A Guide to the United States’ History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: Hesse


When the United States announced its independence from Great Britain in 1776, Hesse was a sovereign, independent state. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in Central Europe in 1806, the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt was elevated to the Grand Duchy of Hesse. The first act of mutual recognition between the two states occurred in 1829 with the accreditation of the first U.S. consul to Hesse, and relations between the two countries expanded through 1871. During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Hesse fought on the side of Austria, and in 1867 Hesse’s territories north of the Main River joined the North German Confederation, whose foreign policy was made and conducted out of Berlin. The entirety of the Grand Duchy of Hesse joined the German Empire in 1871. 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 with Imperial Germany were severed when the U.S. declared war in 1917.


Mutual Recognition, 1829.

The first known act of mutual recognition between the Grand Duchy of Hesse and the United States occurred on when the first U.S. Consul to Hesse (Hesse-Darndstadt), Frederick Kahl, presented his credentials in 1829. Kahl was appointed on May 14, 1829.

Consular Presence

Grand Duchy of Hesse, May 14, 1829.

The first U.S. Consulate to open in the Grand Duchy of Hesse was on May 14, 1829, which closed on August 29, 1872. There was a U.S. Consulate in Hessen-Romberg, which opened on January 23, 1854 and closed on August 15, 1861.

Diplomatic Relations

Expansion of Relations, 1868.

The relations between the United States and the Grand Duchy of Hesse continued to expand through the 1860s. On August 1, 1868, specially accredited U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary George Bancroft signed a naturalization treaty with Hesse. 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 Hesse. (See entry on German Unification.)

Cessation of Relations with Imperial Germany, 1917.

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 Hesse, as part of the German Empire. On April 6, 1917, Wilson declared war upon Imperial Germany.

Treaties and Agreements

Convention for the Mutual Abolition of the Droit d’Aubaine and Taxes on Emigration, 1844.

On March 26, 1844 the U.S. and the Grand Duchy of Hesse signed the Convention for the Mutual Abolition of the Droit d’Aubaine and Taxes on Emigration. This convention was signed in Berlin by U.S. Minister to Prussia Henry Wheaton and the Grand Duke of Hesse’s Minister to Prussia Baron Schaeffer Bernstein and served to remove “the restrictions which exist in their territories upon the acquisition and transfer of property by their respective citizens and subjects.”

Agreement on Naturalization, 1868.

When the northern part of Hesse joined the North German Confederation in 1867, it was subject to the laws and stipulations concerning immigration and naturalization that were agreed upon by the United States and the North German Confederation. To facilitate matters, the Grand Duchy of Hesse signed a similar document concerning immigration and naturalization. The agreement was signed in Darmstadt on August 1, 1868, by U.S. Minister to the North German Confederation George Bancroft and the president of the council of state for the Grand Duchy of Hesse Dr. Frederick Baron von Lindelof

Key Diplomatic Events

Hesse Joins the German Empire, 1871.

The Grand Duchy of Hesse was one of the founding states of the German Empire, which was proclaimed on January 18, 1871.

German Unification.

Hesse 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.


  • Charles I. Beavans, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776-1949, (Department of State: Washington, DC, 1971), Volume 8.
  • William M. Malloy, Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols, and Agreements Between The United States of American and Other Powers, 1776-1909 (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1910).
  • John Bassett Moore, A Digest of International Law (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1906).
  • John Bassett Moore, Four Phases of American Development (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1912).
  • James J. Sheehan, German History 1770-1866, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989).