Baron Lederer to Mr. Fish.
Washington, D. C. , June 16, 1874. (Received June 24.)
Mr. Secretary of State: The desire has now been manifested for some time, and in various quarters, again to examine the question where and under what conditions certain epidemics arise and spread, which, like the Asiatic cholera, have not ceased for several years past to desolate [Page 35] the world by their ravages and to impede by their perturbations the development of international relations. Importance has been attached in this connection to the necessity of generally adopting the most suitable remedies, in order to preserve mankind from the attacks of this scourge and of making known new preventive measures which are recommended by experience. The need has been felt at the same time of the adoption by the countries interested of obligatory arrangements, having for their object the introduction of perfect conformity in the measures to be taken in order to guard against this common danger; the need has also been felt of concentrating and thereby strengthening the means of guarding against the inroads of these maladies and of removing not only the confusion which has gradually invaded the domain of the hygienic principles which prevail in regard to these epidemics, and to the barriers which are erected against them, but also their causes, which but too often create disturbances in commercial transactions.
The continual development of commercial relations among the different countries, and the variety of means of communication whereby commerce is carried on, daily prove the advantage, the utility, nay, even the necessity of adopting identical rules for the government of these relations, and of sanctioning the same by international conventions. Long experience shows the advantage of such arrangements. If the free exercise of territorial sovereignty is in a manner restricted by conventions of this kind, it cannot be doubted that the advantage which each country will derive therefrom will be far more than sufficient to counterbalance this inconvenience, which is only apparent. Practice shows, moreover, the great disadvantages which result, for instance, in the domain of public hygiene, from the divergence of the principles according to which it is sought to arrest, in the various countries, the general epidemics which are propagated from one country to another, under the tutelage, so to speak, of these principles. This truth has, since 1866, been recognized by the governments which were represented at the international sanitary conference held at Constantinople, to which were assigned for examination questions similar to those which the imperial and royal government proposes to solve, an object analogous to that which the said government desires to attain. Men of science, of high standing and ability, did not hesitate, during the deliberations of said conference, to proclaim the very views which the imperial and royal government now seeks to promote. The conclusions reached by that conference were highly valuable, and possess perhaps but one defect, that of never having been put into practice. The point then, is to-day, in this order of ideas, to revise, to a certain extent at least, the deliberations held and the decisions reached at Constantinople, to verify and complete them by the ideas and the experience which have been acquired, and, above all, to secure their enforcement and to this effect, to provide for an international sanitary convention which shall satisfy all the demands of the present situation, and at which all the countries interested shall be represented.
The imperial and royal government has thought that it ought not to be indifferent to these demands, which have quite recently been urgently renewed, as is shown by the resolutions of the third international medical congress, which met at Vienna last year. Induced by these considerations, it has addressed the powers interested for the purpose of inquiring whether they are disposed to send delegates to an international sanitary conference, to be held at Vienna, for the purpose of deliberating and deciding upon certain questions looking to a reform of the international sanitary service. It has the satisfaction of knowing that the initiative taken by it has been everywhere hailed with lively satisfaction, and [Page 36] that its proposals have been favorably received by all the governments which it has addressed.
It has thought it to be its duty, under these circumstances, to facilitate the important task which will devolve upon the conference by causing to be prepared, by a special commission, a programme of these future labors, drawing up now, without restricting the liberty of the views and the necessary independence of its members, an outline of the matters to be discussed, and indicating the end which it is proposed to reach. If cognizance be taken of this programme in advance, it will be possible to cause these matters to be carefully studied and to furnish the delegates with precise and sufficiently extended instructions for their subsequent action at the deliberations and at the conclusion of the international arrangements.
Now that these preparatory labors are terminated, in order no longer to delay the realization of so important a project, it only remains for the imperial and royal government officially to invite all the countries interested in this matter to send their delegates, clothed with the necessary full powers, to the international sanitary conference which is to be held at Vienna in the month of January, 1875, and whose duty it will be to deliberate and decide upon the questions contained in the programme. It will, moreover, be the duty of the delegates sent to this conference to decide upon the bases of an arrangement to be concluded on this subject, and to make arrangements for an international sanitary convention designed to regulate the future relations of the countries interested, as regards the various questions discussed at the conference. The ratification of this convention will be reserved for the governments whose delegates shall have taken part in this conference, and the privilege of subsequently acceding thereto, to such countries as may not have taken part in the negotiations. The imperial and royal government is of the opinion that the governments taking part in the conference should be at liberty to appoint any number of delegates that they may see fit, although it maintains the principle that the delegates of each state shall be entitled to cast but one vote.
The imperial and royal government, guided by the views and intentions which I have just set forth, has instructed me to invite the Government of the United States, officially, to send delegates to the aforesaid international conference, and has also instructed me to transmit, with my letter of invitation, the inclosed list of questions which are to be discussed. It entertains the hope that the Government of the United States will be pleased to recognize the importance of the considerations which have induced it to take this step.
I beg you, Mr. Secretary of State, to be pleased to inform me whether the Government of the United States is disposed to send delegates to the sanitary conference in question, and if so, to communicate to me, as soon as possible, the names of such delegates.
I avail myself, &c.