Mr. Everett to Mr. Evarts.
Berlin, January 9, 1879. (Received January 27.)
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your instruction of December 4, 1878, in relation to the case of Wilhelm Steffan.
In reference to the subject, I would say that an answer was anticipated by Mr. Taylor’s dispatch, 59, of the 7th December, informing the Department that he had applied to the imperial foreign office for Steffan’s pardon. I have now also to report that no answer having been received from the foreign office to this note, I called yesterday in person upon Mr. von Bülow and brought the subject to his attention. His excellency replied that the note from the legation had been sent to the minister of justice as soon as received, and that as yet no answer had been returned, but that he would at once write again and urge an early reply.
I at the same time called his excellency’s attention to the sudden increase and alarming character of the cases of fine or detention of naturalized Americans, on the ground of evasion of military duty, no less than four having come to the knowledge of the legation since the 23d October, in two of which, those of Frank Lutz and Iver Iverson, occurring within a fortnight 5 the Americans in question are actually in confinement. [Page 360] Another case of fine which had been referred to the foreign office as long ago as the 18th June, had received no answer.
His excellency seemed much concerned at this, and immediately made a memorandum of what I had stated, and promised a speedy investigation. I had, likewise, taken with me for personal delivery to his excellency an official note requesting the release of Iver Iverson (one of those above mentioned), a native of Denmark, and a naturalized American, who had been forcibly enrolled in an infantry regiment, and subsequently, in consequence of refusing to take the military oath, imprisoned in the fortress of Magdeburg. His excellency read it, and in reply said, that many troublesome cases had arisen since the annexation of Schleswig Holstein, in consequence of the inhabitants not having properly complied with the proclamation in regard to opting between Denmark and Germany as their residence, and he supposed this was one. This in reality should make no difference as regards the arrest of a person provided with an American citizen paper, for even in the event of his having been a German citizen at the time of emigration, this legation has never conceded the right of the German Government to enroll Americans in the army as a punishment for an alleged evasion of military duty previously to emigration, except in an actual case of desertion from the ranks.
The real cause of the numerous eases of annoyance is the ignorance and officiousness of the subordinate local, civil, and military authorities in distant provinces, who disobey, or have never received, the government decrees annexed to the treaty of 1868 requiring a report of all emigration cases liable to punishment to the minister of justice, before the execution of the punishment. A long time generally elapses before the victim has a chance to get back the papers proving his citizenship from the local authorities, and to complain to the legation. Owing also to tedious circumlocution, and some lack of perfect accord between the foreign office and the ministries of war and justice, a long time elapses between the application of the legation to the foreign office and the receipt of the answer to the same, especially where, as in the case of fines, relief can only be obtained in the form of a pardon under the Emperor’s own hand. Some delay occasionally occurs also in consequence of the ignorance and carelessness of the returned emigrants themselves as regards papers, names, and dates.
I hope, in consequence of my earnest remonstrance with Mr. von Bülow, to have news very soon of the release of Lutz and Iverson, but should there be an unreasonable delay I shall report both these cases for the energetic intervention of the department.
I can assure the department that no vigilance or zeal on the part of the legation shall be lacking in endeavoring to protect the rights of American citizens.
I have, &c.,