarily on a few hours notice, the rights and trust which the Sanitary Council had enjoyed for nearly a century.

The association of the three most interested Powers, France, Great Britain and Spain, with the Maghzen, in this maladroit procedure is indicated in the annotation, dated May 30th, of the British Consul-General, on the Circular by which the President of the Sanitary Council called a meeting for June 4th. This annotation was as follows:

“The date of June 4th does not appear to me compatible with the terms of the Mendoob’s communication fixing:

The date of May 31st as that on which terminates the delegation of His Majesty the Sultan to the Diplomatic Body at Tangier.
and the date of June 1st as that on which shall commence the operation of the new administrative régime, conceded by His Majesty the Sultan to the Zone of Tangier.

On the other hand, we cannot, in my opinion, meet usefully, except to pronounce the closing of the current exercise of the functions of the Sanitary Council, register its suppression and transfer its accounts to the Maghzen.

I propose that a meeting, to be held for this purpose, take place to-morrow May 31st at 12.30 at the Italian Legation, if this hour suits Mr. President and my Colleagues.”

[Page 595]

In a second tournée of the Circular, the President pointed to the impossibility of assembling a meeting at such short notice as was suggested by Mr. Clive, and reiterated his convocation of the meeting for the date originally fixed, namely, June 4th.

All members agreed to attend this meeting, but each of the Representatives of France, Great Britain and Spain specified, in their acceptance, that the object of the assembly was to liquidate the Sanitary Council.

The attitude of the British Consul-General, is the more surprising in view of the information, communicated to me subsequently, by the Belgian Consul-General, who is the President of the Committee of Control, under the new Statute of Tangier, to the effect that it was by no means certain, at the time when this annotation was made, that the Tangier Convention could actually be enforced on June 1st, since the consent of the Spanish Government was still in doubt, and as a matter of fact, the Spanish Consul-General at Tangier received the instructions of his government only in the early hours of Sunday, May 31st.

The first impression gained from the comments of my Colleagues, was to the effect that none of them questioned the right, in principle, of the Sultan to withdraw the powers which had been delegated by His Majesty’s predecessors to the Sanitary Council, but my Italian Colleague at once questioned the legality of the Maghzen’s action, in the premises, since it was stated to be based upon the introduction of a new Tangier régime, which has not been accepted by all the Powers accredited to Morocco.

The meeting of the Sanitary Council was held, at the Italian Legation, this morning June 4th, as reported to the Department in my telegram No. 9 of June 4th, 1925, all the Foreign Representatives in Tangier being present.

In pursuance of the instructions set forth in the Department’s cable No. 5 of June 1st, I confined myself, at the meeting, to the formulation of the fullest reservations of the rights of the United States. The Diplomatic Agent and Consul-General of Portugal, on the order of his Government, made a similar declaration. The Italian Diplomatic Agent, read out the following message which he had received from his Government:

“The Italian Government not considering legal the Shereefian Dahir mentioned in the letter of His Excellency (the Mendoob) Sid Hadj Mohammed Buasherin, and while formulating therefore all reservations in respect of any eventual impairment of the Italian Government’s rights and interests, refuses to recognize the abolition of the Sanitary Council, so long as an agreement shall not have been reached among the Powers signatory to the Act of Algeciras.”

[Page 596]

The Consuls-General of Belgium and of Holland stated that they had not yet received instructions from their governments, and therefore desired to abstain from making any declaration.

The French Consul-General stated that he had received peremptory instructions from his Government not to assist at any meeting of the Sanitary Council, which his Government considered to have become abolished on May 31st, and that the only reason of his presence at that assembly was to witness the transfer of the archives, accounts and funds of the Sanitary Council to the new Administration. His British and Spanish Colleagues concurred in this attitude.

The Italian Diplomatic Agent replied that, in view of the position he had exposed, he could not, as President of the Sanitary Council, take upon himself the responsibility of divesting himself of the charge of the archives and funds of the Council.

