The Swiss Minister to the Secretary of State .
Washington, D. C. , March 11, 1903 .
Mr. Secretary of State: The Geneva Convention of August 22, 1864, has proved a boon to suffering humanity. It has helped in alleviating the evils inseparable from war and in ameliorating the lot of wounded or injured soldiers of armies in the field. And so there is no longer anyone who will question its usefulness; yet its shortcomings and the necessity for modifications suggested by the experience acquired since 1864 are admitted. As early as 1868 a conference met for the purpose at Geneva and adopted a draft of 15 articles, additional to the convention of 1864, 9 of which related to naval warfare. These articles failed to receive diplomatic sanction and could not be enacted. The conference of 1874, convened at Brussels for the purpose of codifying the usages of war, also took up the revision of the Geneva Convention (see protocols Nos. 8 and 9, sessions of the 10th and 11th of August), and a subcommittee elaborated a draft that was to be submitted to the Governments “in view of the modifications and improvements that might be introduced by joint accord into the Geneva Convention.” Lastly, the International Peace Conference, called at The Hague upon the generous initiative of His Majesty the Emperor of All the Russias, achieved a great advance in the convention signed on July 29, 1899, relative to the application of the principles of the Geneva Convention to naval warfare. This conference [Page 1531] was unable to take up the revision of the Geneva Convention and confined itself to adopting the following resolution:
The conference, taking into consideration the preliminary steps taken by the Swiss Federal Government toward the revision of the Geneva Convention, utters the wish that a special conference, having for its object the revision of that convention, may be called in the near future.
The Swiss High Federal Council is of the opinion that the time has now come to take action on that wish, and has in consequence the honor to invite the governments of the states, parties to the Convention of Geneva, to send representatives to a conference which it proposes to convene at Geneva on the 14th of September of this year, in contemplation of the suggested reform.
Your excellency will receive with this letter a few copies of a brief statement of the questions to be discussed in the proposed conference. It is not the High Swiss Federal Council’s purpose to circumscribe by this statement the field of the conference’s deliberations, or to restrict the right of each delegate to lay before the conference any motion that he may deem expedient to formulate. Its only wish has been to epitomize the points which, in its judgment, will chiefly command the attention of the conference.
Your excellency will also receive a few copies of a note addressed to the Swiss High Federal Council on July 22, 1901, by the legation of Great Britain at Berne, and which contains propositions connected with the revision of the Geneva Convention.
The Swiss High Federal Council cherishes the hope that your Government will favorably receive its proposition and be so good as to communicate, in good time, the names of its delegates.
Be pleased to accept, etc.,