Memorandum by the Ambassador in Italy (Garrett) 1

I had a talk with Rosso2 tonight on the subject of dual nationality. I had been thinking of course a good deal about this matter and it seemed to me that it would be well to outline the position to Rosso before he went to Washington, in the hope that he and I, if we could work together, could be able to accomplish something definite. I told him that since 1870 it had been the desire of my Government to enter into a naturalization treaty with Italy but that this had never been possible up to now. I had talked frequently with Grandi3 on the subject and he had told me several times that there was no objection on the part of Italy to enter into such a treaty with the United States, except that it would open the way for other countries to invoke the most favored nation clause, and Italy would never permit Italian subjects to be drafted, for instance, into the French Army. As he put it once, Italy did not intend to present France each year with a battalion of soldiers.

Probably as a result of the many talks that had taken place on this subject, both before my arrival and since then, the Fascist Government had adopted a new policy in regard to dual nationality cases which as long as it worked was fairly satisfactory, and it had certainly resulted in a great diminution of what had been a constant source of irritation between the two Governments. Mussolini had also made most happy pronouncements in regard to the duties of men of Italian origin domiciled in America; that they should be loyal to the country of their adoption while not forgetting their origin and the cultural value attached to it. He had advocated the coming back to Italy of Italians abroad and the renewal of their contacts here, and to this we were far from having any objection. We had naturalization treaties with a number of European countries, for instance, Germany, but there were others like Italy with which we had none, for instance, France. But the number of Frenchmen in America was so small that there was little trouble as a result of this [Page 571] lack of a treaty. With Italy the case was entirely different on account of the great number of Italians in America.

Under the new policy there had this year: been only some 12 or 15 cases called to the Embassy’s attention, which was one-third or one-fourth of the usual number before, and for the most part the appeals of the Embassy in regard to these cases had been favorably met;

I was sure, particularly because of his having been in Washington when the agitation may be said to have first started, that he was thoroughly familiar with the division amongst the Italians in America in regard to Italian politics. It was an unsatisfactory condition from our standpoint and it led to violence and even to murder by one faction against the other. Many of the Italians in America were anti-Fascist and it might be said that every case of military impressment produced another anti-Fascist when the man impressed returned eventually to America and made himself the center of a little additional troublesome group.

But far more important perhaps Was the feeling on the part of thousands of Americans of Italian origin who desired to come to Italy on visits but dared not do so unless they could feel sure that they would not suffer any penalties;

The policy as it was now being worked made these exceptions: In the first place, it did not apply to time of war. As far as I can see there was no objection to this.

In the second place, it did not apply to “deserters”. Although the question of what constituted a deserter might be a subject for discussion, I thought that such an exemption was all right.

The only other exemption was in regard to young men who came to Italy and lived there, without leaving the country for the two years next preceding the call of their Class to the Colors. This was a small class and might be considered unimportant.

The policy, in order to avoid most favored nation claims by European countries, applied only to those who came from overseas, but supposing it were possible to enter into a treaty of naturalization, it seemed to me that this phrase “overseas” would not be a very satisfactory place to draw the line. What we needed, provided we both desired to enter into a treaty, was to find some qualification which, while applying to citizens of dual nationality in the United States, could not be invoked on behalf of similar citizens of a European country, and it had recently occurred to me that such a qualification could be found, although it must be distinctly understood that in suggesting it I was doing so on my own behalf and had not taken it up with the Government at Washington.

As he knew, there was no conscription or enforced military service in the United States except in time of war. Would it not therefore be [Page 572] possible, without involving the principle of most favored nation, to recognize naturalization of Italians in America on the ground that as no Italians even when they become naturalized by law or by birth in the United States are subject to military duties there, so no Americans, of whatever origin, should be subject to military duties here.

Although such exemption might apply to some of the South American countries, it would not apply to important countries on the European continent.

There was of course no conscription in England, but the question of dual nationality as between England and Italy hardly arose.

Rosso expressed his great interest in this suggestion. He said he hardly knew who to take it up with at the moment at the Foreign Office on account of the changes that were there taking place, but he would talk tomorrow with Buti4 and see what he had to say about it, and perhaps might be able to put it before the Minister for Foreign Affairs either before he, Rosso, left for Geneva on Monday, or in the form of a memorandum. Although he had not studied the question recently, he thought that this might very well be a way of arriving at an agreement. There might be reasons which neither he nor I could foresee which would make it impracticable, but in any event it was certainly worth serious study.

  1. Copy handed to the Under Secretary of State on October 14, 1932, by the Ambassador, temporarily on leave in the United States.
  2. Augusto Rosso, newly appointed Ambassador to the United States.
  3. Dino Grandi, Italian Ambassador in Great Britain; former Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  4. Gino Buti, Director General of Political Affairs in the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.