No. 683.
Mr. Fish to Mr. Blaine.

No. 379.]

Sir: On Saturday evening the annual dinner of the Federal Council, which had been postponed owing to the death of the Emperor of Russia, took place, and was attended by all the heads of missions, excepting [Page 1127]those of Spain and Russia. The former was absent because of the manner in which he was invited; the latter, because of the death of the Czar.

There was nothing of political interest that occurred on that occasion calling for mention. Personally I received many warm expressions of regret at my resignation, which has become generally known here by the announcement, in the newspapers, of the nomination of my successor.

As the representative of the United States at that dinner, it was humiliating to my pride in my country to be seated below the representatives of every other country diplomatically represented at Berne, when, by seniority of arrival, I should rank fifth out of the ten chiefs of missions here. This fact is attributable solely to what I am sure is a mistaken economy on the part of the United States, in selecting for the grade of its representative here a rank which no other nation, great or small, considers suitable for its agent, viz, chargé d’affaires, a hybrid title, for which the English language has as yet been unable to find an equivalent, and which the dictionary defines as “the third or lowest class of foreign ministers, according to the regulations adopted at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.”

In a previous dispatch, No. 48 (published on page 828 of Foreign Relations for 1878), I wrote to your predecessor:

I have a delicacy in expressing my own views on this subject, but I have no hesitancy in saying that the reduction in the grade of the British mission, from that of an envoy to that of minister resident, weakened their influence here, &c.

That statement was based on conversations with two former British ministers now holding other important missions of a higher grade. It has since been confirmed by the conversation of the present British minister here, and recently the rank of the latter has been increased to that of envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, the London foreign office appreciating the injurious effects the former reduction had worked upon the power and usefulness of their mission here.

The personal reasons which restrained me from entering upon the full discussion of this question in 1878 have ceased to exist, owing to the tender of my resignation on the 14th of last month. The fact that I occupied a rank inferior to that of the representative of every other country was one of the moving causes which prompted my resignation. When I presented my letters of credence here, in 1877, Belgium and Spain both were represented by ministers of the lowest class, i. e., chargés d’affaires, but by priority of arrival I took precedence of them. Since then, both Spain and Belgium have seen the folly of being thus represented, and have sent, the former a minister plenipotentiary, and the latter a minister resident. I believe the usefulness of our mission here would be greatly enhanced were the rank of the minister upon the level of that of the other representatives of foreign powers who (with the exception of France, which has an ambassador, and Belgium a minister resident) have each an envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at Berne. The friendship for and influence of the United States in this, the only republican government in Europe whose history, traditions, and people are in full sympathy with our own, ought certainly to be encouraged, and the trifling additional cost of the change is insignificant compared with the results to be attained.

Nor should we listen to the argument that Switzerland has no legation at Washington. Switzerland cannot afford to have legations at all the seats of foreign governments, and therefore has them only at the capitals of the frontier countries by which she is surrounded. I have [Page 1128]the very highest assurance that were she to increase the number of her legations, the first place selected for such an increase would be Washington, and more than one member of the government has mentioned to me the desire of the members of the Federal Council to create a legation there.

The growing and ever increasing trade and intercourse between the two countries also demand that we should not neglect to retain our influence and respect in this country.

I therefore recommend that the representative of the United States to the Swiss Confederation should be placed on the same footing as those of other nations here, and that he be given the rank and title of envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, with an adequate salary to maintain the rank and dignity of the office.

I make this recommendation upon no personal consideration, either as regards myself or my successor, but solely with a view to the best interests of the United States.

I have, &c.,

NICHOLAS FISH.