No. 288.
Mr. White to Mr. Blaine.

No. 191.]

Sir: On the 17th of December last, by an instruction (No. 161 of the 1st December) referring to my recent dispatches concerning the annoyances to which naturalized American citizens returning to Germany were subjected by the military authorities, I was requested to bring the subject to the attention of the foreign office with a view to its adopting some rules which would obviate unnecessary arrests of Americans.

In my absence, Mr. Everett, as chargé d’affaires ad interim, embodied your instruction verbatim in a note to the foreign office and delivered it in person to Count Limburg-Stirum, acting minister of foreign affairs, taking advantage of the opportunity to suggest to his excellency that the experience of the legation seemed to show that the action of the local authorities frequently arose from an ignorance on their part of the ministerial decrees regarding naturalized American citizens. (See Mr. Everett’s No. 10, of 20th December, 1880.)

I have now received from the foreign office a note intended to be an answer to the instruction above mentioned in which advantage is evidently taken of the use of the word “arrest” by the Department, thereby limiting very much the number of cases in which exception could be taken to the action of German officials.

The foreign office is quite correct in its statement of the rarity of arrests during the fourteen months of 1880, and 1881, referred to, but makes no allusion to the compulsory fines which occurred during the same time and which were paid to avoid immediate arrest. It is a hopeful sign [Page 464] that since the beginning of the present year the legation has not had to intervene once in behalf of returning American citizens. The number of such interventions in 1880 was twenty, compared with twenty-five in 1879, and twenty in 1878.

As regards the imposition of fines for neglect of military duty, the State of the case is as follows:

Every young man in Germany is liable to serve in the army on the completion of his twentieth year, and even if he emigrates before his liability to military service begins, is none the less required to report himself on the prescribed day. If he fails to do this he may be condemned in his absence to fine or imprisonment. If he has property it may be attached, the attachment, however, expiring by limitation after seven years. (See case of Ernst Eggers, foreign relations 1879, p. 369.)

In case of the return of the delinquent before such expiration the fine is at once claimed, with the alternative of imprisonment. In one case the jewelry on the man’s person was seized in payment. The attachment of the real estate does not imply a sale, but only secures the payment of the fine in case the property is sold by the owner. The fears therefore of Germans in America that their property in Germany will be sold by the authorities here for military fines is unfounded. If the fine has been paid by the family of the absentee before he had become a naturalized American citizen it cannot be recovered, but otherwise in every case where bona fide American citizenship could be proved, except those in Alsace-Lorraine, the fine, whether paid or not, has been remitted by the order of the Emperor.

The legation has several times been informed by the foreign office, in justification of the summary action of the local authorities against returning Americans that the officials have no discretion as to relaxing the military laws in favor of Americans, but, at the same time, it is certain that in Prussia these officials are ordered by ministerial decrees to refer such cases to Berlin before proceeding to extremities, whenever the person can produce his American citizen paper. But some of the returning emigrants have lost this paper, some, probably, are afraid to produce it, and in some cases, it is asserted, the officials ignore it altogether, though the last possibility is denied by the foreign office. As a rule the person prosecuted has ample time, if he chooses, to appeal to the legation for protection, and in several cases where the time of grace had expired the foreign office, at the request of the legation, caused the proceedings to be stopped, by telegraph, pending investigation.

The vexed question of citizenship in Alsace-Lorraine remains in statu quo waiting for the American Government to propose a supplementary treaty regulating it. The opinion entertained by the German Government, to which I have alluded in previous dispatches, that the existing treaty is more advantageous to the United States than to Germany may be the reason why they hold that Germany should not be the first to make the proposal for its extension to Alsace-Lorraine.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 191.—Translation.]

Through the esteemed note of the 10th of January last the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America, Mr. And. D. White, suggested, [Page 465] in view of the cases of arrest of persons who had emigrated from Germany to North America, become naturalized there, and then returned to Germany for shorter or longer sojourn, the issue of some general instructions for the prevention of such arrests.

Prompted by this note the undersigned has caused an investigation to be made as to whether in reality there has of late been an accumulation of such arrests, and especially of unjust arrests.

This investigation has shown that since the beginning of the year 1880 but very few cases of the arrest within the imperial territory of persons naturalized in North America have come to the knowledge of the foreign office. It is very improbable that any such case would not have come to its knowledge.

This investigation has especially shown that Aloys Gehres, of Zinsweiler, mentioned in the esteemed note of January 10 last, as is also stated in the esteemed note of June 11 last, has hitherto not even returned to Germany; that the assertion of Otto Eick, of Bochum, and of Wendelin Frueh, of Oberbausen, in the year 1880, that they had been arrested, was, as will appear from the notes of this office of May 31 and August 10 last, found to be incorrect; that Jacques Loeb, of Reichshofen (esteemed note of November 4 last), was, immediately upon the exhibition of his certificate of naturalization, discharged from arrest; and, finally, that only Jacob Engellandt, of Breiholz, and Aaron Weill, of Reichshofen, have within the last fourteen months been arrested within the territory of the empire.

As regards Jacob Engellandt’s case he had, as is stated in the note of this office of December 19 last, been guilty of desertion from German military service before his emigration, and will therefore have to suffer the penalty imposed on him. Aaron Weill was, as he still owed allegiance in Alsace-Lorraine, liable to military duty there; he had withdrawn himself from the performance of this duty, and was, as appears from the note of this office of November 19 last, only discharged from arrest and pardoned in exceptional consideration of the circumstance that he had been induced to return to Germany by information furnished him by the legation of the United States in this city.

In the former cases the arrest was in harmony with the provisions of the North German-American treaty regulating nationality of February 22, 1868; in the latter with the laws of Alsace-Lorraine, which are limited by no treaty with the United States which regulates nationality. Both arrests were therefore just.

The Imperial Government therefore cannot find in the result of the investigation sufficient grounds for the issue of any general instructions on the subject.

The undersigned, who will gladly cause the suggestion which has been made to be reconsidered, in case the envoy of the United States of America should be in a position to communicate further cases in which an arrest has of late been made, avails himself of this occasion to renew to Mr. And. D. White the assurance of his most distinguished consideration.