Mr. Beardsley to Mr. Fish.
No. 76.]

Sir: On or about the 12th instant an individual calling himself Laurent Uferland, German by birth and Jew by faith, arrived at Alexandria from Italy, with a pass to visit Egypt, granted by the Ottoman minister at Borne. The moment he disembarked from the steamer he was arrested by orders of the Prussian consul-general, on the charge of having committed fraudulent bankruptcy at Cologne, and placed in the local prison of Moharrem Bey, a prison where only European prisoners are confined.

After he was arrested he claimed to be a naturalized citizen of the United States, and stated that his true name was Leopold Ungar, and not Laurent Uferland. His trunk, containing a large amount of jewelry and precious stones, and all his papers, were taken possession of by the [Page 1308] Prussian consulate, but lie bad managed to secrete many precious stones about his person, sewn into the lining of his coat, by the aid of which he secured the services of an English attorney.

I went to Alexandria on the 15th instant, and on the following day but one, that is to say on the 17th instant, the prisoner’s attorney called upon me and informed me that a person claiming to be an American citizen was in the local prison of Moharrem Bey, having been placed there by the Prussian consulate.

The United States frigate Wabash, bearing the flag of Admiral Alden, arrived at Alexandria on the same day, (the 17th,) and all my time until the evening of the following day was occupied with the admiral. I however instructed my dragoman to visit Ungar in prison and ascertain if he had an American passport. The following evening my dragoman reported that he had visited Ungar, who informed him that all his papers, including his American passport, were in the possession of the Prussian consul-general. My dragoman had then gone to the Prussian consul-general and asked to examine Ungar’s papers. He was shown the passport alluded to, as well as the false passport obtained at Rome. The American passport was dated 1857, and last viséd in 1862.

Ungar, however, assured my dragoman that if he could see me he could prove that he was not a citizen of Prussia. Having no official knowledge of Ungar’s having been placed in prison by the Prussian consulate-general, and desiring to bring the case officially forward, on the morning of the 19th I caused an official note to be addressed to the director of the prison, requesting him to send to the United States consulate-general the prisoner, Leopold Ungar, claiming to be an American citizen. Of course this was a formal and perfectly regular proceeding for the purpose of obtaining an official statement from the director of the prison that Ungar was imprisoned by orders of the Prussian consul-general as a Prussian subject. On receipt of such a statement I would have immediately written to the Prussian consul-general to the effect that, having requested the release of a prisoner claiming to be an American citizen, I had been officially informed by the director of the prison that the said prisoner was confined, by his orders, as a Prussian subject, and requesting that the prisoner be publicly examined for the purpose of determining his citizenship. The letter to the director of the prison was sent by the hands of the cawass of the consulate-general, and I was preparing my letter to the Prussian consul-general, when, to my utter astonishment, the prisoner walked into the consulate, under a guard from the prison.

It appears that, in the absence from the prison of the director, the letter was handed to the jailer, who at once sent the prisoner to the consulate under guard. This individual appeared in the office a few minutes later, and claimed that he could not read, and had supposed the order came from the Prussian consulate. I have no doubt, however, but that the jailer was bribed by the prisoner.

I at once determined to examine Ungar in order to satisfy myself, if possible, as to his political status. Under oath he stated that he was born in Bavaria in 1831; went to California in 1849; completed his naturalization, and received his papers in 1856; obtained a passport, and returned to Europe in 1857. Since then he has been in business in various parts of Europe, principally in Cologne, where he was at one time a merchant, at another time photographer, and finally, since 1867, a member of the firm of Marius & Co., engaged in speculating in lottery-tickets. The latest visé on his passport is 1862, and he cannot [Page 1309] prove that he has been in the United States since 1857. Certainly he has had no legal domicile there, unless for a few months. His family, that is to say, his father and mother, live at Cologne, and he has made that his home for five years at least.

When Ungar fled from Cologne he carried with him about $20,000 worth of precious stones and jewelry, much of which had, according to his own confession to me, been obtained by fraud. He traveled under the name of Laurent Uferland, and at Rome obtained from the Ottoman minister a pass to come to Egypt. The moment he set foot on Egyptian soil he was arrested by the Prussian consul-general, with the consent of the Egyptian authorities.

