The Ambassador in Spain (Bowers) to the Secretary of State25a

No. 1012

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 939 of November 2,26 I have the honor to enclose a copy and a translation of a memorandum from the Foreign Office, dated December 30 last, regarding the payment of certain American claims in the Spanish Zone of Morocco, and the recognition of that Zone by the United States Government.

[Page 423]

I regret to say that in this memorandum the Spanish Government makes it evident that the opinions expressed in the last paragraph of a note from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to this Embassy of January 22, 1930—a translation of which was enclosed in despatch No. 49 of February 27, 193027—still holds good. In other words, the Spanish Government makes the payment of the claims contingent upon not only recognition of the Spanish Zone but upon an agreement to abolish our capitulatory rights in the Zone.

The Spanish point of view was pointed out in my despatch No. 638 of January 10, 1935,28 but since that time the Embassy has made a vigorous and sustained effort to secure the payment of our claims in return for recognition of the Zone alone. The matter has been discussed at the Foreign Office many times and the Embassy has been led to believe that the Foreign Office favored a settlement and would do all that it could to forward it. I am inclined now to believe, however, that there is a difference of opinion in the Foreign Office itself and that the Moroccan Bureau and officials of the High Commission in Morocco remain intransigent.

Upon the receipt of the memorandum I pointed out orally at the Foreign Office that the injection of the question of the capitulations into the present discussions was more likely to retard than advance the Spanish desire for the abolition of capitulatory rights. I said that the payment for the claims in question had been agreed upon, if only informally, by Spanish and American representatives, and that there was no fairness or logic in making their payment contingent upon the settlement of a totally different question.

I am inclined to believe that further negotiation at the present time for the payment of our claims would be useless, but in the event that the Department desires a reply to the memorandum to be made I request instructions as to what should be said.

It is now obvious that the withholding of recognition of the Spanish Zone is a useless weapon to bring about payment of our claims. I believe, therefore, that the Department should consider, from a purely selfish point of view, whether recognition of the Zone should not be accorded some time in the near future. Such recognition would enable our Diplomatic Agent at Tangier to deal directly with the Spanish High Commissioner to the Zone regarding the many questions there at issue, a thing which he is now unable to do. At present Mr. Blake is sometimes obliged to request the Department to instruct this Embassy to take up some matter with the Spanish Foreign Office. The Foreign Office then takes it up with the Moroccan Bureau, the Bureau with the High Commissioner, and much time has elapsed [Page 424] before Tangier receives any answer, which is returned by the same tortuous route. It therefore seems obvious that efficient prompt handling of Moroccan questions would be forwarded by recognition which would permit our Diplomatic Agent to go directly to the High Commissioner. Mr. Blake’s opinion should obviously be obtained on this point.

Some time in the future the Department may also wish to consider the question of the abolition of our capitulatory rights in Morocco. Mr. Culbertson,29 during his recent visit to Madrid, was informed of the Embassy’s point of view in this regard. There is some justice in the observations made in the enclosed memorandum regarding the changed conditions in Morocco and the consequent lack of reason to maintain capitulatory rights. On the other hand, Mr. Blake has advanced various reasons for the maintenance of such rights and possibly to these may be added the present intransigence of the Spanish Government in settlement of our claims. Nevertheless, it may be possible at some future time to negotiate an agreement which may adequately protect our commercial position in Morocco and secure the payment of our claims through the surrender of the capitulations. Such rights have been surrendered by all countries with the exception of England and the United States, and while there are many Englishmen doing business in Morocco, I understand from Mr. Blake there are but two or three Americans there. Since our commercial position in the Zone depends rather on the Act of Algeciras30 and the Moroccan treaties than on the capitulations, and as the principal effect of the latter is the giving of a special position to a few American protégés, it would seem that if and when our interests are protected by an agreement, which perhaps could be easily negotiated, we might well surrender our capitulatory rights. This is obviously a question, however, upon which a better opinion can be given by our Diplomatic Agency in Tangier than by this Embassy.

