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

No. 638

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 637 of January 8th,99 I have the honor to report that Mr. Blake and Mr. Johnson1 had a long conference with Sr. Castaño2 this morning. Sr. Castaño opened the discussion with the statement that he was less optimistic regarding the outcome of our informal conferences because of the point of view taken by various officials of the Moroccan Bureau and of the High Commissariat in the Spanish Zone. He said that these officials—and he is now apparently in agreement with them—take the stand that the opinions expressed in the Note from the Foreign Office to this Embassy of January 22, 1930, which was enclosed in the despatch to the Department No. 49 of February 27, 1930,3 represent the Spanish position today. He added that no real reply had ever been received to this Note and he did not consider either Embassy’s Aide Mémoire of January 20, 1931, enclosed in despatch No. 268 of January 21, [Page 1000] 1931,4 nor any conversations which have lately taken place in Washington, a sufficient reply. This Note, it will be remembered, attempts to link the question of the abolition of the capitulations to the settlement of the claims discussed in 1928. It takes the point of view, moreover, that the Kettani claim is of a judicial nature and must, therefore, be submitted to the Spanish courts in Morocco. Sr. Castaño added that the report made in 19285 by Mr. Blake and Sr. Pla—and later approved by Sr. Jordana—had never been approved by the Spanish Government and does not consist in anything amounting to an agreement.

Mr. Blake pointed out that the claims reported on in 1928 formed a question by themselves, and that there was no logical reason at a later date to inject the question of the capitulations into an agreement regarding the justice of certain claims. Sr. Castaño replied that the Spanish Government was extremely reluctant to discuss any claims without the uniting of their settlement with the question of the capitulations. He said that at the time of the arbitration of the British claims the British had given them to understand that the question of the capitulations would be taken up on the settlement of the claims, but that this has not been done. A settlement of the Dutch claims was coupled with the abolition of the capitulations. He added that the question of the capitulations was a painful and even shameful one for Spain. The administration of justice in the Spanish Zone is part of the administration of justice in Spain and should be given full faith and credence. It might have been expected that at least when the Spanish Zone was completely pacified, the Powers having capitulatory rights would have voluntarily relinquished them. Moreover, Spain is only in Morocco because it has to be there; otherwise, the French would take it over. Spain has spent millions on Morocco and has received nothing from it. Other nations should be grateful to her for tranquillizing the Spanish Zone and making it possible to do business there. In conclusion, he inferred that it was a disgrace to Spain that capitulatory rights still existed in the Zone.

As a practical matter, Sr. Castaño said that we might further discuss the 1928 claims, although he is not a technical expert, with a view to coming to an agreement which could be submitted to the Spanish High Commissioner in Morocco and other authorities. In that case the question could still be submitted to the Council of Ministers as to whether the agreement could be executed without reference to the capitulations. He was very doubtful, however, as to whether the Government would consent to such a course.

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Mr. Blake asked whether it would not be advantageous to have basic negotiations transferred to Tetuan and to authorize the Spanish High Commissioner to confer with him, and Sr. Castaño said that this was possible but that he would have to consult the High Commissioner and other authorities on this point.

One of the principal difficulties of obtaining any settlement is the divided authority which exists. The Foreign Office, the Moroccan Bureau, the High Commissariat and other Spanish authorities, all have to be consulted and none seem to have the power to come to a decision. Sr. Castaño was reluctant to see us today because he wished first to talk over matters with the High Commissioner, Sr. Rico Avello, who has just arrived in Madrid.

Mr. Blake and Mr. Johnson pointed out that the United States was far from desiring to play an obstructive policy in the Spanish Zone, that it had no possible political interests there, that it was ready to cooperate in every way with the Spanish authorities, but that it was obliged, in the circumstance to maintain its treaty rights until possible revision by common accord. It was for this reason that importance was placed upon recognition of the Spanish Protectorate as the logical initial step. Moreover, the United States Government was sure to feel that the question of the settlement of old and just claims should not be linked with new propositions. Once the claims were adjusted and recognition given to the Zone, the Legation in Tangier would be glad sympathetically to discuss any other matters whatever.

Respectfully yours,

Claude G. Bowers
  1. Not printed; see telegram No. 4, January 8, 4 p.m., from the Ambassador in Spain, supra.
  2. Hallett Johnson, Counselor of Embassy in Spain.
  3. J. del Castaño, Chief of the Overseas Division, Spanish Foreign Office.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. iii, p. 607.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1931, vol. ii, p. 750.
  6. Ibid., 1928, vol. iii, p. 353.