No. 689.
Mr. Fish to Mr. Blaine.

No. 391.]

Sir: Referring to my Nos. 372, 373, 375, 376, 377, 383, 384, 385, 386, and 387, I have now the honor to inclose herewith copies and translations of the correspondence between the consul at Basle and the cantonal governments of Argovie and Basle Ville respecting the shipment of prostitutes from Böttstein to the United States.

The cantonal government of Argovie state that they had heard of the case about the middle of last month and ordered an examination; that the result of the examination confirmed the statements made by the consul, but that unfortunately they were only able to intervene at a time when the women had already been sent off. They disavow all responsibility for the action of the commune, whom they claim is alone responsible. They say that according to a telegram they had received from the federal department of commerce and agriculture of April 1, it appeared that the two women would probably be sent back on the same ship on the 2d instant, and that they have not felt themselves bound to take any steps to prevent their being sent back. They express regret at the circumstances of the present case, and say that they will do their best to prevent a recurrence thereof.

An examination of the note shows that they may have had knowledge of the case before the women left Havre (March 16); it certainly shows that, although they knew of the case before the consulate, they took no means whatever to secure the return of the women, and that when requested to do so by the consul they paid no attention to his request. I can but believe that had we not effected the return of the women the case would not have been heard of, and that the failure to endeavor to obtain their return was due to a desire that they should be saddled upon the American tax-payers rather than on those of their native Argovie.

The reply of the cantonal government of Basle Ville states that, the original contract having been made outside of their jurisdiction, they consider Rudolf Werdenberg free from responsibility, and that the question concerns only the Argovie government.

Such is the result of Mr. Mason’s protests. Up to to-day the legation has received no intimation from the Federal Council as to the result of its investigation beyond that mentioned in my No. 384.

In the New York Tribune of the 29th ultimo is an account of the arrival of the women at New York, from which it appears that on the same day there were landed at New York 111 destitute persons, of whom 45 had sufficient means to reach their destination, and that the remaining 66 had to be supported by American charity, and that these people all came from a village in Baden, whose authorities enabled them to emigrate.

* * * * * * *

The Swiss press has very generally commented on the Böttstein case, and I am happy to say that, as far as their comments have come under my notice, they have, with the exception of the Journal de Genève (reported in my No. 387), unanimously condemned the procedure of the commune council. I inclose you a file of extracts from the Swiss papers with translations thereof.

[Page 1136]

The first and third of these are from the Nouvelliste Vaudois, published at Lausanne, which is generally supposed to be the organ of Mr. Ruchounet, the chief of the federal department of commerce and agriculture. They furnish us with a sad picture of some of the causes which give rise to the abnormal exodus from this country to the United States. The latter of these two articles refers to the Baden correspondence of the Bund, which I sent you in my No. 386. The Bund, if not the official organ of the federal government, may certainly be deemed the officious organ, in which its inspirations are generally first given to the press. The general sentiment of the press is that the guilty commune should be made to pay for the return of the women.

I trust that the Department will sustain the views of the Swiss press on this point, and insist upon the payment of the costs by the commune.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 391.]

Mr. Mason to Mr. Fish.

Sir: I have the honor to submit herewith copies of two notes sent by this consulate to the high cantonal governments of Argovie and Basle Ville, respectively, under date of March 31, and likewise copies of the replies thereto of the high contonal governments above named, which were received at this consulate simultaneously on the 7th of April. I have simply acknowledged the receipt of these replies, and informed the writers that copies of their communications had been forwarded through your legation to the United States Government.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 391.]

Mr. Mason to the Cantonal Government of Argovie.

The undersigned, consul of the United States of America at Basle, has the honor to bring to the notice of the high cantonal government of the canton of Argovie, the action of the commune of Böttstein, in Argovie, in causing to be forwarded to the United States, Fridolina Vögelin and Theresa Hauser, two of the vilest and most depraved prostitutes, earning their living by their shameless calling. The records of the meeting of the electors and citizens of Böttstein for the 30th January, 1881, show that it was unanimously resolved:

“That Frau Theresa Hauser, born Rheinisperger, of Böttstein, and Fridolina Vögelin shall, if they consent to the same, be transported to America at the expense of this commune; if they will not consent to be thus transported, then, resolved, that the former, viz, Theresa Hauser, shall be placed in the house of correction.”

The register of proceedings of the church council of Leuggern, canton Argovie, vol. 2, page 120, p. 2, furnishes a description of Fridolina Vögelin. It reads as follows:

“Personally appeared before this council Fridolina Vögelin, illegitimate daughter of Christina Vögelin, of Böttstein, and made the following statement: That the husband of her mother, one Gottfried Meier, a tailor residing in Olten, had for a long period, while she (Fridolina) was living with her mother, had daily sexual intercourse with her (Fridolina), and maintained this unlawful intercourse until she left home.”