Respectfully yours,

Claude G. Bowers

The Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the American Embassy


The point of view of the Spanish Government with regard to the American claims in the Spanish Zone of Morocco remains as set [Page 425] forth in the note sent by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the American Embassy in Madrid on January 22, 1930.31

In accordance with this note the Spanish Government accepted a, certain number of claims, not because the Spanish authorities considered them as indisputable but inspired by friendly and cordial spirit toward the Washington Government and in the belief that this settlement would have influence to the end that the United States in a just interchange should not only officially recognize the Spanish protectorate over the Zone, but should proceed also to the renunciation of the regime of capitulations. As a consequence of this criterion in the last paragraph of the note referred to above the Spanish Government desires to know the date on which the agreement for renunciation of capitulations may be signed in order to remit in Tangier or in Washington, at the choice of the Government of the United States, the amount of the agreed upon claims.

The Spanish authorities of the Moroccan Zone believe that in recognizing the above mentioned American claims they have acted with an ample criterion of benevolence, since if these claims had been examined from the standpoint of strict justice some of them would still be found to be debatable. Not to insist more regarding the greater or less foundation of these claims, either with respect to their value or as to the sums asked for is a proof of benevolence and a further reason that their payment should be simultaneous with the recognition on the part of the American Government of the Spanish protectorate and with the renunciation of the regime of capitulations.

It does not appear necessary to give extensive reasons as to the justice of this desire of the Spanish Government, not only because every regime of capitulations implies a lack of confidence regarding the judicial and administrative authorities of the country which submits to them, but because it is logical that if the United States recognizes officially the Spanish Protectorate it should accept simultaneously the jurisdiction of the Spanish authorities, that is to say of the same authorities which are accepted by all of the American residents in Spain. To accept the jurisdiction of Spanish tribunals and authorities in National Spanish territory and on the contrary not to accept it in the Moroccan Zone would constitute a contradiction or incongruity very difficult to justify. Spain, which has made in the Moroccan Zone innumerable sacrifices of every kind, hopes from the excellent friendship and most cordial relations which unite it with the United States that the Washington Government will not [Page 426] maintain in the future any difficulty for the normal functioning of the judicial and administrative authorities of the Spanish Zone, which would happen if the regime of capitulations, the cause of very many inconveniences, should be maintained with reference to American citizens.

The payment of indemnities to other countries, such as Holland, took place at the moment when they proceeded to the renunciation of capitulations, that is to say both questions were settled at the same time. In these circumstances it would be difficult to concede to the United States a treatment more favorable in this regard than was conceded to other nations.

The renunciation of capitulatory rights in our Protectorate should not be subordinated to the settlement of pending claims in the French Zone nor should further delay be justified by the argument that such a renunciation should take place simultaneously in the two Moroccan Zones. Holland renounced capitulations in the French Protectorate in 1916 and did so later in the Spanish Zone. Switzerland and other countries also renounced the privileges derived from the regime of capitulations in one Zone before doing so in the other.

The preceding considerations, so well expressed in a summarized form, fully justify the aspiration of the Spanish Government to arrive in the shortest possible time at a satisfactory agreement by virtue of which the American claims may be definitely liquidated at the same time that recognition of the Protectorate should take place and renunciation be made on the part of the United States Government of a regime which years ago may have been justified in Morocco but which today has no reason whatever in favor of its maintenance. The Spanish Government trusts that in a new consideration and study of this matter on the part of the Washington Government the latter may be inclined to share the point of view which has been expressed.

  1. Copy sent by the Ambassador to the Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Tangier.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. i, p. 1017.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. iii, p. 607.
  4. Ibid., 1935, vol. i, p. 999.
  5. Paul Trauger Culbertson, Assistant Chief, Division of Western European Affairs.
  6. General Act of the International Conference of Algeciras, signed April 7, 1906, Foreign Relations, 1906, pt. 2, p. 1495.
  7. Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. iii, p. 608.