When the United States announced its independence from Great Britain in 1776, Württemberg was a sovereign, independent state. It was raised to the status of kingdom by Napoleon (1806) during the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century. The 1819 constitution created a bicameral legislature. The first act of mutual recognition between the United States and the Kingdom of Württemberg occurred in 1825, and relations between the two countries expanded through 1871 when the Kingdom of Württemberg joined the German Empire at the close of the Franco-Prussian War. From this point forward, foreign policy of the German Empire was made in Berlin, with the German Kaiser (who was also the King of Prussia) accrediting ambassadors of foreign nations. Relations were severed when the U.S. declared war upon Imperial Germany in 1917.
The first known act of mutual recognition between the United States and the Kingdom of Württemberg occurred on November 21, 1825, when U.S. Secretary of State Henry Clay granted an exequatur to Christian Mayer Esq. to serve as Consul General for the Kingdom of Württemberg at Baltimore.
The first U.S. consulate opened in Württemberg on October 13, 1842, and closed on March 3, 1843. The U.S. later opened a consulate in Stuttgart on March 3, 1847, which closed in September 1985.
The relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Württemberg continued to expand through the 1860s. On July 27, 1868, specially accredited U.S. Minister to the Kingdom of Württemberg George Bancroft signed a naturalization treaty with the Kingdom of Württemberg. At the time, Bancroft was also accredited to Prussia and the North German Confederation and, after 1871, to the German Empire. Yet, although Bancroft was recalled from his position in Berlin in 1874 (at his own request), he was never officially recalled from the court of Württemberg. Years after his 1891 death, Bancroft remained listed as the official diplomatic representative of the U.S. in Württemberg. See entry on German Unification.
On February 3, 1917, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson instructed the Secretary of State to notify the German Ambassador to the United States that all diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the German Empire were severed. As the foreign affairs of Imperial Germany were run out of Berlin and decided upon by the Kaiser, this constituted the severance of relations with Württemberg, as part of the German Empire. On April 6, 1917, Wilson declared war upon Imperial Germany.
On April 10, 1844, the Convention Abolishing Droit D’Aubaine and Taxes on Emigration was signed by U.S. Minister to Prussia Henry Wheaton and Württemberg’s Chargé d’Affaires to Prussia Baron de Maucler. Droit d’aubaine was when a state would confiscate all territory and possessions, moveable or immoveable, of the deceased rather than the deceased heirs receiving the property.
This declaration, dated October 13 and proclaimed December 27, 1853, was the accession of the Kingdom of Württemberg into the agreement made between the United States and Prussia for the provision of the extradition of criminals in 1852. At the time that the convention was negotiated, it was deemed that any state of the German Confederation who wished to enter into the convention might do so.
On July 27, 1868, U.S. Minister to Württemberg George Bancroft and Württemberg’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Charles Baron Varnbüler signed a convention to regulate citizenship between those who emigrated from the United States to Württemberg and vice versa.
The Kingdom of Württemberg was one of the founding states of the German Empire, which was proclaimed on January 18, 1871.
Württemberg was one of the states involved in the process of German unification during the mid-nineteenth century. See “Unification of German States” for greater detail.
In the 1850s there was little serious trade between the United States and Württemberg. As with all of the German states that the United States had treaties with, after Württemberg joined the Second Reich in 1871 there were questions as to whether U.S. officials abided by treaties concluded with Württemberg or with Prussia in dealing with issues of trade, citizenship, or extradition. It was decided that a variety of different circumstances would guide U.S. foreign policy towards German states. First,
“where a State has lost its separate existence, as in the case of Hanover and Nassau, no questions can arise.”
“where no treaty has been negotiated with the Empire, the treaties with the various States which have preserved a separate existence have been resorted to.”
Despite the Constitution of the German Empire of 1871, which stipulated that the Empire was responsible for treaties, alliances, and representing the Empire amongst nations, the smaller states still retained the right of legation. This included the right to legislate, to grant exequators to foreign consuls in their territories (though not to send German consuls abroad), and to enter into conventions with foreign nations as long as they did not concern matters already within the jurisdiction of the Empire or the Emperor.