411.12/1206

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Mexico (Clark)

No. 284

Sir: By the terms of the Convention signed by the United States and Mexico on September 2, 1929,1 extending the period for the adjudication of claims before the General Claims Commission, provided for by the Convention originally concluded between the United States and Mexico on September 8, 1923,2 the life of the Commission will expire on August 30, 1931.

By the terms of the Convention signed by the United States and Mexico on August 17, 1929,3 extending the period for the adjudication of claims before the Special Claims Commission, provided for by the Convention originally concluded between the two governments on September 10, 1923,4 the life of the Commission will expire on August 17, 1931.

The necessity for extending the period for the operation of these Commissions, due to the present state of their work, of which a large part remains unfinished, is therefore apparent. With this situation in mind and having in view the approaching expiration of the Conventions establishing the two Commissions, the Senate of the United States on February 17, 1931, adopted a resolution (S. Res. 480)5 requesting the President, in his discretion, to negotiate and conclude with the Mexican Government such agreement or agreements as might be necessary and appropriate for the purpose of extending the duration of the two Commissions. The adoption of this resolution by the Senate, which is perhaps equivalent to prior advice and consent to ratification of the two renewal conventions, when concluded, [Page 733]is in accord with the action taken when the Conventions expired, in 1927 and again in 1929. A copy of the Senate Resolution, which was transmitted to the Department by the President, is enclosed for your information.

There are also enclosed drafts of two conventions extending, for a further period not exceeding two years in each case, the time allowed for the adjudication of the claims covered respectively by the present General and Special Claims Conventions. You are requested to submit these drafts to the Mexican Government in the manner and under the circumstances which you may deem most appropriate, with the request that that Government will signify its approval and proceed to the signing of the Conventions at as early a date as practicable. The Department considers it highly desirable that these renewal conventions be concluded and signed before the expiration of the present conventions, unless some other form of agreement with the Mexican Government for the adjustment of the claims pending between the two countries is in the meantime adopted.

The Department has received and given careful consideration to your despatch No. 250 of March 13, 1931,6 with which was transmitted the full text, as published in the Mexico City newspapers of March 10, 1931, of a statement said to have been made by Mr. Genaro Estrada, the Minister for Foreign Affairs,7 regarding the recent renewal of claims conventions between Mexico and France, Great Britain and Italy, respectively, and regarding the principles which were embodied in the conventions so renewed. In that statement Mr. Estrada says that his Government does not wish in general to accept any further extensions of other claims conventions if these are not subjected previously to all the juridical points favorable to Mexico which have been obtained from decisions of the different commissions during their first periods, nor accept any negotiation in the future which is not based upon these principles. The statement then proceeds to outline the rights which, according to Mr. Estrada, Mexico has demanded and obtained in its new instruments extending the Conventions. These, as given in the enclosure to your despatch, are as follows:

  • “First; The new wording of the first article of the Convention with France eliminates the possibility of persons of Syrian nationality (Sirios Libaneses) being considered as claimants, since in said article it is stated that the claims refer to French citizens. In view thereof, it was asked and obtained that the claims presented by Syrians under the protection of France, through a mandate of the [Page 734]League of Nations (Sociedad de las Naciones) be withdrawn from the Convention.
  • “Second; In this and the other conventions the recognition was secured that Mexico is not responsible for the legitimate acts of its authorities.
  • “Third; The recognition was obtained that Mexico is not responsible for damages caused during the regime of General Huerta.8
  • “Fourth; The recognition was obtained that Mexico will not recognize the claims arising from the voluntary or compulsory circulation or acceptance of paper money.
  • “Fifth; The suppression was obtained of indemnities for damages caused by revolutionary forces opposed to those which had established a Government.
  • “Sixth; The suppression of indemnity for damages caused by forces resulting from the disbanding of any revolutionary force was obtained.
  • “Seventh; The recognition was obtained that the Commissions resulting from the extension of these Conventions shall meet only in Mexico.”

