Mr. Yeaman to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch, No. 51, of the 23d of August, and have felt extremely gratified with the good opinion you have so kindly expressed of my pamphlet on allegiance and citizenship. I have sent one to Mr. Bancroft, as requested.
General Raasloff, Danish minister of war, saw it on my table and asked for a copy. He at once, without having read it, entered into a conversation upon the subject, in which he spoke with much candor of what he conceived to be the difficulties on both sides; and remarked that he did not think the Danish and other European governments really cared so much about the service, nor even so much about the law question, involved, as that they wanted regularity of proceedings, mutuality or reciprocity of legislation, and certainty and fulness of proof of a man’s status. He said it was idle to wish to hold a man to service who did not wish to be a citizen; but observed that they nearly all leave Europe without obtaining a release, as they might; and some abuse their acquired status, or wish to carry two characters. I observed all such would have to be questions of fact.
He said the whole question was one of immense importance, involving often no less than a man’s citizenship and personal liberty, and ought to be settled on some basis satisfactory to all parties. As one feature of a settlement he suggested what appeared to me a measure of some value: that the State Department should be furnished regularly with lists of persons naturalized in the courts, and that the department, through its legations, should furnish these lists to the department of foreign affairs of the government of the man’s natural allegiance. He thought the several governments would make no further claim over men whose names were thus furnished, except when they left already in default, and that we could much better make such information the basis of a notice, actual or implied, that such men must not be arrested. I referred to the passport and judicial certificate; but he thought the other plan preferable and more reliable. It might sometimes have the advantage of preventing the annoyance of a citation or arrest, so that there would be no occasion for showing the passports, provided it is distinctly understood such men must not be meddled with. The general thought it was due to the government here to have a defence against fraud, and supposed the case of a Danish subject leaving here without release, the presumption of Danish citizenship continues. He naturalizes in the United States; goes elsewhere and gets into trouble; is dealt with as an American, but claims to be a Dane. The Danish government, desiring to discharge its duty of protection, would yet not wish to be imposed upon. It has no evidence here of change of citizenship, and the man is still prima facie a citizen. I submit his suggestion as one well worthy of consideration.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.