The Consul General at Beirut (Marriner) to the Secretary of State

No. 123

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction of September 12, 1936, concerning customs privileges on account of American educational and philanthropic institutions in Syria and the Lebanon, and to report that I have carried out the instructions therein contained to draft, in consultation with the High Commission, a proposed exchange of notes to effect the essential modifications in principle and practice which would establish these privileges in accordance with the American rights. The texts of three notes agreed on are attached,28 typed double space and referred to as A, B and C.

Before discussing the matter with the authorities at the High Commission, I have had many conversations with the heads of the interested American institutions, namely, President Bayard Dodge and Treasurer George Stewart of the American University, as well as the Reverend James H. Nicol of the American Mission. Copies of the memoranda of conversations with these gentlemen, as well as a copy of a letter from President Dodge, giving his unqualified approval of the arrangements projected, are enclosed herewith. As a result of these conversations, I decided, in addition to the request for delayed payment on appeals in customs cases, to request the High Commission for a more liberal treatment of the importations for the scholastic institutions, in particular those of university grade, basing such a request on the fact of devaluation, as well as on the fact that institutions of university grade have greater need of importation of expensive material from abroad than institutions of secondary character.

Likewise, ever since the receipt of the Department’s instruction on October 5th, I have kept in constant touch with the High Commissioner, Comte Damien de Martel, and the Secretary General of the High Commission, M. Meyrier, on this subject, urging them to consider the matter and settle the points of difference. On different occasions both the High Commissioner and M. Meyrier expressed their willingness to get at the matter as soon as possible, but begged me to defer the subject until French treaties with Syria and the Lebanon should be out of the way. The negotiation of that with the Lebanon was followed by disturbances which further delayed the consideration of this matter, as did also the preparation of the French case to place before the League of Nations in connection with the Turkish reactions in the Sandjak of Alexandretta. However, on December [Page 482]6th, M. de Martel told me that the High Commission was ready to discuss the matter, and empowered M. Kieffer, Head of the Political Bureau, to come to an agreement with me on the subject.

On Wednesday morning, December 9th, I saw M. Kieffer at the High Commission by appointment, and a memorandum of our conversation is enclosed. In order to expedite matters, I presented him with the texts in English and an unofficial translation into French of three notes which appeared to me satisfactory in the premises, and we went over them together. M. Kieffer saw no objections in principle, but wished to consult the technicians of the customs regime, which he did, and then sent the head of that service, M. Roux, Inspector General, to see me on December 11th to draw up the exact texts to carry out the suggestions made. I agreed with M. Roux on texts which seemed to fulfill the American demands, and they are set forth in the memorandum of conversation of December 11th hereunto annexed. The last step in the negotiation which could take place in Beirut was completed today when I saw M. Kieffer at the High Commission at 10:30 A.M. to agree on slight modifications on the drafts of notes that I had submitted, called for by the method which the customs regime felt was more satisfactory to give effect to our requests. The substance of our conversation at this time is contained in a memorandum of even date attached hereto. The texts as finally agreed on are annexed as mentioned above.

As stated before, the American institutions involved are more than pleased with the modifications suggested, as it will mean an increase of the limits of free importation for the American University of at least 9000 Syrian pounds per year, and possibly more, and furthermore will remove burdensome difficulties with respect to appeals on customs cases. If any question should arise in the Department’s mind as to the transmission through the Consulate General of an engagement taken by the President of the University or the heads of other educational, religious and philanthropic institutions, with respect to the eventual payment while customs question is under appeal, I wish to emphasize that the transmission of such an engagement involves no responsibility on the part of the Consulate General; that it would only occur in extremely few cases, for the University only, in view of the limit of 1000 pounds of duty set for the exercise of such a privilege, and that it is destined, from the point of view of the Mandate authorities, to avoid abuses of such a privilege by nationals of the Mandated States who are equally heads of educational, religious and philanthropic institutions (See enclosure No. 12).

I am sending one copy of this despatch by air mail to the Department, as well as to Paris, and the French High Commission is doing the same with its texts of the drafts in order that the matter may [Page 483]be cleared up at an early date, as now that the decision has been arrived at here, the customs authorities are anxious to issue the necessary decree of revision in order to give the institutions involved the benefit of larger importations. M. Kieffer informs me that the moment a telegram is received from Paris that the exchange of notes has taken place, the decree will be issued and go into immediate effect. In response to my request, he likewise informed me that in the meantime the customs would try to interpret any questions arising in the spirit of the tentative agreement arrived at.

Respectfully yours,

Theodore Marriner

[This question was finally settled by an exchange of notes between the United States and France at Paris, February 18, 1937. See Executive Agreement Series No. 107, or 51 Stat. 279.]

  1. None of the enclosures mentioned in this despatch are printed. The draft texts here referred to were identical with the final exchange of notes.