Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the Third Session of the Fortieth Congress
Mr. Harrington to Mr. Seward.
Sir: On Friday, the 8th of May, I was informed of the arrest and imprisonment of one Charles Berry, a native of Basle, but asserted to be a naturalized citizen of the United States, under circumstances which, if true as asserted, appeared to demand my prompt intervention. It was the attorney of Mrs. Berry, then at Stuttgart, that made application to me at the suggestion of United States consul Klaupreeht, whose card he presented as an introduction.
Although he had with him no direct evidence of Mr. Berry’s naturalization as a citizen of the United States, such papers, he said, being in [Page 198]the possession of Mr. Berry when arrested, he submitted to me two commissions as second and first lieutenant in the New York volunteers, running in the name of Mr. Berry, with other papers in support of his assertions sufficient to justify preliminary action.
I directed him, therefore, to proceed at once to Basle, and confer with Mr. Consul Wolff, to whom I gave instructions to investigate the case, and ascertain if Mr. Berry was a naturalized citizen of the United States, and to report to me at the earliest moment practicable.
The report of Mr. Wolff reached me on Monday morning, the 11th, accompanied by an intimation that it was the probable intention of the Basle authorities to consign Mr. Berry to prison at hard labor.
I immediately addressed the high federal council, submitted to them the alleged facts, and requested it upon investigation they were substantiated, the prompt release of Mr. Berry, with an intimation that some indemnity would be demanded.
The high federal council evidently at once took action in the premises. Mr. Berry was released on Wednesday, the 13th, at 3 p. m., and the report of the Basle authorities in relation thereto was transmitted by the federal council to this legation under date of the 15th.
The Basle authorities, it will be seen, ignored the features of the case as submitted by me, and their report appeared to be in other respects of so unsatisfactory and deceptive a character as to induce me to institute an investigation, the result of which I embodied in my rejoinder of this day’s date.
These three communications, that is to say, my first dispatch to the federal council of the 11th May, their reply of the 15th, and my rejoinder of this date, embrace all the correspondence between this legation and the federal council in relation to this case, and with the report of Mr. Consul Wolff, and certain other papers, copies of all which are transmitted, will place you in possession of the full merits of the case.
I have learned unofficially from Mr. Wolff, and from other sources, that the parties to this arrest are in a state of alarm lest their proceedings should result in a claim for damages, of all other the most dreaded by the Swiss, and that the authorities of Basle, under the influence of doubt as to the effect of their acts and with a view of appeasing Mr. Berry, have promptly recognized him as an American citizen, have removed his trustee, and directed his fortune to be restored to him. In fact I have delayed my reply beyond the period required for my investigations, in order not to interrupt the favorable progress of the measures instituted, by Mr. Berry for the recovery of his rights.
When Mr. Berry was induced to emigrate to the United States to enlist in its army, however repugnant the idea may be, there is little doubt that it was the hope and expectation of his trustee that he would there find a grave, and thus his fortune actually in hand, as well as the larger amount that will eventually come to him from his mother’s estate, would thereby be saved to the other members of his family.
Mr. Berry disappointed his trustee. He not only lived, but lived down the slanders against him; he, however, seems to have committed in the mind of his trustee and family, an unpardonable offense by marrying, after placing himself under the protection of the United States, thus opening a door for the escape of his fortune even after his death.
It was unquestionably the purpose of his trustee to have had Mr. Berry consigned to a prison at hard labor, in the hope that the act would not have reached the ear of any effective friend; that his wife should be repudiated, and to attach to him permanently the disabilities of the criminal.[Page 199]
It will be observed that tile high federal council formerly announced that the naturalization of a Swiss in any other country does not co ipso change his Swiss character. I have briefly alluded to this, disclaiming however, as will be seen, any intention at this time to discuss the question.
It is proper to observe that naturalization as a federal question is subordinate to cantonal legislation.
It is now, however, beginning to occupy public attention, and will doubtless be brought before the National Assembly at its session of December. In the mean time it is my purpose to make it the subject of a special dispatch as soon as I can obtain the necessary detailed information as to the respective cantonal laws bearing upon the subject.
With greatest respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Mr. Harrington to the High Federal Council.
The undersigned, minister resident of the United States near the Swiss Confederation, begs leave to state to your excellency that it has been represented to him that one Charles Berry, born on the 23d of September, 1825, in Liestal, canton of Basle, some ten years since emigrated to America, served in the armies of the United States, and became a naturalized citizen of those States on the 27th December, 1865. Of all this the proofs are satisfactory.
In the year 1867 the said Berry returned to Europe with his wife, whom he married in the United States, and has since resided in Stuttgart, in Wurtermberg. In the month of April last past, he requested his trustee, Dr. Staehlin, of Basle, in charge of his property, to remit to him at Stuttgart his income to which he was entitled. In reply he was invited to come himself to Basle; Dr. Staehlin stating that he had some important business to talk over with him.
