Mr. Bancroft to Mr. Seward.
Sir: * * * * * * *
Some movement has been made towards the settlement of the North Schleswig question by a communication from this government to the Danish minister at this court. Yet the Prussian government wishes greater guarantees for the German population in that district than Denmark, as an independent power, can well concede ; and the part of Schleswig that Prussia offers to give back to Denmark is so small, and offers so imperfect a line of military defence, that the excited feeling in Denmark may compel that government not to accept it. The offer will be referred to the Danish government ; meantime North Schleswig remains incorporated into the kingdom of Prussia.
The Prussian government has been indefatigable and successful in using its influence to bring Baden as well as North Germany into the system of a reduction of the postage between them and America. The other German States are expected to follow, so that after the 1st of January the rate of postage cannot but be satisfactory to letter-writers. Moreover, in the present session of the Diet, a clause in a law makes correspondence transmitted through the mails sacred from examination ; and the law will be enforced and respected in all the North German States. In this manner the post route by Bremen and Hamburg becomes much the best channel for correspondence, public or private, between the United States and Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.
This government has given continued attention to my application for the permanent easement of American naturalized citizens from military duty. Some time will pass before answers from all the several departments that have been written to can be received.
Strong objections and resistance are made, though not in the foreign office ; but I hope to arrive eventually at some reasonable arrangement. The subject is not without its difficulties. The opinion expressed in the letter from Prince Hohenlohe, of which I forwarded to you a copy, that the emigrant retains his connection with the mother country until he actually becomes a citizen of another, [Page 593]is the received opinion here; nor can it be denied, nor is it desirable to be able to deny, that until the moment of his naturalization the emigrant may, if he choose, recall his request for naturalization. Applications are sometimes made for exemption from military duty on very doubtful grounds. A case has just occurred. A German emigrated from Holstein, which was then a German and is now a German and Prussian province, to a western city in the United States. In May, 1840, he became naturalized. In November, 1848, he had a son by a German wife. In March, 1849, he took a passport from our government, left the United States, and returned to reside in Germany with his son, who, at the date of the passport, was less than five months old. He bought an estate in Hanover, then a German and now a German and Prussian province, and settled himself and family. Now he calls upon the government of the United States to save his son, who from infancy has lived, still lives, and expects to live in Germany, from the military service required of every North German. Had the son remained in America he would certainly have been entitled to the rights of an American citizen ; by returning in infancy with his father to the land of his father’s birth, and being permanently domiciled there, he is held by German law to belong, and to have chosen to belong, to the North German United States, and consequently to be liable to military duty as a North German. Certainly in a case like this the motive of the United States to intervene is a minimum, and the right at least questionable, while the interference would injure the claim to relief of those bona fide citizens who suffer from the disregard of their rights as Americans. This case is one of that class which has hitherto indisposed the Prussian government to adopt our views on the remissioni of military service. Similar cases may have come before you, and if you have decided them, be so good as to acquaint me with your decision. The father resided eight years in America as a citizen, and since then has resided eighteen years and more in Germany, and by this residence may be held to have resumed his old political relations. The son being of German parentage, and returning to Germany when but a few months old, may, according to the analogy of our own laws that govern emigration, be esteemed a citizen of the country of his permanent residence.
Your despatch of October 8th, No. 18, has been received.
I remain, sir, yours, sincerely,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, “Washington, D. C.