File No. 811.2222/4613b

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


1089. Your 1430, February 23. Please express to the Foreign Minister my appreciation of the friendly attitude of the Italian Government as shown by their practical acceptance of my proposal to enter into a military service convention along the lines of the draft convention submitted in my February 16.1 I accept the Italian suggestion to change the word “subject” wherever it occurs in the convention to “citizen,” so as to make the convention inapplicable to Italian colonial subjects. It is understood that in thus limiting the application of the convention American citizens residing in such [Page 694] colonies will also be excluded from the convention. I would like to have an assurance from the Italian Government to that effect.

If it were practicable to do so I would be pleased to accept the second suggestion of the Italian Government to have the age limits for military service of Italians in the United States 18 to 44 years, but I am advised by the War Department that it will be impossible at the present time to modify the standard ages of 20 to 40 years both inclusive, which it had adopted after the most careful consideration for reasons of efficient administration in the United States of the various conventions as explained in next to the last paragraph by my telegram of February 16. I think the Italian Government will readily appreciate the necessity for uniformity in these conventions with the cobelligerents in order that they can be carried out with the least delay, and with the greatest effect in the United States. I would therefore be pleased if the Italian Government were able to accede to the American proposal as to the ages of 20 to 40 years both inclusive, so that the Italian convention will, in this respect, be identical with the other conventions entered into with the co-belligerents.

The Counselor of the Italian Embassy has stated, under instructions from his Government, that Italians going abroad in the service of the United States should not be refused readmission into the United States on account of the immigration laws against the admission of illiterate immigrants. The Counselor was shown the bill now pending in Congress which specifically covers this point, and it seemed to be satisfactory to him.

It is understood that the Italian Government is willing that Italians going abroad in the service of the United States should not be regarded or treated by Italy as deserters from its forces, as suggested in my telegram; of February 16. If this understanding coincides with that of the Italian Government I would be pleased to have a specific assurance from it on this point in order to allay the apprehension of Italians in this country who might be subject to military service under the proposed convention.

If the foregoing is acceptable to the Italian Government I would like to sign the convention here at the earliest possible moment and trust that the Italian Government will be able to telegraph authority therefor to the Italian Ambassador here.

For your information. Before signing the proposed convention it is necessary for us to have the two assurances from the Italian Government specified above. Please endeavor to obtain these and telegraph them to me immediately.

Also endeavor to ascertain informally whether the Italian Government would be willing to relieve the relatives of Italians in the [Page 695] United States who have not returned for military service from the penal taxes which are being levied for this offense, if such Italians should choose to serve in the National Army.

  1. Ante, p. 679.