Although no specific reference is made by Mr. Estrada to the Claims Conventions between the United States and Mexico, it is obvious that such a reference is intended. The Department, therefore, feels that it cannot fail to take cognizance of such a declaration in connection with the renewal, herewith proposed, of the two Conventions establishing our Claims Commissions with Mexico. In the event that the Mexican Government should, when the question of renewal of the Conventions is taken up, insist upon the above conditions restricting the jurisdiction of the Commissions set up under the Conventions, you are instructed to say that the United States Government cannot consent to any restriction of jurisdiction of the two Claims Commissions and will not be disposed to agree to their renewal upon any terms which would diminish the rights of its citizens as established thereby. In the event that Mexico should refuse to renew the Conventions except upon a curtailment of jurisdiction, as defined by the Conventions in their present form, and should be unwilling to adopt some other satisfactory substitute, such as an en bloc settlement, you should state that the Conventions, as originally negotiated and concluded, were only a part of a general adjustment between the two countries, one of the other matters involved being the formal recognition of the then existing Mexican Government; that the United States has fully performed its part of that general adjustment; that Mexico’s part as undertaken at the time, could be performed only by an unconditioned renewal of these Conventions; and that if Mexico should be unwilling to make such [Page 735]a renewal now, the United States Government will wait until the situation may change, feeling assured that such a time will come. A declaration of this nature, defining the position of this Government, should be clearly stated to the Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs as soon as, and if it should become apparent that, Mr. Estrada will insist upon our acceptance of the conditions outlined in his statement or any other conditions curtailing the jurisdiction of the Commissions as defined by the present Conventions, without agreeing to a satisfactory alternative.

Judging from the past attitude of Mr. Estrada toward the renewal of claims conventions with other countries, as reported by you, and from your observations in general, the Department is not hopeful that the Mexican Government will consent now to a renewal of the two Conventions strictly on their present terms. It is, therefore, necessary to consider the advisability of obtaining some other means of settlement which will not leave the rights of American citizens impaired nor in suspense for an indefinite period of time. The possibility of an en bloc settlement of the claims, as you know, has been long under consideration by the Department, and by both yourself and your predecessor, Ambassador Morrow. It is indicated by the reports of the Embassy, that the Mexican Government would in fact prefer an en bloc settlement of the claims9 to a further renewal of the life of the Commissions as they now exist. In the opinion of the Department an en bloc settlement in principle offers manifest advantages from the viewpoint of all concerned, not the least advantage being that it will remove a constant and outstanding source of friction between the two countries caused by the very existence of the two Claims Commissions.

The Department itself would prefer an en bloc settlement, upon reasonable terms, to a renewal of the Conventions, and it is felt that request for renewal of the Conventions may afford an excellent approach to the subject. Our interests probably would be best served if the suggestion for an en bloc settlement should come from Mexico. Of this you will be in the best position to judge. It may well be on the other hand that you will consider it desirable yourself to propose an en bloc settlement before suggesting renewal of the Conventions or concurrently therewith, as an alternative to such renewal. The Department leaves the question of procedure in the matter to your discretion.

Should the Mexican Government be willing to enter upon such a negotiation, it is the desire of the Department that it be conducted in Mexico City by you and for this purpose, if you so desire, the [Page 736]Department will order Colonel A. Moreno of the Staff of the Agency of the United States before the two Commissions, to Mexico City to assist you in the technical work and will be glad to give you any other assistance which you may require in the way of personnel or equipment.

As a general basis upon which to proceed in conducting a negotiation for an en bloc settlement, the Department would desire you to be guided by the principles and figures laid down in Ambassador Morrow’s confidential despatch No. 928 of August 31, 1928,10 transmitting a collection of tables entitled “The Adjustment of International Claims”, together with covering memoranda. It is the understanding of the Department that these studies were largely the fruit of your own labors and the matter is, therefore, one with which you are fully familiar.

The Department is hopeful that it may be quickly determined whether or not the Mexican Government will be agreeable to the idea of an en bloc settlement and disposed to enter into negotiations. With the general principles outlined in Mr. Morrow’s confidential report above referred to, for your guidance, the Department feels that you should be able to proceed. It is not desired to hamper you by prescribing any rigid formula for settlement nor precise terms of payment. These matters will have to be determined through your negotiations. The Department, of course, will give prompt consideration to any requests which you may feel necessary to make for specific instructions, as the course of the negotiations may develop, upon the receipt of advice thereof, with your recommendations.

