Mr. Hoffman to Mr. Blaine.
St. Petersburg , August 29, 1881. (Received September 24)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that, having prepared a copy of your dispatch No. 87 upon the subject of United States Jews in Russia, I to-day called upon Mr. de Giers.
I told him the object of my visit, and offered to read your dispatch. He requested me not to do so, as he was very much occupied, and several persons waiting to see him, but asked me to leave him a copy, which he promised to have carefully considered.
I said to him that your dispatch related to citizens of the United States alone; that you did not touch upon the question of Russian Jews 5 and that as regards citizens of the United States you placed yourself principally and strongly upon the treaty of 1832. That under the treaty every citizen of the United States, without distinction of [Page 1037] creed, had the right to go where he pleased, and stay as long as he pleased, in the empire. He replied that he regarded the words “on condition of their submitting to the laws and ordinances there prevailing “as qualifying this right, and subjecting American Israelites to the laws which govern Russian Israelites. I assured him that it appeared to me that those words referred rather to laws on morals (moeurs) and police “ordinances,” in the ordinary acceptation of that term. I added, that in the case of Russian Jews very many exceptions were made to their laws (referring to the large number of Russian Jews permitted to reside in St. Petersburg contrary to law). He admitted that there were many such exceptions; and added that exceptions were made and would be made freely in case of foreign Jews also. I had only to apply in any particular case, and he had no doubt an exception would be made; your dispatch should be carefully considered, and in a week or two he would answer it verbally or in writing, as I preferred. He added that the answer would probably be the same as that given to the English.
The answer given to the English, I understand to be, that the treaty does not give an English Israelite the right to go anywhere, or stay any length of time, in Russia, but that he is bound by the regulations which govern native Jews; but that in the case of Mr. Lewisohn an exception is made on request of the British embassy, and he can return here if he desires to do so. I do not speak with certainty, but I learn in well informed quarters that this is the decision.
I am, &c.,