Mr. Gresham to Baron Fava.

Dear Baron Fava: Referring to your personal note to me of the 19th ultimo, in regard to the condition of the Italian immigrants who fall into the hands of speculators, I have the pleasure to inclose for your information copy of a letter from Mr. Carlisle in response to the communication which I addressed to him on the subject.

In addition, permit me to refer to my colleague’s statement that “under the alien contract-labor law, if proper evidence could be procured, these immigrants could be prevented from landing, and the padroni bankers or employés could be punished for bringing them here under contract.” Mr. Carlisle shows how difficult it is to obtain from the immigrants themselves information which would enable the rigid requirements of our law to be enforced as respects the padroni.

This suggests that a remedy might lie, to a great extent, with the Italian consuls, who, being better situated to ascertain from their deluded countrymen the practices to which they have been subjected, could doubtless bring to the knowledge of the Treasury officers sufficient data upon which to act in enforcement of our laws in this regard. Should they do so, I can assure you of the most cordial cooperation of our agents.

I quite agree with Mr. Carlisle touching the impracticability of meeting the problem through specially organized bureaus of labor.

Feeling sure that my colleague’s views will commend themselves to your good judgment,

I am, etc.,

W. Q. Gresham.

Mr. Carlisle to Mr. Gresham.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge your favor transmitting a personal note from the Italian ambassador at this capital, pointing out the objectionable character of the contracts made with Italian immigrants by the “padroni,” and urging our Government to take steps to prevent their enforcement, and suggesting the establishment of bureaus of labor recognized by the Government.

In reply I have to say that the subject of what is known as the padrone system, by which Italian immigrants voluntarily surrender their individual liberty to designing men, in order to procure money to pay their passage to the United States, and enter into contracts to pay them for obtaining work, whereby they become personal serfs, controlled by rapacious men who rob them of a large part of the fruits of their labor, has received the serious attention of this Department and the Congress of the United States; and the necessity of the adoption of some effective measure for the suppression of these practices is generally recognized. You can assure the ambassador of my willingness to cooperate with his Government to the full extent of the power of this Department in eradicating the evil.

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Under the alien contract labor law, if proper evidence could be procured, these immigrants could be prevented from landing, and the padroni bankers or employés could be punished for bringing them here unaer contract; and as far as possible these laws are being rigidly enforced. The great difficulty encountered is the inability of the authorities to secure evidence to make out a case against either the immigrant or the padroni. These contracts are made in Italy with illiterate people in almost abject poverty, who willingly barter their personal liberty in order to procure the means necessary to enable them to come to America to better their condition. The contract once entered into, which is frequently done in the presence of a priest, who is generally the friend of the padroni, these immigrants will not violate it, and upon arrival here will, under oath, deny its existence; and unless they come within some of the other prohibited classes, the inspectors are obliged to land them.

The establishment of bureaus of labor, which would secure work for these misguided people under Government control, might be an efficient remedy for the evil if such a system was lawful or practicable. I fear that not one of these immigrants would willingly violate his compact, made before leaving his own country, but would, immediately after landing, report to his padroni who had advanced the money to pay his passage. If the bureaus of labor are to be under governmental control for the purpose of restraining these people, and sending them, to fields of labor against their will, it would be such a restraint as would be incompatible with our principles of self-government.

We have at present, in connection with the immigrant depot at Ellis Island, an employment bureau where immigrants of all nationalities are invited to come and apply for work; and this is taken advantage of by all nationalities except Italians.

I suggest that you extend to the ambassador an invitation to visit the immigration depot at Ellis Island, in the harbor of New York, with Mr. Stump, Superintendent of Immigration, and there witness the inspection of Italian immigrants upon arrival, and ascertain how many of them could be induced to give up their preconceived plans and intentions.

I am of the opinion that the Italian Government could materially assist us by sending emissaries into the districts from which emigrants principally leave, and through the press, and by speeches and personal contact with those who can not read, warn them of the evils of the padrone system.

Respectfully, yours,

J. G. Carlisle.