The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain ( Dawes )

No. 628

Sir: Reference is made to the Embassy’s despatch No. 1406, of November 19, 1930,21 concerning the electric light concession in Tangier.

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The granting of this concession without an opportunity being afforded American interests to submit bids with a view to obtaining the concession is in violation of this Government’s rights under the Act of Algeciras.22 Those rights are in no way hampered or compromised by reason of the Franco-German Agreement of 191123 since this Government has not adhered to that convention. Although it is unlikely that any American company is or would be interested in obtaining the concession in question, it could not be said without reservation that such is actually the case since no opportunity has been afforded such company to express itself. The position of the United States is, as Mr. Smith24 surmises in his letter25 to Mr. Atherton,26 one of principle—that of maintaining its treaty rights.

The British Foreign Office apparently feels that the present concessionaires have the upper hand and that unless they receive the new concession the Tangier Zone will suffer from lack of proper execution of the present concession. The Foreign Office also apparently feels that should the interested powers refuse to sanction the grant of the new concession the French and Spanish Governments will ignore them and grant the concession regardless, thus establishing “a precedent for granting all such concessions in the future without adjudication”. The British suggest that the concession be granted to the Franco-Spanish merger on the understanding that such grant is made in view of special circumstance (i. e., the old concession has five years to run) and that the grant be without prejudice to the question of principle.

The Department realizes that if the French and Spanish Governments wish to proceed with the granting of this concession in violation of American treaty rights little can be done by this Government other than to present a further formal note of protest. However, this Government’s position differs from that of the British Government in that this Government has no representative on the Committee of Control and could not, in the same manner as could the British, admit the granting of the concession as an exception.

Mr. Blake has already presented a note of protest to the Shereefian Government. Should the concession in question be granted without there being compliance with American treaty rights further protests, including protests to the Spanish and French Governments, will have to be made.

The foregoing represents the Department’s position in this matter, a position which can hardly be altered merely because events and [Page 755] circumstances have so arranged themselves as to make it necessary for the controlling powers to grant the concession to the present concessionaires or be faced with five years of unsatisfactory service.

Nevertheless, the Department clearly understands that the French and Spanish Governments will in all probability proceed without regard to American rights. Such being the actual fact to face it is hoped that the British can in some measure save the situation by having adopted, at the time the grant of the concession is made, a resolution to the effect that the grant is made as an exception and “without prejudice to the question of principle”.

You are at liberty to communicate such of the foregoing as you may deem appropriate to the British Foreign Office, requesting, however, that it be considered as informal and confidential.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
W. R. Castle, Jr.
  1. Ibid., p. 601.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1906, pt. 2, p. 1495.
  3. Signed November 4, 1911, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. civ, p. 948.
  4. C. Howard Smith, Head of the League of Nations and Western Department, British Foreign Office.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Ray Atherton, Counselor of Embassy in Great Britain.