No. 237.
Mr. Marsh to Mr. Fish.

No. 436.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy and translation of the reply of the minister of foreign affairs to my note of January 7, 1873, to that ministry, reported in my dispatch No. 434, dated January 9, 1873.

The minister of the interior has published in the official Gazette, and in other Italian journals, a circular addressed to the prefects of the different provinces of the kingdom, prescribing the observance of certain regulations respecting emigration. The instrument is too long for convenient translation and transmission by post in a written form, and I inclose instead a French translation, which I suppose to be official, as printed in the Italic, a French newspaper published at Rome.

I have, &c.,


Viscount Venosta to Mr. Marsh.

Mr. Minister: In your note of the 7th instant you did me the honor to call the attention of His Majesty’s government to the fact that Italian emigrants to a considerable number had disembarked at New York destitute of almost every means of subsistence, and that they are now a charge upon the public charity.

You added that this unusual number seems to be owing to the artifices of emigration agents in this kingdom, who, in order to create a source of profit, pretend that the United States offer the prospect of good employment, which is, on the contrary, especially difficult to obtain during the winter season. You then propose to correct this erroneous impression by means of notices to that effect in the most widely-circulated journals of this kingdom.

The liberal legislation in vigor in this country in every branch of the public service forbade and forbids the government of His Majesty to interfere with the matter of emigration beyond putting down fraud which might take place and obliging observance of the ordinary police regulations. We shall not fail in our duty in the present emergency. The careful reports of the royal consul-general at New York and of the royal minister at Washington had already put us in the position to institute a strict investigation of these facts, and to provide that the warning of what has taken place, properly spread among the population, might act as a restraint upon unwise emigration. [Page 520] In any case, however, the royal government is very grateful to you for having contributed, by having published in the papers the notice I have since seen, to check an evil we sincerely deplore without the power to apply a radical remedy.

For the very reason that it is so manifestly our interest that arms already so needed should not be taken away from agriculture and national industries, the warning of the sufferings to which emigrants expose themselves would be much more efficacious proceeding from your legation than from the Italian authorities.

Regarding the burden imposed by this exceptional injunction upon the federal institution for the protection of emigrants, and upon the charity of the citizens of New York, I am happy to note that, according to a recent report of the royal consul-general, of the 1,500 emigrants who landed there during the past week, there remained at the date of the 23d of December to the charge of the commissioners of Castle Garden only a hundred at the most, the others living on their resources and with the assistance of their compatriots, or else having already found work, either in the city of New York itself or in the State of Virginia, where two hundred and fifty were sent at the expense of a generous Italian.

I avail myself, Mr. Minister, of this occasion to renew to you the assurance of my high consideration.


The official Gazette publishes the following circular from the minister of the interior to the prefects of the kingdom in relation to emigration to America:

Rome, January 18, 1873.

The reprehensible speculation which consists in promoting, from interested motives, the emigration of citizens, to South America particularly, has been for some time daily increasing. A large number of agents travel through those provinces especially where the agricultural population is the poorest and most ignorant, for the purpose of prevailing upon this class to leave their native country, flattering them with the hope of making speedy fortunes in the New World.

Many families in the country, led astray by these deceitful promises, sell their furniture, and even a portion of their clothing, in order to pay the price of their passage to speculators, who pen them up on board of vessels almost like so many cattle, and ship them to America, provided they do not abandon them in some intermediate port. There these unfortunates fall into the hands of other speculators, who, after having advanced some paltry sums to them, reimburse themselves by depriving them entirely of their liberty, leaving them at last in abject poverty. Such is, in general, the sad condition of the majority of our emigrants, and until a succession of painful tidings from abroad, and tales of suffering related by returned emigrants, shall have dissipated in the minds of the peasants the illusions which adroit charlatans have awakened there, the victims of this culpable speculation will be but too numerous.

Our consuls have sent accounts to the government of the deplorable situation of thousands of Italians who thus abandon their country, and it is the duty of the government to use all the means in its power to put a stop to this immoral traffic of the agents and to this illegal emigration.

Everything renders it incumbent upon the government to adopt energetic measures. In the first place, the law, which must be respected, fraud, which must be punished, and, moreover, the commiseration which should be felt for a class of citizens who are truly unfortunate, the maintenance of the decorum of the country, the demands of public opinion, and, finally, the serious embarrassments caused to our consular officers by the protection of poor, abandoned, victimized emigrants, and the large expenses which the government is obliged to incur in succoring them and bringing them home again.

