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

No. 2167

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 1102 of December 1st, last,33 on the subject of the proposed naturalization convention between Italy and the United States and to the Embassy’s despatch No. 2119 of January 31st,34 regarding the military obligations of Italians who expatriate themselves or reside abroad.

As soon as possible after the receipt of the Department’s instruction above mentioned Mr. Kirk opened conversations on the subject with Mr. Valentino, Chief of the American Section of the Foreign Office, and submitted to him:

A draft of a Naturalization Treaty which was based on a prepared treaty submitted by the Department of State in February, 1926,34 and of which certain parts were redrafted in order to conform with the Department’s above-mentioned instruction of December 1, 1928.
A draft of an informal agreement in the sense of the Article quoted on page 2 of the Department’s instruction of December 1, 1928, regarding the liability for the performance of acts of allegiance on the part of persons possessing both American and Italian nationality while residing in the territory of either country.
A draft of an agreement for the termination of one nationality or the other in cases of dual nationality arising at birth, as outlined in the last paragraph on page 3 of the Department’s instruction of December 1, 1928.

[Page 466]

Mr. Valentino stated that all matters relating to nationality were extremely difficult of solution in Italy owing to opposition on the part of the military authorities, but that he would study the various questions submitted and inform the Embassy of the result.

Mr. Kirk has had several subsequent conversations with Mr. Valentino but no progress has been made.

On my first call on Undersecretary Grandi after my return to Italy, I brought up this subject and he also referred to the difficulties in the way of making the arrangements we desired, but promised to give the matter further consideration.

He informed me confidentially that he feared that if Italy agreed to our proposals with regard to the nationality of those born in the United States of Italian parents, they would be placed in an embarrassing position vis-à-vis France, as his Government did not wish to recognize this principle in the case of Italians born in France.

I am informed by my Brazilian and Argentine Colleagues that they also have had this subject before the Italian Foreign Office and are experiencing the same difficulties as ourselves.

The Brazilian Ambassador informs me that he has made an arrangement whereby the Italian Government agrees not to require military service of Italian-Brazilians (if one may use this term to denote the dual nationality) who produce a certificate from the Brazilian Embassy that they have performed their military service in Brazil.

The Argentine Ambassador informs me that he is unwilling to make an arrangement of this kind as it is inconsistent with Argentine law. He has also informed me in confidence that after a very flagrant instance where Italian officials insisted that one of his nationals of Italian name and Italian paternity should provide himself with an Italian passport before being allowed to embark, he (the Ambassador) instructed all Argentine Consular Officers in Italy to suspend the certification of shipping documents etc. for vessels destined to the Argentine. This had the effect he desired. An immediate storm was raised by the Shipping Companies. After a rather hectic interview with Undersecretary Grandi his nationals were allowed to depart and the consular embargo was raised. The Ambassador told me that he was very reluctant to have had recourse to strong measures but his representations and protests in support of Argentine nationals of Italian origin and parentage visiting Italy had proven unavailing.

He also suggested the idea that joint representations or action might be taken by the Governments of the United States of America, Brazil and the Argentine to secure the recognition by Italy and all other European Governments of the Jus soli. I suggested that he [Page 467] would probably wish first to have his Government’s approval of such a course and in any event I felt sure my Government would wish to discuss any proposals looking to this end directly with his Government.

I report these facts to show that notwithstanding the opposition of the War Department and the special considerations involving France, a steady pressure is being brought to bear on the Italian Government to modify its attitude regarding those who are born in American countries (at least) of Italian parents and who claim and have received American nationality under the laws of the country of their residence.

There is of course one difficulty in this connection which should be borne in mind, and that is that very often Italian born Americans or Argentines or Brazilians returning to Italy endeavor to enjoy the advantages of both foreign and native citizenship, claiming to be Italians when that is to their advantage and foreigners when that seems best, especially when called to perform military service.

I shall keep this matter steadily before the Foreign Office but can not as yet predict with what success.

I have [etc.]

Henry P. Fletcher
  1. See instruction No. 2993, December 1, 1928, to the Ambassador in Prance, Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. i, p. 499.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.