File No. 367.54/22.
Ambassador Morgenthau to the Secretary of State.
Constantinople, April 3, 1915.
Sir: Referring to the Department’s telegraphic instruction No. 450  of March 5 , 1915, in regard to the extension of good offices to Swiss citizens in Turkey, I have the honor to transmit herewith copies of the Embassy’s first note verbale on this subject to the Sublime Porte, and of its reply, in which it makes certain reservations with respect to the treatment to be accorded to Swiss citizens who reside in the Ottoman Empire. As soon as these reservations are accepted by this Embassy, appropriate instructions will, it is stated, be issued for the recognition of American diplomatic and consular officers in their protection of Swiss interests.
In the past, Swiss citizens have usually placed themselves under French or German protection. Until the entry of Turkey into the present war, Swiss citizens under French protection enjoyed all the rights possessed by French citizens, except that they occasionally had difficulties with the Ottoman authorities over the question of their right to own as Swiss citizens real estate in Turkey, or in the matter of obtaining mining rights, the Swiss Government never having adhered to the Protocol of 1869. The same rule holds good for Swiss citizens under German protection, as this Embassy has been informed that, at the present time, such citizens enjoy all the privileges of German subjects, except in regard to the ownership of real estate.
Since the entry of Turkey into the general war, practically all of the Swiss citizens in Constantinople who were formerly under the protection of the French consular authorities have been temporarily registered as under American protection. It is also possible that the course of events here might lead those Swiss citizens who are now under German protection to dissociate themselves from this in order to be considered under the protection of American consular officers.[Page 1296]
It is possible that the principle proposed in the Porte’s note of March 22 may not be construed by the Ottoman authorities as having a wider bearing than upon the disputed question of the right of Swiss citizens to hold real property in Turkey. The Political Department of the Swiss Government recently informed this Embassy that it did not desire to press for a solution of this question at the present time. The Embassy has therefore replied to this note of the Porte, as per copy herewith enclosed, stating that without consulting the Swiss Republic it does not feel competent to discuss the proposed reservations with respect to the treatment to be accorded to Swiss citizens, and that it can consequently adhere only provisionally to this principle, pending the approval of the Swiss Government, and on the supposition that the Ottoman Government does not desire to accord to Swiss citizens under American protection a less favorable régime than that which they have enjoyed while under the protection of other embassies.
The Department is respectfully requested to submit copies of the correspondence conducted with the Sublime Porte on this question to the Swiss Government. In provisionally accepting the proposal of the Ottoman Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it has been the desire of the Embassy in order to avoid delay to secure temporary recognition of American diplomatic and consular officers as in charge of Swiss interests, so that whatever assistance should be necessary may’ be extended during the present emergency, without committing either the Embassy or the Swiss Government to any definite future attitude.
I have [etc.]