to Mr. Fish.
Berne , March 29, 1875. (Received April 22.)
Sir: I have already alluded, in my dispatch No.200, of the 22d instant, to an appeal pending before the Federal Council, from the Roman Catholic ecclesiastics expelled from the districts of the Bernese Jura by a decree of the cantonal government of Berne, dated 30th of January, 1874, demanding the revocation of that decree, on the ground that it is incompatible with the provisions of the new constitution which declare that no canton shall expel a citizen from its territory and that every Swiss has the right to settle (niederzulassen) in any part of Switzland.
On Saturday, the 27th instant, the Federal Council issued an order inviting the government of Berne to report, at as early a day as possible, whether it proposes to continue in force for any considerable period [Page 1284] of time the decree in question; and, if so, to communicate the reasons which, in its view, render necessary the further maintenance of such an exceptional measure.
The council submits at the same time certain considerations touching the character of the decree of expulsion and its validity under the new constitution. It remarks that the provision of the former constitution authorizing the cantons to take suitable measures for the preservation of public order and of peace between the religious denominations within their borders related to extraordinary measures, to be continued in force for such time only as the occasion for them continued to exist. In the present instance it was only a question at what period the decree should be suspended. The view of the appellants that it became void at the moment the new constitution went into operation could not be admitted, the interests of public order requiring that measures adopted under the former constitution should not be set aside except this were possible without jeopardizing the attainment of the purposes they were designed to accomplish. Further, that, by the constitution, the federal authorities are invested with full competence to examine the measures adopted by the cantons for maintainaing public order, and according to their judgment to sustain, to modify, or to revoke them.
This action of the Federal Council seems designed to spare, as far as possible, the susceptibilities of the Bernese government, and to avoid any occasion for convoking on extraordinary session of the Federal Assembly, by affording an opportunity for a postponement of its ultimate decision until about the time of the regular summer session. Meanwhile some of the prominent liberal journals of the country censure in severe terms the course of those members of the Assembly who united in the demand for the convocation of an extraordinary session in the event of a decision favorable to the ecclesiastics, as an attempt to exercise an undue influence upon the council.
It is pretty generally understood that with the exception of one member, who is a citizen of the canton of Berne, the council is favorable to the revocation of the decree.
I have, &c.,