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United States Department of State / Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States with the address of the president to Congress December 2, 1913

Honduras,   pp. 590-607 PDF (6.2 MB)

Page 605

 HONDURAS. * 605 
 Finally, in article 9 of the said agreement of March 17~ 1909, it is expressly
stated that " the contracts annulled " are considered " cancelled and without
any value," among which is the contract of August 20, 1007, providing for
the extension of time. So that, even admitting, which cannot be done, that
the said extension of time might be valid without approval by Congress, which
is unconstitutional, it would nevertheless be at the present time cancelled
and w~ thout any value, according to the agreement of annulment aforesaid.
 The National Congress of the Republic so understood the matter at the time
of issuing, on February 5, 1912, its Decree No. 28, in which it was declared:
"Considering that the above-mentioned contracts are known to the Congress
to he already annulled by the parties thereto"; and in the disposing clause
it says: "Article 1. It is declared that the National Congress can not recognize
the said contracts in their present state." 
 From the foregoing the following conclusions are arrived at: 
 (a) The contract for the construction and exploitation of the wharf at Puerto
Cortés terminated in accordance with the meaning of article 9 thereof
on March 
24, 1908: the date of completion of the twelve years approved by the National
Congress, counting from the time that it began to be in force. 
 (b) Said contract has not been extended, because the concession of extension
of August 20, 1907, was never approved by Congress, like the original contract
of March 2, 1896, and that of March 24, 1896. 
 (c) Even if it were possible to accept the existence of an extension of
the contract of 1896, through the concession of August 20, 1907, this extension
was cancelled and deprived of all value by the agreement of March 17, 1909.
 (d) In view of the status of the matter, Messrs. Valentine and Scott have
no rights other than those expressedin article 9 of the contract of 1896,
according to which the Government either takes from them the wharf and pays
for it according to a fair valuation by experts, or allows them to dispose
of it as they wish. 
It w-as in view of these facts that the instructions were given to the Colhector
of the Port at Puerto Cortés. 
A legal Government having now been organized in Honduras, its first duty
has been and is to reorganize the public adnilnistration from every point
of view. Finding that because of unjustifiable leniency in the first place,
and because of the country's abnormal condition in the second place, the
concessionnaires continued to avail themselves of the concession although
the agreement for the continuation of the cOntract to construct and exploit
the wharf at Puerto Cortés had expired March 24, 1908, the Government
decided, in accoidance with the aforesaid article [9], to buy the wharf,
paying its v~lue according to the just valuation of experts, which decision
the Government communicated to Mr. Valentine by means of the Collector of
the Port at Puerto CortOs. The answer of Mr. Valentine was that be preferred
to continue to exploit the wharf himself, for the benefit, as be said, of
the Government and of commerce. 
As it was not the intention of the Government to allow the ex-concess1oniiaires
to sele~t what might best suit their own interests, but to protect those
of the Republic, complying with those stipulations of the contract of 1896
relating to its expiration, new instructions were given to the said Collector
to request Mr. Valentine to decide whether or not he desired to sell the
wharf, appointing, in case he desired to sell, an expert appraiser who in
his behalf should make the valuation in order to fix the sale price, and
granting him a term of twenty days for this decision. 
The conduct of the Government of Hondura~ has therefore been entirely in
accordance with the explicit terms of the con'tract of 1896, annulled by
that of March 17, 1909, and in accordance with justice and right, which form
the guiding principle of its operations; and in setting forth the prece~ing
details it confidently hopes that the Government of the United States, whose
upright and just standard it is pleased to recognize, will see, in view of
the authentic documents which are herewith enclosed, the right of the Government
o~ i-Iondurasto proceed as it has proceeded, returning to the public treasury
an income that properly belongs to it, at the same time respecting the interest
of the oxconcessloanaires of the wharf provided for in the said article 9
of the contract of March 2, 1896, appioved by the National Congress March
24, 1896, by buying the wharf in accordance with the just valuation of experts
if the ex-concessionnaires so desire or allowing them to dispose of it according
to their wis., de 

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