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

No. 1608

Sir: Referring to my telegram 108 of June 18, 1932, 3 p.m.,16 reporting the signing of the Claims Conventions and of the protocols relating thereto, I have the honor to forward herewith the original documents that were signed by Minister Téllez and myself.17

It will be observed that in these documents I have signed under the English text and Minister Téllez has signed under the Spanish text. The copies retained by the Mexican Government are signed in the same way. While normally, I believe, it is customary for each [Page 749] representative to sign under each text, the diplomatic section of the Mexican Foreign Office considered that unnecessary, and Minister Téllez acquiesced in their view. I raised the question with Minister Téllez, but he felt that there could be no question that conventions so signed would be properly executed. I did not deem the matter of sufficient importance to make a point of it.

The head of the diplomatic section of the Mexican Foreign Office, Mr. Sierra, raised a question regarding the translation into Spanish of the final clause of paragraph 4–A–(a) of the protocol relating to the General Convention and of the same clause in the same paragraph and sub-paragraphs of the protocol relating to the Special Claims Convention, which clause reads:

“provided the Joint Secretariat shall remain open for the filing of memorials for a continuous year from the date on which it opens for work.”

Mr. Sierra told Mr. Hawks, of the Embassy staff, that he understood the provision to mean that there must be twelve full months during which the Joint Secretariat would be open for the filing of pleadings. Mr. Sierra asked Mr. Hawks if that was my understanding. I told Mr. Hawks to inform Mr. Sierra that that was my understanding of that provision.

During the checking of the translation of the Conventions and protocols from English into Spanish (which for the Embassy was done by Mr. Stanley Hawks and Colonel A. Moreno), Mr. Sierra sought, at several places, to secure some change in the texts as agreed upon by Minister Téllez and myself. I instructed Messrs. Hawks and Moreno to inform Mr. Sierra that they were merely translating texts and were not negotiating them. Mr. Sierra then made no further efforts to secure changes.

The Department is already in possession of the full texts of the Conventions and of the protocols. For convenience, however, I may summarize the documents as follows:

The Conventions are extended from August 17, 1931 for the Special, and from August 30, 1931 for the General, for a period that shall expire in two years from the date of exchange of ratifications.
The protocol relating to the General Claims Convention provides specially for:
Informal discussions of agrarian claims between the two Governments; pending the discussions, no agrarian claims to be decided by the Commission; but agrarian memorials may be filed.
In fixing the meeting place of the General Claims Commission, the Commission shall have in mind the convenience for [Page 750] the respective Governments of having meetings in Mexico City for hearing of claims against Mexico, and in Washington for claims against the United States.
The protocol relating to the Special Claims Convention provides specially for:
All meetings in Mexico City.
The Commissioners are to be instructed: to admit the terms of renewed Claims Conventions between Mexico and France, Great Britain and Spain, respectively, as one clear interpretation of the Convention that is being renewed by us in the terms common to our renewed Convention and to such above mentioned Conventions as originally signed; to consult together on the points of law and matters of fact involved in the cases in which such interpretation is invoked, and to dispose of such cases in accordance with principles of international law and comity; and to give the decisions of French, German and British Commissions same consideration as decisions of other commissions or tribunals.
Both protocols contain the following terms:
Agents to petition revision of rules so as to embody following principles:
Memorialization of claims.
All memorials to be filed within one year from date Joint Secretariat functions.
At end of said year, unmemorialized claims to be decided only on basis of memoranda.
At end of said year, either agent may ask Commission to dispose of unmemorialized claims.
Curtailment of oral arguments.
General oral arguments to be curtailed.
Oral arguments on points of law already determined by Commission to be omitted except under certain conditions.
Consultation between agents so that Commission may pass, without oral argument, on groups of claims in which facts and points of law are the same and in which Commission has already dismissed one claim of said group.
Consultation between Agents for agreement as to awards in groups of claims in which Commission has given award in one claim for said group.

The Conventions were renewed in the same terms as the renewals heretofore made, except that the two-year extension period was made to date from exchange of ratifications of the renewal Conventions, instead of two years from the expiration of the prior renewals.

Referring to my telegram No. 113 of June 23, 1932, 5 p.m.,18 the [Page 751] Department will recall that Minister Estrada’s first proposal was that we accept the changes which he had secured from France, Great Britain, and Spain in their renewed Conventions (corresponding to our Special Claims Convention), and that we either incorporate such changes in our renewed Conventions, or execute what would have amounted to a supplementary convention for the accomplishment of the same purpose.

Under the Department’s instructions (which entirely coincided with my own views on the matter), we resisted this suggestion during the entire period of negotiation with Minister Estrada. The Department will, however, recall that with its approval I repeatedly informed Minister Estrada that we were prepared to meet the wishes of the Mexican Government as far as it was possible to do so by an exchange of notes to accompany the signing of the Conventions, but stopping short of making changes in the Convention terms themselves.

When Minister Téllez submitted his suggestion (see enclosure No. 4, my despatch number 1429 of April 22, 1932),19 he made the same proposal in these words:

“The United States will agree to accept the amendments which were accepted by the Governments of France, Great Britain, and Spain for the extension of the Claims Commissions which Mexico concluded with them.”

