Mr. Winchester to Mr. Bayard.
Berne , May 25, 1886. (Received June 5.)
Sir: Within the last few days the legation has been advised by three consulates of the unusual activity of Mormon agents to secure emigrant recruits, it is believed, to join the community at Salt Lake. The information so far conveyed is rather vague. The consuls have been unable to obtain any accurate or positive information as to the work of these emissaries or the ultimate destination of the proselytes, but very properly have deemed it their duty to call attention to the facts, in order to stimulate additional vigilance both in Switzerland and the United States to thwart these efforts. The work of these Mormon propagandists is done very clandestinely, and in conjunction with the difficulty, in any individual case, of discovering the motives of an emigrant, it is almost impossible to find any practicable way to arrest it. The Swiss authorities, federal and cantonal, show every disposition to enforce the law of 1881, forbidding agents “to forward persons to whom the laws of the country to which they emigrate prohibit entry.” The police direction of the Canton of Berne have for some time kept in the newspapers a notice warning the public against these agents and the severe penalties imposed by American legislation against polygamy.
Heretofore the Swiss Government, whilst ready to extend a cheerful co-operation in suppressing Mormon recruiting, has held with much force that as long as the laws enacted by the Congress of the United States shall fail to be enforced in. Utah it must be expected that a secret propaganda, difficult to lay hold of, will be made in favor of Mormonism in other countries, and the strictest scrutiny will not be successful in preventing persons free in their persons and property from emigrating towards the country which promises the realization of their ideas. This reason can no longer be justly assigned. The existing statutes are comprehensive and explicit. The local courts are firm and determined in their execution, and are sustained by the Supreme Court. It may be confidently expected that this institution, so long a blot on the morality and decency of the country, will be suppressed and eradicated. This legation desires to be instructed as to the discretion, if any, that may be exercised in declining to issue a passport to a person presenting satisfactory proof of American citizenship, but suspected to be in Switzerland for the purpose of securing Mormon emigrants for the United States. Since the assumption of the duties of this mission there have been several instances where circumstances gave strong and reasonable grounds for suspecting the parties to be Mormon emissaries. In each case they were carefully interrogated if this was their purpose, to which they gave an unconditional denial. The power to refuse passports, wisely and discreetly used, could be made to serve a good purpose.
I am, &c.,