No. 60.
Mr. Seward to Mr. Van den Bossche.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge reception of your note of the 26th ultimo, in which you state that the Government of His Majesty is giving its attention to the conditions which, in foreign countries, may govern marriages between Belgians and persons of other nationalities; and that to this end it has charged its diplomatic agents-abroad to collect and transmit information and detailed reports upon the existing legislation with respect to marriage in the countries where they reside, and the rules followed, to assure the correct wording, the authenticity, and the safe-keeping of the records of the civil state. And in order to accomplish the task thus assigned to you, you ask this Department to inquire of the competent executive department whether there is any work or official compilation containing the rules and laws in force in this respect in the different States and Territories.

With a view to aiding you in the investigation wherewith you are charged, I have to observe that the marriage laws of the several States and Territories were made the basis of an exhaustive examination by the law officer of the Department in 1874, but that now, on looking over that report, prepared with great labor, he finds that the State and Territorial legislation has in many instances been since modified and [Page 121] that a new and revised examination would be necessary should you require the aid of the Department in your work. As there are thirty-eight States and eight Territories, each with their own laws on marriage, divorce, and the rights of married women, it will readily be seen that such an examination requires time and care; but should it be desired by your legation, the law officer would be requested to give the matter his personal attention during the summer months.

The custody or supervision of the State and Territorial laws affecting the marriage relation is not within the federal province of the Department of Justice; neither is there any official collection of such laws. The standard text-book on the subject in use by the legal profession in the United States is published by private enterprise, under the title of “Bishop on Marriage and Divorce,” which, it is thought, may contain all the information desired by His Majesty’s Government.

Accept, sir, the renewed assurance of my distinguished consideration.

Acting Secretary.