The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Spain (Laughlin)

No. 75

Sir: Reference is made to your despatch No. 49, dated February 27, 1930, enclosing a copy of a note, dated January 22, 1930, which you received from the Spanish Secretary General of Foreign Affairs, in regard to the pending question of American claims in the Spanish Zone of Morocco.

The Department regrets that the Spanish Government has seen fit to question the validity of certain of the claims approved first by Señor Pla and subsequently by General Jordana and is making its acceptance of others contingent upon the renunciation of this Government’s capitulatory rights in the Spanish Zone of Morocco.

You will, of course, understand that with respect to the capitulatory rights of the United States in Morocco, this Government’s position is that the whole question must be considered integrally and not considered with respect to any one Zone, hence it can form no part of this particular question.

With respect to the matter of claims the Department is loathe to believe that the claims cannot be adjusted by direct diplomatic action in accordance with the procedure contemplated in the notes from the Spanish Embassy in Washington, dated July 26, 1927, and February 11, 1928, respective, (two copies of each of which, accompanied by translations, are enclosed).47

The Department hopes that the Spanish Government can be persuaded to see the desirability of reconsidering the matter of the American claims in the Spanish Zone of Morocco in the spirit which moved its plenipotentiaries, Señor Pla and General Jordana, and of [Page 618] thus attaining a practical settlement with a view to granting reasonable redress to the injured parties and bringing about a normalization of the relations of the United States with the Spanish authorities in Morocco. It is suggested, therefore, that you discuss this matter with the appropriate authorities.

Should it develop that the Spanish Government is unwilling to reconsider its position with respect to the American claims in Morocco, you are instructed to request formally of the Spanish Government an immediate restitution of all gate and consumption taxes collected in violation of the treaties, from American citizens and protégés in the Spanish Zone of Morocco, and at the same time request the Spanish Government to give a specific undertaking that further unauthorized taxation or legislation will not be applied to such persons without the consent of this Government, since in advance of formal recognition of the Spanish Zone, this Government cannot consent to the application to American citizens and protégés of legislation or taxation introduced by the Spanish Administration. Reference is made in this connection to the precedents of British claims in the Spanish Zone, mentioned on page 3 of Mr. Blake’s despatch No. 473, of January 31, 1930,49 a copy of which has been sent to you directly from Tangier.

If the Spanish Government evinces a disposition to renew its consideration of the claims, you may point out in conversation that, as stated in Mr. Blake’s letter to you of April 4, 1930,49 the two Governments appointed Plenipotentiaries who were clothed with full powers for passing on the claims and assessing the amounts of the indemnities, and that their findings were embodied in a joint report signed on July 12, 1928, by Mr. Blake, American Diplomatic Agent at Tangier, and Señor Don Antonio Pla, then Minister Plenipotentiary and Consul General of Spain at Tangier; that subsequently General Jordana, the Spanish High Commissioner at Tetuan, gave Mr. Blake his personal assurance that the joint report of the Plenipotentiaries had been placed in his hands with final responsibility for approval; that General Jordana urged several modifications which Mr. Blake accorded under an ad referendum understanding; that General Jordana thereupon informed Mr. Blake that the matter was settled to his entire satisfaction and, furthermore, that it was only in consideration of these assurances that Mr. Blake consented to recommend any alterations in the joint report.

With reference to the Spanish Government’s stipulation that the payment of the third class of claims cited in the note from the Secretary General of Foreign Affairs, given therein as amounting to a total of 62,993.55 Spanish pesetas, is acceptable but only on condition that the United States Government renounce the régime of capitulations [Page 619] in the Spanish Zone, you should reply in the sense of the third paragraph of this instruction. Furthermore, this question formed no part of the understanding arrived at in 1927 between the Spanish Government and the Government of the United States to proceed with negotiations for the settlement of the American claims. As already stated in its instruction to you of January 18, 1930, the Department cannot make any departure in this connection from the policy which it pursued in regard to the settlement of American claims in the French Zone and to the recognition of the French Zone.50

The Department suggests that you leave with the appropriate authorities an aide-mémoire setting forth this Government’s views as outlined herein and in previous instructions on this subject. The aide-mémoire should be accompanied by a memorandum treating in detail the claim of the American protégé Sid Driss El-Kittany for the usurpation of his property near Alcazar-Kebir in substantially the terms suggested by Mr. Blake in pages 4 to 9 of his despatch No. 487 of April 4, 1930,51 a copy of which accompanied his letter to you of the same date.

Should you conclude that there is a possibility that the Spanish Government can be induced to recognize the fundamental unsoundness of its position with respect to the American claims in the Spanish Zone of Morocco and make a further effort to meet this Government’s expectations in the matter, and if Mr. Blake’s presence in Madrid might be of help in furthering a settlement, the Department would be pleased to instruct him to proceed to Madrid at whatever time that would be convenient to both of you.

A copy of this instruction is being sent to Mr. Blake for his information.

Very truly yours,

Wilbur J. Carr