On the 24th of April he came to Basle, in accordance with said invitation, and repaired to the house of his trustee, whom he found absent. On the 25th he again called upon Dr. Staehlin, but instead of receiving his income was arrested and thrown into prison, where he is now, without, so far as the undersigned has been able to ascertain, having committed any breach of the peace, or any offense against the laws of the city of Basle, or of Switzerland.
Herewith will be found his certificate of birth, his certificate of naturalization, and his certificate of marriage.
The undersigned most respectfully prays the high federal council to cause the facts to be investigated at the earliest practicable moment, so that, if found to be herein correctly stated, Mr. Berry may be promptly released from confinement and a proper reparation made therefor by the authors thereof.
The undersigned seizes this occasion to renew to your excellency and the high federal council the assurances of his high consideration.
His Excellency Dr. I. Dubs, President of the Swiss Confederation.
The High Federal Council to Mr. Harrington.
Sir: On returning to the minister resident of the United of America the papers that came with his note of the 11th instant, relating to Charles Berry, of Basle, not of Liestal, the federal council sends to Mr. Harrington the report made on the subject by the government of the city of Basle, contained in a letter of the 13th of this month, as follows:
“Charles Berry is a man who has already given his parents much trouble: in 1859 [Page 200]they caused him to be interdicted by the orphans’ court, the proper tribunal, and a trustee appointed for him.
“On the proposal of this trustee, and Berry’s parents, to put him in prison at hard labor, in conformity with the city laws of Basle, the city council ordered an inquiry of the case to be made on the 22d of April last, charged the chief of police to examine Berry and to make a report on the case.
“As Berry had a bad reputation, and was accused of bigamy, the chief of police did not hesitate to arrest him on his arrival at Basle. The report having been made to the council, it was decided not to commit Berry to the workhouse, whatever foundation the charges against him might have. After this, Berry was immediately set at liberty. At the time this was done, the authorities did not know that Berry was an American citizen. Be as it may, he is still a citizen of Basle, and cannot renounce it, because he is under guardianship. His tutor and parents sued him as a citizen of Basle, and not as an American citizen; and if he wishes to renounce his Basle citizenship, as it seems he does, he must do it legally, as was done last autumn, in a similar case.”
To this report of the council of Basle, the federal council adds, that to prevent further disturbance Charles Berry must formally renounce his citizenship of the canton, by the laws of Basle, because the naturalization of a Swiss in another country cannot, ipso facto, annul his Swiss citizenship. But if Berry wishes to preserve his right as a citizen of Basle, he must submit to be treated like any other inhabitant of Basle.
The federal council embraces the occasion, &c., &c., &c.
Mr. Geo. Harrington, &c., &c., &c.
Mr. Harrington to the High Federal Council.
The undersigned, minister resident of the United States, has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s communication of the 15th of May, transmitting the report of the authorities of Basleville, relative to the recent arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Charles Berry, a naturalized citizen of the United States, to which the undersigned had the honor to invite the attention of the high federal council by his note of the 11th of May.
The undersigned regrets that he has been compelled thus to delay the acknowledgement of your excellency’s communication, and the expression of his gratification at the prompt release of Mr. Berry, by the otherwise unsatisfactory character of the report of the authorities of Basle, which compelled him to seek elsewhere for an explanation of the imprisonment of Mr. Berry, and for the causes of his arrest. He could not credit the assertion that this American citizen had been arrested with the avowed intention of incarcerating him, for an indefinite period, in a states prison at hard labor (maison de travail forcé) upon the mere request of a single individual of Basle. He was unwilling to believe that an act of so grave a character would have been committed without some alleged criminal offense on the part of Mr. Berry, or the commission of some misdemeanor that rendered him amenable to justice.
To that report, therefore, the undersigned feels compelled respectfully to ask the further attention of the high federal council, and he begs leave, at the same time, to submit for their information what he feels assured is now unknown to them, the facts and circumstances preceding and attending this arrest, which, in view of the ulterior questions not unlikely to arise in connection therewith, he considers should be at this time fully and clearly set forth.
It should be first stated that at the date when the measures hereinafter recited were conceived by the trustee of Mr. Berry, and matured between him and the authorities of Basle, Mr. Berry had been absent from Basle and from Switzerland for nearly seven years.
It becomes an important preliminary, therefore, to examine as to the exact status of Mr. Berry prior to his departure from Switzerland.
The first paragraph of the report declares, that at some period of his life (not stated) Mr Berry “caused a chagrin indicible to his family, and that in 1859, at their request, he was deprived of his civil rights, and his affairs placed in the hands of a trustee.”
What the act was that chagrined his family is not stated, nor is that omission important. It is sufficient that it was neither a crime nor punishable offense, and that it had, and could have had no connection with his recent arrest. It does not even follow, though stated in connection therewith, that it was of a character to cause or to justify the withdrawal of his civil rights, which the undersigned learns elsewhere was [Page 201]a necessary preliminary to the placing of his affairs in the hands of a trustee—a measure prompted by a fear, engendered by alleged extravagant habits, of a careless dissipation of his fortune, which it was the purpose of his family to prevent.
