Mr. Harrington to Mr. Seward.
Sir: Under date of 9th February last (my No. 50) I had the honor to submit in detail for your consideration the case of John Hürlimann, of Philadelphia, a minor claimant to certain moneys then in the hands of the authorities of Oberentfelden, canton of Aargau, as the property of His mother, deceased, the delivery of which had been refused on the ground that prior to her marriage the mother had not fulfilled the prerequisites of her cantonal laws, and therefore the marriage could not be recognized as legal, and as a consequence the claims of the boy, John, were barred by reason of his illegitimacy. The intervention of this legation was asked and the case was submitted for instructions.
Your No. 30, bearing date the 21st March, in reply, confirmed my decision as taken with the attorney for the claimant, viz: that under the 6th article of the treaty the question must be decided by the courts to which it had been referred. At the same time, it appeared to me, that the general tenor of your dispatch left it discretionary with me to present the subject to the government if such course should be deemed by me advisable, and hence in my No. 58 I remarked that it was not impossible that the subject might give rise to further correspondence.
Subsequently the attorney again addressed me and implored the action of this legation as the last and only hope for success. Upon reflection and after examining the question with some care, I determined to address the federal council, if not with the confident expectation of success in this particular case, at least with the hope of presenting it in such a manner as would enable me to touch with some effect indirectly upon the question of emigration.[Page 194]
I have now the honor to inclose a copy of my communication to the High Federal Council, as also of their decision, which, it gives me a pleasure to say, sustains the grounds assumed by me, that this case is covered by the treaty, and that as an American citizen, in the absence of other legal objections, the boy, John, being the legitimate child and heir of Anna Maria Hürlimann, née Suter, is entitled to recover the money at issue.
This decision settles certain principles that will hereafter have an important favorable bearing upon many of the numerous questions constantly arising between natives of the canton of Aargau—who become naturalized citizens of the United States—and the communal or cantonal authorities thereof, and, so far as I can learn, reverses the practice obtaining, until the present, in like cases.
I hope my action may be approved.
With greatest respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.