No. 351.
Mr. Marsh to Mr. Fish.

No. 512.]

Sir: Your instruction No. 433, dated August 4, authorizing me to accept the umpireship of the Italo-Swiss boundary arbitration, was received in due course of mail. An official request to that effect had been made, in the mean time, by the arbitrators, in accordance with the terms of the convention between the two countries, and I formally signified to them my acceptance of the duty.

I hoped so to arrange the time of meeting that the labor of the board could be completed before the expiration of my leave of absence, but the distance of the parties and the miscarriage of one or two communications prevented the accomplishment of this wish, and immediately after my return to Italy I proceeded to Milan, where the first conference was to be held. It was the opinion of both arbitrators that, previously to entering upon any proof or discussion, the arbitrators, umpire, and agents should personally inspect the territory in dispute. I concurred in this opinion, and we accordingly repaired to the frontier in question. The Alp, a mountain pasturing-ground of Oravairola, which is the debatable district, is an irregular triangle, containing about forty-five hundred acres, lying on the eastern slope of the mountain-chain which forms the water-shed between the Italian valley of the Toceia or Tosa, and the Swiss valley of the Maggia, in the canton Ticino. The Tosa and the Maggia both empty into Lago Maggiore, the former near Pallanza, the latter near Locarno. The height of the pastures of Cravairola above the sea is from forty-five hundred to nine thousand feet, and they are accessible by rugged mule-paths from the town of Crodo, in the Val Tosa, and from that of Campo, in the Val Maggia, the lowest passage from Crodo being over a ridge nearly 7,000 feet above that village. The surface of the Alp is everywhere steeply inclined to the east, and much of it is bare rock; but it contains valuable pastures and a certain extent of evergreen forest. There are no dwellings upon the Alp except a few rude huts, occupied by the herdsmen and dairymen from the 24th of June to the 8th, and sometimes 15th of September, the severity of the climate rendering the district uninhabitable during the rest of the year. From the Swiss village of Campo to the lower limit of the Alp may be reached by a path, barely practicable, in three or four hours. The products of pastoral industry can be transported over the crest of the mountain by men, and, to some extent, by mules 1 but the timber from the forest can be carried to market only by floating it down the torrent Rovano, which rises in the Alp, and thence by the river Maggia to the lake. The communes of Crodo and Pontemaglio, in the Val Antigario—a local designation for a certain extent of the Val Tosa, called, also, Val d’Ossola—have long been in possession of the Alp, which they rent to their own citizens, on certain conditions, chiefly established by custom; and their title to the-soil is admitted by Switzerland. But the commune of Campo claims [Page 750] municipal, and the Swiss Republic, federal jurisdiction over the Alp, as appurtenant to Oampo, and as geographically belonging to the Val Maggia, which Switzerland acquired in 1513, by conquest, confirmed by a treaty, negotiated in 1516, between the Republic and Francis I, King of France, then in possession of all the territory of the duchy of Milan.

To Italy, the district in dispute is of very little political or military importance, and the Italian government interests itself in the question rather for the sake of protecting the proprietary rights of its citizens than for any other motive. The Swiss government alleges that the recognition of its sovereignty over the Alp is important to the republic for police purposes, and especially for the purpose of extending her system of hydraulic and forestal administration over the territory, which is alleged to be almost indispensable to the protection of her soil on the lower course of the Rovano.

We traversed the Alp, inspected it, as far as possible in very bad weather, and returned to Milan by way of Val Maggia and Lago Mag-giore, without having been forty-eight hours out of the kingdom of Italy. It was then agreed that the two arbitrators should examine the voluminous testimony, and the arguments in support of it, and notify me in case they were unable to agree. I left Milan immediately, and reached Florence on Saturday last, intending to proceed to Rome early in the present week, but I received a telegram yesterday informing me that no agreement between the arbitrators was possible, and requesting my presence again at Milan. I have ascertained that there is nothing requiring my presence at Rome—which is now almost deserted by all official persons—and I shall return to Milan to-morrow.

I have, &c.,