No. 673.
Mr. Russell to Mr. Fish.

No. 41.]

I have the honor to inclose a communication, with translation, from the minister of foreign affairs to the gentleman in charge of the French [Page 1363] legation. This is in reply to a request from M. L’Hôte, that French passports delivered up by French immigrants to Venezuelan officials might be restored to them.

It will be seen that the government of Venezuela claims that all immigrants who receive the benefit of the immigration laws, (meaning, as I suppose, by receiving free passage, food, and shelter at the immigration rooms, and the like,) are Venezuelan citizens at once, although exempt from military service; and that the intervention of the respective governments of these persons will not be allowed in any case in which diplomatic action may be asked. Government claims that every immigrant coming hither under government auspices thereby elects to be a citizen of Venezuela at once upon his arrival, and that his children also become citizens, losing all claim to the protection of their native country, (or adopted country.)

There are many immigrants from the United States remaining here, and it is safe to say that not one of them was aware of this law, or had any intention of renouncing his allegiance or of losing the protection of the United States Government in proper cases.

I therefore respectfully ask for instructions as to the course to be pursued in case of a claim for diplomatic intervention made by any United States citizen who has immigrated to Venezuela. Pending an answer, I should act precisely as if such persons were entitled to all the rights of United States citizens.

I ought to say that while I have had no occasion for official intervention in behalf of any of this class, I have had almost daily occasion to make informal applications in their behalf, and always with success. For example, the rule of government is to refuse passports to any immigrant who has not been here for three months; and without a passport, no one is allowed to leave the country. Yet every application which I have made has been promptly and courteously granted; and more than twenty immigrants having been shipped to work their passage, by the exertions of Mr. Kingan, acting consul at La Guayra, have in this way been enabled to leave Venezuela.

The action of the authorities in this matter may have been prompted, not only by their manifest desire to stand well with the United States, but also by a natural wish to rid their country of such a class of persons as many of the recent immigrants have been.

Awaiting a reply, I am, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 41.—Translation.]

From Mr. Blanco to Mr. Hôte.

In compliance with orders, which I have received from S. E. the President of the republic, the undersigned, minister of foreign relations, has the honor to reply to the note dated December 14th ultimo, in which the honorable chargé of the French legation takes occasion to set forth that several French immigrants have come to his honor complaining that the board of immigration refuses to return to them the passports that have been presented to it, and asks, in consequence, that the difficulties may be removed which may prevent the restoration of said documents.

The law of May 18, 1855, concerning immigration, expressly provides that immigrants shall obtain letters of naturalization as soon as they arrive at Venezuela, and shall be excused from forced military service wholly for ten years; and article 17 of the executive decree of July 2 of said year, which carries said law into effect, designated the officers by means of whom (or through whom) their respective letters are to be delivered [Page 1364] to the immigrants, establishing, moreover, that the miners or children of the family shall be included in the naturalization which is extended to their parents.

In accordance with these provisions of law in force in the republic, the government of the undersigned, through the minister of the interior and of justice, by resolution of December 1, 1865, declared, “that as many as have come to the country or came* in the character of immigrants, and their minor children at the time of their arrival, if they have received the benefit of the laws of immigration, are Venezuelans.” And this resolution, as your honor will see in the inclosed copy, is found inserted in No. 26 of the official newspaper, published at said time, with the title of “official summary.”

By this statement the Hon. M. L’Hôte will understand that by the legislation of the republic all who enter its territory as immigrants are Venezuelans from their arrival, with the privilege of not being obliged to render any military service for ten years, and that, therefore, the government of the undersigned cannot accept, in regard to them, the intervention of the legation.

The undersigned avails himself, &c., &c.

  1. This seems to be an error for “shall come.”—T. F.