The Secretary of State to President Coolidge

My Dear Mr. President: The Spanish Government has invited this Government to be represented at a conference at Geneva on September 1 to examine the Tangier question, with special reference to Spain’s desire to incorporate the international zone of Tangier in the Spanish Zone.

Because of trade and shipping interests it has long been the policy of this Government to participate in international conferences concerning Morocco. The most important instance of this was American participation in the Conference of Algeciras in 1906. At that Conference a General Act was drawn up, signed by the United States, ratified by the President on advice of the Senate, and proclaimed in January 1907. The Act of Algeciras contained clauses relative to the regulation of police; to the regulation of traffic in arms; to the establishment of a Moroccan State Bank; to the methods of tax collection; to the customs; and to public services and public works. It confirmed the principle of the equal facilities in trade and commerce to all nations and retained their capitulatory [Page 735] rights. It made Tangier the seat of the diplomatic representatives of the powers and practically placed the administration of that zone in their hands.

In proclaiming the Act President Roosevelt said:

“And whereas the said General Act and Additional Protocol were signed by the Plenipotentiaries of the United States of America under reservation of the following declaration:

‘The Government of the United States of America, having no political interest in Morocco and no desire or purpose having animated it to take part in this conference other than to secure for all peoples the widest equality of trade and privilege with Morocco and to facilitate the institution of reforms in that country tending to insure complete cordiality of intercourse without [and] stability of administration within for the common good, declares that, in acquiescing in the regulations and declarations of the conference, in becoming a signatory to the General Act of Algeciras and to the Additional Protocol, subject to ratification according to constitutional procedure, and in accepting the application of those regulations and declarations to American citizens and interests in Morocco, it does so without assuming obligation or responsibility for the enforcement thereof.’

And whereas, in giving its advice and consent to the ratification of the said General Act and Additional Protocol the Senate of the United States resolved, ‘as a part of this act of ratification, that the Senate understands that the participation of the United States in the Algeciras Conference, and in the formulation and adoption of the General Act and Protocol which resulted therefrom, was with the sole purpose of preserving and increasing its commerce in Morocco, the protection as to life, liberty and property of its citizens residing or traveling therein, and of aiding by its friendly offices and efforts in removing friction and controversy which seemed to menace the peace between the powers signatory with the United States to the treaty of 1880, all of which are on terms of amity with this government; and without purpose to depart from the traditional American foreign policy which forbids participation by the United States in the settlement of political questions which are entirely European in their scope.’”

During the War France proclaimed a protectorate over Morocco, excluding the Spanish Zone and the International Zone of Tangier.14a The United States has recognized the French Protectorate but has given up in so doing none of the rights acquired under the Act of Algeciras. There have been informal exchanges concerning similar [Page 736] recognition of the protecting status of Spain in its zone, but such recognition has never been given by this Government.

Three years ago, on the plea that the status of the International Zone of Tangier was unsatisfactory, Spain, France and Great Britain held a conference at which the Statute of Tangier was drawn up. The United States was not invited to this conference and, along with Italy, has never recognized the validity of the Statute, which, in changing the administration of the Tangier Zone and eliminating diplomatic representation, modifies American rights under the Act of Algeciras. We still maintain a diplomatic representative in Tangier and have repeatedly stated that we cannot admit any derogation of the rights acquired in 1906.

Tangier has now been governed under the Statute for a little over a year and the general impression seems to be that it is not successful. I cannot help feeling that the desire of Spain to incorporate Tangier in the Spanish Zone would probably lead to greater stability and, therefore, greater opportunities for the normal development of trade, and that by removing causes of friction, inevitable in either an international or a tripartite administration, it would insure understanding and peace.

At the Conference of Algeciras American interests in Morocco were defined as being: (1) A humanitarian interest in the welfare of the Moorish people; (2) Maintenance of the Open Door; (3) Protection of our treaty rights. These interests remain valid today and are steadily increasing with the growth of American commercial interests. I feel, therefore, that we cannot afford to hold aloof from the coming Conference, if it should be held.

We have obviously not time to send anyone from the United States and I should, therefore, like your permission to instruct Mr. Hugh Gibson, who is in or near Geneva, to attend the Conference to report to the Department and to insure that American interests, including especially all rights acquired under the Act of Algeciras are safeguarded. If it should be decided to incorporate Tangier in the Spanish Zone I feel that a friendly attitude toward Spain at this time would do much to allay the irritation caused in Spain lately by our commercial policy and that by insuring Spanish friendship we should be safeguarding the future of American commercial interests in Morocco. Nevertheless, I should want to be careful not to antagonize England or France which, I have reason to believe, may strongly oppose Spain’s wishes. All this would, of course, be made clear to Mr. Gibson and especially that American participation must in no way be open to the imputation of political interference, but that the United States is solely interested in its economic rights.

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I should appreciate a telegraphic reply as to your wishes in the matter, since it may be necessary to issue instructions within the next few days.15

Faithfully yours,

Frank B. Kellogg
  1. France established a protectorate over Morocco by a treaty signed with the Sultan of Morocco on Mar. 30, 1912. This was followed by a convention of Nov. 27, 1912, between France and Spain regulating the respective positions of the two countries in Morocco and providing for the setting aside of a special zone for Tangier under a regime to be subsequently determined.
  2. A telegram from E. T. Clark, acting secretary to the President, dated Aug. 28, 1926, 10:05 a.m., conveyed the information that President Coolidge, then at Paul Smiths, New York, approved the designation of Hugh Gibson under the conditions stated (file No. 881.00/1282).