No. 680.
Mr. Russell to Mr. Fish.

No. 69.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose an extract from the law of immigration and decree enforcing said law, (Featro de Legislaceon, vol. 2, p. 213,) with a translation, snowing that the claim of Venezuela referred to in my No. 41 and No. 66, in regard to the immediate denationalization and naturalization of all immigrants on their arrival, is not supported by the law cited to maintain the claim.

Even if the words which I have translated “will obtain” and “will receive,” should be translated “shall obtain” and “shall receive,” the intent would be clear, viz, that immigrants may receive naturalization papers if they desire, not that they must receive them; still less, that without receiving papers they become Venezuelan citizens by the mere fact of arrival, or the receipt of food, shelter, or other benefit. I have given all the law on the subject. A “resolution “of December 1, 1869, issued by the ministry of justice and the interior, provides: “Those are Venezuelans who have come to the country, or shall come, in the capacity of immigrants, and their minor children, at the time of their arrival, if” they have received the benefits of the laws of immigration.” (Recopilaceon oficial, No. 26. Gaeeta Oficial.) I give the original:” Son Veuezolanos cuanlos han venido al pais ó vinieran en calidad de inmigrados, i sus hijos menores al tiempo de su Uegada, su han recibido los beneficios de los leyes de immigracion.” The President, who cites the law of May, 1855, and the decree of July 2, 1855, seems to have drawn his ideas and language not from those sources, but from this unauthorized statement of the law. There is no pretense that the ministry of justice possesses the right of legislation. It is remarkable that this government, in making a stringent application to ignorant strangers of the maxim that every man is supposed to know the law, should furnish proof that the highest officials are sometimes ignorant of it. The Inclosure should have been sent with No. 66; but I was pressed for time when that was sent. I would repeat that no practical question has arisen, or is likely to arise, for the United States on this point. There has been no occasion for official discussion of it, and all my unofficial applications in behalf of immigrants have been promptly and courteously granted; Still, it has seemed proper to treat the subject more fully than I have done before. With Spain, France, and perhaps with Italy, grave questions may arise.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 69.—Translation.]

Extract from law of immigration, and decree enforcing the same.

law of may 18, 1855, &C &C.

  • Art. 7. Immigrants will obtain, after their arrival, certificates of naturalization without the necessity of the requisites which the law of the subject has established for naturalization; and they shall be exempt for ten years, co anted from the day when they arrive in Venezuela, from all forced military service in the regular army, [or permanent army,] navy, or militia.
  • “Executive decree of July 2, of 1855, carrying said law into effect.” Joseph Thad-deus Nionagas, general in chief, President of the republic of Venezuela, &c., &c.”
  • Art. 17. Immigrants will receive their certificates of naturalization through the governments of those provinces in which they, have fixed their residence, who will make a report to the executive power, stating their names, the facts as to their conduct after having arrived in this country, the day on which they arrived here, and the port where they landed; whether they are married or single.; and if married, whether they have a family and of how many persons it consists, and the name, surname, and age of each individual.

Section 1 and only. The minors, or children of the family, shall he included in the naturalization which is promised to their fathers by means of the certificate, and the names of all shall be expressed in said certificate.