The Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Tangier ( Blake ) to the Secretary of State

No. 92

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that I have received its Telegraphic Instruction No. 3 of April 13th, 1926, 1 p.m., referring to my Despatches Nos. 76 and 79 of March 11th and March 16th [17th] respectively, relative to the improvements and modifications contemplated to the Light at Cape Spartel, and I note that, subject to the acquiescence of the Powers, the Government of the United States [Page 749] would not oppose the modifications proposed, with the reservation that the procedure involved be not prejudicial to the provisions of the International Convention of 1865.

In further reference to this question, I have the honor to inform the Department that another meeting of the International Commission of Cape Spartel Lighthouse was called by the President, on April 15th, 1926. I did not attend this meeting, but requested that the Minutes of the proceedings be communicated to me, and intimated that I would make known to the Commission any observations that I might eventually deem necessary upon the matters discussed.

As a result of the discussions, it was proposed to annex to the Minutes of the meeting, a series of questions upon which the members of the Commission should request the telegraphic advice and instructions of their respective governments. The questions referred to were drawn up conjointly by the Consul-General of Belgium, President for the year 1926, of the International Commission of Cape Spartel, and Mr. Fayard, the Engineer-Delegate of the Service of Public Works of the French Protectorate. These questions will be found annexed to this Despatch, in the French text and in English translation, (Enclosure No. I).27

There is also transmitted to the Department herewith, (Enclosure No. 2), copy of the French text, together with English translation, of a communication from the French Consul-General,27 setting forth the views of the French Government, not only in regard to the proposed modifications, but also concerning the administration of the Lighthouse.

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Under these conditions, while recognizing perforce the practical advantages to be gained from accepting, in a large measure, the technical assistance which the Maghzen volunteers to afford the Commission, in the present circumstances, it would appear necessary to accompany such acceptance with pertinent reservations destined to safeguard the administrative independence attributed to the International Commission by the International Convention relating to its constitution.

It will be observed, for instance, that the Maghzen advances the claim that it should be entrusted, in complete freedom, with drawing up the project, issuing the calls for bids, defining the specifications of the contract, passing upon tenders submitted, adjudicating the contracts, directing the execution of the works, and that the means of carrying out the improvements to the Lighthouse should be left entirely to the initiative and the choice of the Maghzen. The latter, it will be seen, points to its claim as the logical consequence of its proprietorship of the Lighthouse and the fact that it defrays the cost of [Page 750] the modifications, repairs and necessary reconstruction. It is superfluous to observe that such contention is flagrantly inconsistent with the terms of the Convention of 1865.

It would appear that an unqualified acquiescence in the above demands would imply a virtual surrender into the hands of the “Maghzen” of the constitutional authority and functions of the International Commission; and the latter by a very rapid process would inevitably subside into an impotent assembly of figureheads, the sole remaining useful purpose of whose existence, would consist in the collection of the national annual subscriptions of the Governments adhering to the Convention, and in carrying on the clerical administration of the Commission’s working funds. …

If the provisions of this Convention are to remain the effectual régime under which the Light at Cape Spartel is to be managed, the proffered assistance of the Direction General of the Public Works of the French Protectorate, should be accepted under the two-fold reservations: (a) That the technical and administrative operations in question, must be carried out by the Maghzen functionaries, in the name of the International Commission of Cape Spartel, and that the dispositions taken in this connection must previously be submitted to and receive the express approval of the Commission, and be carried out in conditions laid down by the latter, under similar procedure to that contemplated in 1914 with the assistance of the International Technical Commission. (b) That the accepted co-operation of the Maghzen Service with the International Commission, on the present occasion, cannot imply a permanent delegation, to the former, of any measure of the latter’s authority or functions, and that it cannot be held to prejudice the existing rights of the International Commission to base its decisions and action, upon the advice of the competent departments of the various Governments, signatory to the Convention of 1865.

The above general reservations of principle would appear to cover the general proposals put forward by the Maghzen in the Memorandum Questionnaire, (Enclosure No. 1), above mentioned.

Some words of explanation are necessary however upon the question of the Sound Signal which is to replace the existing detonator.

Three types of Sound Signals were discussed at the meeting of the Commission: the “Nautophone,” the “Diaphone” and the “Siren.” The Delegate of the Shereefian Service of Public Works made observations on these various types. The use of the “Nautophone” was considered impracticable, few vessels being equipped with the necessary receivers. The “Diaphone,” he admitted, was in principle more powerful than the “Siren,” but the Maghzen’s objection to the selection of this apparatus was based upon the fact that “Diaphones” were [Page 751] manufactured only in England and in Germany, and that on account of the high rate of exchange of the currencies of these countries, the installation of a “Diaphone” would involve heavy cost. He therefore advocated the selection of the “Siren” which he stated might, properly devised, equal the “Diaphone” in power.

The foregoing particulars will, it is believed, suffice to indicate to the Department the purport of the claim made by the Maghzen, (see First Question, Item No. 1 of the enclosed Memorandum of enquiry) that it should be free to select the type of Sound Signal which, in its judgment, will sufficiently respond to the requirements of local conditions, account being taken of the expense to be incurred.

At the meeting, the Representatives of Italy, of France and of Belgium stated that they were authorized by their Governments to take a decision on this point, and they pronounced in favor of the adoption of the “Siren.” The Representatives of Great Britain, of Spain and of the Netherlands have referred the decision to their Governments. The advice of the Department is therefore solicited on the question of the choice of the Sound Signal.

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It will be observed that the opportunity to submit bids for the contract is to be confined to the firms enumerated in the Memorandum Questionnaire, and that it seems taken for granted, since the American firms, the Macbeth Evans Glass Co., 101 Maiden Lane, and Julius King, 19 West 44th Street, New York, (see Department’s Telegram of June 29th, 1923, 6 p.m., in reference to this Agency’s Despatch No. 143 of June 7th, 192328), then notified their inability to bid, that neither these nor other American firms would now be interested in this contract. The Department may desire to raise objections to the procedure contemplated on this gratuitous assumption, even though further investigations may indeed fail to discover any American constructors of Lighthouse equipment desirous to submit their offers for this contract, either in regard to the lighting apparatus or to the Fog Signal.

It is believed however that in view of the relatively small importance of the contract (involving an amount of not more, perhaps, than $20,000 to $25,000) and the peculiar difficulties of local execution, that, unless an American contractor were in possession of unusual facilities, there should be great diffidence in recommending a participation in these bids, on the part of American firms.

However, providing the Department shares my opinion in this respect, and should it result that no American contractors are desirous of entering the competition, the matter of principle above indicated could be safeguarded by an informal objection to the limitation [Page 752] of opportunity, accompanied by a statement that in the circumstances the United States Government refrained from pressing this matter in view of the urgency of the improvements under discussion.

In conclusion, I respectfully request the Department, upon receipt of this Despatch, to cable the terms of the reply which it desires to be made to the President of the International Commission of Cape Spartel Lighthouse, or in lieu thereof, to authorize me to draw up such communication myself, based upon the spirit and confined within the limits of the comments of this Despatch.

I do not desire to prolong the present Despatch by further developing the political aspect of this question, which has been fully discussed in my No. 76 of March 11th, 1926. However, I would observe that it becomes more evident than ever, from the conclusions inherent in the premises, that the directing impulse, concerning the present proposals for the amelioration of the Lighthouse, is distinctly political. The propositions above discussed, if adopted, are certainly designed to render increasingly complex the functions of the International Commission…

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I have [etc.]

Maxwell Blake
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