The Assistant Secretary of State ( Rogers ) to the Italian Ambassador ( De Martino )

My Dear Mr. Ambassador: Referring to previous correspondence concerning an article published in the November 29 issue of the paper Il Martello, which you consider contains a clear instigation to murder, I have to inform you that a communication has been received from the Governor of New York22 concerning this matter, the pertinent portion of which I quote hereunder for your information:

“The matter of your communication of February 26th,23 with the enclosed translation and copy of the publication of the Italian paper, Il Martello, has been given careful consideration by the Attorney General and by myself. Viewed in the light of the context of the article, it does not appear that the last sentence of the said article, to which the complaint of His Excellency, the Italian Ambassador, is addressed, is so definitely limited to the meaning placed upon it by him that it could be made the subject of any proceeding against the publication or the editors thereof.

“Under the guaranty of freedom of the press by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution of the State of New York, this article would not be subject to such interpretation as would warrant any legal action against the publication. The provision of the Constitution of the State of New York is far more definitive than the provision of the first amendment of the Federal Constitution. Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution of the State of New York, reads as follows:

‘Sec. 8. Liberty of speech and press. Libel. Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press. In all criminal prosecutions or indictments for libels, the truth may be given in evidence to the jury; and if it shall appear to the jury that the matter charged as libelous is true, and was published with good motives and for justifiable ends, the party shall be acquitted; and the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the fact.’

“With specific reference to the article complained of, I do not feel that it embodies language warranting the conclusion that it constitutes criminal propaganda or instigating murder.”

In a letter of January 9, 1931,23 the Postmaster General of the United States informed the Department that this matter would be investigated and that he would advise me of any action taken. As soon as we receive a further report from the Postmaster General I shall communicate with you again.

I am [etc.]

James Grafton Rogers
  1. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.