Mr. Everett to Mr. Evarts
Berlin , December 20, 1880. (Received January 7, 1881.)
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge your instruction No. 161 of the 1st instant, in reference to the troublesome cases of fine or imprisonment which occur here.
In my dispatch No. 7, of the 9th instant, I informed you of my interview with Count Limburg-Stirum at which this subject was discussed, and in which, I believe, I brought forward all the points mentioned in your dispatch No. 161 in as conciliatory a manner as I could. The most satisfactory reply that I succeeded in obtaining was that the German Government was ready to receive proposals from the American Government for a convention to extend the existing treaty to Alsace-Lorraine, but that the cases heretofore decided favorably must not be considered as influencing future cases, though up to August of this year every Alsace-Lorraine case of any merit had been decided in our favor.
As a fact, there are now six cases of fine against emigrants from Alsace-Lorraine, which have been decided adversely under this new ruling, but as all the parties except one are safely in the United States, and the fines will eventually expire by limitation, the legation has not thought it worth while to speak to the foreign office again concerning them until the understanding about Alsace-Lorraine was on a little better footing.
In Prussia proper, and the other States included in the treaty, it is undoubtedly true, as suggested in your instruction, and as the legation has repeatedly told the foreign office, that arrests occur owing to the over-zealousness of local officials, and in disregard of the ministerial circulars appended to the treaty. As far as the legation is aware, there are no such ministerial circulars for Bavaria, Wurtemberg, Baden, or Hesse, and consequently the officials in those States not unfrequently state that they are not obliged to obey the decrees of the Prussian ministers.[Page 451]
In many cases, also, the trials and punishments are under the authority of the military courts on the charge of military delinquency, and such cases would not, at any rate, be reported to the ministers of justice or the Interior, who issued the above-mentioned decrees. The foreign office has been frequently urged by the legation to restrain officials from carrying out judgments before reporting them to headquarters, and it is probable from the diminution of cases in the North German Confederation that this has been done.
The recent decision of the foreign office was brought out by a note from Mr. White, asking categorically whether the ministerial decrees appended to the treaty applied to Alsace-Lorraine, and, if not, what instructions had been issued to the officials of that district. The reply came back that even the treaty did not extend to Alsace-Lorraine, and that ten years absence was necessary to release an emigrant from his duties to his original country.
While, on the one hand, this is an annoying decision for such emigrants as have not been prepared for it, it has the advantage that after a ten years’ absence the returning emigrant is on the footing of any other American and has an unlimited right of sojourn, instead of only two years’ visit, as provided for by the treaty.
Apparently, Count Limburg-Stirum’s reason for not wishing to interfere in the Alsace-Lorraine case was that he had to override the local laws of Alsace-Lorraine in doing so, but inasmuch as those laws were made subsequently to the treaty, and probably with the full knowledge at the time that they would conflict with it, the simplest way to remove the present difficulties would seem to be to alter the laws of Alsace-Lorraine in so far as they apply to naturalized Americans and conflict with the treaty.
But from my conversation with Count Limburg-Stirum I judged that no such suggestion would be entertained until a formal convention for extending the treaty to Alsace-Lorraine had been signed. It is difficult to understand why, if the German Government are, as they say, willing to extend the treaty to Alsace-Lorraine, they do not so extend it without more ado and without any convention.
It seems to be the opinion of the friends of the United States here, who are familiar with the negotiations which passed at the time of the Bancroft treaty, that the United States would gain nothing now, and might lose all by touching the existing treaty, even with the idea of extending it to the whole of Germany; that such a measure would never pass the Bundesrath and Reichstag, and that it would be better to trust to negotiations in each case as it occurs. This opinion has been expressed to me in connection with recent reports in the newspapers that a bill had been introduced in our Congress for the abrogation of the Bancroft treaty.
I will avail myself of the earliest opportunity to urge the views contained in your instructions No. 161 on the foreign office.
I have, &c.,