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

No. 3073

Sir: Referring further to the Department’s instruction No. 1026 of September 20, 1926, with regard to the appointment of a joint Commission on behalf of the United States and Mexican Governments to consider the proposed elimination of bancos and rectification in the Rio Grande, I have the honor herewith to enclose for the Department’s information copy and translation of a note dated October 27, last, from the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, in reply to my note of September 27, a copy of which was enclosed with my despatch No. 2883 of the latter date.4

I have [etc.]

H. F. Arthur Schoenfeld

The Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs (Sáenz) to the American Chargé (Schoenfeld)

Mr. Chargé d’affaires: I have the honor to refer to your courteous note No. 1524 of September 27, last, in which, referring to mine of July 10 of this year regarding the recommendations of Minute No. 61 of the International Boundary Commission, Mexico and the United States, you state that, since it is impracticable immediately to carry out the proposed works in view of the proximity of floods, the Government of the United States is of opinion that there should be concluded a convention or general plan for the rectification of the Rio Grande from El Paso to Fort Quitman or lower if this work is considered technically necessary, proposing as a means for concluding the convention, the advantages of which are indicated, the appointment of commissioners to draft a convention to be submitted for the study and decision of both Governments.

In reply, I beg leave to inform you that in order to carry out the recommendations contained in Minute No. 61, I also think it expedient that both countries should sign a convention stipulating the conditions under which the works shall be carried out, as well as those which shall determine the status of the lands segregated thereby, both with regard to their sovereignty and their status as private property.

Nevertheless, since article I of the convention of March 1, 1889,6 which established the International Boundary Commission, provides [Page 714] that the latter shall examine and decide all differences or questions that may arise in that portion of the frontier where the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers form the boundary line, whether they grow out of alterations or changes in their beds or of works that may be constructed in the said rivers or of any other cause affecting the boundary line, my Government does not believe the naming of a special commission is necessary to take cognizance of these matters which consist exclusively in a change in the bed of the Rio Grande that will be caused by the carrying out of the projected works by Mexican and American engineers and regarding which from the technical point of view both countries are in agreement and, therefore, the International Boundary Commission itself is able to formulate the bases of the proposed convention in the same way as it proposed, in 1905, and provided the means for concluding the convention for the elimination of bancos.

Regarding the possibility that the commissioners who may be appointed include in the new proposed convention the matter of sovereignty over the portions segregated from one country or the other not included in article II of the convention of 1905, that is El Chamizal, the Island of Córdoba, and El Horcón, you will agree with me that such a possibility is not viable, since the controversy regarding the sovereignty over the Chamizal has been settled by an arbitration,8 the award of which, though the Government of the United States has considered it null, is considered valid by that of Mexico.

To this end, with regard to the note of the American Embassy of February 19 of the present [past] year,9 this Department proposed in a note of April 27 of this [last] year10 not with regard to the question of sovereignty which is considered settled, but with regard to the validity or nullity of the award, that this matter should be submitted to the decision of the Hague Tribunal. The Mexican Government awaits a reply to this note in order to settle the case.

As to the Island of Córdoba and El Horcón, there is no pending difficulty whatever which makes necessary its study and consideration.

Finally, examining the final suggestion contained in your note under acknowledgment in the sense that the commissioners to be appointed might decide the expediency of including in the convention some provision for the protection of the nationals of either country who have in good faith settled upon the bancos in the Rio [Page 715] Grande and constructed works or improvements thereon and regarding which you state that your Government has not yet formed any opinion, I take the liberty of pointing out that in these cases there must be complied with the provisions of article IV of the convention of March 20, 1905,11 stipulating that property of all kinds situated on the bancos which shall in future be located on the land of the other country shall be invariably respected and its owners, heirs and those who may subsequently acquire the property legally, shall enjoy as complete security with respect thereto as if it belonged to citizens of the country where it is situated, and that if in any case the citizens of either of the two countries should have established themselves on the bancos of the Rio Grande which formerly belonged to the other country and constructed works or improvements thereon, there will be no reason to refrain from restoring the property to its legitimate owner or, if this be impossible, to grant him just compensation.

Basing my opinion on the foregoing considerations I beg leave to inform you that my Government accepts in principle the idea of concluding a convention which shall establish a general plan of rectification of the channel up to Fort Quitman as the best means for reaching an effective and timely result, it being appropriate for the International Boundary Commission, in accordance with its powers and attributes, to draft the said convention, which shall not contain any provision contrary to the treaties and conventions in force.

I avail myself [etc.]

Aarón Sáenz
  1. Despatch No. 2883 and its enclosure not printed.
  2. File translation revised.
  3. Malloy, Treaties, 1776–1909, vol. i, p. 1167.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1911, pp. 565605.
  5. See Embassy’s telegram No. 48, Feb. 19, 1925, 3 p.m., ibid., 1925, vol. ii, p. 568.
  6. Ibid., 1925, vol. ii, p. 569.
  7. Art. iv of the convention of March 20, 1905, reads as follows:

    “The citizens of either of the two contradicting countries who, by virtue of the stipulations of this convention, shall in future be located on the land of the other may remain thereon or remove at any time to whatever place may suit them, and either keep the property which they possess in said territory or dispose of it. Those who prefer to remain on the eliminated bancos may either preserve the title and rights of citizenship of the country to which the said bancos formerly belonged, or acquire the nationality of the country to which they will belong in the future.

    “Property of all kinds situated on the said bancos shall be inviolably respected, and its present owners, their heirs, and those who may subsequently acquire the property legally, shall enjoy as complete security with respect thereto as if it belonged to citizens of the country where it is situated.” (Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 2, p. 837.)