Mr. MacVeagh to Mr. Olney.
Rome , October 26, 1896 . (Received Nov. 9.)
Sir: Referring to my dispatch No. 209, of the 22d instant, respecting the claim of Vittorio Gardella, a citizen of the United States, to be released from the military service of Italy, in which he is now compelled to serve, I beg to say that I have not been able to discover among the files here any farther correspondence in the case of Mileo. This is perhaps due to the fact that as in that case the subject of the contention had in fact escaped to the United States before the question arose, the discussion was necessarily of an academic rather than of a practical character, and may for that reason have been abandoned by mutual consent. But the result was that the Government of Italy distinctly claimed the right to seize and put in its army a citizen of the United States who, though born in Italy, had become a resident of the United States in infancy, had been duly naturalized there on attaining the proper age, had made the United States always his home, and had only returned many years afterwards on a brief visit to the land of his birth. In the present case Gardella claims in addition to have left his family at his and their home in New York City to await his return. Now, while we have yielded much to avoid wounding the susceptibility of the military powers of Europe by any appearance of countenancing what could by any reasonable construction be held to be escaping from military service, we have not, so far as I am aware, ever recognized the right to exact such service from one of our citizens under such circumstances as are alleged to exist in the present case.
On the other hand, I can not discover that Italy has ever receded from the extent of her claims as stated in the case of Mileo.
On further reflection, therefore, it seemed to me extremely desirable to prevent, if possible, an interchange of dispatches, which might render [Page 425] an amicable adjustment of the matter very difficult, and I therefore sought an interview with the Marquis Visconte Venosta, the minister of foreign affairs, during which I handed him in person the communication I had addressed to him and explained to him fully what had occurred in the case of Mileo.
I then impressed upon him the desirableness of his giving his own personal attention to the subject rather than committing the preparation of a reply to my note to anyone else. I also suggested to him that, as it was of the class of cases in which prompt action was desirable, he might possibly see his way to secure the release of Gardella as a matter of courtesy to a friendly nation, while reserving for future discussion and adjustment by treaty or otherwise all the questions of right involved.
I called his attention to the provisions of our treaty of September 20, 1870, with Austria-Hungary on the subject as showing that in contending for the extreme views presented in Mileo’s case Italy was isolating herself from the other military nations of Europe.
His excellency listened with great interest to all I had to say, expressed his warm appreciation of my coming directly to him before the controversy had a chance to become acute, and said that he would give the whole subject his personal and very careful attention. He dwelt especially upon the possible value of my suggestion of releasing Gardella as an act of courtesy without any waiver of the rights of Italy as probably enabling the subject to be discussed more dispassionately and at greater leisure.
Trusting the course I have pursued will meet your approval, I have, etc.,