The Minister in Switzerland (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

No. 4902

Sir: I have the honor to invite the Department’s attention to instruction No. 3399 of February 19, 1936,23 and other correspondence respecting a draft of a proposed convention between the United States and Switzerland relative to military obligations of persons having dual nationality.

Inasmuch as there had been a long delay on the part of the Swiss in replying to our suggested draft, I called on Mr. Bonna, Chief of the Division of Foreign Affairs, to talk the matter over with him. I urged him to tell me whether the delay meant that they were dissatisfied with the text or whether it meant that they were uninterested in the whole negotiation. Mr. Bonna replied that they were really interested in achieving something with us.

[Page 580]

The facts were, he explained confidentially, that the Foreign Office had been favorably impressed with our text, that they had then discussed the matter with the Military Department, but had encountered there a flat refusal to accept any contractual obligation by which Swiss nationals, born in Switzerland of Swiss parents, could eliminate their nationality and escape the obligations of military duties. Thus, said Mr. Bonna, the text in the form in which we submitted it could not be accepted. He added, however, that he did not see why we could not agree upon a text similar to the one which the United States had accepted in respect to Norway.24

I told Mr. Bonna that I could not be sure that my Government still desired to ratify treaties in the form in which we had already done so with Norway, but that it seemed worth while to examine this proposal; would he, therefore, answer my note of March 8, 1937 (copy enclosed),25 explain to me why they could not accept our proposition, and make the suggestion formally which he had just made informally. Mr. Bonna stated that he would be happy to do so.

Under date of March 23 the Foreign Office sent a note (copy and translation enclosed) together with an annex,26 being a counter suggestion for a text. Inasmuch as this counter suggestion showed certain variations from the text of the American treaty with Norway, under my direction Mr. Bigelow27 discussed the matter with various members of the Swiss Foreign Office. Mr. Bigelow made it entirely clear that we were not authorized by our Government to enter any agreement, that what he was doing was merely using his best knowledge to bring about a text which he thought would be as acceptable as possible to us.

I append herewith a copy of a text which the Swiss Government has now proposed.28 This should be considered as an annex to their note of March 23. This text is a close approximation to the text of our treaty with Norway, is the result of rather laborious discussions between the Foreign Office and ourselves, and I entertain the hope that the Department will find it acceptable.

Respectfully yours,

Hugh R. Wilson
  1. Ibid., p. 789.
  2. For treaty with Norway signed November 1, 1930, see Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. iii, p. 713.
  3. Not printed; it repeated the proposals made to the Swiss pursuant to Department’s instruction No. 3399, February 19, 1936.
  4. Neither printed.
  5. Donald F. Bigelow, Second Secretary of Legation.
  6. Not printed.