125.61383/202: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Mexico (Summerlin)

2319. Your 3311, November 26, 4 P.M., Jenkins’ case.

You are instructed to make immediate reply to the note of the Mexican Government, dated November 26, 1919, textually in the following language:

I have not failed to transmit to my Government the note of the Mexican Government dated November 26, 1919, with reference to the case of William O. Jenkins, American Consular Agent, at Puebla, and I am now in receipt of a reply from the Government of the United States which I am instructed immediately to transmit to you.

The Government of the United States declines to be drawn into a juridical discussion of irrelevant matters or unimportant incidents brought forward in connection with this case. The Mexican Government can not be misled, as it intimates, by the citation by the United States of “no principle or precedent of international law, and not even a reason” for Jenkins’ release; for obviously no such citation is necessary for the enlightenment of a government of the present day. The Mexican Government believes, and rightly so, that the American request for Jenkins’ release is not based on “solely the strength of the country which makes it”; for it knows [Page 587] the request is founded on the justice of the right of an American citizen and United States Consular Officer to fair treatment while residing and discharging his duties within Mexican jurisdiction with the knowledge and approval of the Mexican Government. The Mexican Government may contend that the imprisonment of the victim is necessary for the investigation by a judge under the “constant vigilance of public opinion” of the truth regarding his abduction and that a right of release on bail is a palliative for such wrongful imprisonment, but the United States is constrained to the opinion that such arguments are mere excuses. The Government of the United States invites and desires the fullest possible examination and investigation of this case, but it cannot admit that it is necessary in order to ascertain the facts that Mr. Jenkins should be retained in prison even with the privilege of applying for bail. My Government will not and is satisfied that Mr. Jenkins will not place any obstacle in the way of a complete and full examination of himself or his witnesses, or of the events leading up to and connected with his abduction. The Mexican Government prefers to attribute the American note to an imperfect knowledge of the Mexican penal laws and proceeds to explain with refinement the intricacies of Mexican penal proceedings. But the Government of the United States fails to discern in their application to this case at the hands of Mexican authorities any approximation to impartial treatment of Jenkins, and the Mexican Government knows the absence of such treatment is the reason for the American request.

The Mexican Government maintains that it cannot grant the request of the United States for Jenkins’ release for the reason that under international law no diplomatic intervention is appropriate unless a denial of justice has occurred and because the Mexican Government is not in a position to demand Jenkins’ release in view of the separation of the executive and judicial powers under the Mexican form of Government and the independence of the State Courts, by one of which Jenkins is held. The succinct answer to this contention is, as everyone knows, that a denial of justice has already taken place, and also because the Mexican Constitution specifically gives the Federal tribunals jurisdiction of “all cases concerning diplomatic agents and consular officers”.

The United States is not to be driven by such subtle arguments into a defense of its request for the release of Mr. Jenkins. It is for Mexico to show cause for his detention, not for the United States to plead for his liberation. Stripped of extraneous matter, with which the Mexican note of November 26, endeavors to clothe it, the naked case of Jenkins stands forth: Jenkins, a United States Consular Agent, accredited to the Government of Mexico is imprisoned for “rendering false judicial testimony,” in connection with the abduction of which he was the victim. This is the substance of the Mexican note.

My Government is pleased to learn that the imprisonment of Jenkins stands on this single, and well-defined ground, and that the reported statement that Mexican authorities had caused the imprisonment of Jenkins because of collusion with his abductors and rebellion against the State are not seriously regarded by your Government.

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In whose interest then is the charge of false swearing brought against Jenkins? His abductors? He is in equity the complainant in the case of his abduction, not the defendant, as the Mexican Government now makes him out to be. The Mexican Government is prosecuting the victim instead of the perpetrators of the crime. While the outlaws, who endangered his life and took away a large part of his fortune, enjoy their freedom, the Mexican authorities now deprive Jenkins of his liberty. Moreover, the ground expressed for the imprisonment of Jenkins, namely, that he is supposed “to be responsible for the crime of rendering false judicial testimony” must be taken—and my Government directs special attention to this point—as merely an expression of opinion on the part of the Mexican Government as it is entirely unsupported by evidence. There is not produced any of the testimony rendered by him, or any extracts from such testimony tending to show the correctness of this opinion. The Mexican Government can not expect the United States to accept in the grave circumstances of this case such a bare unsupported statement as a valid excuse for the imprisonment of an American Consular Officer, particularly in view of the fact that the investigation of the case by the representatives of the United States in Mexico, so far as it has proceeded, fails utterly to support this opinion of your Government. On the contrary the investigation gives the Government of the United States every reason to believe that Mr. Jenkins has not knowingly given any false testimony in respect of vital points in his case, although he has been harassed by Mexican authorities to give such testimony, even while lying in the hospital too weak and exhausted to make them as a result of his treatment by the abductors, and while he knew evidence was being obtained against him through intimidation of witnesses. So stands the single, unsupported, and my Government believes utterly unfounded, ground alleged for Jenkins’ imprisonment.

What conclusion is to be drawn from such a reply of the Mexican Government, other than there has been a studied effort on the part of Mexican authorities to ensnare Jenkins in the intricacies of legal proceedings by alleging the commission of technical offenses, and by bringing unsupported charges against him, for a purpose: in the first place, to divert the attention of the American public and the American Government, and indeed of Mexicans themselves, from the actual situation, namely that Puebla, the capital of the State of Puebla, and perhaps the second largest city in Mexico, is without adequate protection from outlaws who infest the immediate neighborhood and who were accustomed openly and freely to visit the city without hindrance, that by the failure to furnish adequate protection in this district the Mexican authorities have, through their negligence, made possible the abduction of Jenkins, and that in harmony with such an attitude on the part of the Mexican authorities they have failed to carry out the duty and obligation incumbent upon them to apprehend and punish the bandits concerned in the crime of which Jenkins was the victim. And in the second place it appears to have been the purpose of the Mexican Government to assume a wilful indifference to the feelings of the American people that have been aroused to the point of indignation by the exposure, hardships, and physical suffering endured by [Page 589] Jenkins during his abduction and his subsequent treatment at the hands of Mexican authorities.

In view of the considerations which have been set forth and in view particularly of the belief of my Government that the charge against Jenkins of deliberate false swearing is unfounded, the Government of the United States must renew its request for the immediate release of Consular Agent Jenkins from further imprisonment.

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