to Mr. Blaine.
Berne, April 25, 1881. (Received May 10.)
Sir: On the 12th of September, 1879, as I was leaving my residence with the Hon. George M. Robeson, formerly Secretary of the Navy, I was stopped as we were about getting into the cab, which was at the gate, by a man, who presented me a petition, stating that he desired to go to the United States, and was endeavoring to collect the money by subscription for that purpose. He produced the impression of a man of about thirty years of age, able-bodied, but somewhat the worse from the effects of drink. I had not time then to examine the petition closely, and confined myself to an abrupt refusal, and telling him that there was no demand for such immigrants as he. I noted, however, his name, as given in the petition. The cab-driver told me that he knew the man, whose name was Benedict Eberhard, of Münchenbuchsee (canton Berne), and that he had frequently been imprisoned. In my hurried examination of the list of subscribers I recognized that of one of my colleagues.
Subsequent inquiry of the police confirmed the statement of the cab-driver.
The numerous complaints of improper emigration from this country to the United States, and the open admission of the president of the poor-board of Rudolfingen that Ruegger was prompted by that board to beg for the means which enabled him to reach an Ohio poor-house, prompted me to further investigate the case of Eberhard.
I have in my possession the original petition presented to me by him on the 12th September, 1870, which I have caused to be authenticated by the competent authorities of the canton, and their signature is authenticated [Page 1144]by the Swiss Federal Chancery. It should not be supposed that the authentication was given at the time Eberhard went about begging with the petition; they have been since added to establish the authenticity of the signature of the notary who drew up the document, and who recommends Eberhard to the charitable consideration of his fellow citizens.
The notary, who was at that time the town clerk, was of opinion that it would be a piece of good luck for Eberhard’s native place (München-buchsee), as well as that of his present domicile (Zollikofen), could he find the means of emigrating. The list shows that this opinion was shared by a large number of his fellow townsmen and neighbors, and that the burgess of the former place, who would be compelled to contribute towards the support of himself and family in case of their falling into distress, as well as the cashier of the poor fund at Zollikofen, shared this opinion. The burgess subscribed for 100 francs, and the poor-fund at Zollikofen subscribed for 40 francs. There certainly was good reason for their opinion, for at the time it was given Eberhard had been convicted five times for theft, and had been sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, amounting in the aggregate to over 3 years and 3 months.
It may be an interesting subject of inquiry to the citizens of Joliet, Ill., to ascertain in what manner he would have benefited their community had the emigration been effected. Fortunately for them the ob-tuseness of Eberhard in distinguishing between meum and tuum prevented its accomplishment, as on the 25th of October, 1879, he was sentenced to four months imprisonment in the (to him, familiar) house of correction for theft, and on the graver charge of dangerously threatening life. He has since been punished for participation in robbing a wood-pile.
The action of the burgess of Münchenbuchsee, of the poor board of Zollikofen, and the fact that the man was permitted to go begging from door to door with the sanction of the authorities to whom his vicious and even dangerous character was known, coupled with the detection of other similar cases, tend to discredit the claim of the Journal de Genéve, that “the immigration of which America has reason to complain has never been erected into a system in Switzerland.”
I submit the circumstances of the present case to your consideration, and leave it for your judgment to determine whether this attempt to make a reformatory of Joliet, Ill., on the part of Swiss communal officials calls for a remonstrance on the part of this legation.
I have, &c.,