The chagrin indicible appears from the report to have been the only charge preferred against Mr. Berry prior to the year 1861, and, so far as the undersigned can ascertain from other sources, Mr. Berry, previous to that date, was obnoxious to no other or graver charge than habits of extravagance, which, it is assumed, is not an indictable offense.
In 1861, upon the solicitation of his trustee, and of his family, and with the money provided by them for that purpose, Mr. Berry emigrated to the United States. In thus emigrating with the full knowledge of his friends and at the request of his trustee and family, it may be claimed that he was no fugitive from justice; were it otherwise, had he been convicted or even accused of crime, or had he, as insinuated, borne such a character as to have been considered a dangerous member of society, and for that reason had been induced to emigrate to the United States, the parties thereto would have been guilty of an act of which that government would have just cause of complaint.
As, therefore, at the date of his solicited expatriation, Mr. Berry rested under no imputation of any act for which, under the laws of Basle, he could be arrested upon his return to that city, should he determine so to return, the undersigned begs leave to present a brief review of his honorable career subsequent to his departure from Switzerland, which, happily, is afforded by the official documents in his possession.
Mr. Berry arrived in New York early in September, 1861, and, in further accordance with the expressed wishes of his family and of his trustee, he immediately enlisted as a private in the armies of the United States, and was at an early date thereafter raised to the grade of sergeant. Continuing to serve with intelligence and fidelity, he was further promoted to the rank of commissioned officer, and received the appointment of 2d lieutenant, and subsequently that of 1st lieutenant. After the close of the war, that is, in June, 1865, Mr. Berry was mustered out of the service, having earned an honorable reputation, and as a gallant soldier and officer received in common with his comrades in arms the thanks of the Congress of the United States.
Having thus volunteered in defense of a government most seriously threatened, and given his best services for the suppression of an unholy rebellion, Mr. Berry determined to become a citizen of that country to which he had been encouraged to emigrate, and whose institutions he had for nearly four years, at the constant risk of his life, successfully endeavored to maintain, and in pursuance of that determination caused himself, in 1865, to be naturalized as a citizen of the United States, an act only to have been obtained at that time upon positive and satisfactory proof of honorable service in and discharge from the armies of that country.
Having returned to private life, and at the age of forty years become invested with the rights and privileges of an American citizen, Mr. Berry married and came with his wife to Europe, and adopted as his temporary place of residence the city of Stuttgart, in the kingdom of Wurtemberg, where at the date of his arrest he was quietly residing and maintaining himself in a respectable manner as a professor of languages.
It seems reasonable to suppose that this honorable record of Mr. Berry, which the undersigned has reason to believe was perfectly well known to his trustee and to his family, would have been sufficient to have insured for him a kindly reception, should he, in obedience to the natural dictates of his feelings, revisit his former home. Of that visit, of the manner in which it was brought about, and of its results, the undersigned is now enabled to inform your excellency.
Mr. Berry, as before stated, was not and had not been for several years a resident of Basle, and it was known to his trustee that, having become an American citizen, it was not his intention again to take up his residence therein. He was, however, temporarily residing in a near city, and it was possible, as it was necessary for the accomplishment of his purposes, for his trustee to devise some plan whereby Mr. Berry should be induced to leave his family and his professional pursuits, and voluntarily place himself within the jurisdiction of the police of Basle, of whose support and co-operation his trustee appeared to have no doubt.
The plan devised and successfully carried into execution was as follows:
Dr. Staehelin, who during the entire period of Mr. Berry’s absence from Switzerland had regularly remitted to him his income, determined to withhold arbitrarily a portion thereof, becoming due on the 30th March last, and consequently remitted to him but one hundred and fifty of the three hundred francs due on that day. Mr. Berry promptly acknowledged the receipt of one hundred and fifty francs, and at the same time demanded of his trustee the reason why the full amount due to him had not been remitted. The receipt and demand bore date the 2d of April, and was doubtless received by the trustee not later than the 4th of that month. On the 20th, evidently after his measures had been fully arranged with the authorities, they as declared in their report having given orders for the imprisonment of Berry on the 22d of April, Dr. Staehelin [Page 202]addressed a letter to Mr. Berry, of which the following is a copy in translation, (a copy in original being annexed:)
“Basle, April 20, 1868.
“With yours of the 2d instant, I received the receipt for the one hundred and fifty francs sent to you March 30. You wonder why I did not send three hundred francs, and you wish to know the reasons; I find your wish gratified, but as it would be too long to give you the reasons in writing, I invite you to come here in the course of this week, say Friday or Saturday, so that I may give you the explanations verbally, and in case your money should not suffice for the fare, &c., I send you herewith fifty francs.
