Mr. Winchester to Mr. Bayard.
Berne, January 24, 1889. (Received February 5.)
Sir: The cablegram synopsis of the report made by the Immigration Investigation Committee of the House of Representatives states that the report adduces evidence to show that criminals are shipped to the United States by the officials of foreign Governments, and names Switzerland as one of two countries whose officials “persist in that course even after they have been requested to desist.” I am surprised “to see this statement, and am anxious to know upon what information it was made. It is a grave charge, and certainly has been based upon what was believed, at least by the committee, to be reliable information. It must be confessed that during the nearly four years since filling this post nothing has come to the knowledge of this legation or in any way occurred to give even color to a suspicion of such conduct on the part of the Swiss officials, federal or cantonal. And it has been a subject which has not escaped the proper and careful watchfulness, so far as practicable, of this legation and consulate-general.
The legation has occasion now to regret very much that the series of questions presented by the committee of the House of Representatives, relating to the importation of convicts, paupers, etc., into the United States, inclosed in your No. 227, of August 8, 1888, was received at a time when it was impossible to comply with its request, for reasons given in my No. 227; and the legation was compelled, as all that was possible under the circumstances, to beg that the translation of the revised emigration law of Switzerland which had been shortly before transmitted by it in No. 225, be accepted as its answer to the circular letter aforesaid. It was believed that the important changes and additions therein made showed an earnest desire on the part of the Swiss federal assembly to suppress the shipping as emigrants of all objectionable classes; and it is doubtful if any other country can produce a statute so fully meeting this evil, so far as it can be compassed by legislation, and investing its execution with more detail and thoroughness of police and judicial powers. And this legation has had no sufficient reason to doubt but that this law is sought to be enforced by the Swiss officials in perfect good faith. Previous to 1881 there existed some complaint of objectionable and assisted emigration from certain local communities in Switzerland to the United States, but after the enactment in that year of a federal law forbidding the “forwarding of persons to whom the laws of the country to which they proposed to emigrate, prohibited entry,” the practice was regarded as altogether abandoned. The Swiss are not an emigrating people, and the number of emigrants is much smaller than ten years ago. As a rule the Swiss immigrants received by the United States are in every respect desirable and fitted to make the best of citizens. They are ambitious, energetic, industrious men, with muscle and enterprise seeking to better their condition in a great and growing country. There are no foreign colonies in the United States which have given more satisfaction and more willingly and sincerely become identified with the country, its people, and institutions than those composed of the Swiss. The Swiss Government does not desire to see her people emigrate—she is not overcrowded in a European sense—there is no extreme destitution, no unreasonable public burdens, but much general comfort and contentment, with a very small idle and vicious class. It may be said that Switzerland positively obstructs emigration in refusing [Page 693] to negotiate with any foreign power a naturalization treaty, and when one of her citizens emigrates and acquires other domicile and citizenship, however distant he may be, however long his separation from her, she still clings to him, watching him with maternal solicitude, ever ready to receive him back into the fold with all his rights intact, until he has been released from his citizenship and surrendered these rights upon his own formal and specific request. When printed the legation would be pleased to have a copy of the report of the committee, and especially any statement submitted to it in reference to the Shipment of criminals from Switzerland.
I am, etc.,