These women have been a moral plague and financial burden to the commune of Böttstein, owing to the fact that they were continually being arrested by the police, to the cost, shame, and disgrace of their native commune. Of this fact the high cantonal government can convince itself from the receipts of the police officials bringing [Page 1137] them back as vagrant prostitutes. Six of those receipts refer to Mrs. Theresa Hauser, and two to Fridolina Vögelin, all relating to the returning of those two women by the police within the brief period of a single year.

The president of the commune council, the vice-president of the commune council, and one of the members of the council have jointly declared that it was on “account of their shameless course of life, their harlotry, and total aversion to honest labor, that the two following-named persons, Fridolina Vögelin, of Böttstein, and Theresa Hauser (born Rheinisperger), were sent to America, and because they were frequently returned to their native commune as vagabonds, to the especial shame and dishonor of the commune of Böttstein,” to which they added, “that the passage money of the afore-named emigrants, viz, from Basle to New York, 350 francs, was guaranteed and to each of them was given besides 20 francs as pocket money.”

In the early part of March, Felix Hüsler, president of the commune of Böttstein, Fridolin Kalt, vice-president, and Joh Haver Vogelin, secretary of said commune council, applied to Joseph Frei, an emigration agent at Klingnau, in canton Argovie, and through him secured the transportation of said women to the United States. Said Frei, well knowing the character of these women and not having passports for them, as this consulate believes is required for the emigration of citizens of Argovie, took them to Basle, and purchased for them of ah emigrant agent, Rudolf Werdenberg, of this city, giving him in payment therefor the guarantee bonds of the commune for 350 francs. The women were sent by the French railway to Havre, and thence, on the 16th of March, to New York by the Suevia, reaching New York on the 28th of this month.

Under the instructions of my government, I have the honor to forcibly protest against the unfriendly, unpardonable, and outrageous action of the authories of Böttstein in sending to the United States these notorious prostitutes, who, if permitted to land, must, without fail, increase the number of prostitutes there, or in their destitute condition become a burden to the public charity there. It is solely by reason of the assistance furnished by the commune that they were able to reach the United States.

The undersigned therefore entertains the hope that the high cantonal government will take immediate measures by cable to prevent these women from longer polluting the soil of the United States by their presence, in case they should have eluded the vigilance of the authorities of the United States. He also entertains the confident hope that the parties guilty of this infringement of the comity existing between Switzerland and the United States, and of the laws of both countries, may be severely and promptly punished. The United States has seen with regret, that in foreign countries municipal corporations, private societies for reforming offenders, directors of almshouses, and even private individuals have not been restrained by their government from sending to the United States convicts, or discharged convicts, or lunatics, or idiots, or imbecile or other paupers, or prostitutes, or cripples, and persons unfit to maintain themselves, or those who have been a social plague to the place whence they came. It is therefore hoped by the undersigned that the high cantonal government will take the necessary steps to prevent the emigration of any such persons to the United States in the future.

The undersigned incloses herewith translations of documents, the originals of which have been duly authenticated and transmitted to his government, and which fully establish the guilt of the commune of Böttstein, whose authorities, with unblushing effrontery, admit that they thus abused the hospitality of the United States to rid themselves of persons who were a burden and shame to their native place. While reserving to his government the further discussion of this case, the undersigned avails himself of this occasion to express to the high cantonal government of Argovie the assurances of his most distinguished consideration.

Consul of the United States.
[Enclosure 3 in dispatch No. 391.—Translation.]

The Cantonal Government of Argovie to Mr. Mason.

Sir: On the 31st of last month you notified us that two prostitutes had been sent to America by the commune of Böttstein, with very little money and under circumstances which appear highly objectionable under the laws of the government which you represent. At the same time you ask us to call the offending commune to account and to take efficient measures to prevent a repetition of such misdoing. We have to report to you as follows:

We first learned of the present case about the middle of last month, and ordered an examination into the matter.

[Page 1138]

The result of that examination has been to confirm your entire statement. Unfortunately our information was received after the women had been already sent away. The emigration agent, with whom the contract was made, had forgotten to procure passports from the canton for the two women, as prescribed by the laws of canton Argovie, and consequently the government was not able to prevent their departure.

In the mean time the United States minister at Berne had given notice of the case to the Federal Council, to which we have sent all the documents. We explained that we could in no wise sanction the action of the commune of Böttstien, which alone was guilty and responsible for the consequences, and we further gave assurance that measures would be taken by us to punish the offenders. Through a dispatch from the Swiss commercial department we learn that probably the two objectionable emigrants would be returned on the 1st of April by the same ship that carried them to America. We have certainly taken no steps to prevent this return.