“Beside this your future affairs require a minute discussion. Your late sojourn here was too short to have explained all the points of the question.
“As I am very busy and sometimes not at my office, I beg you to give me notice of the day and hour of your arrival here.
Mr. Berry replied to this letter on the 23d, and on Friday the 24th, the day indicated he repaired unsuspectingly to Basle and called upon his trustee. Dr. Staehelin, though advised of “the day and hour” of his coming, was not then to be found. Mr. Berry left his name, and stated that he would call again at a given hour the next day.
On Saturday the 25th he repeated his visit, when, instead of receiving the hundred and fifty francs, so unjustly withheld, and the reasons therefor, Mr. Berry was suddenly arrested and thrown into prison.
This simple narrative of the facts and circumstances attending this arrest is submitted to your excellency under the full conviction that its mere perusal will be sufficient to convince the high federal council that a most flagrant and serious outrage has been committed upon an American citizen without the shadow of legal justification, and that the means resorted to to bring it about were of so dishonorable and reprehensible a character as to admit of no palliation.
The authorities of Basle declare that “when the measures in regard to Mr. Berry were adopted, they were not aware that he had become an American citizen.” It is not improbable that the trustee of Mr. Berry may have withheld that information from the authorities; but it will not be claimed that they retained Mr. Berry in prison for the period of eighteen days in ignorance of so important a fact. In addition to the papers. in his possession at the moment of his arrest, proving his nationality, Mr. Berry at once declared himself to be an American citizen, and forthwith addressed a communication to his immediate representative, the consul of the United States resident in Basle, in which he again asserted his nationality, and requested his counsel and advice.
This letter the director of the police presumed to retain, and but for a subsequent written demand therefor by Mr. Consul Wolff, he would evidently have entirely suppressed. By this further impropriety on the part of the police director, Mr. Consul Wolff was kept in ignorance of the arrest of his fellow-countryman, and Mr. Berry was deprived of all counsel and assistance until the undersigned, through the agency of Mrs. Berry’s friends in Stuttgart, was informed of the arrest, and there by enabled to bring the case to the kind attention of the high federal council.
The authorities of Basle in their report preferred no charge against Mr. Berry, and declared the sole cause of his arrest and imprisonment to have been “the request of his trustee and family.” The undersigned, as before stated, hesitated to believe that so arbitrary and serious an act would have been committed without an alleged infraction of some law. He therefore instituted further inquiries with a view of solving his doubts in this respect, and learned that charges had been preferred against Mr. Berry, of which the following is a copy in translation:
1. For squandering his money.
2. For entering into an unlawful marriage.
3. With aversion to labor.
4. With unfitness for business.
And it was undoubtedly to these avowedly unsupported and in the opinion of the undersigned, with one exception, frivolous charges that the authorities of Basle referred in justification of their acts, when they declared that Mr. Berry, “being, among other things, accused of bigamy, and having generally borne a very bad character, the director of police hesitated the less to place him upon his return to Basle in a state of preventive arrest.”
The undersigned prays your excellency to observe that, whatever the charges may have been upon which the authorities of Basle assumed to arrest and imprison this American citizen, it is not claimed that the acts upon which they were based were committed upon the territory or within the jurisdiction of Basle. They must have been committed, if committed at all, as an American citizen upon the territory and within the jurisdiction of the United States. Whether therefore the above recited charges, if true, involve a violation of any statute law of Basle, it is not the purpose of the undersigned to discuss. He will, however, remark that the history of Mr. Berry for the last [Page 203]seven years—a history perfectly familiar to his trustee, the author of these charges— gives a most complete refutation to the first, third, and fourth charges. In relation to the second, which in the report is made to assume the grave form of bigamy. Mr. Berry is the bearer of a certificate proving that he had been duly and lawfully married within and according to the laws of the United States; and as no one charges him with having twice married, the charge of criminality, in whatever form presented, finds itself devoided of all legal support; and the existence and character of this certificate was also known to the trustee of Mr. Berry when he prepared and submitted the second charge to the authorities of Basle.
The authorities of Basle concluded their report by declaring that “the acts (proceedings) of the police director, having been presented to the government of Basle, they were convinced that there was no reason, at least for the present, to place Mr. Berry in a prison at hard labor, (maison de travail forcé,) however well founded may be the complaints against him; and they therefore decided that Mr. Berry should be forthwith liberated,” adding that “when the government of Basleville ordered the measures above indicated in regard to Mr. Berry, they were ignorant that he had become an American citizen, and that however that may be. he has not lost his citizenship of Basle and cannot renounce it while he is under trusteeship. It is against him as a Balois and not as an American that his trustee and family have complained, and if he would renounce his right of citizenship of Basle, as it appears he would do, he must do it in a legal manner.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
The allegation of those authorities that Mr. Berry cannot while under trusteeship renounce his right of citizenship, is apparently based upon the assumption that Mr. Berry cannot legally make any contract or perform any act affecting his personal rights and liberty without the assent and concurrence of his trustee, so long as such trusteeship exists.
