The case of Mr. Rainals, British vice-consul at Copenhagen, which led to a long correspondence in 1863, illustrates the operation of the Danish laws with regard to the claim of the Danish Crown to the allegiance of aliens domiciled in Denmark.

8 The correspondence commenced with a demand made upon Mr. Rainals for the payment of a dog-tax in 1860. Mr. Rainals pleaded exemption as an alien. The Danish government declared that he was a Danish subject, but offered to remit the tax as an act of comity; but Mr. Rainals refused such a compromise, and insisted upon being acknowledged to be a British subject.

Upon this the Danish government declared that their view of his nationality was borne out—

By the fact of his having sworn allegiance to the King of Denmark on obtaining a “borgerbrev” in 1848.
By his having been born in Denmark.

With regard to the “borgerbrev,” it appeared that in 1848 Mr. Rainals had settled as a broker at Elsinore, and in order to obtain permission to carry on his profession had applied to the mayor of that town for a “borgerbrev” or freedom of the city.

When this was issued to him, the Elsinore authorities alleged that he had signed the following paper:

“In the year 1848, on the 11th of May, appeared before the magistracy Harry Thomas Alfred Rainals, born at Copenhagen, aged thirty-one years, and demanded to obtain borgherskab (rights of a burgher) as clearer and agent for payment of sound dues.

“As he has satisfactorily proved his earlier respectability, and, in accordance with evidence produced, has been appointed consular agent for the United States of North America, whereby he is free from serving in the militia, nothing could be said against the said demand, and the said H. T. Rainals was, after having taken the usual burgher oath,1 (thus worded, ‘I promise and swear to be true and faithful to His Majesty our Most Gracious Hereditary Lord and King Frederick VII, to defend with my utmost power and ability his realm and land from harm, as well as to be dutiful and obedient to the burgermaster and council which are now in power and to those who come after them; and finally to act toward my fellow-citizens as it becomes and befits an honest man to do. So help me God and His Holy Word,’) furnished with the rights of a burgher (borgherskab) as clearer and agent for payment of sound dues to Elsinore.



Mr. Rainals asserted that he had never taken any oath such as is here inserted; that the copy of the entry given to him did not include the part between brackets; and that in order to take an oath he must have held up three fingers, which he distinctly recollected he had not done. He further showed that he had resigned his “borgerbrev” in 1859.

Sir A. Paget then requested the Danish government to explain whether they considered the mere fact of obtaining a “borgerbrev” constituted a person a Danish subject.

The foreign secretary replied (May 28, 1863): “Quant à la question positive à savoir si un sujet Britannique en prêtant le serment de bourgeois devient sujet Danois, il est de fait qu’en prêtant le serment il se fixe dans ce pays, et en se fixant et en prenant domicile en Danemark il devient sujet Danois et entre dans tons les droits et tons les devoirs civils et sociaux d’un sujet Danois. Pour ce qui regarde les droits et les devoirs politiques, ceux-ci n’ appartiennent qua’à ceux qui sont en possession de l’indigé-nat qui, s’il n’est pas acquis par le fait même de la naissance dans ce pay, ne peut être obtenu qu’en vertu d’une loi. Quant au côté négatif, à savoir, si un sujet Britannique en acquérant les droits et en se soumettant aux devoirs d’un sujet Danois perd sa qualité de sujet Britannique, c’est là une question dont la solution paraît dépendre le plus spécialment de la législation Britannique. Pour ce qui est de notre législation relativement à ce point, celle-ci ne s’oppose pas à ce que la coexistance de deux natioualités puisse être admise dans la personne du même individu; seulement, dans le principe, sa qualité de sujet étranger ne doit porter ancune atteinte à l’accomplissement des devoirs qui lui incombent comme sujet Danois.”

With regard to his having been born in Denmark, Mr. Rainals cited an opinion given by the attorney-general of Denmark on a recent occasion when a bill respecting the naturalization of certain foreigners had been discussed in the chambers.

A decree of January 15, 1776, provided that children of foreigners, born in Denmark, can claim the rights of Danish citizenship after a permanent residence in that country up to their eighteenth year.

The attorney-general gave it as his opinion, though other lawyers differed on the subject, that by the terms of this decree the children of aliens born in Denmark were capable of being admitted to the rights of natural-born Danish subjects; and Mr. Rainals accordingly argued that this was conclusive proof that they were not considered to be natural-born subjects. Moreover, one of the persons for whose naturalization the act under discussion made provision was stated to have been born in Denmark.

Sir Augustus Paget2 now referred the question for the consideration of Lord Russell; and, after further information on the points of law raised in it had been procured from Copenhagen, Lord Russell, under the advice of the Queen’s advocate, instructed him that “it is not denied that Mr. Rainals was born in Denmark, and the opinion of the Danish lawyers so far coincides with that expressed by M. Hall that the renunciation by Mr. Rainals of his rights as a citizen of Elsinore does not relieve him from the obligations of allegiance to the Crown of Denmark.

“It is admitted that he obtained the ‘borgerbrev,’ and he must, under these circumstances, be deemed to have taken the usual preliminary oath.

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“I infer also that lie obtained this ‘borgerbrev’ on the footing of a Danish subject, and without the delay of five years, which would have been necessary for a foreigner. It appears that, though by returning the ‘borgerbrev,’ he is replaced in his former position, he nevertheless remains subject to whatever obligations attach to a person born in Denmark and subsequently resident there.”

1 In 1864 a case occurred at Saint Croix in which the Danish authorities claimed to administer to the estate of a deceased British subject who had taken out a “borgerbrev “in that island.

As the person in question had been domiciled at Saint Croix at the time of his death, Her Majesty’s consul was not instructed to contest the interpretations put by the authorities on the effect of taking out such a burgher license; but it was considered that some arrangement should be made with them whereby the absent heirs and next of kin of a British subject so situated should be apprised, by notice in the London Gazette, of the intended distribution of such property by Danish tribunals.

  1. Sir A. Paget, No. 132; June 2, 1863.
  2. This oath has been since modified. (See Sir A. Paget’s Despatch, p. 1–16.)
  3. To Sir A. Paget, No. 141; August 26, 1863.
  4. Consul Rainals; June 9, 1864.