Very truly yours,

Henry L. Stimson
[Enclosure 1]

Draft Convention Between the United States and Mexico Extending Duration of the General Claims Commission Provided for in the Convention of September 8, 1923

Whereas a convention was signed on September 8, 1923, between the United States of America and the United Mexican States for the settlement and amicable adjustment of certain claims therein defined; and

Whereas under Article VI of said convention the Commission constituted pursuant thereto was required to hear, examine and decide within three years from the date of its first meeting all the claims filed with it, except as provided in Article VII; and

[Page 737]

Whereas by a convention concluded between the two Governments on August 16, 1927,11 the time for hearing, examining and deciding the said claims was extended for a period of two years; and

Whereas by a convention concluded between the two Governments on September 2, 1929, the time for hearing, examining and deciding the said claims was extended for a further period of two years; and

Whereas it now appears that the said Commission cannot hear, examine and decide such claims within the time limit thus fixed;

The President of the United States of America and the President of the United Mexican States are desirous that the time thus fixed for the duration of the said Commission should be further extended, and to this end have named as their respective plenipotentiaries, that is to say:

The President of the United States of America, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Mexico; and

The President of the United Mexican States,

Who, after having communicated to each other their respective full powers found in good and due form, have agreed upon the following articles:

Article I

The High Contracting Parties agree that the term assigned by Article VI of the Convention of September 8, 1923, as extended by Article I of the Convention concluded between the two Governments on September 2, 1929, for the hearing, examination and decision of claims for loss or damage accruing prior to August 30, 1927, and filed with the Commission prior to said date, shall be, and the same is hereby extended for a further period not exceeding two years from August 30, 1931, the date on which pursuant to the provisions of the said Article I of the Convention of 1929, the functions of the said Commission would terminate in respect of such claims.

It is agreed that nothing contained in this Article shall in any wise alter or extend the time originally fixed in the said Convention of September 8, 1923, for the presentation of claims to the Commission, or confer upon the Commission any jurisdiction over any claim for loss or damage accruing subsequent to August 30, 1927.

Article II

The present Convention shall be ratified and the ratifications shall be exchanged at Washington as soon as possible.

[Page 738]

In witness whereof the above-mentioned Plenipotentiaries have signed the same and affixed their respective seals.

Done in duplicate at the City of Mexico, in the English and Spanish languages, this . . . . . day of . . . . . . . in the year one thousand nine hundred and thirty-one.

[Enclosure 2]

Draft Convention Between the United States and Mexico Extending Duration of the Special Claims Commission Provided for in the Convention of September 10, 1923

Whereas a convention was signed on September 10, 1923, between the United States of America and the United Mexican States for the settlement and amicable adjustment of certain claims therein defined; and

Whereas Article VII of said convention provided that the Commission constituted pursuant thereto should hear, examine and decide within five years from the date of its first meeting all the claims filed with it; and

Whereas by a convention concluded between the two Governments on August 17, 1929, the time for hearing, examining and deciding the said claims was extended for a period of two years; and

Whereas it now appears that the said Commission cannot hear, examine and decide such claims within the time limit thus fixed;

The President of the United States of America and the President of the United Mexican States are desirous that the time originally fixed for the duration of the said Commission should be extended, and to this end have named as their respective plenipotentiaries, that is to say:

The President of the United States of America, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Mexico; and

The President of the United Mexican States,

Who, after having communicated to each other their respective full powers found in good and due form, have agreed upon the following articles:

Article I

The High Contracting Parties agree that the term assigned by Article VII of the Convention of September 10, 1923, as extended by Article I of the Convention concluded between the two Governments [Page 739]on August 17, 1929, for the hearing, examination and decision of claims for loss or damage accruing during the period from November 20, 1910 to May 31, 1920, inclusive, shall be and the same hereby is extended for a time not exceeding two years from August 17, 1931, the day when pursuant to the provisions of the said Article I of the Convention of 1929, the functions of the said Convention would terminate in respect of said claims.

It is agreed that nothing contained in this Article shall in any wise alter or extend the time originally fixed in the said Convention of September 10, 1923, for the presentation of claims to the Commission, or confer upon the Commission any jurisdiction over any claim for loss or damage accruing prior to November 20, 1910, or subsequent to May 31, 1920.

Article II

The present Convention shall be ratified and the ratifications shall be exchanged at Washington as soon as possible.

In witness whereof the above-mentioned Plenipotentiaries have signed the same and affixed their respective seals.

Done in duplicate at the City of Mexico, in the English and Spanish languages, this . . . . . day of . . . . . . . in the year one thousand nine hundred and thirty-one.