File No. 711.654/11.
Ambassador Page to the Secretary of State .
Rome , August 4, 1915 .
Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 221 of December 14, 1914, I have the honor to report that I have again taken up with the Minister for Foreign Affairs the subject of a naturalization treaty between the Governments of the United States and of Italy. In view of the numerous cases which have arisen, and of the conflict of laws of the two countries touching the calling under military service by the Royal Italian Government of American citizens of Italian birth and descent, and of the consequent misapprehension which appears to arise therefrom, and indeed of the friction which may be caused thereby, it has seemed opportune to me to bring this matter of a naturalization treaty again to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.[Page 573]
On Saturday last in presenting a note to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, asking for the release from detention for military service by the Royal Italian Government of the American citizen Agostine Modesto Berardini, I took occasion to go again over the whole subject of the detention of American citizens. Some of these were naturalized and others were born American citizens of naturalized parents of Italian birth. I presented to the Minister personally with the utmost earnestness the difficulties and, indeed, to some extent, the perils which the present status of the apparently conflicting laws of the two countries or at least of the conflicting interpretation of those laws on this subject contains. And I urged upon him the importance of having without delay a convention of naturalization which should eliminate what appears to be fraught with a real menace to the good relations existing between our two countries.
I pointed out to him the obvious fact that the protection of our citizens, especially of those who are citizens by birth, is, irrespective of any treaty, one of the fundamental rights of those citizens and one of the fundamental duties of every government; that the protection of naturalized citizens is equally fundamental both as a right and as a duty where it does not contravene some other fundamental law; and that it is the part of wisdom, where such dangers are apparent, to obviate them in time by providing against them in clear and unmistakable terms.
He enquired what our experience had been with Germany, which he said must have had many such cases to deal with. I told him I could not speak as to recent experiences, but I hardly thought Germany’s attitude one which either of us could cite as quite applicable at the present time.
I feel that I made some impression upon him because our interview ended with his asking me to send him a list of all the cases for whose release I had applied, placing them in two classes: one, those of persons born in America after their fathers’ naturalization, and the other containing those born previous to naturalization.
He said further that he would have the whole question relating to the detention and discharge of such persons carefully studied.
I informed him that his office was full of notes relating to these cases. He said he knew that, but would like to have a personal note from me segregating the cases into two classes and he would see if any distinction could be drawn between them.
I have accordingly sent a note relating to the cases, of which I believe there were nine in all, still unsettled.
In view of the foregoing I do not think it would be amiss to have a form of some convention which might be acceptable to our Government and also give promise of being reasonably acceptable to the Italian Government, prepared and sent me, so that I might bring to the attention of the Italian Government in a rather more definite way, though, of course, only by way of suggestion, our desires on this subject. This might serve as the beginning of negotiations which might lead eventually to the negotiation of a treaty reasonably acceptable to both Governments.
I could, of course, formulate such a draft myself, along the lines of our treaties with Germany and Austria-Hungary, but I fancy that it would be better done in the Department, where there is greater [Page 574] familiarity with such forms than I could pretend to possess. Moreover, I desire to have an expression of your views on the details of this important matter.
I have [etc.]