In my negotiations with Minister Téllez I took, with the Department’s approval, the same position that we had taken with Minister Estrada, both as to the terms of the renewal of the Conventions, and as to ancillary documents.

The Department’s records will show that in response to these proposals of Minister Téllez, I submitted (ad referendum) two proposed protocols, one for the General and for the Special Convention (enclosures 16 and 17, my despatch number 1429 of April 22, 1932). As pointed out above, the greater part of these two protocols were identical. Each, however, contained special provisions regarding the Convention to which it related.

My suggestions for the protocol for the General Claims Convention were accepted by Minister Téllez with practically no change. The Department approved this also. The same was true as to the protocol for the Special Convention save as to paragraph 2. In that paragraph, as I originally drafted it, it was stated:

“2. With a view to working out, for the future assistance of the two governments in their mutual relations, rules of conduct which shall [Page 752] be mutually satisfactory, it is agreed that the two governments will request their respective Commissioners, to give consideration to the terms of the renewed Claims Conventions between Mexico, on the one side, and France, Great Britain, and Spain, respectively, on the other side, and to give to the decisions of the current and recent Commissions between Mexico, on the one hand, and France, Germany, and Great Britain, respectively, on the other hand, the same consideration which they give to the decisions of other Commissions and tribunals to which they may refer or be referred in consideration of the cases presented to them for determination and award.”

The last half of this suggestion, beginning with the words “and to give to the decisions”, was accepted by Minister Téllez. To the first half of the paragraph, he suggested certain changes.

After discussion and negotiation, the first half of this paragraph was finally amended to read as follows:

“2. With a view to establishing for the future assistance of the two governments in their mutual relations a spirit of broad cordiality, it is agreed that the two governments will instruct their respective Commissioners to admit the terms of the renewed Claims Conventions between Mexico, on the one hand, and France, Great Britain, and Spain, respectively, on the other hand, as one clear interpretation of the Convention which is being renewed today, in the terms common to this Convention and to the Conventions between Mexico, on the one hand, and France, Great Britain, and Spain, on the other hand, as originally signed, to consult together on the points of law and matters of fact involved in the cases in which such interpretation may be invoked, with a view to reaching such an agreement regarding the disposition of such cases as shall be consistent with the principles of international law and comity recognized among nations.…”

The final text was the result of a suggested form which I submitted to Minister Téllez, and also to the Department (see enclosure 2–C, despatch number 1526 of May 22, 1932),21 with the exception that the two words “for consideration” before the words “one clear interpretation,” which were in the text I had suggested, were eliminated in the final text agreed upon.

The Department regarded this text as having certain advantages over other texts I had suggested to Minister Téllez (see Department’s telegram number 75, June 3, 4 p.m., 1932),21 and it seemed to me that the Department’s preference had been soundly made.

For the Department’s convenient reference, I incorporate here the pertinent provisions of the renewed Convention between Great Britain and Mexico, in which the parts of the original text which [Page 753] were omitted in the renewed Convention have been lined through, and the additions made to the text of the original Convention have been underlined.

“… The losses or damages mentioned in this article must have been caused during the period included between the 20th November, 1910, and the 31st May, 1920, inclusive, by one or any of the following forces:—

By the forces of a Government de jure or de facto;
By revolutionary forces, which, after the triumph of their cause, have established Governments de jure or de facto, or by revolutionary forces opposed to them;
By forces arising from the disjunction of these mentioned in the next proceeding paragraph up to the time when a de jure Government had been established, after a particular revolution.
(3) 4.
By forces arising from the disbandment of the Federal Army;
(4) 5.
By mutinies or risings or by insurrectionary forces other than those referred to under subdivisions 2, 3 and 4 of this Article, or by brigands, provided that in each case it be established that the competent authorities omitted to take reasonable measures to suppress the insurrections, risings, riots or acts of brigandage in question, or to punish those responsible for the same; or that it be established in like manner that the authorities were blamable in any other way.

The Commission shall also deal with claims for losses or damages caused by acts of civil authorities, provided such acts were due to revolutionary events and disturbed conditions within the period referred to in this Article, and that the said acts were committed by any of the forces specified in sub-divisions 1, 2 (3 omitted) of this Article.

The claims within the competence of the Commission shall not include those caused by the forces of Victoriano Huerta or by the acts of his regime.

The Commission shall not be competent to admit claims concerning the circulation or acceptance, voluntary or forced, of paper money.”

There were other changes made in other paragaphs, but those indicated hereinbefore are the ones essentially involved in the negotiations between the Mexican Government and ourselves with reference to the renewal of our Convention.

Similar provisions were incorporated by Mexico in the renewed Conventions with France and Spain.

Referring to the considerations set out in my telegram No. 85 of May 8, 1932, 12 noon,22 I venture to suggest that comparatively few of our claims should be adversely affected by the provisions of paragraph [Page 754] 2 of the protocol relating to the Special Convention, providing we do not choose a Presiding Commissioner who is already committed to principles hostile to the proper carrying out of the Convention as renewed (see my telegram No. 113, June 23, 5 p.m., 1932).

Colonel Moreno has prepared a report reviewing the diplomatic negotiations conducted by the two Governments in connection with claims. It covers the period October 26, 1920–June 18, 1932. It is hoped this report will be ready for forwarding by next pouch.

Respectfully yours,

J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
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