No. 393.
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Stallo.

No. 67.]

Sir: I inclose herewith copy of a dispatch dated June 1 last, from Consul-General Alden, touching the obstacles encountered by citizens of the United States desiring to be married in Italy, growing out of the refusal of the authorities there to perform the ceremony without an official certificate from a consul of the United States that no objection exists to the projected marriage under the laws of the American domicile of the parties.

The case to which the above-mentioned dispatch of the consul-general refers was reported in his No. 139, of the 4th of May last, copy of which is also inclosed. It appears from this dispatch that a Miss____, from Boston, Mass., but for a long time resident in Borne, desired to be married there, and that the authorities refused to permit the ceremony to be performed without an official certificate from the consul-general that “there is nothing in the laws or customs of the United States that would render the marriage invalid,” and the consul-general requested that he should be authorized by telegraph to give such a certificate. To this request the Department replied by telegraph as follows:

Certificate suggested by you inadmissible. There is no general law or custom in United States respecting marriage, and consuls can not certify officially as to State laws. No objection to your examination as expert.

In reply to this the consul-general informs the Department that there is no provision in the Italian law for his examination as an expert; that the authorities require a certificate of “nulla osta” from a consular authority; and that as the Department has forbidden the general issue of official certificates by consuls of American status and domiciliary law of American citizens in respect to marriage, it will be impossible for any American citizen hereafter to be married in Italy, unless the Italian law is changed or the order of the Department modified.

In view of so serious a complication, it is important to know precisely what are the requirements of the Italian law in respect to the subject under consideration.

As the Department is informed, there is not any express provision of Italian law that requires a consular certificate in marriage cases. There must be proof of the capacity of the parties under their personal law, and the certificate of a consul is accepted as sufficient proof, so far as the celebration of the marriage is concerned, of the non-existence of any obstacle to the marriage under that law. But the Department had not supposed that the consular certificate was the only proof admitted for that purpose, and that the personal law of foreigners in respect to marriage could not be proved in the same way as any other matter of foreign law.

[Page 638]

I will thank you to make inquiry concerning this question and report thereon to the Department. And I herewith inclose for your information, and in explanation of the views of the Department on the general subject of the Issuance by ministers and consuls of the United States of official certificates as to the law in this country respecting marriage, copies of certain correspondence which has lately taken place.

I am, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 67.]

Mr. Alden to Mr. Porter.

No. 139.]

Sir: Miss _______, formerly of Boston, Mass., and for a long time a resident of Rome, desire to he married here. According to Italian law she can not be married without a certificate from me that “there is nothing in the laws and customs of the United States” that would render such marriage illegal.

I am morally satisfied that I can truthfully issue such certificate.

Referring to the circular from the Department dated February 8, 1887, which forbids me to issue such certificate “without the special authority” of the Department, I respectfully ask that such authority may be given to me.

Owing to illness in Miss_____’s family it is desirable that her marriage may take place immediately. May I, therefore, venture to ask that the Department will kindly telegraph to me, at my expense, a reply authorizing (or forbidding) me to issue the certificate.

I am, etc.,

William L. Alden.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 67.]

Mr. Porter to Mr. Alden .

[Telegram.]

Alden, Consul, Rome:

Certificate suggested by you inadmissible. There is no general law or custom in the United States respecting marriage, and consuls can not certify officially as to State law. No objection to your examination as expert.

Porter.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 67.]

Mr. Alden to Mr. Porter.

No. 143.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt from the Department of State of a telegram in reply to my dispatch No. 139, dated May 4, 1687. In said telegram, I am informed that the granting of the certificate of “nulla osta,” referred to in my dispatch No, 139, is inadmissible.

Since receiving the telegram I have twice seen the Italian authorities. They inform me that as the Italian law provides that no foreigner can be married in Italy without a certificate of “nulla osta,” and that as the Department of State has forbidden me to issue such certificate, it will henceforth be impossible for any American citizen to be married in Italy, unless the Italian law or the order of the Department should be modified.

I may add that there is no provision by which my “examination as an expert” could take the place of the usual consular certificates. Thanking the Department for its telegram,

I am, sir,

Wm. L. Alden.