No. 281.
Mr. Everett to Mr. Evarts .

No. 7.]

Sir: Availing myself of the opportunity offered by the presentation of the President’s letters to the Emperor inclosed in your instruction No. 156, of the 16th November, I had yesterday an interview with his excellency Count Limburg-Stirum, acting minister of foreign affairs.

His excellency then alluded to the Alsace-Lorraine question and his interview with Mr. White on that subject, which was reported to you in dispatch No. 151, of the 21st September.

In reference to the application of the treaty of 1868 to Alsace-Lorraine, his excellency repeated that the German Government could not, and would not, admit it, and should, on principle, give that answer to every communication regarding our military cases in Alsace from the legation; also, that the practical difficulty in these cases was that the officials, of Alsace-Lorraine were acting in accordance with the laws of that province, and that it was only by the general government setting aside those laws that the cases of returning American emigrants could be favorably decided.

When I suggested that the question of the treaty need not be raised as long as the cases were decided favorably to us, as they always had been, his excellency said that we must not depend upon that, as there might come a case which would not be so decided. He, however, said that his government would be very glad to bring this state of things to an end, and would meet the American Government half way if the first proposal came from us for a supplementary convention or agreement to extend the treaty of 1868 to Alsace-Lorraine without going through the trouble of making a new general treaty, which they did not desire. I asked the count if such a matter would have to be laid before the Reichstag for confirmation, but on this point he was not quite sure, as he had not considered it.

His excellency said that instructions to this effect had been sent to Mr. Von Schlözer at Washington, in case our government should prefer to arrange the matter there, and that he himself had told Mr. White the same thing in his interview of the 20th September.

On referring to Mr. White’s dispatch of the 21st September, I notice he uses the words “additional treaty” as what the German Government desires, but at my interview of yesterday I derived the impression that their desire was for something only formal enough to be binding which would raise no debates or discussions, and could be arranged by [Page 450] the German minister at Washington or the American minister at Berlin without extra powers. Should my impression be correct, Mr. Yon Schlozer would undoubtedly confirm it, and the present time, when there are no Alsace cases in dispute, would seem to be a very favorable one in which to avail ourselves of this conciliatory disposition, and of the approaching meeting of the Reichstag, in case the final approval of that body is required.

Such an arrangement implies on our part a tacit admission, at any rate, that the present treaty does not apply to Alsace-Lorraine, but, inasmuch as there has not been a unanimous agreement of our Secretaries of State or of our ministers here on that point, and as it might be convenient in some future emergency to have the opposite view in regard to other treaties to fall back upon—there being no rule of international law on the extension of existing treaties to newly-acquired territory—perhaps it is for our interest to concede this point, which would probably not be raised by the German Government after negotiations were once set on foot.

I have, &c.,