The Ambassador in Mexico (Messersmith) to the Under Secretary of State (Welles)


Dear Sumner: I received late Sunday your strictly confidential telegram No. 405, of March 20, 7 p.m.,3 stating that you had had a talk with Commissioner Joseph Eastman4 on that date in which he stressed the great urgency of our railways in the Southwest to secure some four or five hundred track workers from Mexico. He stated that from the standpoint of the general war effort it is vitally important that these men be obtained. You asked me to telegraph whether the Mexican Government is willing to render this cooperation and will recruit such labor, especially as our Government is rendering and has rendered so much material assistance to the Railways of Mexico.

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I have gone into this detail to try to make it clear that we have had, first of all, to maintain and to salvage the agreement for agricultural labor which we actually have and which is so good and which must remain in effect. In view of the opposition which there was to this agreement from many quarters, and powerful ones, you will quite appreciate that I could not press too strongly for this new agreement for labor other than agricultural. To do so would merely have accentuated the opposition which we had to the agreement for agricultural labor and in my opinion would have made it impossible for us to carry through. In other words, if I had pressed on this new agreement for unskilled workers other than agricultural too strongly, the result would have been that we would have got lip service so far as the agreement for agricultural workers is concerned but no progress in recruiting. Because of the manner in which we have handled it I think we can safely say that the agricultural agreement is now again safe and that we can look forward to steady and continuous recruitment of agricultural laborers to at least 50,000 this year. I need not tell you that it was absolutely essential to follow this prudent course, [Page 541] because if the agreement for agricultural labor had fallen down we would have had tremendous criticism from wide sectors in Congress at home, both of this Embassy and of the Department, and of the Mexican Government, etc.

Of course we have constantly kept alive the negotiation of a new agreement for unskilled workers other than agricultural and we have constantly kept this in the discussion, and the Mexicans have constantly told us that they are in agreement to negotiate, but stressed that they wished to get the agricultural agreement in shape and recruitment started before they went at this other too actively. We now hope to make some progress on the other agreement, but we are still not yet ready to have someone come down from the Manpower Commission to talk about this, for it is not adequately advanced here.…

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I have consistently tried to make it clear at home that while we think we will get such an agreement for unskilled workers other than agricultural in due course, it will not give us in any degree the number of workers which the agricultural program is giving us. I have also tried to make it clear that the urgent situation which confronts our railways in the West cannot be met in the immediate future by such unskilled track workers from Mexico. The railways will have to find the immediate solution for their immediate problem in some other way. I made this adequately clear before I left Washington in February, so if the railways have continued to depend upon the Mexican supply of labor for the solution of their problem it cannot be any responsibility of this Embassy.

You may be sure that we are giving this matter our very careful attention and we are at it every day. It is just one of those things that we cannot work out in a day.

With all good wishes,

Cordially and faithfully yours,

G. S. Messersmith
  1. Not printed.
  2. Director of the Office of Defense Transportation.