711.12151a/103

The Under Secretary of State ( Grew ) to the Chargé in Mexico ( Schoenfeld )

No. 1026

Sir: The Department has received your Embassy’s despatch No. 2534 of July 16, 1926, with which was transmitted a copy and translation of a note from the Mexican Foreign Office dated July 10, 1926, stating that the Mexican Government is disposed to carry out the recommendations of Minute No. 61, adopted by the International Boundary Commission, United States and Mexico, but upon the condition that the two Governments shall discuss the elimination of bancos in the Rio Grande and on the understanding that efforts will be made to bring about within the earliest possible time the general plan for the rectification of the river channel from El Paso to Fort Quitman “upon the basis, in general terms, of superficial compensation, calling a convention for the purpose of deciding the nationality of these parcels, using judgment similar to that adopted for the elimination of banks”.3

In view of the conditions mentioned and since according to the Department’s understanding it would be impracticable to carry out the works contemplated in Minute No. 61 in time to avert any flood which might come in the river this year, the Department, after discussing the matter with the American member of the International Boundary Commission and the authorities of the City and County of El Paso, Texas, has arrived at the conclusion that, instead of proceeding at this time to rectify the channel of the river for the few miles immediately below El Paso, it would be desirable to endeavor to come to an agreement with the Mexican Government upon a general plan for the rectification of the channel as far down as Fort Quitman and perhaps for a few miles below that point inasmuch as the Department’s information indicates that in order to obtain the necessary velocity to preserve the rectified channel when established it would be desirable to complete the rectification to a point at the entrance to the Box Cañon.

Therefore, the Department desires you to suggest to the Mexican Government the appointment of Commissioners to prepare a Convention to be submitted to the two Governments for the purpose of [Page 712] dealing with the situation indicated. In presenting the matter to the Mexican Government, you will of course refer to the desire of that Government, as expressed in the Foreign Office note of July 10, 1926, to realize as soon as possible the general plan for the rectification of the river channel, and you will point out that if this matter should be dealt with in a Convention it would obviate any possibility of complaints being made of lack of existing authority by treaty to carry out recommendations made by the Boundary Commission in Minute No. 61 and would tend to simplify the procedure necessary to obtain appropriations for the funds to meet the expenses of the work. You will add that presumably provision could be made in the Convention for dealing with the national sovereignty over parcels of land which would be cut from the one country or the other by the rectification of the river channel and that the Commissioners to be appointed might also deem it advisable to include in the Convention provisions dealing with the sovereignty over parcels of land which have been heretofore separated from the one country or the other and are excepted by the provisions of Article II of the Convention of 1905 for the elimination of bancos from the operations of that Convention.

Finally, you will state that it has been suggested to the Department that the Commissioners to be appointed might well consider the question of the inclusion in the Convention of some provision for the protection of nationals of either country who have in good faith settled upon bancos in the Rio Grande and constructed improvements thereon. In this relation you will state the Department is advised that in some instances bancos were cut off more than twenty-five years ago and that in some cases no suggestion of the existence of a dispute as to the boundary line has arisen until after purchasers and occupants had gone upon the land and built homes thereon. As to this last mentioned point, you will say that the Department has, as yet, formed no opinion and merely calls attention to the matter as one which the Commissioners who may be appointed might desire to consider.

You will conclude by stating that if the Mexican Government is disposed to agree to the plan suggested it is hoped that Commissioners may be promptly appointed by the two Governments and that they shall meet at the earliest practicable date in order to consider the questions involved and, if possible, reach a speedy agreement upon the terms of the Convention, upon the conclusion of which it would seem practicable to proceed at once with the elimination of existing bancos in the river.

I am [etc.]

Joseph C. Grew
3a
  1. In despatch No. 2883 of Sept. 27, 1926, the Chargé in Mexico reported that in a note of the same date to the Mexican Foreign Office based upon this instruction he had corrected the translation of the above passage to read: “upon the basis, in general terms, of superficial compensation, stipulating in a specail convention the exchange of nationality of these parcels according to a standard similar to that adopted for the elimination of bancos.” (File No. 711.12151a/111.)
  2. Signature as stamped on file copy. The original instruction may have been signed by the Secretary of State.