The Ambassador in Mexico (Messersmith) to the Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs (Duggan)


Dear Larry: I have your confidential letter of April 2997 stating that the Department has been unofficially informed that the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate at its regular meeting on April 26, voted to postpone the hearings on the water treaty. I note that the postponement was not to any particular time, so that the Committee is free to take up consideration of the treaty at any time it may deem appropriate. I note that you state that the reasons for this action by the Committee are not difficult to understand as apparently the Congress intends to adjourn before the National Conventions and it may not assemble again until after the general elections in November. You indicate that if the Congress adjourns at the time indicated there would not be sufficient opportunity for the Committee to hold extensive hearings on the treaty and thereafter for the Senate to give the matter proper consideration. You state that since the treaty has aroused strong and well-organized opposition in California, the Senate would of course proceed with a considerable measure of caution. I note your comment that under all the circumstances the Committee apparently deemed it inadvisable to undertake the hearings and then have the matter postponed for final decision until after the elections. You state that this should not be taken to mean that the treaty will be withdrawn or permanently shelved but that on the contrary some of the strongest proponents believe that delay will work to our advantage.

Dr. Padilla98 has been sick for three or four days with a fever and I have just learned that he is still in Cuernavaca. I will undoubtedly [Page 1368] not see him before I leave for San José Purua tomorrow afternoon for the two weeks holiday which I feel it is imperative that I take, much as I dislike to leave Mexico City at this time. I will therefore not be able to talk to him personally about this. I feel sure, however, that the President and Dr. Padilla already have some information on this matter, for I need not tell you that information travels fast from Washington and people here are extraordinarily well-informed. I sometimes find that they have information about things of this kind here before I do. In this connection I think you will be interested in seeing an information bulletin which comes out here in Spanish. The issue for May 1 carried an article of which I append a translation99 to this letter. I need make no comment on this confidential news letter, for it speaks for itself. I only send it to you because it shows how fully people are informed here, and how rapidly. This news-bulletin came to my desk before your letter of April 29.

In talking with McGurk1 over the telephone this morning he told me that President Roosevelt had addressed a letter to President Avila Camacho2 which will reach the Embassy shortly, with regard to this postponement of action on the treaty. I think it is very thoughtful of the President and the Secretary to see that such a letter is written and forwarded to the President of Mexico, and Bursley3 will see that it is delivered to the President through Dr. Padilla immediately upon its arrival.

I need not tell you what it will mean in high government circles in Mexico that action on the water treaty has been postponed. The Mexicans look upon the settlement of the agrarian claims and the petroleum expropriations as tremendous steps in our relationships. On frequent occasions, however, the highest officials of the Mexican Government have indicated to me that they consider the water treaty as far more important and fundamental, as showing the new character of the relationships between the two countries. The President and Dr. Padilla have used this negotiation of the water treaty as a very powerful weapon in their conversations with some of those in the government and in the country who are more doubtful concerning our good intentions, our sense of equity, et cetera. I think the President and Dr. Padilla, in view of their keen political sense, will be able to understand a good deal better than anyone else here, this action of the Senate Committee, but I am sure that popular opinion [Page 1369] here will not understand it, and there is no doubt that it weakens the position of the President and Dr. Padilla, who have been and are the champions of this full collaboration with us. I think we must look it squarely in the face that postponement of the action on the treaty, even though it is only until after the elections, is a serious blow to us here, and it is I think a serious blow to Dr. Padilla and to the Foreign Office, whose prestige in Mexico is so important to us. Those elements which have been attacking Dr. Padilla and, through him, the President, will use this postponement as proof that the policy of collaboration which Padilla and the President have given does not work.

I think I understand the reasons why the Senate Committee took this action, but I think it would be unwise if I did not state frankly that it is going to weaken our position here very much in the sense that it will weaken the position of the President and the Foreign Minister. I feel that if this treaty had been presented to the Senate now and properly presented by the friends of the Administration, it would have received the necessary approval. I am not in a position to make the balance between the internal factors concerned and the external factors, but I know what the external position is, and of that there is no doubt.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

If the Secretary feels that any possibility exists of the Senate Committee’s re-opening the matter and taking action before adjournment, I need not tell you again that I shall be very happy to come up and be helpful in any way that I can. I know so many of the Senators that I think I could give them a picture which might be helpful.

With all good wishes,

Cordially and faithfully yours,

G. S. Messersmith
  1. Not printed.
  2. Ezequiel Padilla, Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Joseph F. McGurk, Chief of the Division of Mexican Affairs.
  5. Letter dated May 9, not printed. In this letter President Roosevelt stated that due to lack of time for consideration before the close of the current session of Congress, the Foreign Relations Committee had postponed hearings on the treaty, but he promised that he and the Secretary of State would lend their influence to have the treaty considered by the Committee at the earliest opportune moment. (711.1210M/2767a)
  6. Herbert S. Bursley, Counselor of Embassy.