These are all the facts, and we have to express our great regret for this unfortunate occurrence. You may see from the foregoing that we shall do all in our power to prevent a repetition of such offenses.

Receive, sir, the assurance of our high respect.

For the cantonal government:

The president:

The secretary:
[Inclosure 4 in No. 391.]

Mr. Mason to the Government of Basle.

The undersigned, consul of the United States of America, has the honor to bring to the notice of the high cantonal council of Basle-Ville the action of the emigration agents, Joseph Frei, of Klingnau, in canton Argovie, of Rudolf Werdenberg, of Basle, and Wirth-Herzog, of Aarau, in forwarding Fridolina Vögelin and Theresa Hauser, of Böttstein, Argovie, from Basle to New York; the said women being notorious and depraved prostitutes of the vilest sort, earning their living by their shameless calling, whose journey, with a small allowance of pocket-money, was paid by the commune. The laws of Argovie requiring, as this consulate is informed, the production of passports to enable its citizens to emigrate, the aforesaid Frei, of Klingnau, escorted the women to Basle, and there agreed with Werdenberg for their tickets from Basle to New York. Werdenberg, in consideration of the guarantee bonds of the commune to the amount of 350 francs, undertook their transportation to New York, and forwarded them by the French railways to Havre, and thence to New York on the steamship Suevia, sailing from Havre on the 16th and reaching New York on the 29th of March, 1881.

The undersigned has communicated the facts in like manner to the high government of Argovie, who have the full evidence of the circumstances of the shipment, and the admission of the commune officials and of Frei, that the prostitutes were thus forwarded, and has requested their immediate action to prevent these women from longer polluting the soil of the United States by their presence, in case they should have evaded scrutiny of the officials of the port of New York.

He has the honor, in bringing these facts to the attention of the high government of Basle-Ville, to most forcibly protest, on behalf of his government, against such shipments of emigrants to the United States, who are inevitably consigned to the shameless class of prostitutes or to the public charity of the United States. He confidently hopes that the high government of Basle-Ville will at once co-operate with that of Argovie in effecting the return of the women, and that it will severely punish the guilty parties concerned therein, who may be within its jurisdiction. The undersigned likewise hopes that efficient measures may be promptly taken to prevent, in the future, any objectionable emigrants being forwarded from Basle to the United States. The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew to the high cantonal Council of Basle-Ville the assurances of his most distinguished consideration.

United States Consul.

[Page 1139]
[Inclosure 5 in No. 391.—Translation.]

Cantonal Government of Basle City to Mr. Mason.

Sir: With your esteemed letter of 31st March we received your protest against the emigration of two prostitutes from the commune of Böttstein (canton Argovie) sent away by an emigration agent of this city, named Rudolf Werdenberg.

We have to report as follows:

After the inquiries made by our police department, we can only see that the emigration agent above named has done nothing wrong, he having not issued the first contract. Besides, he has violated no law of this canton.

In respect to your further complaint about the emigration of prostitutes, we pray you to observe that the two women alluded to belong to the canton of Argovie, and we have, therefore, nothing whatever to do with this case. Your protests should be sent to the cantonal government of Argovie.

Please accept the assurance of our highest respect.

The president of the cantonal government:

The secretary:

[Inclosure 6 in No. 391.]

[Extract from the Nouvelliste Vaudois, Lausanne, April 2, 1881.—Translation.]

Emigration.—The condition of affairs compels us to touch once more on this topic, even at the risk of tiring our readers. We announced the passage of large numbers of emigrants through Zurich, who went to join a band of 800 persons arriving in Basle on their way North to a port of embarkment. On all sides it is the same story; everywhere people are closing up their affairs, realizing what they can, and leaving the country. The propaganda of the press is bearing its fruits; it could not have been otherwise. The heavy taxes which weigh on the people, the military and civil requirements, the bad crops, the hard times, such are the contributing causes which prompt them to leave without regret a country where existence has become so difficult. We cannot reproach these people, who, despairing of their future, do not wish to condemn their children to a life of anxiety and care. It has been stated in our news columns, from the different cantons, that during the first two months of the year there were live hundred failures in the canton of Zurich, and these fall most heavily upon the agricultural population.

It is unnecessary to dwell upon this fact, which explains many things. From the canton of Berne the emigration is among the most active; last Monday a hundred emigrants passed through Thoune; two families alone had with them 20 children. Is it, by the way, to be supposed that these young people, who are going to become acclimatized in the United States, will there keep any recollections of their native land? It is evident that this is a loss of so much physical strength for us. Moreover the spring of this year promises other surprises for us; at Zurich the passage of regular trains of emigrants is announced.

