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

No. 652

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that, as a result of conversations with my British Colleague, in the sense indicated by Instruction No. 641 of June 6th, 1931, (File No. 781.003/8), on the subject of the jurisdiction applicable to alien employees of the American Foreign Service in the Shereefian Empire, I have received the [Page 769] following communication from Mr. A. J. Gardener, the British Consul in Chargé of the British Consulate-General at Tangier:—

“British Consulate-General,

Tangier, September 3, 1931.

Dear Mr. Blake: With reference to the discussions that have taken place between you and Gurney regarding the exercise of jurisdiction over foreign nationals employed on the staff of the United States Diplomatic Agency in Tangier, I write unofficially to tell you that His Majesty’s Government are unable to accept the view held by the United States Government on this point, i. e. as regards a claim to exercise jurisdiction over the persons in question, as distinct from the claim to exemption from the jurisdiction of the Mixed Tribunal, the latter being a question with which His Majesty’s Government are not directly concerned.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed) A. J. Gardener”

To this communication I have replied in the following terms:—

“Tangier, September 11, 1931.

My Dear Gardener: I have received your unofficial communication of September 3rd, 1931, from which I regret to note that the British Government does not appear inclined to admit our claim to exercise jurisdiction over British subjects who are in the employ of the American Diplomatic Agency and Consulate General at Tangier, as distinct from the question of the exemption of these persons from the jurisdiction of the Mixed Tribunal.

In acknowledging the receipt of this communication, I may say that while any conflict over this issue is to be greatly deprecated, I must, in a similar informal manner, inform you that my Government considers that it must maintain the immunity from local jurisdiction of the personnel employed in the Diplomatic Agency at Tangier or elsewhere in the American Foreign Service in Morocco, and I am instructed to refuse to permit such employees to submit to any local Jurisdiction in the event of an attempt being renewed to claim such jurisdiction over them.

Sincerely yours,

(Signed) Maxwell Blake”

The tacit admission, on the part of the British Government, as to the exemption from the jurisdiction of the Mixed Tribunal of British employees in the service of the American Diplomatic Agency and Consulate General at Tangier, certainly ought to render extremely remote, if not altogether rule out, any renewal of the pretentions of that Court which originated the present discussions.

While apprehensions in this regard may perhaps therefore be negligible so far as concerns the Tangier Zone, the potential position elsewhere in Morocco would not appear to be so secure.

It is consequently distinctly disappointing to find that the British Government is disinclined to accept, to its full extent, the position taken by the Government of the United States, which justly and reasonably claims full jurisdiction over its alien employees in Morocco.

[Page 770]

My British Colleague, Mr. Hugh Gurney, has, in the meantime, returned to Tangier and the matter has again been the subject of very friendly and cordial discussions between us, and my British Colleague expresses his great anxiety that there should arise no difficulties between us on this account, and he assures me that he will do all in his power to avoid them. I drew his attention to Part III of W. E. Hall’s “Foreign Jurisdiction of the British Crown,” published at Oxford by the Clarendon Press, (1894), which appears to formulate a doctrine on behalf of Great Britain, corresponding exactly with the position claimed by the Government of the United States in the premises.

Mr. Gurney expressed himself as being deeply impressed by the argumentation set forth by this British Authority, and he informed me that he would bring it to the attention of the British Foreign Office.

As a matter of convenience to the Department, I append hereto the quotation of one passage from Section 67 (pages 140 and 141)50 of the work above referred to, which I believe will be found to be of material interest to the discussion.

While, as above suggested, no further difficulties should appear to arise in this connection in the Tangier Zone, and while in other parts of Morocco difficulties between the British and American Governments may be considered as but remote contingencies—susceptible it is hoped of amicable settlement between them—I am much more concerned as to the eventual policy of the French Authorities of the Protectorate, in regard to other alien employees of the American Consulate at Casablanca, should the French Government adopt and attempt to put into practice a theory in the premises similar to that which is at present held by the British Government.

The Department will appreciate the nature of my apprehensions in this connection when I state that I have been confidentially informed that the Sultan’s Representative at Tangier, sometime ago received specific instructions from Rabat to regard as ressortissants of the Mixed Tribunal at Tangier, all alien employees of the American Government. No occasion has arisen however for attempting to enforce this position, and it is superfluous to add that in such eventuality the firmest resistance would be made.

The situation is nevertheless one which now deserves careful observation, and which we must be prepared to meet at any time. I am consequently, in compliance with the final paragraph of Instruction No. 641 of June 6th, 1931, (File No. 781.003/8), reporting recent developments in the matter, and I shall not fail to keep the Department promptly and fully informed of all tendencies in relation to this question.

Respectfully yours,

Maxwell Blake
  1. Quotation not reprinted.