When his trustee urged upon Mr. Berry to emigrate to the United States for the purpose of enlisting in their armies, he thereby relinquished, so far as they might otherwise have affected his transactions subsequent to his departure from Switzerland, all his rights of control over Mr. Berry, and when he authorized him to enter into contract with the government of the United States for an indefinite period, free from all restrictions and disabilities of trusteeship, he thereby acknowledged his competency to act for himself, and was thereafter estopped from all interference with his acts resulting from such emigration and enlistment. The record of Mr. Berry during his absence is full proof of his ability to take case of himself, and seems to have called in question the propriety of the original act by which he was deprived of his civil rights, inasmuch as the same authorities who at the “request of his family” placed over him a trustee, have, at his own request, removed that trustee and restored to him his fortune.
The undersigned assumes that it is known to your excellency and the high federal council, and doubtless to the authorities of Basle, that the government of the United States maintains as inherent in man the right to denationalize himself and to select at will the government under which he may desire thereafter to live. In furtherance of this principle their laws prescribe the forms and conditions under and by which foreign-born immigrants may become citizens, and invested with all the political rights and privileges, including therein the right of protection, that appertain to the native born, criminals and paupers as such being excepted; and the undersigned has for some time rented under the happy belief that this great principle was not only openly enunciated but practically enforced by the authorities of Basle, as shown in the recent case of Mr. Ostermann, whose extradition was successfully demanded of the authorities of France. If the undersigned has been rightly informed, the pleadings of the authorities of Basle in this case cover the precise grounds assumed by the United States in regard to their adopted citizens. Mr. Ostermann was a native of France, and had for a somewhat lengthened period inhabited Basle, during which time he caused himself to be naturalized as a citizen of Basleville, renouncing at the same time, as prescribed by their laws, his French allegiance; subsequently Mr. Ostermann failed in business and returned to his native country. His failure having been pronounced fraudulent, the authorities of Basle demanded his extradition under the provisions of treaty stipulations, upon the grounds of his being a citizen of Basle by virtue of his naturalization. This was successfully resisted in the lower court of France before which the case was brought, upon the plea that notwithstanding his naturalization in Basle, inasmuch as he had taken no steps in France to release himself from his French allegiance, his status as a French citizen had not been changed, and therefore as a Frenchman he was not subject to extradition as demanded by the Basle authorities. The higher court to which the case was appealed reversed the decision of the lower court, sustained the demand of the authorities of Basle, and remanded the accused to custody as subject to extradition.
Whatever may have been the final action of the French authorities, it would not have affected the sound principle set up by the Basle authorities, viz: That naturalization as a citizen of Basle, irrespective of any proceedings taken or not taken in his country of [Page 204]nativity, was sufficient to justify extradition in case of crime and flight, and as a necessary corollary protection from injustice and oppression from whatever quarter inflicted.
Such are the views, in brief, entertained by the government of the United States, and demanded by the people thereof to be firmly and undeviatingly maintained, a principle the justice of which is denied by few, while by most of the monarchical powers of Europe it has been or is about to be formally conceded.
It is therefore with infinite regret that the undersigned is obliged to conclude, from the report of the authorities of Basle, as well as from the declarations of the high federal council in their communication of the 15th May, that another antagonistic principle is enunciated from Switzerland, and those regrets he feels assured will be shared not only by his government but by the whole people of the United States, mingled with grave surprise that this truly republican principle finds no support in their sister and only republic of the Old World.
It is, however, not the intention of the undersigned at this time to discuss the question of naturalization, nor has it been his purpose in this communication to call in question the laws of Basle or to criticise their application to the citizens of that canton.
The case which demanded the intervention of this legation and has given rise to this correspondence involved the liberty of an American citizen, and the authorities of Basle attempt to justify their action in the premises. Their report was so faulty in its omissions of all reference to the main facts and circumstances of the case as to lead to an entire misapprehension of the questions involved. The undersigned deemed it his duty therefore to investigate the alleged causes of the arrest, and he believed it equally imperative upon him to lay before the high federal council the results of that investigation, which may be summed up as folloows: An American citizen, guiltless of all, criminal offenses, resident at the time and for several years previous beyond the limits of Switzerland, had been, by false pretences, inveigled into Basle for the purpose of being arrested with the avowed intention of incarcerating him for an indefinite period in a state prison at hard labor, (maison de travail forcé,) without the pretense of his having violated any public law, without summons, without trial, and refused the advice and assistance not only of his immediate representative, but of all other counsel, upon the mere request of a citizen of Basle, and for purposes entirely unavowed but evidently and necessarily personal and private.
While the undersigned does not call in question the asserted right on the part of the authorities of Basle thus to apply their laws to their own citizens, he feels it incumbent upon him most respectfully but earnestly to protest against any such application to an American citizen, and also against the further assumption of those authorities as indicated in the case under consideration, of their right to arrest and punish for acts committed, if committed at all, within the jurisdiction and upon the territory of the United States.
