Mr. Seward to Mr. Fogg

No. 66.]

Sir: Mr. Hitz, the consul general of Switzerland, in this city, has transmitted to this department a communication from the federal council relative to the proposed introduction of the Swiss flag upon vessels navigating the high seas, and has solicited a favorable consideration of its contents. Mr. Hitz has been informed that the subject would receive attention, and that the views of the department thereupon would be communicated to you.

In order that you may fully understand the proposition, I herewith enclose a copy, in translation, of the paper submitted by Mr. Hitz.

Of its friendship for Switzerland, this government believes it has left nothing of doubt.

The United States are now engaged in a serious conflict with insurgents who, although they have neither ports nor coasts, are supplied by subjects of other powers, which powers recognize the insurgents as a naval belligerent. The United States deny that this recognition is just, or that it finds any warrant in the law of nations.

Moreover, the United States have for the present disallowed ship-building and armament here for foreign powers, because they need all the labor and skill of the country for the equipment of their own navy.

For these reasons you will seek an early opportunity to inform the Swiss minister for foreign affairs that the present time is not deemed a favorable one for considering the question which has been submitted by the federal council. You will make this communication in a confidential manner, if the President should prefer to receive it in this way, for the reason that this government, animated by the highest friendship for Switzerland, does not wish even to appear to be indifferent to a proposition that engages the attention of Switzerland.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


George G. Fogg, Esq., &c., Berne.

Mr. Hitz to Mr. Seward

Sir: In compliance with the request of the federal chancery of Switzerland, this consulate most respectfully transmits to your honor the enclosed communication of the honorable federal council of Switzerland, relative to the proposed introduction of the Swiss flag upon vessels navigating the several oceans, and I would fain solicit a favorable consideration of its contents.

With assurances of high esteem, very obediently,

JOHN HITZ, Consul General of Switzerland.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

[Page 211]

The Federal Council to Mr. Hitz

In reference to petitions presented by a great number of Swiss citizens, the federal council has been occupied with the consideration of the question, whether Swiss citizens, owners of ships, should not also be admitted to the benefit of carrying the Swiss flag on the high seas.

Switzerland is assuredly on equality with any other nation in the right to use the free passage of the seas under her own name, and the circumstance that she does not border immediately on the seas cannot impair this right.

On the other hand, the federal council does not dissemble that, from the last circumstance, some difficulty may arise about the practical exercise of her right.

In consequence the federal council, before making a definite decision on this matter, takes the liberty to inquire of the general government of the United States whether it would be disposed to admit to its ports Swiss vessels expressly authorized by the federal council to carry the Swiss flag, and to assure to them like legal position as to vessels of other nations, as also to accord to Swiss, established in the respective states, authority to build Swiss vessels and to freight them.

The federal council can the better yield itself to the hope of a favorable answer, because the neutral flag of Switzerland might, according to conjunctures, become advantageous to all the states or to general commerce. The federal council, moreover, would not hesitate an instant in accepting all the obligations of international right which attach to that of carrying a flag.

The federal council has the honor to present to his excellency the assurances of its high consideration.

In the name of the Swiss federal council,

The President of the Confederation, DR. T. DUBS.

The Chancellor of the Confederation, SCHEISS.