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

No. 359

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that, under date of April 19th, 1928, I transmitted a Note, (Enclosure No. 1) to the Residency-General of France at Rabat,3 communicating the conditions, as set forth by Instruction No. 469 of March 27th, 1928, (File No. 881.844), under which the Department granted its consent to the application; to American nationals and ressortissants in the French Zone of Morocco, of the increments decreed on the Port and Pilotage Dues at Casablanca, by Dahir dated May 28th, 1927.

The Residency-General having, in its Note of acknowledgment dated June 4th, 1928, (Enclosures Nos. 2 and 2A)3 appeared to contest the admissibility in principle, of the American Government’s demand for the refund of the unauthorized increases, which have been unduly collected upon American vessels, I have deemed it necessary to oppose to that Note the arguments set forth in my communication to the Residency-General dated December 3rd, 1928, (Enclosure No. 3).4 The text of this communication, as the Department will [Page 484]perceive, from the copy of the Residency’s Note dated January 18th, 1929, (Enclosures Nos. 4 and 4A),4a has been transmitted to the French Government in Paris.

I beg therefore respectfully to submit to the Department the entire correspondence exchanged on the subject between the Protectorate Government at Rabat and the American Diplomatic Agency at Tangier. I believe that the self explanatory character of this correspondence will dispense with any further comment on my part, except to explain that my Note to the Residency of March 10th, 1928, mentioned on pages 4 and 5 of Enclosure No. 3, is practically a textual reproduction of the Department’s Instruction No. 461 of February 20th, 1928, (File No. 881.512/55).5

In conclusion, I trust that the Department will approve the terms of my Note to the Residency-General of France under date of December 3rd, 1928 (Enclosure No. 3), and I feel confident that it will support the position which I have taken in the matter.

I have [etc.]

Maxwell Blake

The American Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Tangier (Blake) to the French Resident General in Morocco (Steeg)

Mr. Resident-General: Mr. H. Earle Russell, American Consul in Casablanca, acting under instructions from this Legation, has been in correspondence with the local Authorities of that city, looking to the refund of an increase of 20 per cent on Pilotage Dues, irregularly and illegally collected from American vessels prior to the United States Government’s assent to the imposition of this additional taxation on its citizens and proteges in Morocco. The American Consul now transmits to me the substance of a communication dated November 19th, 1928, from the aforesaid Authorities, to the effect that the matter is to be treated in accordance with the terms of a Note on the subject, which has been addressed by the Residency-General of France at Rabat to the American Diplomatic Agency at Tangier.

Reference is evidently made to Your Excellency’s Note No. 169 of June 4th, 1928, which replied to my two letters advising you of the conditions under which my Government would render applicable to American ressortissants in the Zone of the French Protectorate, the increments, decreed by Dahirs of January 10th, and May 28th, 1928, on the Consumption Tax on Sugar and on the Pilotage Dues at the Port of Casablanca. This Note was accidentally filed away, at the time of its receipt, without having been brought to my notice. It is therefore [Page 485]only now that I have become acquainted with Your Excellency’s observations on the subject of my Government’s request that the Maghzen shall cause to be refunded the amounts referred to in the preceding paragraph.

Your Excellency alleges that compliance on the part of the Shereefian Government with this request, is impossible since such reimbursements would produce a privileged situation in favor of American ressortissants, incompatible, moreover with the principles of my second reservation, which stipulates equal application of the decreed taxation to the nationals and proteges of all Powers. Consequently, I have the honor to set forth hereunder divers considerations, which in my submission, conclusively overrule these objections on your part.