[Neue Zurcher Zeitung, April 8, 1881.—Translation.]

The habit of many smaller communes of sending off their poor people or otherwise objectionable elements to America would be put a stop to if the America immigration commissioners would deal energetically with the question. The authorities over there complain that not only from Italy and Germany, but just now especially from Switzerland, all sorts of dangerous elements are being cast upon them, and on this account the commissioners of emigration of the State of New York will send back on board the Lessing, of the Hamburg line, the two prostitutes sent by the commune of Böttstein. They will be a joy to Böttstein!

[Nouvelliste Vaudois, April 8, 1881.—Translation.]

The Swiss communes, notably those of the canton of Argovie, continue their exploits in the matter of emigration. The Bund’s Baden correspondent writes that the so-called emigrants are getting to be more and more regular runaways or even convicts, infirm persons, broken-down persons, children or grown-up persons unable to perform any sort of work, whom they send off by steamships to the promised land. The correspondent says it resembles the custom of parents who, having brought up their [Page 1140] children badly, see fit to use coercion to correct their faults. We should say that is not the cause, but rather the members of the commune, who having become more and more rapacious as regards the communal funds, get rid at all hazards of those who in any way risk falling to the charge of the community. It is a renewal of the doings of 1860, which evoked the indignant report of our representative in Brazil. We have our hands upon the documents concerning an individual who was condemned eight times in succession in the canton of Berne, and to whom these well-beloved members of the commune tendered 200 francs to get him over the ocean. How proud our fellow-countrymen in the United States must be to see arriving this invasion of invalids, mentioned in the scriptures, complicated by the scum of our prisons!

The period in which a demand for a popular vote on the law of emigration expires April 8; its provisions will be applicable at once; nevertheless a delay until May 15 will be granted the agencies to furnish their guaranty.

[Tagblatt of the city of St. Galle.—Translation.]

Argovie.—The commune of Böttstein (district of Zurzach) sent in March two women of loose character. After their arrival in New York on the 29th of March, and upon their occupation being announced, the immigration commissioners sent the two “ladies,” on the 31st of March, back to their native Böttstein, where the commune will have the pleasure of footing the bill for their trip and board. The Americans in this way exercise their best method to put the communes out of conceit of assisting objectionable emigrants to emigrate.

[Extract from the Basler Nachrichten.—Translation.]

Argovie.—The commune council of Böttstein decided about the middle of March to contract with the emigrant agent, Joseph Frei in Klingnau, for sending off to America two notorious, shameless prostitutes, named Fridolina Vögelin and Theresa Hauser, who have for a long time shed discredit and dishonor on the commune. They were brought by Frei to Basle, and from thence were sent to Havre, and embarked on the 16th March. The expenses of the journey were paid by the commune; moreover, these women were provided with but 20 francs apiece. Fortunately the consul of the United States at Basle discovered the matter and reported it to the American minister at Berne, sending at the same time all the official documentary evidence to his government at Washington. The Secretary of State, Mr. Blaine, intervened, and the result thereof was that the two women had to return. They left New York on board the Lessing, March 31, and will be back here in a few days. The government of the canton of Argovie fully acknowledges the justice of the complaint of the American consul, and must naturally put all the responsibility on the commune of Böttstein, where it also properly belongs.

[Extract from the Genevois, Geneva.—Translation.]

A telegram recently announced that two citizens of the commune of Böttstein (canton of Argovie) had just been sent back to their native Switzerland by the action of the Government of the United States, and at the expense of the canton of Argovie. This affais has, it seems, made some noise in the United States. The police authorities of New York have received orders to specially watch the Swiss emigrants;, they have announced the case of the women Fridolina Vögelin and Theresa Hauser, who arrived at New York on the Suevia on the 29th ultimo. These unfortunate women, incapable of gaining their living in the United States, were sent without any means to the new world by the commune of Böttstein, which thus got rid of its duties towards its citizens. These poor creatures were re-embarked on board the Lessing, and should be soon back in their native canton. We cannot too strongly condemn such procedures. The cantons and the communes are bound to support their unfortunate citizens, and to furnish them aid and protection as far as possible. Those communes which interpret their duties toward their citizens in the way that Böttstein has done, have a singular way of putting into practice our national motto: “Un pour tous, tons pour un”—“One for all, all for one.”

We protest with all our force against such actions, which can but lower the whole Swiss nation in the eyes of the world.

It is in the administration of the communes and in the institutions of our towns that there remains within our confederation great progress to be made and great abuses to be abolished. The day will soon come, let us hope, in which we shall see the last traces of a period in which neither equality nor the idea of human dignity existed disappear from our cantons and municipal institutions.