The minister, therefore, addresses the prefects, and recommends them to give precise and rigorous instructions to prevent, and, if necessary, furnish information to the proper authorities concerning the immoral speculation of agents and the illegal emigration brought about by them; likewise, to endeavor to keep legal emigration within proper bounds. The following rules should be taken as a basis:

Require the provisions of article 64 of the law concerning the public safety, and of articles 74, 75, 76, and 77 of the regulations, to be applied with firmness to emigration agents; and order the mention of operations having for their object the shipment of emigrants to be stricken from the table of operations prescribed by the aforesaid article 76.
Cause correspondents and emissaries of foreign agencies to be watched, in order that information of their proceedings may be lodged with the proper authorities, if it appears that they favor illicit emigration or the escape of mutinous persons and deserters, by furnishing the means of embarking to young men still liable to conscription, or to soldiers who have not received a full discharge.
Enjoin upon the officers to whose care the public safety is intrusted in sea-ports to watch emigration carefully, and to inform the judicial authorities of any instance of a captain’s taking any person on board of his vessel who has no passport, in violation of the provisions of article 130 of the special law in relation to the merchant marine, sanctioned by the royal patents of January 13, 1827, and promulgated throughout the kingdom by a royal decree dated December 22, 1861.
Enjoin upon syndics, especially those of the communes whence the emigration is largest, to dissuade persons under their jurisdiction from the idea of expatriating themselves, by causing them to see what a risk they run of falling into the hands of greedy speculators in localities remote from cities, where they will probably remain exposed to annoyances from the natives, while it will be impossible to give them the aid and protection of which they stand in need.
Order the syndics themselves, when they do not succeed in causing those under their jurisdiction to abandon the idea of emigrating, to refuse a permit to young men who have not as yet satisfied the demands of the conscription; to soldiers whose discharge is not final; to those who, by reason of any physical or moral imperfection, are unable to perform sufficiently productive labor; and, finally, to those who are unable to prove that they have the necessary resources for the passage, and to provide for their own subsistence during the time which is presumed to be necessary, and which is always pretty long, to find work in the country to which they intend to go, and who cannot present a responsible person who will pledge himself, in writing, to pay the homeward passage if necessary.
Order sub-prefects and officers having charge of the public safety strictly to observe the provisions now in force when they deliver passports to emigrants, and especially the following provisions:
Article 2 of the royal decree of November 13, 1857, and the circulars of April 27, November 20, 1866, and May 28, 1870, numbers 29631, 28807, and 12850–12, which order that passports shall be carefully worded, that each person shall be clearly and accurately described therein, that the signature of the applicant shall be required; this is to be done in order to prevent passports from being furnished to improper parties.
Article 4 of the royal decree aforesaid, and article 4 of the instructions, which only exempt applicants from the obligation of taking out their passports in person for very weighty reasons.
Article 10 of the royal decree already referred to, and the corresponding articles of the instructions; also the circulars of September 4, 1860, August 21 and November 1, 1861, June 24, 1862, August 27, 1869, and December 26, 1871, numbers 61, 59, 81, 60, 3113, and 11900–18, which provide that no passports shall be issued to persons not having sufficient means.
Article 29 of the regulations for the merchant marine, dated January 7, 1827, and article 12 of the royal brevet of September 17, 1842, published by the royal decree of December 22, 1861, and again ordered to be executed by the circular of January 16, 1863, No. 34, according to which passports are not to be issued to seamen without the consent of the maritime authorities; and no passports are to be delivered to young men who have not yet satisfied the obligations of the conscription, unless the moral certainty exists that they do not entertain the culpable design of escaping from military service, but that they are, on the contrary, ready to return to their country at the first call.
Give orders to the corps of royal carabineers, and to the officers in charge of the public safety, in ports of shipment and on the routes leading to the frontier, to prevent the departure of emigrants who have no passport, and of those having a passport not properly belonging to them personally, or one which is irregular or has been irregularly obtained.
Give orders to the officers having charge of the public safety to adopt, as regards emigrants whose departure has been prevented, the measures prescribed by article 65 of the law of March 20, 1865, sending them back to their homes with a compulsory way-bill, even causing them, when necessary, to be accompanied by a portion of the public force. It would even be proper for prefects to endeavor to have published in the local newspapers the articles and letters relative to the situation of Italian emigrants, to the end that the sad experience of so many who have already left their country may confirm the counsels of the authorities, and dissuade our fellow-citizens from emigration, especially those who have not the necessary means.

The minister hopes that it will, in this manner, become possible to repress the baleful industry of emigration agents, and that, by enlightening the citizens with regard to the dangers to which they expose themselves by their blind faith in the fallacious promises of rapacious speculators, the authorities will put a stop to their increasing disposition to abandon the country of their birth.

Prefects will have this circular inserted in the bulletin of the prefecture, transmit two copies thereof to sub-prefects and questors, one to each district-commissioner, inspector, and delegate, as likewise to each chief of bureau, and acknowledge receipt.