Mr. Hay to Mr. Bridgman.
Washington , September 1, 1899 .
Sir: I inclose for your perusal copy of a letter addressed to the President by the Rev. John Lee, chairman of a committee appointed by the Chicago Methodist Ministers’ Meeting to make efforts to bring about larger religious liberty in the Republics of Bolivia Ecuador, and Peru.
This Government, practicing as it does at home the largest principles of freedom of thought and belief, is naturally desirous to see its citizens enjoy in other countries a reasonable freedom from restrictions or disabilities imposed by reason of religious faith. While recognizing that the determination of the internal policy of a nation is an attribute of its sovereignty, the United States have not hesitated to express this desire, in considerate and friendly ways, as in the instance of the marriage laws of Peru, to the end that the law-abiding citizens of the United States sojourning in lands to which our country is bound by ties of amity and similarity of representative institutions may be relieved from discriminations affecting their individual life, liberties, and domestic relations in a manner at variance with the tendencies of this liberal age.
Instructions to be found upon your files show the deep interest this Government has long taken in procuring for its citizens in Bolivia a rational measure of freedom of worship and teaching, and due recognition of their domestic relations so far as may be consistent with the lawful practice of modern nations whose devotion to the cause of human advancement and the inculcation of high morality can not be questioned.
You are requested to examine and report upon the present condition of the legislation of Bolivia in regard to the liberty of conscience and teaching enjoyed by foreigners and as respects the status of aliens contracting marriage according to other rites and codes than those of the established church.
If in the course of your examination you shall deem the ascertained facts to warrant you in so doing, you are authorized to make such discreet representations in the proper quarters, by way of friendly but earnest suggestion, as may conduce to the desired end. You will, however, [Page 113] be cautious in such case to avoid wounding the sensibilities of a generous people or appearing to advocate any unduly exceptional treatment of the natives of the country.
I am, etc.,