Mr. Seward to Mr. Marsh

No. 74.]

Sir: Your despatch of March 27 (No. 71) has been received. You request in it instructions upon the claim of Antonio Alajruo against the government of Italy for spoliation alleged to have been committed upon his property by the soldiers of the King of Naples during the siege of Palermo in the revolution of 1860, which resulted in the annexation of Sicily to the kingdom of Sardinia, and the consequent incorporation of the Two Sicilies [Page 1158] into the kingdom of Italy. The claimant invokes the authority of the United States in the prosecution of his claim.

The United States are at this moment engaged in suppressing a revolution which aims at nothing less than a dismemberment of the country and an overthrow of the government. The revolution solicits recognition and intervention on every side to insure the accomplishment of its destructive purpose. It is inconvenient, at such a juncture, to employ its authority in the prosecution of even just claims set up by meritorious citizens against friendly foreign powers. The government lies under no absolute obligation to any citizen to prosecute such claims, but it has a right to consult the public welfare, which is always paramount to the private interests of individual citizens. The reflection is a very obvious one, that in such a crisis a good and loyal citizen might be expected to be at home in the United States co-operating with his fellow-citizens in maintaining the government against domestic enemies, rather than to be residing abroad and invoking aid to prosecute claims of his own for redress of injuries which he may have suffered when domiciled amid the perils of a foreign revolution. Protection and support are reciprocal obligations. Mr. Antonio Alajruo seems to have scarcely conceived this truth. He came to the United States from Sicily, a minor, in 1852, and remained here until 1858, and was then naturalized; very soon thereafter he returned to his native country, remained there ever since, and has at no time manifested or indicated any purpose of returning to the United States to assume the obligations or to enjoy the privileges of American citizenship. The losses of which he complains were incurred in a revolution affecting the country in which he was born, and to which he had returned, apparently, at least, for a home for life. His claim is one of a class which the government of that country has admitted and made provision for. He has failed to obtain the benefit of that provision on grounds affecting the justice of the particular claim, and not its general character. Appeals from that decision to the equity of the government of Italy are as easy to him, personally, as they would be to the government of the United States, interfering in his behalf. The President excuses you from prosecuting the case, at least until it can be re-examined under more auspicious circumstances than those which now exist.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


George P. Marsh, Esq., &c., &c., &c., Turin.