to Mr. Fish.
Berne, July 3, 1875. (Received July 26.)
Sir: The controversy between the government of the canton of Berne, and the federal council, respecting the decree of the former expelling certain Roman Catholic ecclesiastics from the districts of the Jura, has been authoritatively settled by the national assembly, during the session which terminated to-day.
In my dispatch No. 223, of June 16, I informed you that that the government of Berne had taken an appeal to the assembly from the order of the Federal Council requiring the cantonal government to revoke its decree of expulsion within two months from the 31st of May last. The appeal took exception to the construction given to article 50 of the constitution by the Federal Council, and further, to the shortness of the period allowed for the revocation of the decree of expulsion. It asked for such an extension of the time as would enable the canton to adopt additional legislation for the prevention of disturbances of the peace, which, it was apprehended, might follow upon the return of the proscribed ecclesiastics.
The committee to which the appeal was referred by the assembly, submitted a report, accompanied by a preamble and resolutions that were accepted by the Federal Council, and subseqently adopted by large majorities in both the chambers.
The settlement thus made of the affair is a species of compromise. It sustains the construction given to the constitution by the Federal Council, by declaring that “the necessary measures” which article 50 authorizes the cantons to adopt for the maintenance of public order and religious peace, must be taken within the limits of the constitution; in other words, that this article gives no discretionary authority to the cantons, upon the plea that such action is necessary for the preservation of peace between the different religious communities, to disregard the rights and liberties guaranteed by the constitution.
On the other hand, the canton of Berne is allowed to postpone the revocation of the obnoxious decree until the middle of November next.
The resolutions gave rise to long discussions in each of the chambers. The more radical party strenuously contended against the interpretation given to article 50. The Catholic party objected to any further extension of the period allowed for the revocation of the Bernese decree. In the end, however, when the final vote was taken, all, except the Roman Catholic members, united in their adoption.
I have, &c.,