The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of War ( Woodring )

My Dear Mr. Secretary: The receipt is acknowledged of your letter of November 25, 1936, in which the opinion of the Department is requested with regard to certain questions affecting relations between the Commonwealth Government and foreign consuls presented by the High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands in his letter of November 20, 1936, which accompanied your letter under acknowledgment.

The Department appreciates the courtesy of the War Department in referring to this Department the High Commissioner’s letter, and it wholly concurs in the opinion of the High Commissioner that it would seem desirable to establish rules for the regulation of relations between the Commonwealth Government and foreign consuls. This Government has already taken occasion to express to certain foreign governments its views with regard to the question of communication between foreign governments and the Commonwealth Government. In one instance, the American Government stated that communications in regard to matters affecting the Philippine Islands are to be addressed to the American Government, and in other instances it has stated that if such communications are addressed to the Commonwealth Government they are to be referred to the American Government for transmission to the Commonwealth Government.

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The political status of the Philippine Commonwealth as defined in the organic act of the Commonwealth is in many respects without parallel, and, therefore, it is believed that established rules and practice with regard to relations between a consul and the authorities of the political division to which he is assigned need to be appropriately modified for application in the Philippine Islands. There may be, as has been suggested, an analogy between the Commonwealth Government and the governments of the several states of the Union. It is believed, however, that the analogy does not hold good at all points: there are granted by law to the Commonwealth certain powers, notably with regard to immigration and to tariff matters, which are denied to the states of the Union, and the exercise of these powers create relations between the Philippine Islands and foreign countries (which are to remain under the control and supervision of the United States) apart from the foreign relations of the United States. Although it would seem desirable from several points of view that consuls in the Philippine Islands have a certain degree of latitude in approaching the Commonwealth Government, the Department believes that the rules and procedure which should govern the conduct of business between the Commonwealth Government and foreign consuls in the Philippine Islands need to be formulated with care in order to guard against violence being done to the express provision of the act that the foreign affairs of the Commonwealth shall remain under the control of the United States. This Department will address itself to the problem of formulating such rules and procedure, and it will expect from time to time to communicate in this relation with the War Department.

In the meantime, the Department is making studies in contemplation of informing those foreign governments which have consular officers stationed in the Philippine Islands of the expectation of the American Government that such consular officers refrain from addressing the Commonwealth Government with regard to subjects which might warrantably be deemed to be political in character.

The letter of the High Commissioner is returned herewith, a copy thereof having been made for the files of this Department.

Sincerely yours,

R. Walton Moore