In submitting the narrative of the arrest of Mr. Berry for the information of the high federal council, in order to a just appreciation of the measures instituted against him by the authorities of Basle, the undersigned felt it to be his duty to express his dissent from those measures as well as from the principles upon which they were based. He feels assured that the high federal council will neither support acts so unjust in themselves, nor countenance unprovoked measures enforced in a manner calculated to wound the just sensibilities of the government and people of the United States.
The undersigned begs your excellency and the high federal council to accept the assurances of his most distinguished consideration.
His Excellency Dr. I. Dubs, President of the Swiss Confederation.
Mr. Harrington to Mr. Wolff.
Sir: The bearer of this comes to me in relation to a person who claims to be an American citizen now under arrest at Basle. He submits to me certain papers, viz., commissions as having served in the army, but has here no passport or other papers showing him to be an American citizen. These I am told the party in Basle has with him. I will thank you to see the person alleged to be under arrest, ascertain if he is an American, and if so, upon what charges he has been put in confinement. If your efforts fail to get him released, that is, if it is a case for interference, I will thank you to report all the facts to me, that I may take such steps as the case may seem to demand. The name of the man is Charles Berry. Ascertain his age and mental condition. I presume there will be no objection to the bearer going with you.
Very respectfully, &c.,
Mr. Consul Wolff to Mr. Harrington.
Sir: Your favor of the 8th was delivered to me yesterday by Dr. Hamlin, a lawyer of Stuttgart, in reference to the imprisonment of Charles Berry. It is the first information I have received that he is in prison.
After a consultation with Dr. Hamlin, who returned last night to Stuttgart, I told him that I was ready to assist Berry in any way I could, and he left at my office all the papers in connection with this case.
I went immediately to work and obtained the following information, viz:
Charles Berry, born on the 23d of September, 1825, in Liestal, canton of Basle, and emigrated to the United States about ten years ago; and before he left this country a guardian was appointed over him, to take care of his property, on account of his extravagance and squandering away his money.
Charles Berry had served in the United States army, was made a second lieutenant in the forty-fifth New York volunteers, on the 22d of February, 1863, (herewith his commission marked B,) and first lieutenant on May 29, 1863, (herewith his commission marked C.)
On the 23d day of October, 1865, he was married with Bertha Ulmer, by Henry Toclke, a Protestant clergyman; the certificate of marriage is legalized by the Swiss consul in New York, also herewith inclosed and marked D.
Charles Berry was made a citizen of the United States in New York on the 27th of December, 1865; certificate of naturalization inclosed and marked E.
He came from New York in the end of last year, went to Stuttgart, Wurtemberg, and was residing there with his wife; made his living as a teacher, and gave French lessons, &c.; besides, he received annually the interests from his capital under the care of his guardian, Dr. Staehlin, of Basle City.
In the month of April he requested his guardian to send him the interest due to him, and in reply he was invited to come to Basle himself, as he had some important business to talk over with him. (The letter of this invitation I expect in a few days, and will be forwarded to you in due time.)
On the 24th of April, 1868, Charles Berry arrived at Basle, and found Dr. Staehlin not at home. (See letter to his wife, herewith inclosed, and marked F.)
On the 25th of April he went again to Dr. Staehlin with the intention to receive the interest of his capital, &c., but was arrested and placed in prison. (See letter to his wife, herewith inclosed, and marked G.)
He was requested to come to Basle to receive his interest, and instead of that he was placed in prison at the request of his guardian and relatives, who have also petitioned the cantonal authorities of Basle City to put him in a work and correction house, and at present is awaiting his examination.
The reason for this is given in squandering away his money, being lazy and idle, besides entered into an unlawful matrimony.
I have not the slightest doubt that the authorities will send him to the house of correction, except the high federal council interferes in his favor immediately.
Charles Berry has a property valued at about thirty-five thousand francs; his relatives have a great interest in this; if children should be issued out of this marriage, of course the relatives would receive nothing. The relatives and guardian do not recognize his marriage, and they try to have him separated from his wife.
The question in law will be this: Have the cantonal authorities the right to keep up the Swiss guardianship after a person has become an American citizen? That right as an American citizen ought to release him from his guardianship, and from any other obligation towards his mother country.
This is a question of great importance, and, if it will be settled in favor of the United States; hundreds, now citizens of the United States, will be entitled to receive their property detained from them and now managed by a guardian.
Last night I saw the chief magistrate and told him that a complaint has been made against the authorities for imprisoning Charles Berry, an American citizen. He said, will you protest against it? I answered him that the case was in the hands of our minister and I could not interefere, but I had good reason to believe that the high federal council would communicate to them and have the question arranged and settled.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. G. Harrington, United States Minister, Berne.[Page 206]
Mr. Wolff, United States consul at Basle, to Mr. Harrington.
