No. 672.
Mr. Fish to Mr. Evarts.

No. 333.]

Sir: Referring to my No. 326, respecting the action of the town of Gersau, in the canton of Schwytz, in furnishing the unemployed citizens of that place with subsidies to emigrate, I have now the honor to inclose herewith a copy of a letter from Consul Byers, transmitting a letter from the authorities of Gersau, and a copy of the ordnance passed at a town meeting held August 22, 1880.

An examination of these documents shows that the authorities of Gersau have resorted to the same method as those of Zug to rid themselves of those persons out of employ who might desire to emigrate. Already 29 persons have thus been assisted to emigrate, and have been furnished with 5,755 francs ($1,110.72), an average of 191.55 francs, or $37.97, apiece.

The population of Gersau is given as 2,270 under the census of 1870. It is claimed by the authorities of the town that all the assisted emigrants were able-bodied young men.

It will be seen that the amount furnished these emigrants leaves them but a bare pittance on their arrival in the United States. It may well be doubted whether such emigration will be beneficial to the country of their immigration. Certainly our experience of assisted emigration from Switzerland to the United States should prompt us not to trust the decision concerning the fitness of such emigrants to the communes having a material interest in getting rid of them.

I inclose full copies of all the correspondence, with translation thereof.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 333.]

Mr. Byers to Mr. Fish.

Sir: Referring to yours of the 8th instant, I beg to report that after three different requests the officials of the community of Gersau have sent me an official copy of the [Page 1112] resolutions by which that town concluded on aiding its unemployed men and boys to emigrate to the United States.

I inclose you the law itself, as well as a letter from the town treasurer giving his view of its provisions. This law does not differ materially from that adopted last summer by the town of Zug. By it persons are aided to emigrate to the United States, but the money given does not much more than pay their expenses to the harbor of New York. What little is over is to be paid them only there, in order to insure that they cross the ocean.

Twenty-nine persons have accepted the offer of the town to be aided to emigrate to the United States, and were paid 5,755 francs. After deducting amount for steerage passage, say 180 francs, the emigrant would have on landing about 20 francs, or $4. He surrenders, on accepting aid from the town, all rights to commune interests or profits, supposing there are any, for the period of twenty years; so, if he fails to obtain employment in New York, he has neither the means to live on nor to go farther west.

The emigrants who avail themselves of this law are not likely to be well-to-do persons who would emigrate anyway, but persons too poor to live at home. Indeed, the preamble of the law or resolutions states that it is intended to help the unemployed.

It is, I notice, proposed to withdraw the privileges of this law whenever times shall become better, and employment be had for the poor at home.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 383.—Translation.]

Municipal council of Gersau to Mr. Byers.

To the American Consul, Zurich:

Replying to your valued letter of 12th instant, we inclose herewith a copy of the decision of the commune of August 22, 1880, from which you will perceive the conditions upon which citizens of our commune can receive assistance. The amounts are only paid to male citizens belonging to the municipal corporation of Gersau. Female citizens receive, according to the decision, no assistance, unless they should be exceptionally assisted by the commune. Concerning all emigrants a strict control is maintained; those citizens who had previously emigrated have no claim to the same assistance, because, according to the decision, we only assist those who, owing to a lack of employment, may wish to emigrate. In those cases we give our assistance by means of the emigration contracts from Lucerne to New York, and the remainder is then only paid in New York. During the year 1880 we assisted 29 persons, all able-bodied young men. For these 29 persons 5,755 francs were paid. When, however, in Gersau we may again have employment, as we hope to have, at the next meeting of the town, in May, 1881, it will be decided to suspend the decision of August 22, 1880, once more.

Hoping that we have answered your request, we are, with all respect, yours obediently, for the municipal council,

[Inclosure 3 in No. 333.—Translation.]

Extract from the minutes of the town meeting of the commune of Gersau, Augusts, 1880.

Decision of the municipal council of Gersau concerning the payment of assistance to citizens of the corporation for the purpose of emigration to America, and the resolution of the town meeting of Gersau of August 22, 1880.

The town meeting of August 22, 1880, recognizes, in consideration of the inability to obtain work at the present time, and of many requests for the purpose of emigrating to America, the following provisions shall, until further notice, be in force:

  • Article. 1. The citizens of the corporation who are physically and mentally sound, and have a fixed destination in view, may be paid a sum by the corporation for the expenses of the journey to America. The decision respecting the fitness to emigrate is intrusted to the council. Emigrants who leave their families behind them shall furnish the municipal council with evidence that the latter shall be properly taken care of without their falling to the charge of the commune.
  • Art. 2. The amounts to be paid to citizens of the corporation, according to article 1, are fixed as follows:
    Citizens of the corporation upwards of eighteen years of age shall receive 250 francs.
    Sons of citizens, from ten to eighteen years of age, shall receive 100 francs.
    Sons of citizens, under ten years of age, receive a proportionate assistance, the determination of the amount of which is intrusted to the executive council.
  • Art. 3. Those citizens who, according to article 2, receive from the corporation sums for the journey must fulfill the following conditions:
    They renounce, from the day of their departure, for the next twenty years, their right to the annual benefits of the commune here.
    Should a citizen who had received one of the above-mentioned subsidies return within fifteen years to his native place, he must repay to the corporation the total advance made to him by the corporation, with full interest from the day of his departure, reckoned at 5 per cent, per annum, if he wishes to be again entitled to participate in the benefits of the commune.
    Should he return after fifteen years, but before the expiration of twenty years, then he shall repay the advance made to him, but without interest, before he shall be entitled to share the benefits of the commune.
    To those, on the other hand, who first return after the expiration of twenty years the advance is remitted, and they shall be entitled to share in the benefits of the commune.
  • Art. 4. The executive council shall, in accordance with articles 2 ana 3, make a contract with every citizen who wishes to emigrate, which shall be signed by both parties.
  • Art. 5. The funds necessary for this purpose shall be taken from the annual receipts. In case the latter are not sufficient, the executive council is authorized to make a loan for this purpose, and to repay it during the following years.
  • Art. 6. The town meeting reserves to itself the right to alter at any time the foregoing provisions (with the exception of articles 3 and 4).

The sums fixed by articles 2, letters a, b, and c, will be paid upon the conclusion of the emigration contracts to the emigration agent concerned.

In the name of the corporation of Gersau:
The President:
[No signature.]

The town clerk.



In accordance with the decision, article 2, letter &, the municipal council, under date of October 24, 1880, fixes the indemnity for traveling expenses of the young sons of citizens at the following rates:

For sons under two years of age, 20 francs.
For sons from two to five years old, 25 francs.
For sons from five to ten years old, 30 francs.