The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Henderson) to the American Chargé in Great Britain (Atherton)9

No. J 1768/983/1

Sir: An aide-mémoire dated the 25th April,10 which Mr. Thaw11 communicated to this Department enquired what steps His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom proposed to take to secure the continuance of extraterritorial rights at present enjoyed by British subjects and protected persons in Abyssinia in view of the rumoured intention of the Ethiopian Government to denounce the Franco-Abyssinian Treaty of January 10th, 1908. Attention was also drawn to the Ethiopian Government’s desire to secure freedom of action in customs matters which is at present restricted by Article 3 of the above-mentioned Treaty.

I am happy to inform you in reply that His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom share the view of the United States Government that there is no objection to the modification of Article 3 of the Franco-Ethiopian Treaty in such a manner as to permit the exercise by the Ethiopian Government of full fiscal autonomy provided naturally that the United Kingdom receives treatment not less favourable than that accorded to any third country.
His Majesty’s Government also agree that it would be highly undesirable for the Powers enjoying extraterritorial jurisdiction to relinquish their rights in this regard. As you are aware, the extraterritorial rights at present enjoyed by foreigners in Abyssinia rest on an insecure foundation, since the only international treaty providing for their existence is the Franco-Ethiopian Treaty of 1908, [Page 222] which is subject to denunciation at twelve months’ notice. Foreign nationals in general either by virtue of a treaty right to “most-favoured-nation” treatment or by custom and usage, enjoy the advantages granted to French nationals under Article 7 of this Treaty. If, however, the Ethiopian Government were to exercise their right to denounce it foreign subjects in Abyssinia would be left without any treaty foundation for the extraterritorial rights which they at present enjoy.
In these circumstances it seems to His Majesty’s Government that the retention of the existing extraterritorial rights would best be secured by the signature of a protocol by the foreign representatives at Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian Government providing on the one hand for the modification of Article 3 of the Franco-Ethiopian Treaty so as to permit the exercise of full fiscal autonomy by the Ethiopian Government, and stipulating on the other hand that the provisions of Article 7 of the Franco-Ethiopian Treaty shall remain in force for a period of ten years subject to such modifications as may be agreed upon. His Majesty’s Government are prepared to leave to His Majesty’s Minister at Addis Ababa in consultation with his Colleagues of the Diplomatic Corps the decision as to what these modifications should be. It is understood that the Emperor of Abyssinia wishes to secure some treaty provision for appeals from the judgement of the Mixed Courts in cases where both the Abyssinian judge and the foreign consul are in agreement; at present no such provision exists. The diplomatic body at Addis Ababa, on the other hand, are anxious to secure the right of the foreign representative concerned to be present and take part in appeals heard by the Emperor so as to ensure that the mixed jurisdiction is not in practice eliminated in cases of appeal; they also desire that provisions should be made for the application of the law of the defendant in appeals as is the practice in cases before the Mixed Courts.
The amendments referred to above have been cited rather as an indication of the lines on which His Majesty’s Government would like to see Article 7 of the Franco-Ethiopian treaty revised than as amendments on which they would necessarily wish to insist; nor do they desire to exclude any other amendments which might be thought desirable so long as an agreement is reached which will secure the continued operation to the benefit of all foreigners of the article in question for a period of at least ten years.
I shall be glad to learn whether the United States Government would be disposed to agree to a solution of this question on the lines indicated above and to instruct their Minister at Addis Ababa accordingly. I am instructing His Majesty’s Representatives at Athens,12 [Page 223] Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Rome to address a similar enquiry to the Governments to which they are accredited.

I have [etc.]

(For the Secretary of State)
John Murray
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Chargé in his despatch No. 2011, June 11, 1931; received June 20.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Benjamin Thaw, Jr., First Secretary of Embassy.
  4. The British Foreign Office on June 18 informed the American Embassy that it had decided not to approach the Greek Government in this matter (751.842/20).