Sir: In addition to my letter of the 10th, I inclose herewith a translation of my letter to the burgomaster, marked A A.
On the 12th of May I went in the prison to see Berry, and was received by the police director.
In speaking of the imprisonment of Berry, I told the director of the police that Berry must be a curious kind of a fellow to be for fifteen days in prison without giving me any notice; to which the director replied as follows: “After he was about three hours in prison he presented to me a letter for you, (Wolff,) but I thought best to keep that letter.
From the director’s room I went in the prison, and had along conversation with Berry.
As soon as I reached my office I made a complaint against the director of the police in a letter to the burgomaster, of which I herewith give you a translation, marked B B.
The burgomaster answered that he had remonstrated against the action of the director of the police.
On the 13th of May, in the afternoon, at 3 o’clock, Berry was released, and is now a free man; he was eighteen days in prison—had committed no crime.
On the 14th I have taken depositions, and on the evening Charles Berry left for Stuttgart.
The guardian and relatives will not make any opposition in paying over his property; how the guardian court will act has to be seen. The demand to give up his property will be made immediately.
Charles Berry demands for his imprisonment reparation; that I leave entirely in your hands.
In my report of May 10th I said that the letter of Dr. Staehlin, in which Berry was invited, could be forwarded to you in a few days. I inclose you herewith the original letter, and marked E E.
If you have an answer from the federal council, I would thank you to send me a copy.
Hon. George Harrington, United States Minister, Berne.
Mr. Wolff to Charles F. Burkhardt, burgomaster of Basle City.
Sir: Pursuant to the conversation relative to the imprisonment of Charles Berry, I have herewith the honor to present you, viz:
1. Certificate of naturalization of Charles Berry as an American citizen.
2. Renunciation of his citizenship as a Swiss.
In case you should desire other papers, I can send for them to the American legation at Berne.
As Berry has committed no crime, I hope you will be induced to release him from prison.
With great respect,
Mr. Wolff to Charles F. Burkhardt burgomaster of Basle City.
Sir: In regard to the imprisonment of Charles Berry, I made the remark in my [Page 207]yesterday’s visit that I could not understand why Berry did not give me any information of his imprisonment.
To-day I paid him a visit, and before I saw him I was informed by the director of the police, Mr. Wirz, that Berry delivered to him, on the first day of his imprisonment, a letter for me, but he declined to allow the letter to be delivered to me.
I thought that even a criminal had the right to a legal adviser, and as Berry, to the best of my knowledge, has committed no crime, I find this action very remarkable, and doubt very much that this measure was recommended by the high authorities.
Berry was fifteen days in prison before I had any information of it, and this was given by a lawyer coming from Stuttgart.
As I was frank with you, without reserve, and informed you of every thing. I deem it also my duty to bring this fact to your knowledge.
With great respect,
Mr. Harrington to Mr. Klauprecht, United States consul at Stuttgart.
Sir: On Friday, the 8th instant, a gentleman presented himself at this legation bearing your card and stating that he came at your suggestion. He informed me that Mr. Berry, a native Swiss, but a naturalized citizen of the United States, who, with his wife, had been residing at Stuttgart for some time, was invited to Basle to receive in person certain moneys due him; that he went there and was immediately arrested and thrown into prison, and his wife desired the intervention of this legation in order to his release.
He submitted to me certain papers, among which were two commissions, one as second and one as first lieutenant in the New York volunteers, but there was no evidence that Berry had been naturalized as an American citizen. Those papers, he stated, were taken by Berry to Basle, which subsequently proved correct.
I directed this gentleman to go at once to Basle and gave him a note to our consul, Mr. Wolff, whom I requested to investigate the matter at once.
Upon Mr. Wolff’s report, received the following Monday, the 11th, I addressed the high federal council, and by their communication, received this morning, I am informed that Mr. Berry was released on Wednesday, the 13th, and I learn that on the following day Mr. Berry returned to Stuttgart.
I inclose herewith a translation of the report of the authorities of Basle upon this subject, and request you to see Mr. Berry, show him this report, and ascertain—
1. If he is the bearer of an American passport, and if not, why not?
2. If Mr. Berry served in our armies in any capacity before being commissioned as a lieutenant in the New York volunteers?
3. How long he served altogether, in what regiments, under what commanders, and where?
4. Whether he was discharged honorably, and when, and if he has his discharge with him? If yes, send me an official copy under your seal.
5. Ascertain the date when he emigrated to the United States, if he went there clandestinely, and whether there were any charges pending against him at that time.
6. What was the sorrow that he caused his family and prompted the authorities to appoint a guardian or trustee for him, and caused him to be deprived of his civil rights?
7. Is he rightfully charged with bigamy? Has he been previously married, and if yes, is his first wife living? When, where, and to whom was he previously married?
8. During his absence from Switzerland was his income regularly remitted or paid to him in any manner whatever? If not, why not?
9. When, and where, and in what manner was he last paid such income, prior to his recent visit to Basle? When he last went to Basle, what was the nature of his interview?
