Baron Fava to Mr. Olney.

Mr. Secretary of State: I did not fail to draw the attention of my Government upon the statement made in your note of November 27 ultimo that the three Italian subjects lynched at Hahnville, La., “by qualifying and acting as electors had, according to the constitution and laws of Louisiana as interpreted by its supreme court, become citizens of that State.”

I premise that even if the three Italians had voted, which is not yet proved, my Government hardly understands that they could become citizens of a State of the Union without being citizens of the United States. The Federal laws having prescribed a uniform rule of naturalization, and the power of naturalization being exclusively in Congress, the Italian Government is entitled to think that the laws of Louisiana, however peculiar they may be in respect to citizenship, can not be recognized by a foreign Power. Besides the very fact that the article 185 of the constitution of Louisiana says that “any foreigner may vote who has taken out his first papers,” is conclusive proof that any foreigner who does so vote is still an alien.

Moreover, you are aware, Mr. Secretary of State, that in the early settlement of the Western States of the Union, many of the legislatures expressly granted the right to vote to aliens who had declared their intention to become citizens, and many thousands of such aliens so voted. This was a common practice. It was never pretended, however, that they became citizens until they took out their final papers. The privilege of voting was a mere permission given by the State, which no one claimed created citizenship; on the contrary, the fact expressly appeared that they were not such citizens. Under these circumstances they remained aliens so far as the National Government was concerned, and were entitled to be protected as such aliens.

The recent cases in Louisiana were not different. The three men lynched were Italian subjects beyond all question. If they voted [Page 422] wrongfully, they were still aliens; if they voted rightfully under the laws of the State while aliens, they lost none of their rights as such aliens under the treaty of the United States with Italy.

As far as it concerns the suggestion made by you in your aforesaid note whether the Italian Government can or can not consider as his subjects those Italians to whom it is permitted to vote in the States of the Union, allow me to observe that the solution of this question belongs solely to the Italian legislator and to Italian law. As a matter of fact I can add that the Federal Government has always considered and still considers as citizens of the United States the numerous Americans who in Hawaii take a prominent part in the political affairs and vote openly at the elections of those islands.

I feel confident that the additional considerations which I have now the honor to submit to your enlightened and impartial examination will still better convince you of the ground and the justice of the request I had the occasion to renew by my two recent notes of December 31, 1896, and of the 10th instant, to which I refer.

Accept, etc.,