Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State
The Mexican Ambassador called on his own request. I soon discovered he had no information to offer to me, but that he came back to say he is remaining here, before going home, to see what we can work out in the way of progress in connection with the matters of controversy between our two Governments, especially as they relate to an understanding about agencies to value the lands seized during the past ten years and to agree on time and methods of both valuation and payment.
I first said to the Ambassador that this Government stands irrevocably and eternally on two or three basic ideas: one of them is that every sovereign nation possesses the most ample power to inaugurate and successfully carry out, in a lawful and fair and just manner, all social reforms and all other reforms called for by the welfare and progress of the country involved; another is that the doctrine of just compensation must at all hazards be maintained, and that this Government is obliged unhesitatingly to stand at all times against the abrogation in whole or in part of this historic and basic principle of law for the government of the relations between nations; that in maintaining this position my Government must resist in every possible way the alternative policy of confiscation—which means, to take the property of another by force with no thought or disposition to offer [Page 706] the slightest compensation therefor. I said a careful examination of all the records and literature on the subject indicates that the Mexican Government is getting close onto Marxism or the Communistic basis, whether consciously or unconsciously. I took pains to add in that connection that any government has a right to formulate and pursue its own domestic policies, from a general standpoint; that the interest of my Government in the question of whether the Mexican Government is becoming Communistic is only to the extent that the policies and attitude of the Mexican Government in this respect might shed light on the vital issue existing between our two countries at this time, namely, the principle of just compensation versus confiscation, and so shed some light also on whether the Mexican Government seriously intends without delay to make satisfactory arrangements about the payment for the lands which have been seized during the past ten years, as intimated in its last note.
I said to the Ambassador that I did earnestly hope he would emphasize to his government the view that it has the power in a lawful manner to make all necessary reforms without resorting to confiscation; that any other kind of reforms will be short-lived and full of trouble, to say nothing of the great injury done Mexico in the minds of other nations; that it would be easily possible for the present Government by degrees to shape its course so as to converge back on the course of just compensation and lawful reforms. I added that, of course, I would not ask the Ambassador to give me his individual opinions about the merits of confiscation since he is here under instructions of his Government to represent its views. The Ambassador made no reply as to this but seemed to appreciate what I said. He stated that, in his judgment, his country had no purpose to adopt the Soviet policy, and he quoted President Cárdenas to that effect in a conversation of some four months ago; he also referred to the ejido policy as differing substantially from Sovietism. I said that, without any purpose to criticize and not speaking officially, the ejido might have functioned to some extent two, three, or four centuries ago, and that it is a great pity the Mexican Government does not reform that whole policy from the standpoint of the welfare and progress of its citizens.
I said to the Ambassador that except for the fact that the last note of his Government had injected a long list of citations in opposition to the doctrine of just compensation, all of which we consider entirely erroneous and inapplicable, and, in addition, had his Government not proclaimed a broader contention presumably in support of confiscation, there would be no particular occasion for this Government to send another note. I stated that my Government must leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about its strong attitude in support of the principle of just compensation in every essential respect and its [Page 707] lasting opposition to the doctrine of confiscation, and therefore that I was preparing a very brief note dealing with these additional contentions of his Government and then leaving open without conclusions or detailed comment the matter of a commission to ascertain the value of the lands and to agree on the question of payment; that he could say to his Government that these phases can be explored and developed by oral conversations, if his Government is so disposed. The Ambassador suggested that I put this in the note, but I replied that since his Government has been unwilling to put in writing a promise not to make further seizures and to define just what assurances we could have about payment, I feel that our note likewise should be silent on some of these phases, merely calling attention to the fact that in part the Mexican note has adopted the suggestion about a commission, but that we are not fully advised about the other phases which are very essential. I also said to the Ambassador that there would be no disposition on the part of this Government to enter into arrangements for a commission and conversations about valuations unless satisfactory assurances and arrangements in regard to payment should likewise accompany this other step; that we have been indulging in just that line of conversations for ten years with promises about payment which were never carried out; that I could not defend a repetition of that course either before the Congress or before the country; that I hoped he and his Government would understand we cannot consider entering on conversations unless we reach a satisfactory agreement in advance, both as to the general nature of the time in which valuations are to be satisfactorily made and also assurances as to the certainty of payment. I then added that these are matters which can be explored in preliminary conversations before the appointment of any commission. The Ambassador appeared to have nothing further to say to the contrary and I understood him to be acquiescent. I finally added that I would hope to get a note ready by the forepart of next week.