Also endeavor to obtain so much of his history as will enlighten me as to the grounds of his being charged with bearing a bad character, with any other information that you may be able to command that may be of interest.
Mr. Harrington to Mr. Wolff, United States consul, Basle.
Sir: I send you a copy of the reply of the federal council to my application for the release of Berry. You will see that the authorities of Basle speak of a “chagrin” that [Page 208]he once caused his family, declare that he is charged with bigamy, and that generally he bore a very bad character. These charges are general, not specific, except as to bigamy. Will you make such inquiries as will enable you to state when, and in what manner, he was charged with bigamy, and what act he committed that caused him to be placed under guardianship and deprived of his civil rights.
Will you obtain the letter that Berry wrote to you after being imprisoned. If given to you, mark upon it the hour you received it. But I prefer that you write to the police director for it, so as to get a written answer.
Mr. Consul Klauprecht to Mr. Harrington.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch of May 20th. In conformity with your request I have seen Mr. Berry, professor of languages, (Olga street, No 51,) for the purpose of obtaining all facts connected with the questions you have been pleased to address me, and which I shall now answer in the order of their succession.
1. Berry is not in possession of an American passport; Mr. De Luze, Swiss consul at New York, having assured him that his certificate of naturalization, visaed by the Swiss consulate, would fully answer the purposes of a passport, he did not apply to Washington. This certificate of American citizenship was issued on the 27th of December, 1865, by the district court of the city and county of New York, signed by Nath. Jarvis, jr., clerk. The number of the consul’s visa is 5569.
2. Berry enlisted in New York, and was appointed sergeant of the 45th regiment New York volunteers, (Colonel Ombberg,) on September 25th, 1861.
3. On June 30th, 1865, he was mustered out of service, having served as 2d and 1st lieutenant in the campaigns in Virginia and Tennessee, under Generals Howard, Sigel, and others.
4. Berry claims to have been honorably discharged, and said discharge paper to be in the hands of Chipman, Hosmer & Co., claim agents in Washington, in support of a claim for additional sergeant’s pay.
5. He emigrated to the United States in August, 1861, and landed at New York on September 4th following. He did not leave his native home clandestinely, but with the consent of his family. No charges had been pending against him at that time.
6. Berry confesses to have formerly belonged to the genus called “fast young men,” and, as a thoughtless spendthrift, to have committed many a foolish but no bad act. But he pretends to be fully reformed, and furthermore, that nothing but avarice from the side of his sisters and brothers-in-law, the desire to get possession of his paternal estate, were cause of that plot depriving him of his civil independence and appointing a guardian for him, “More sinned against than sinning.”
7. He was never before charged with bigamy, and not previously married. The charge of bigamy was first brought forth against his wife by Mr. Staehlin, his trustee, in support of his endeavor to nullify his marriage. Mrs. Berry is a native of the county of Ludwigsburg; her family name is Ulmer. She was previously married in New York to one P. Brown, living at present at Norfolk, Va.
8. During his absence from Switzerland his income was regularly remitted and paid him in monthly rates by Henry Burgy, esq., Swiss banker in New York.
9. Said income was last paid at Stuttgart for the first quarter of this year. When last at Basle he received 250 francs by Mr. Staehlin. He went to Basle, Berry says, on the written request of his trustee. On his arrival he was imprisoned on the following charges: 1st, for aversion to labor; 2d, for unfitness for business; 3d, for want of military employment.
I learn that his conduct while here was blameless, and that his monthly income by his lessons amounted to eighty florins.
Being remote from the sphere of his former life, I can of course give only such details as I learn from Berry himself, and from his lawyer, Mr. Hamlin. A more reliable and extended statement concerning the antecedents of the party in question our consul at Basle might submit to you. The report of the authorities of Basle, which I showed him in pursuance of your request, Berry pronounces false in some particulars, as before said.
I have, sir, the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Mr. Wolff to Mr. Harrington.
Dear Sir: On May 22d, I asked the burgomaster for Berry’s letter, kept by the police director and not delivered to me.
On the 23d, I received an answer that the letter in question was in the hands of the police director, and I was referred to him.
On May the 25th, I requested the police director for that letter.
To-day, at 4 o’clock, the letter of Berry was delivered to me; I inclose you herewith the original. By this letter you will see that he claims to be an American citizen, and refers to his naturalization papers.
Very respectfully, &c.,
Mr. Berry to Mr. Wolff, United States consul, Basle.
Honored Sir: I have to apply to you. My trustee, Dr. Staehlin, has had me arrested and put into prison to-day, intending to keep me here until the city council shall make a further decision.
Being a naturalized citizen of the United States, as you know already by papers exhibited to you, I should like very much to see you to discuss the matter over with you, and hope that you comply with my wishes.
Very respectfully, &c.,
N. B.—Received from the police director on the 29th of May, 1868.
- B B.↩