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

No. 268

Sir: With reference to the matter of the Moroccan claims now pending with the Spanish Government, I have the honor to report that after some preliminary conversations I was able to discuss it yesterday at length with Señor de las Barcenas; Acting Head of the Foreign Office, in the absence of the Duke of Alba.

I left with Señor Barcenas an Aide-Mémoire, of which the copy will be found attached, that will give you the substance of my conversation with him, and I attach also a pertinent extract from notes from the Embassy’s files which I made after this interview.

I send on this preliminary report of what I have done pursuant to the consultations I had at the Department last November, for your present information. I now await the result of the Spanish Government’s consideration of the proposals I made to report to you further.

[Page 751]

I beg leave to add that the way in which Señor Barcenas received my representations gives me good reason to expect that a satisfactory settlement may soon be reached.

Respectfully yours,

Irwin Laughlin
[Enclosure 1]

The American Embassy to the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs


In the question of the claims of Protégés of the United States in Morocco which form the subject of the note of the 22 January, 1930 from His Catholic Majesty’s Foreign Office15 it appears that His Majesty’s Government is willing to settle the first and third group of claims in the sum of 197,039.85 pesetas.

The claims contested by His Majesty’s Government are those in the so-called second group, which reduce themselves effectively to two:

a) The Singer Sewing Machine Company, 6,412.50 Pesetas
b) Dris-El-Quettani (Kittani), 400,000.00

As to the claim (a) of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, which is a very small one, it appears that Mr. Maxwell Blake, the Diplomatic Agent of the United States at Tangier, agreed with his Spanish colleague, Señor Pla, in their negotiations during 1929 that it should be submitted for the consideration of the two Governments following the American recognition of the Spanish Protectorate. This claim is, however, so small that it might perhaps be covered by the present negotiations.

As to the claim (b) of Dris-El-Quettani (Kittani), His Catholic Majesty’s Government is of the opinion that the claimant should resort to the Spanish Courts at Law in that part of Morocco claimed as a Spanish zone for the purpose of determining his title to the property, and His Majesty’s Government refers, in justification of its position, to provisions of the Madrid Convention of 188016 and to the Act of Algeciras of 1906.17 The pertinent articles in these two instruments are No. 11 in the former, and No. 60 in the latter.

Now the tribunals contemplated by the Madrid Convention and the Act of Algeciras were the native Courts of Morocco, whereas the Courts [Page 752] suggested by His Catholic Majesty’s Government are Spanish Courts which seem in effect to have supplanted the former native Courts. But it appears that these native Courts have not in fact altogether ceased to exist, and they are the only Courts which the Government of the United States is able to recognize unless and until it finds itself in a position to recognize the claim of His Catholic Majesty’s Government to a protectorate in Morocco, which it holds itself willing to do upon the conclusion of a mutually satisfactory agreement for the settlement of these pending claims.

The Government of the United States is willing to assent to the claim of that of His Catholic Majesty for the submission of this claim of Dris-El-Quettani (Kittani) to legal determination in a competent Court of Law, but such a Court must obviously be one which the American Government can legally recognize.

[Enclosure 2]

Memorandum by the Ambassador in Spain (Laughlin)

In an interview with Señor de las Barcenas at the Spanish Foreign Office on January 20, 1931, I discussed the Moroccan claims and left an Aide-Mémoire. On this subject he was very encouraging, assuring me that he was confident we should reach a satisfactory agreement, and that I might depend on him to further it conscientiously. He said he wished to have it dealt with not by the people at present in chargé of the Moroccan Division at the Foreign Office, but by a man now in Brussels who is under orders of transfer to Madrid and who should be here by the middle of February; he would hold the Aide-Mémoire until this man’s arrival, studying it himself meanwhile, and would ask me to come to see him as soon as their answer could be formulated.

I emphasized my wish to exchange no further notes until we had arrived at a point where I could present to Washington a solution of which my Government might approve.

  1. Ibid., p. 608.
  2. International Convention with Morocco, signed July 3, 1880, Malloy, Treaties, Conventions, etc., 1776–1909, vol. i, p. 1220. For article 11, see Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. iii, p. 611, footnote 39.
  3. Ibid., 1906, pt. 2, p. 1495.