Mr. Seward to Mr. Stilwell.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch of December 28, 1867, No. 8, in relation to the claim of two minor sons of Joseph Hill, born in Venezuela, the one twenty and the other eighteen years of age, to be citizens of the United States and exempt from compulsory service in the army of Venezuala. Their father and grandfather, it appears from your statements, emigrated in 1826, and none of the family would seem during the long period of more than forty years to have returned to this country to resume the native allegiance of the grandfather and father.
The young men in question, according to authoritative expositions of our law, were born with the capacity to elect, when they shall arrive at full age, whether they will retain the citizenship in Venezuela to which their birth there seems to entitle them, or will resume their allegiance to the United States which their father’s emigration, while an infant, and their own foreign birth, have kept in suspense. Every presumption is now in favor of their intention of continued residence abroad. Should they hereafter give unmistakable evidence of their design to reside permanently in the United States, and subject themselves to the duties and obligations of citizenship, a case will arise in which we may discuss the right of Venezuela to exact military service from them during a temporary sojourn within the jurisdiction of that republic.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Thomas N. Stilwell, Esq., &c., &c., &c.