The foregoing summarizes the result of the official deliberations.

During the informal discussions of the subject, among some of my Colleagues, I observed that, apart from any legal considerations, and without any reference to the view which the Department might adopt in regard to the matter, my own personal feeling was one of regret that a bond of common interest and co-operation, of so many years’ standing between the Maghzen and friendly Powers, should have been, abruptly, and, in my opinion unnecessarily terminated by such summary and unceremonious procedure as that which had been followed.

From the cursory consideration which I have been able to give to the question, for the moment, it would not seem that the disappearance of the Sanitary Council will, in practice, have much bearing on the existing rights of the United States, beyond, of course, depriving the American Representative of a voice in the municipal and port regulations and government in Tangier. In this connection, I would respectfully refer the Department to the report on the constitution, organization and legal powers of the Sanitary Council, contained in Minister Carpenter’s Despatch No. 151 of July 21st, 1911.9

Nevertheless, the abolition of the Sanitary Council, as it has been effected, is a symptom that the coercive methods of France, Great Britain and Spain, in the execution of their Tangier policy, have not been abandoned, and will, it is apprehended, be further adopted in matters of more concrete interest to the United States.

In regard to the inauguration of the Tangier Convention, there is attached hereto, copy of the original French text, and translation, of a communication addressed to me, under the joint signatures of the Consuls-General of France, Spain and Great Britain,9 giving notification [Page 597] of the application of the Tangier Convention on June 1st, 1925. This notice was not delivered at this Agency until the afternoon of Sunday, May 31st.

This office has received no copy of the “Dahirs” referred to in the above mentioned communication, nor any notification thereof from the Sultan’s Representative.

I gather that there is considerable dissatisfaction and frequent discord between the Representatives of the Powers who have already adhered to the Convention, namely, France, Spain, Great Britain, Belgium and Holland, and who act at present as the Committee of Control. The Belgian Consul-General, in particular, has been very openly expressive to me of his grievances. He is the President of the Committee of Control, but complains that he is treated as a non-entity by the Representatives of France, Great Britain and Spain, frequently being asked merely to sign decisions taken by them, without any deliberation of the Committee, and often adopted at surreptitious meetings among the three.

Portugal and Italy, besides the United States, have not yet adhered to the Convention.

Sweden has recently given its adhesion. Sweden was a party to the Madrid Convention of 1880,10 and also a Power signatory to the Act of Algeciras. There has, however, been no Swedish Diplomatic or Consular officer of career in Tangier for very many years, Swedish representation having been confided to a prominent Swedish merchant, Mr. Carl Dahl, as honorary Consul-General.

Mr. Dahl informs me that his Government, acceding to the Tangier Convention, stipulated that its adhesion did not imply a surrender of Swedish capitulatory rights but a suspension thereof during the term of the Convention, namely, 12 years, and that, if at the expiration of that period, the Convention were not to be renewed, the Swedish Government would resume its extraterritorial jurisdiction. The adhesion was further subject to the condition that, if the Swedish Government should decide to send, as its representative, to Tangier a Consular officer of career, this representative should be admitted as a member of the Committee of Control.

In conclusion, I would inform the Department that, in informal casual conversations with some of the members of the Committee of Control, notably, with the Belgian, French and British Consuls-General, after I had learned that the Statute was to be enforced on June 1st, I expressed the hope that no attempt would be made summarily to apply, on that date, the announced laws and taxation to American citizens and protégés, as I felt that it would be regrettable to complicate the situation by the enforcement of measures, which I could [Page 598] not countenance. I trust the Department will approve this action on my part, which had for its object the avoidance of possible claims, involving future controversy.

I regret, however, to say that it is reported to me that the Customs Authorities appear already to have received instructions to withhold delivery of imported goods, in all cases without exception, until the new consumption taxes thereon have been paid by the destinees.

I have [etc.]

J. Lee Murphy
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. 22 Stat. 817; Malloy, Treaties, 1776–1909, vol. i, p. 1220.