Mr. Winchester to Mr. Bayard.
Berne, June 30, 1888. (Received July 14.)
Sir: I am gratified to be able to say that the question of a naturalization treaty with Switzerland has at last assumed a more favorable aspect, and one which it is believed will ultimately lead to its negotiation. It is the custom for the federal council to make a comprehensive report at the close of each calendar year, covering the work done by the several cabinet departments, with suggestions for needed legislation by the federal assembly. This report is examined by a commission, appointed alternately from the two branches of the federal assembly, and submitted to these bodies with an expression of opinion on the action and suggestions of the federal council.
The report of this commission made to the federal assembly, now in session, referring to the “right of citizenship,” says:
The United States of America proclaims and practices the principle that an American citizen can not belong to another nationality, and therefore, one wishing to obtain American citizenship must abjure his former nationality. From this has arisen in the international relations of that Republic with other countries, serious conflicts in regard to the state or home right, and a constant danger of resulting in Heimat-lösigkeit, homeless people. Different states, and among them the German Empire, has found it necessary some years since to conclude a convention with the United States, by which Germans in America are Americans, and so with Americans in Germany (when naturalized under the laws of these countries). The Same inconvenience and trouble has happened to Switzerland in its relations to the United States, and the report of the federal council attests the existing difficulties. To correct these inconveniences the United States have repeatedly proposed to Switzerland the remedy employed by other states, the conclusion of a convention. But so far the federal council has been of the opinion that these overtures could not be entertained. This they have been impelled to in view of Article 41 of the federal constitution, which prescribes that no canton shall deprive a citizen of his Swiss citizenship; and in view of the positive Swiss states right according to which a Switzer an only by his own free act renounce his Swiss nationality, there was no power to change these principles by a treaty.
Lately on account of new occurrences and reconsideration the federal council appears to be disposed under the circumstances named to enter into a consideration of the convention proposed by the United States Government, and the commission would request the federal council to carry out this purpose and to have the question from this point of view considered.
A copy of the report of the commission is this day transmitted to the Department, under separate cover, as printed matter. Whilst an amendment to the constitution will be required precedent to any formal or immediate effort for the negotiation of a naturalization treaty, the question is in much better shape than at any time heretofore, and with the support of the federal council and assembly as indicated by the report there is every reasonable prospect of its final consummation.
I am, etc.,