812.0145/16

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

No. 1110

Sir: I have received your despatch No. 3554 of May 13, 1936,64a with which you enclosed a copy and translation of the reply of the Mexican Foreign Office to your Embassy’s note of March 7, 1936, wherein under instructions from the Department you informed the Foreign Office that the Government of the United States reserved all rights as to the effects on American commerce from enforcement of the Presidential decree assuming to extend the breadth of Mexican territorial waters.

The Foreign Office relies upon provisions of Article V of the Treaty of February 2, 1848, between the United States and Mexico and correspondence concerning such provisions to sustain its position that the decree in question is “just and proper” and that the reservation of rights made by the Government of the United States was unwarranted.

The treaty provisions in question read as follows:

“The dividing line between the two Republics shall begin in the Gulf of Mexico, three leagues from land at the mouth of the Rio Grande …”.

The Foreign Office has not taken into account the remaining words of the paragraph from which the quotation is taken, which words delimit the boundary line between its eastern end in the Gulf of Mexico and its western end which is said to be “the Pacific Ocean”. It will be observed that the western limit of the boundary line is not stated to be “three leagues from land”. Moreover, the second paragraph of Article V of the Treaty of 1848 contains the following provision [Page 763] as to the western limit of the boundary line between the two countries:

“and, in order to preclude all difficulty in tracing upon the ground the limit separating Upper from Lower California, it is agreed that the said limit shall consist of a straight line drawn from the middle of the Bio Gila, where it unites with the Colorado, to a point on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, distant one marine league due south of the southernmost point of the port of San Diego.”

It will be further observed that in the last quoted provisions of the Article upon which the Mexican Foreign Office relies, the westernmost point of the boundary line between the two countries is stated as being on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

That portion of Article V of the Treaty of 1848 which the Mexican Foreign Office quotes relates only to the boundary line at a given point and furnishes no authority for Mexico to claim generally that its territorial waters extend nine miles from the coast. The British note of June 9, 1848 which is quoted by the Mexican Foreign Office recognizes the merely local applicability of the agreement between the United States and Mexico as to the easternmost part of the boundary line, when it states in giving notice that the British Government could not “acquiesce in the extent of maritime jurisdiction assumed by the United States and Mexico”, that the giving of such notice is “the more necessary because the Gulf of Mexico is a great thoroughfare of maritime commerce”.

Furthermore, this view of the restricted nature of the agreement is strengthened by the statements in this Department’s note to the British Minister of August 19, 1848, which is also quoted by the Mexican Foreign Office, and wherein it was said that if for the “mutual convenience” of the United States and Mexico it had been proper to enter into such an arrangement, third parties had no just cause of complaint and that the Government of the United States never intended by this stipulation to question the rights which Great Britain or any other power may possess under the law of nations.

Presumably it is true as indicated by a note sent by this Department to the British Minister on January 22, 1875,65 that the arrangement thus made between the United States and Mexico with respect to the Gulf of Mexico was designed to prevent smuggling in the particular area covered by the arrangement.

Wholly aside from the question of the boundary line between the two countries, there remains to be considered the total great extent of the Mexican coast and the bordering territorial waters. To say that because the United States agreed that in one area, so far as the [Page 764] United States was concerned, Mexican territorial waters extended three leagues from land, therefore Mexico was entitled to claim such an extent of territorial waters adjacent to her entire coast line is an unwarranted deduction from the terms of Article V of the Treaty of 1848.

You will please inform the Foreign Office in the sense of the foregoing.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
R. Walton Moore
  1. Not printed.
  2. Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1875, vol. i, p. 649.