812.5200 Cunningham Investment Co./55

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

No. 3939

Sir: Referring to the Department’s instruction No. 1182 of August 8, 1936, 1 have the honor to state that I have again made formal representations for lands expropriated from American citizens under the Agrarian Law, and am enclosing herewith a copy of my note dated September 10 to the Foreign Office. In this note I reviewed the situation and pointed out that the proposal promised for last January had not as yet been received and that in the meantime properties of American citizens continued to be expropriated without compensation contrary to the Mexican Constitution. While informing the Minister for Foreign Affairs that my Government viewed the continued expropriation without compensation of the property of American citizens with deep concern, I took occasion to set forth the Department’s position as contained in its instruction No. 861 of September 11, 1935.6

Today I called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs and urged an early response to my note and a prompt submittal of the long promised Mexican proposal.

The Minister assured me that he was still giving the matter his consideration, that he has increased the number of lawyers to whom he had committed the matter and would “do the best I can,” to quote his own words, “but I will make you no promises I can’t fulfil.” [Page 696] He then related how, when he undertook to comply with the agreement in the General Claims Commission, preparing the cases for its consideration, he found there were 400 cases that had not been touched and he was compelled to turn the work over to Mr. Flores, a very honest and capable man, who had worked very hard to complete the cases before July 1, 1936, and was now in Washington in conference with Mr. Underwood, the American representative. “Mr. Flores will decide what is just and right,” he said, “and make no claim for Mexico which has not a sound basis.”

I called his attention to the fact that the claims which were entrusted to Mr. Underwood and Mr. Flores representing the two Governments did not touch the matter of compensation which I had brought to his attention, and to the attention of his predecessor. I related the conversations I had had with Mr. Portes Gil and later with Mr. Ceniceros and referred to the latter’s expression of opinion nearly a year ago when he had stated that he hoped to be able to propose a satisfactory solution by the first of January, 1936. It was in response to my recounting this matter that General Hay said that all he could say today was that he would do the best he could but would make no promises he was not certain he could perform. He then said that there were “political complications,” but refrained from going into particulars. I understood by “political complications” that he lacked the power to act independently and that President Cárdenas was carrying out more fully the promises he and his predecessors had made to the campesinos for the dotation of land. The records show that President Cárdenas in his term of less than two years has dotated 4, 482,000 hectares of land, whereas his predecessors in twenty years had only dotated 8,143,360 hectares. El Nacional, organ of the National Revolutionary Party, praises the President for carrying out the pledges of the Party.

If I do not receive a written answer to my note of the 10th before my next weekly call at the Foreign Office (on Thursday, September 24) I will again urge action looking to compensation upon the Foreign Minister.

I understand that Mr. Castillo Nájera8 is coming to Mexico the latter part of this month. I suggest that this matter be brought to his attention so that when he is in Mexico he can acquaint the Foreign Office with the Department’s disappointment at the long delay in meeting its request for compensation. I could also talk over the matter with Mr. Castillo Nájera when he comes here. However, pending that, I will press the matter with the Foreign Office.

Respectfully yours,

Josephus Daniels
[Page 697]

The American Ambassador (Daniels) to the Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs (Hay)

No. 1781

Excellency: I have the honor to refer to my note No. 1582 of April 16, 1936, concerning the important question of compensating American citizens for lands expropriated from them under the agrarian laws. No answer having been received to this note, I am again instructed by my Government to bring the matter urgently to Your Excellency’s attention.

As set forth in my note under reference, Mr. Ceniceros, while Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, informed me, on November 21 of last year, that His Excellency President Cárdenas had instructed him and the Minister of Hacienda to study the question of compensating American citizens for lands expropriated under the agrarian laws. Mr. Ceniceros at that time asked that the American Government refrain from pressing the matter until after the new year, because by that time the Mexican Government would be prepared to make a proposal which he believed would be satisfactory to American citizens and to the American Government. Relying upon these assurances, my Government refrained from making further representations in order to give the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs ample time to study the question and, in conjunction with other officials of the Mexican Government, to draw up the proposal which he had promised to submit.

No proposal being forthcoming, my Government instructed me to renew my representations, which I did in my note of April 16. At the time I presented this note to Your Excellency you had been in office but a short time and told me that you wished to make a thorough study of the question, which would probably require several months. Trusting that you have been able to complete your study, my Government has again instructed me to express to Your Excellency the deep concern with which it views the continued expropriation of lands from American citizens without any compensation whatsoever, though the Mexican Constitution itself provides that expropriations may only be effected subject to the payment of an indemnity. My Government earnestly hopes that the proposal promised for last January may now be ready for presentation and that it will provide adequate, prompt and effective compensation for lands expropriated.

I beg to inform you that in my instructions, my Government makes the following brief exposition of its views: The fact that the Mexican Government may have decided upon and promised to carry out a policy of providing lands for the campesinos can not be urged as [Page 698] sufficient justification for the taking of American-owned lands without such sufficiently prompt and adequate compensation as may be required by the ordinary standards of international law and practice. My Government fails to see that the expropriation of American-owned lands under a procedure permitting, in a practical sense, no legal recourse or appeal, and without the payment of reasonably prompt or adequate compensation, meets generally recognized standards applicable to foreigners. That the Mexican Government may not be in a financial position to pay for lands taken from American citizens does not appear to be germane to the issue. Inability to pay scarcely justifies the taking of property by a government any more than it does in the case of an individual. The American Government has on many occasions made manifest its desire to deal honorably with other nations. It has evidenced by deeds its desire to carry out the “good neighbor” policy. It is sincerely desirous of maintaining friendly relations with Mexico and other nations and has made and is willing to make reasonable sacrifices in the interests of such relations. However, it can not accept the thesis that to this end it is committed to or should be committed to a policy of sacrificing legitimate American interests. Obviously, the question of mutuality in fair dealing is involved.

Please accept [etc.]

Josephus Daniels
  1. Not printed.
  2. Francisco Castillo Nájera, Mexican Ambassador in the United States.