As Your Excellency is aware, the existing treaties, to which the Shereefian Empire and the United States are parties, categorically debar the former from imposing upon the nationals of the United States, any taxation whatsoever, except the Customs Duties and certain other Taxes which are specified in the said treaties. The, previous consent of the United States Government is therefore essential before any fiscal innovation can be legally enforced upon its citizens and proteges. It is furthermore beyond dispute that the American Government enjoys the fullest liberty to grant or to withhold, as it may think fit, its assent to the application to American ressortissants in the Shereefian Empire of any legislation or fiscal enactments introduced by the Moroccan Government. It is obvious then that the levy upon American ressortissants of taxation which has not received the required assent of the United States Government, constitutes an infraction by the Shereefian Government of the pertinent treaty provisions, and that restitution of such illegally collected taxation is a necessary and normal factor in the adjustment of the violation of American treaty rights.

In these circumstances it is idle to contend that the redress due on account of the failure of the Maghzen properly to observe its treaty obligations, must be withheld on the grounds that there would thereby arise a privileged situation for American nationals. Reference, in this connection, to the American Government’s reservation as to the equal application of fiscal measures to the nationals of all Powers is likewise irrelevant, since it is obvious that the sole object of such reservation is to provide a safeguard against the possibility of Shereefian decrees eventually placing American interests in Morocco in a situation of inferiority as compared with those of some other Power.

In reference to the concluding paragraph of Your Excellency’s Note hereby acknowledged, I would again recall to the Shereefian Government, [Page 486]that the Franco-German Accord of 19116 and the Franco-Moroccan Treaty of March 30th, 1912,7 to which the United States are not a party, and to which the American Government has not subsequently given its adhesion, can have no restrictive effect whatever upon any of the rights and privileges in Morocco which the United States derives from anterior treaties and conventions.

The position which was taken in Your Excellency’s Note upon the point at issue, is furthermore in logical contradiction with the practice adopted, in the premises, by the Protectorate Government itself, for it is very evident that the latter’s customary appeal to the United States to make new Shereefian legislation applicable to American ressortissants is susceptible of no other construction but as an admission, by the Maghzen, of its constitutional inability to enforce its decrees upon American citizens and proteges in Morocco, in the absence of appropriate action on the part of the Washington Government.

It will be sufficient for me to refer Your Excellency to the suggestions contained in my Note of March 10th, 1928,8 in order to make it clear that the American Government, notwithstanding the unqualified nature of its rights in the matter, is not actuated by a desire to avail itself of such rights for the purpose of securing a privileged situation of fiscal immunity for its nationals in Morocco. At the same time, it has no alternative but to insist upon an effective observance by the Shereefian Authorities of its existing treaty rights and privileges, and accordingly its assent must, in each instance, be formally solicited and obtained before new fiscal charges or any other legislation can be applied, by the agents of the Maghzen, to American citizens and proteges. The claims mentioned in the introductory paragraph of this communication, have arisen as the result of failure on the part of the Residency-General to observe the indicated procedure, at the proper time, in connection with the Dahirs under discussion.

If the objections set forth in Your Excellency’s Note were to be admitted, the formal application required from the Shereefian Government for the assent of the Secretary of State to Moroccan decrees, would resolve itself into a meaningless, perfunctory formality, resulting in the stultification of those very treaty rights, which the procedure is designed to protect. Such a position is obviously untenable.

In conclusion, I venture to express the hope that, in the light of the foregoing exposition, Your Excellency will, upon reconsideration, be good enough to instruct the appropriate Authorities at Casablanca to [Page 487]restitute the amounts of taxation unduly levied upon American concerns, when their corresponding claims shall be presented by the American Consul in that city.

Please accept [etc.]

Maxwell Blake
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Infra.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. iii, p. 343.
  6. Convention between France and Germany respecting Morocco, signed at Berlin, November 4, 1911; British and Foreign State Papers, vol. civ, p. 948. This agreement completed an earlier one of February 9, 1909; ibid., vol. cii, p. 435.
  7. Treaty between France and Morocco for the establishment of a regular regime and the introduction of necessary reforms, signed at Fez, March 30, 1912; ibid., vol. cvi, p. 1023.
  8. Not printed.