Mr. Stevens to Mr. Evarts.
Stockholm, February 16, 1881. (Received March 9.)
Sir: Your dispatch No. 95, of January 24, was received last evening, in which is inclosed a communication from the mayor of Charleston, S. C., also a printed communication of Mr. Birney, United States [Page 1069]minister at the Hague, touching the most expedient method of ascertaining the reality or unreality of claims to property abroad.
As to the Springer heirs, to whom the mayor of Charleston refers as claiming property in Sweden, I am enabled to give prompt and decisive answer. During 1880 I had an application from a gentleman of California, and another from a gentleman of Maine, both representatives of the said Springer heirs, asking me to take effective steps to ascertain precisely the information which the mayor of Charleston desires to obtain. I took the liberty of making formal inquiry of the Bank of Sweden through the chief secretary of the department of foreign affairs. The answer was squarely in the negative on all points of the inquiry. I became thoroughly satisfied of the entire truthfulness of the answers given. During the present winter an intelligent and indefatigable American attorney, one of the Springer heirs and the agent of other heirs, spent two weeks in Stockholm, who had the assistance of a Swedish lawyer of this city, making a careful investigation in Swedish archives and of Swedish legal records, and the same conclusion was reached—that the whole story of there being property in Sweden for the Springer heirs in America has no substantial foundation, is a fiction. In fact, the last-named attorneys were able to find the original copy of the Springer will, duly authenticated, in which the said Christopher Springer disposed of all his property in Sweden about 1689 to parties then living in Sweden, and that no money of his estate was ever deposited in the Bank of Sweden. I conversed with this American attorney repeatedly and fully, and he entirely agreed with me as to the complete want of foundation of the “Springer claim” to property in Sweden.
You ask me to indicate the best course for American claimants to adopt as to property supposed to be left to them by will or otherwise in Sweden. In most cases of this kind it will be found no such property exists. To make the necessary inquiries the following seems to me the briefest and most practicable, though a uniform course of proceeding may not always be wise:
The claimants should embody their inquiry in a compact and explicit statement, which may be used as an advertisement, and send it to the United States consul or consular agent, according to the locality in Sweden or Norway where they have reason to suppose the desired property may be. They should employ the consul or consular agent, if he deems it expedient, to insert the advertisement in the best advertising medium in the given city, town, or district. The advertising rates in the Swedish and Norwegian newspapers are reasonably moderate—more so than in the United States—and the charge for service by consul or consular agent would not be high. This method of procedure, supplemented by other inquiries of the consul or consular agent, in most cases could not fail to be effective and conclusive. The consul or consular agent would generally be able to judge if any additional methods of inquiry should be necessary.
In some cases it might be inexpedient to advertise. There are no technical or practical difficulties in obtaining property in this country belonging to foreign citizens, provided the claimants send the properly authenticated papers that they are the legal heirs of the same.
I have, &c.,