The Italian Embassy to the Department of State


The attention of this Embassy has been called upon the two Bills H. R. 8874 and H. R. 8875, having reference to matters pertaining to proposed maritime legislation: a careful examination of said Bills has given source to some considerations which I have the honor to submit to your Department, merely from the standpoint of the Commercial relations between the United States and Italy.

While I understand that the proposed Bills are still the object of study on the part of American legislative Committees, however it seems proper on my part to call your attention at this time upon the consequences which would arise from said proposed legislation, in the instant case.

It would seem that Bill H. R. 8874, known as the “Fighting Ship Bill”,—intended to offset an unwarranted and excessive competition which has occurred and which could occur in World Tours Traffic with the West Indies, and intended to benefit the American Merchant Marine engaged regularly in the traffic with said West Indies—,could in reality, according to the literary interpretation of the meaning of the “fighting ship” as worded in the Bill, be construed as a [Page 932]possible obstacle to all traffic between the United States and Italy as it would not only injure the principles of International Law but also the rights reciprocally guaranteed in the existing treaties of Commerce and Navigation.

To define competition the way it is expressed in the above mentioned Bill, it is to grant the theoretical possibility to exclude entirely foreign vessels from American ports whenever their competition with American vessels is deemed undesirable, and to cause similar measures to be adopted by foreign States in the same matter.

In connection with the foregoing, I take this opportunity to explain what was mentioned on February 8th, at the hearing of the Committee of the House of Representatives, by one of those present who was seeking the provisions included in Bill H. R. 8875, that “similar action has been taken in Italy”. The provision to which he alluded does not constitute a discrimination of Flag: such measure, which demands that embarkation in foreign ports must first have been authorized and places a very slight tax, is meant only in the interest of emigrants, in order to assure to them the embarkation on board ships which have regular licenses (ships which are authorized to transport emigrants) without restrictions whatever as to the ships flags.

As a matter of fact, the licenses may be granted or denied to national or foreign Navigation Companies.

But, the point which I wish chiefly to explain is this: In our Commerce and Navigation Treaty11 (strengthened by the provisions of the most favored Nation treatment, article XXIV), American vessels are expressly given the same rights within our borders as are enjoyed by Italian vessels, in return for a like treatment granted to Italian vessels in the ports of the United States.

This provision of reciprocal treatment has had bearing and has now bearing in the specific case of World Tours. In fact, foreign vessels, having the necessary requisites for the transportation of passengers, are allowed in Italy to operate a regular service between Italian ports and foreign ports that are not of the Country to which the ships belong.

Naturally, the coastwise traffic and the transportation of emigrants, as above pointed out, if said vessels have not the necessary licenses, are not permitted.

Furthermore, there are no provisions which prohibit any American [Page 933]Flag vessels to carry class passengers or tourists on a cruise from an Italian port to a non-American foreign port coming back to the same Italian port.

  1. Treaty of February 26, 1871, William M. Malloy, Treaties, Conventions, etc., Between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1776–1909 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1910), vol. i, p. 969.