Mr. Davis to Mr. Fox .
No. 49.]

Sir: Your dispatch No. 5, inclosing copies of a correspondence between yourself and the governor of Trinidad de Cuba, relative to the arrest and detention of four certain persons, all of Spanish origin, who (you claimed) were entitled to your official intervention, has been received.

It appears that in April last José M. Valdespino, Rafael Vingut, Gabriel Suarez del Villar, and Francisco de Graragorri were arrested [Page 1319] by order of the authorities at Trinidad de Cuba; that you interfered in their behalf, asking for the motives of “their arrest,” claiming, as vice-consul of the United States, that they were American citizens; that correspondence in regard to this claim ensued, in the course of which you forwarded to the governor copies of the naturalization papers of each of these gentlemen; that the governor replied to this that he had examined the papers forwarded by you, and it appeared that only Mr. Saurez del Villar was a naturalized citizen of the United States, and that each of the other gentlemen had only declared his intention to become such citizen; that the governor thereupon conceded that Mr. Suarez del Villar was entitled to the prerogatives of United States citizenship, unless he had broken the laws of Cuba, or had renounced his adopted citizenship; and that as to the three other persons, the governor demanded to know whether you still claimed for them the rights of citizens of the United States; that you replied, re-asserting the right of these gentlemen to your official intervention and protection, (referring to the case of Martin Koszta,) and further saying that the case was submitted to your Government, and you must abide by its decision; and that the governor replied, re-asserting his position, and denying the applicability of the Koszta precedent.

In reply, now, to your dispatch, I have to say that your action touching Mr. Suarez del Villar is approved, and that your action in regard to the other gentlemen named in the correspondence is not approved.

The late distinguished Secretary of State, Mr. Marcy, was very careful in his elaborate letter concerning the case of Martin Koszta not to commit this Government to the obligation or to the propriety of using the force of the nation for the protection of foreign-born persons who, after declaring their intention to become at some future time citizens of the United States, leave its shores to return to their native country. He showed clearly that Koszta had been expatriated by Austria, and required to reside outside her jurisdiction; that at the time of his seizure he was not on Austrian soil, or where Austria could claim him by treaty stipulations; that the seizure was an act of lawless violence, which every law-abiding man was entitled to resist; and he took especial care to insist that the case was to be judged, not by the municipal laws of the United States, not by the local laws of Turkey, not by the conventions between Turkey and Austria, but by the great principles of international law. It is true that in the concluding part of that masterly dispatch he did say that a nation might at its pleasure clothe with the rights of its nationality persons not citizens, who were permanently domiciled in its borders. But it will be observed by the careful reader of that letter that this position is supplemental merely to the main line of the great argument, and that the Secretary rests the right of the Government to clothe the individual with the attributes of nationality, not upon the declaration of intention to become a citizen, but upon the permanent domicile of the foreigner within the country.

To extend this principle beyond the careful limitation put upon it by Secretary Marcy would be dangerous to the peace of the country. It has been repeatedly decided by this Department that the declaration of intention to become a citizen does not, in the abscence of treaty stipulations, so clothe the individual with the nationality of this country as to enable him to return to his native land without being necessarily subject to all the laws thereof.

In the present unhappy state of things in Cuba the Secretary of State can see no reason for departing from so well established and so wise a rule. He sees with horror the barbarous proclamations of the Spanish [Page 1320] authorities, and hears with regret of the great destruction of property caused by the civil war. He earnestly exhorts you, and all other consuls of the United States, to spare no efforts to protect the lives, the property and the rights of American citizens in this emergency, and he will see with satisfaction any unofficial efforts you may make to shield the persons of those who have declared their intentions to become citizens from the barbarities of the Spanish volunteers, but he desires me to direct you hereafter in your official action to observe the rule laid down for your guidance in this instruction.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Assistant Secretary.

Horatio Fox, Esq.,
U. S. Consul, Trinidad de Cuba.