No. 1043.
Mr. Kloss to Mr. Bayard.


Mr. Secretary of State: We have the honor to inclose a circular note which the Swiss Federal Council has just addressed to the Governments of the states represented in Switzerland by diplomatic or consular officers concerning the reciprocal prepayment of the correspondence exchanged between these Governments and their representatives.

Pray accept, etc.,

K. Kloss.

The Swiss Federal Council to Mr. Bayard.

Mr. Minister: The Universal Postal Congress of Paris (1878), and that of Lisbon (1885), were occupied with the question of ascertaining whether it would not be proper to render obligatory the prepayment of correspondence dispatched by the authorities of the different countries and especially by the diplomatic and consular agents residing abroad.

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The congresses of Berne, Paris, and Lisbon having always defeated by a large majority the motions offered to prescribe the obligatory prepayment of all correspondence, it is natural that these congresses should have been unable to stipulate this obligation for only a part of this correspondence, namely, that dispatched by the authorities or the diplomatic and consular agents.

But the congresses of Paris and Lisbon recognized none the less the great inconveniences resulting from the non-prepayment of the correspondence in question, especially of that dispatched by diplomatic or consular agents residing abroad. Therefore, in full session of May 28, 1878, the Universal Postal Congress of Paris, after an excited and thorough debate, resolved as follows: “It is the spirit of the treaty which has given birth to the Universal Postal Union, and should be regarded as a result of that treaty, that prepayment should be made as general as possible, especially by the agents of the Governments.”

It appears from the debates of the postal congress held about seven years later (in 1885, at Lisbon), that attention has not been paid everywhere to this very well founded desire.

In fact, according to the report of the first committee of the latter congress on the revision of the main convention, session of February 14, a delegation made the following observation:

“The provision which forbids free postage, except that of the post-office departments, is not generally observed. There are, then, Governments which do not require their agents abroad to prepay their correspondence, and it may be imagined the postage is not paid on its arrival; were this the case, the matter would be of no importance from the stand-point of the treasury of the country.

“It is, in fact, granting free postage to the injury of the post-office department of the country of origin, which, moreover, has to pay the transit cost of the correspondence forwarded.”

After the debate which this observation brought on, and in which the fact alleged was not denied, the committee agreed to abide by the desire expressed by the Paris congress.

The difficulty that certain diplomatic or consular agents residing abroad do not prepay the correspondence dispatched by them to their Governments exists none the less at the present moment either as a course pursued originally or by way of reprisal.

The Swiss Federal Council is of opinion that it would be well in the interest of all the Governments to put an end to this condition of things, which is so far from conforming with the spirit of the Union. To do this it would be sufficient for the Governments to bind themselves reciprocally to order their diplomatic and consular agents residing abroad always to wholly prepay the correspondence they may address at hem. In this way a condition of affairs perfectly regular and equitable would be assured without injury to the interests of any of the countries, as there would be reciprocity everywhere.

We have the honor to propose to your excellency that an engagement in the sense above mentioned may be mutually entered into by our two countries, an engagement for which a simple declaration would suffice, in our opinion.

Expecting your kind reply, we avail ourselves of this occasion, etc.

In the name of the Swiss Federal Council.

  • Schenk,
    The President of the Confederation.
  • Ringier,
    The Chancellor of the Confederacy.