File No. 811.2222/4194b

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Italy ( Page)


1078. Your 1412, February 11,1 conscription convention. We have agreed with Great Britain and Canada as to two separate conscription conventions, and I am desirous of negotiating an agreement as nearly identical as possible with Italy. On account of the changes in the conventions with Great Britain and Canada, I have prepared a new draft of a proposed convention between the United States and Italy which is practically identical with the conventions mentioned. This draft is appended to this telegram.2

[Page 680]

It will be observed from this draft that I have incorporated Italy’s suggested change in article 3 by adding the words “or by other authorities appointed for that purpose by the respective Governments.”

It will also be observed that the article regarding deserters has been omitted entirely. This has been done for the reason that it has been found unnecessary even with Canada to have an article regarding deserters in the convention and because this Government is unwilling to extend the provision so as to include persons who have deserted prior to the date of ratification of the agreement, as they are now covered by the enlarged ages for military service in the United States. In any event it would be impracticable to have the provision apply also to deserters from merchant vessels. It is believed, therefore, by this Government, to be most feasible not to have in the convention any provision regarding deserters. If the Italian Government feels that the insertion of an article regarding deserters is essential to the convention, this Government would be pleased to be informed of the fact, as in that case it would be unnecessary to continue further negotiations. If, however, the Italian Government is willing to omit the provision regarding deserters, the United States Government desires that it be understood that should American forces containing Italians go to the Italian front, Italians in such forces would not be regarded or treated by Italy as deserters.

This Government is pleased to state that the convention is drafted so as to meet the wishes of the Italian Government in regard to Italian citizens who have taken out first papers of American citizenship and are subject to the United States Selective Service Act of May 18, 1917. Under the proposed convention such persons as well as all others under the convention would be given an option to return home for military service, should they so desire.

As to article 8 proposed by the Italian Government, this Government finds it impossible to accede thereto, for the reason that the questions of salaries, allowances, pensions, et cetera, are matters involving appropriations of public moneys and extensive legislation and therefore properly to be considered by both Houses of Congress rather than to be settled by the Executive and the Senate in a treaty.

As to article 9 proposed by the Italian Government, this Government believes that the matters therein provided for might preferably be left to the determination of the Government concerned without mentioning them in the treaty. It is understood that Italians having military obligations to fulfill at home may voluntarily enlist here in the United States Army at any time. The wide range of ages [Page 681] (20 to 40 years, both inclusive) in the draft convention hereto attached, for military service in the United States appears to meet the desires of the Italian Government on this point.

As to article 10, the Government of the United States prefers to omit this article for the reason that legislation is now pending in Congress to facilitate the reentry into the United States of citizens or subjects of the Entente Powers who have become inadmissible on account of disabilities received during military service in the war. As this is a matter dealing with immigration into the United States which must receive the consideration of both Houses of Congress, and as legislation on the subject is now pending, it would be inadvisable to insert the proposed article 10 in the convention.

I am sure that the addition of the proposed articles 8, 9, and 10 would delay the approval of the treaty by the Senate, and perhaps endanger its consummation. No articles like these appear in the conventions between the United States and Great Britain and Canada, and it is essential for purposes of administration to have the conscription conventions between the United States and the Entente Powers as nearly uniform as possible. It will be appreciated that to apply several conventions of different character to as many nationalities, respectively, in the United States would lead to endless confusion and insuperable administrative difficulties, on account of the large number of aliens in the United States. I trust, therefore, that the Italian Government will appreciate these difficulties and be willing to enter into an agreement with the United States such as I have appended hereto.

On account of drastic legislation for military service of aliens now pending in Congress, which has been suspended for two weeks to await outcome of negotiations with Entente Powers, and which will come up for consideration again the first part of next week, it is necessary for me to know by next Saturday, February 23, whether the Italian Government believes it possible to reach an agreement as to a conscription convention in accordance with the foregoing.

  1. Ante p. 671.
  2. Not printed; similar to draft proposed for France, supra.