to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Berne, April 18, 1884. (Received May 3.)
Sir: Almost every American mail brings letters addressed to this legation (or to the consulate general) by natives of Switzerland who have acquired citizenship in the United States, requesting our good offices in the collection of patrimonies, legacies, and other forms of property. As the Swiss Federal Council does not like to see the foreign legations at this capital placing themselves in direct correspondence with the cantonal governments, this legation has therefore declined to officially attend to the collection of such property, unless instructed to do so by the Department.
All such requests have, however, been attended to by the consul-general connected with this legation, Mr. J. E. Hinnen, the vice and deputy consul-general, acting under my supervision as the medium of communication between the cantonal or communal authorities and the parties in the United States whose property is to be collected.
In attending to such business we meet with many difficulties, the chief of which is that the parties desiring us to collect their property have generally failed to comply with the Swiss law concerning expatriation.
This law requires, among other things, that those who have expatriated themselves and acquired citizenship in other countries should transmit to the government of the canton of their birth a duly authenticated statement of their renunciation of citizenship in said canton, with a request to release them therefrom. This statement to be accompanied with legal proofs of their having acquired citizenship elsewhere; that is, a duly certified copy of their naturalization certificate. The principal reason therefor is to preclude the possibility of such persons, in case of poverty, to return to the community of their birth, for the purpose of claiming financial and other aid from the local authorities thereof.
Unless these requirements are complied with these local authorities are not willing to surrender such property and legacies. All this causes much unnecessary correspondence between this legation and consulate-general on one hand, and said local authorities and American citizens of Swiss birth on the other, to say nothing of the insulting letters the latter class of persons often address to us, if we are, for the reasons stated above, unsuccessful in collecting their claims.
Under these circumstances I take the liberty to suggest that the Department cause a statement to be published in English and German journals in the United States making known to American citizens of Swiss birth what the requirements of the Swiss law are respecting the collection of their claims in their native homes. Much unnecessary correspondence and hard feelings would thereby be avoided.
I have, &c.,