During Ungar’s examination I received a letter from the director of the prison, saying that the prisoner had been released by mistake, and begging me to send him back to prison as he was responsible for him to the Prussian consul-general. You will readily perceive that the position was embarrassing. If Ungar had come to Egypt under his true name, and with his American passport, I would have protected him at all hazards, and the question would have been one of extradition. But he proclaimed his American citizenship only after he was in the hands of the Prussian authorities. In Egypt the fiction of exterritoriality exists, and Ungar was virtually still on Prussian territory. When, however, he appeared in the United States consulate he was on United States soil, and if a citizen of the United States, he was theoretically entitled to all the protection of our Government. But was he a citizen of the United States? Certainly not, if the fourth article of the treaty of 1808 between the United States and Germany applied to his case. If that article only applies to those who may have become citizens of either country after the ratification of the treaty, then Ungar would be still held to be a Prussian citizen by Prussia, who, until the ratification of the said treaty, did not admit the right of her citizens to denaturalize themselves.

So long as he remained in Prussia, or under Prussian authority, he would be regarded entirely as a Prussian subject. The moment, however, he reached the United States, he would be invested with full citizenship and entitled to all its benefits. Would the fact, however, of his having reached the United States consulate-general at Alexandria, under the circumstances above described, entitle him to invoke the official power of our Government in his behalf 1 I think not. It might as against Prussia, but the Egyptian government, who had Ungar in charge, must be considered.

After I had examined Ungar I had an interview with the Prussian consul-general, Mr. De Jasmond, and examined all of Ungar’s papers. No papers of any kind were found indicating that he had been in America since 1857. Among other documents shown me by Mr. De Jasmund was the declaration of the police authorities of Cologne that Leopold Ungar had, on the 25th of February, 1867, demanded the right of legal domicile in the city of Cologne, and that from that time until the end of the year 1872 he had his domicile and continued residence in that city.

I was satisfied in my own mind that Ungar had no claim whatever upon my official assistance, except in so far as his having accidentally reached the consulate of the United States; and I was also satisfied that on broad grounds of international justice I ought not to hold him against the demands of the Egyptian authorities. I concluded that my proper course to pursue would be to send him back to prison, protesting against his being delivered to any authority until the question of his nationality had been definitely settled. Before final action, I went on [Page 1310] board the Wabash and stated the case fully to the admiral, who entirely agreed with me in my view of the case and in my proposed action. I then returned to the consulate and sent Ungar back to prison with a letter to the director of the prison of the nature above indicated.

The following day, the 20th, I sent you a telegram, forwarded at 3 o’clock p.m., a copy of which I herewith inclose, (No. 1,) and yesterday, the 23d, at 2.30 p.m., your answer arrived at Alexandria, a copy of which I also inclose, (No. 2.)

On the 21st I came to Cairo with Admiral Alden and his staff, but expect to return to Alexandria the latter part of this week, when I will report any new features of Ungar’s case which may arise, and forward you, if possible, evidence to prove that Ungar’s domicile for five years has been at Cologne.

I am informed that our naturalized American citizens residing at Alexandria have severely criticised my action in sending Ungar back to prison after he had once reached the consulate. They argue as though Ungar was a political martyr and should be protected at all hazards. You must perceive how completely Ungar’s case is divested of all political features, and how little calculated it is to arouse the sympathies of honest people.

If I have succeeded in making this case clear to you, I have to request that you will approve or disapprove of my actions. If you disapprove of them, I will consider it a favor if you will indicate in what particular I was wrong. I should add that there is no extradition treaty between Egypt and the North German Confederation, but the former is only too anxious to deliver up criminals escaping to her shores, and always affords active assistance in such cases.

I will also explain that, even had I desired to hold Ungar after he had reached the consulate, I had no prison and no police. The Egyptian prison would not have received him as my prisoner, because he had just escaped from it as a Prussian subject, and the admiral could not receive him on the ff ag-ship for the purpose of screening him from the just punishment of his crimes.

This case has appeared plain to me from the beginning, but all those connected with the consulate-general have counseled me to action which would have involved a serious conflict of authority, at least between the United States and the Egyptian authorities.

I am, &c.,

Agent and Consul-General.