881.044/30: Airgram

The Chargé at Tangier (Childs) to the Secretary of State

A–25. Reference is made to Consul General Russell’s telegram no. 17 of February 3 [4], 5 p.m.2 concerning the total requisition of olive crops in French North Africa, including French Morocco, reported to have been taken as a result of action of the Combined Food Committee in Algiers.

This Legation is in entire agreement with the conclusions expressed by Mr. Russell in his telegram.

Specifically and consistently with the last two paragraphs of my despatch no. 1910 of January 14, 1944,3 the Legation concurs in the view expressed by Mr. Russell as to the jeopardy to American treaty status and rights in Morocco involved in the extension to this country of measures adopted by authorities or entities outside the Shereefian Empire in the absence of the conveyance, through the usual channels, of the Department’s approval or qualified approval thereof to the Shereefian Government.

In the present instance, as well as in future, for the safeguarding of our treaty position it is recommended that the procedure mentioned above be applied in each individual similar case. If qualified approval is to be granted, it should be done under the following reservations:4

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that, inasmuch as the measure may be regarded as temporary and due to exceptional circumstances, the Department’s assent thereto is subject to withdrawal at its discretion;
that charges of evading the requisition measures brought against American ressortissants are of the exclusive competency of the American consular courts;
that the requisitions are applicable to the nationals of all countries without discrimination; and
that equitable compensation should be made for the requisitioned property of American ressortissants.

As the Department is aware, the requisitioning of the property of American ressortissants is a violation of existing treaties, and runs counter to the Department’s conception of such rights as contained in its previous instructions (see Department’s telegram to the Legation no. 16 of September 16, 19395). That instruction was based, it is true, on our then neutral status. In the present circumstances it is believed that the procedure and reservations above outlined would safeguard our treaty rights and, at the same time, would eliminate any obstruction implied in those rights to measures of policy in the interest of our war effort such as the requisitions under reference. It is to be noted that cognate reservations have been approved by the Department subsequent to our entrance into the war and to our landings in North Africa. (See Department’s telegram no. 224 of December 17, 1943 to Tangier and Legation’s despatch no. 1857 of December 20, 1943.6)

Prior to the action taken by the Combined Food Committee, the Legation and the Consulate at Casablanca had been engaged in efforts to establish a formula in connection with requisitions which would satisfy both the exceptional circumstances with which we are confronted in Morocco and at the same time not do violence to our treaty position. In that connection the Legation informed Mr. Russell in a letter dated January 17, 1944, in part, as follows:

“In the present exceptional circumstances the Legation is inclined to take the view that, in consideration of the problem confronting the authorities concerning the general provisioning of the community, aside from the promotion of the economic contribution of Morocco to the common war effort, no individual member of the community should ethically expect to enjoy a privileged position vis-à-vis his fellow citizens, such as accrues to him in normal times from his possession of property.

“In the case of olive growers, if, in return for the total requisition of their crops, they receive fair indemnity, and if their individual household supplies of olive oil are assured to them on the same basis [Page 510] as to all other members of the community, it is not believed that they should deem themselves to be subjected to unjust hardship.

“On such considerations it is thought that the American ressortissants concerned should be induced voluntarily to acquiesce in the total requisition under reference, provided of course that it is scrupulously applied without discrimination to every other grower in all parts of the French Zone.”

Again, on January 31, the Legation communicated with him, at which time it was stated:

“In the present circumstances any adequate treatment of the question in each and all of its various aspects is obviously extremely difficult, particularly, as you observe, in the absence of precise data on the subject such as should be expected from the Protectorate authorities in reply to your note. Our primary objective is the safeguard of the principle of our extraterritorial and other pertinent treaty rights, and in this connection you would be justified in refusing to discuss any requisition on an American ressortissant, unless previously notified by the authorities to your Consulate. Secondarily we should endeavor to obtain the maximum fairness of treatment for American ressortissants within the broad lines of any necessary practical compromise.”

The political apprehensions mentioned in the final paragraph of Mr. Russell’s telegram under reference would appear to be deserving of careful consideration although not relating to the specific question, under present discussion, of our treaty rights.

  1. See last paragraph of telegram 32, February 4, from Casablanca, supra.
  2. Not printed.
  3. The Chargé reserved the United States position in principle, along the lines of the reservations outlined here, in a note to the Resident General on February 11, pending receipt of instructions from the Department for the granting of qualified consent.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. iv, p. 686.
  5. Neither printed; they related to the consent of the United States in the application to American ressortissants of increased rates of income and patente taxes in the French Zone of Morocco (881.512/180, 183).