Mr. Olney to Mr. MacVeagh.
Washington , November 6, 1896 .
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your 209, of the 22d ultimo, inclosing copy of your note to the Italian foreign office in the case of Vittorio Gardella, an American citizen of Italian origin, who has been forced into the military service of Italy.
In reply I have to say that the Mileo case, printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1890 (pp. 536–554), is one of the most important and most fully discussed in our recent relations with Italy. It discloses the just remonstrance and logical contention of this Government in the matter and its renewed but unsucessful overture for a naturalization treaty. A number of similar cases, differing in detail but all embodying the same principle, will be found of earlier record than Mileo’s, with uniform insistence of the Italian Government upon its claimed right to draft into the ranks, with added penalty for constructive evasion of service, any person of Italian birth returning to Italian jurisdiction, whether he may have acquired foreign citizenship in the meantime or not. The remonstrances of this Government have been equally unavailing to afford relief. In certain instances, like those of Mileo and Gardella, where the party has emigrated during childhood and acquired American [Page 424] citizenship by naturalization after attaining majority, the Italian contention appears to rest on the theory that the obligation to military service accrued and the consequent constructive evasion (renitenza) took place while the person was still an Italian subject, so that the liabilities so incurred are not extinguished by subsequent naturalization in another country. But as the same treatment has been applied and insisted upon in the case of Italian-born infants taken to the United States and becoming citizens through their fathers’ naturalization long before they themselves attained military age, the element of citizenship at the time the alleged liability accrues is apparently ignored, leaving the Italian position indistinguishable from an assertion of the obsolescent dogma of perpetual allegiance.
The Department has little to add to the views expressed in the Mileo case, and while it would welcome the success of any endeavors you might make to secure a treaty dealing with the rights of the naturalized citizens of the two countries, it is not inclined to hope for such a result unless the Italian view of the matter shall have been materially modified. Should you take a favorable occasion to renew overtures in this regard, it might be best to confine the discussion to this one topic, laying aside the question of Italy’s claims in regard to the nonextradition of Italian subjects until some other and perhaps more propitious opportunity.
I am, etc.