No. 73.
Mr. Logan to Mr. Evarts.

No. 141.]

Sir: Under cover of this dispatch, I inclose a printed copy of the new constitution recently promulgated by the authorities of Honduras.

But three articles claim my attention as worthy of particular notice, which I hereby translate in the body of this dispatch:

Article 1. Honduras is to be considered as a section disintegrated from the Republic of Central America. In consequence it recognizes as its principal duty and most urgent necessity, a return to a union with the other sections of the dissolved Republic The present constitution shall not stand in the way of the accomplishment of [Page 98] this prime object, but it may be amended or abolished by Congress in order to ratify the facts, treaties, and conventions which may result in the national reconstruction of Central America.

This declaration is so open and significant as to require no comment from me.

Art. 22. Neither Hondureños nor foreigners shall have the right in any case to make a claim against the state for damages or injuries which they may sustain in person or property by reason of the acts of facciones.

As explained in my No. 44, when treating of the new constitution of Guatemala, the word faccion (plural facciones) may mean a military exploit, engagement, or action. It may also mean a faction or turbulent body of men, who, in the name of revolution, may rob the store of a foreigner, tear up the railroad built and owned by foreigners, &c. Under cover of my dispatch No. 45, I inclosed the copy of a declaration made by the representatives of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy, to the Government of Guatemala upon the adoption of a similar article, giving notice of a determination to protect their fellow-citizens in person and property to the extent authorized by the laws of nations, and irrespective of the local enactments of the Government of Guatemala. A precisely similar declaration was made in the present case by the representatives above mentioned with the exception of your own, who preferred in the present instance awaiting instructions from his government. I respectfully solicit any which you may think the case requires.

Art. 30. Hondureños by birth, (1) all persons who may be, or were born in the territory of the republic. The nationality of the children of foreigners born in Hondureño territory, and that of Hondureños born in foreign territory will be determined by treaty. Where no treaty exists, children born in Honduras of foreign parents domiciled in the country are Hondureños, &c.

This article, with the exception of a power to stipulate differently by treaty, is the same as that adopted by the Guatemala constitution, and commented upon at length in my dispatch No. 44. In that dispatch, the history of the article as relates to Spain and her colonies was given. The point I have desired chiefly to illustrate is this: If the United States makes a declaration that children born of foreign parents within her territorial limits are citizens of the United States, she must concede the right to all other nations to make the same declarations in reference to children born of American parents within the limits of such other nations. This has been practically conceded in the opinion of Attorney-General Hoar, as quoted in the Digest of Opinions, &c., wherefrom it appears that it is not competent for the United States to interfere with the relation its foreign-born citizens may hold under the laws of the country of domicile to that country, although the statute of February 10, 1855, sweepingly declares that all persons born out of the limits of the United States, of American fathers, shall be deemed and considered American citizens. The opinions of the Attorneys General are not in the legation library and are therefore inaccessible to me. But the reciprocity of usage in this case, or whatever else it may be called, is altogether unfair in its practical operation and outcome.

There is no hardship in being a citizen of the United States, while one remains within her jurisdiction. The laws are mild, just, liberal, wholesome; justice is quickly obtained, and within the reach of all, however poor or lowly. There is no oppression or arbitrary acts of personal rulers; no forced loans and no compulsory military service to the State. The person is free to remain or go as he chooses.

These things cannot be said of all nations, and much less of those of [Page 99] Central America. There is an American citizen born in New York, who has been domiciled in Guatemala for the past eighteen years, where he has valuable properties. He has never for a moment relinquished the idea of returning for residence to the United States and wishes to do so, within the next two years. He has a son, born in this country, who next year will reach the age of eighteen years. Under the Guatemala law this son is a citizen of the country, and when he reaches his eighteenth year, he will be placed in the army of the republic for military service. During the term of such service, he cannot leave the country to return to his own, and it is possible that he may meet his death in involuntarily fighting the intestine battles of a foreign country.

More than this, to be a Guatemalteco subjects the individual to all of the caprices of an arbitrary and personal government. He may be suspected of disloyalty and thrust into prison under rude forms of military law. He may be violated in his person or property, and after the most absurd forms of law, the most exhausting delays, and the most excessive draughts upon his purse, find himself entirely unable to obtain justice. If he desire to flee the country he finds that he cannot do so without a passport from the government, which latter may easily trump up reason for a refusal. These possibilities are not at all overdrawn.

In case of the boy above alluded to, the father recently made application to me for a passport, to protect the son from the obligations of Guatemalteco citizenship. I referred him to the opinion of Attorney-General Hoar, above cited. If you have any instructions as to his case I should be glad to receive them.

The matter stands thus: He is the son of a native American citizen, though accidentally born in Guatemala. Under the organic law of this state he is a Guatemalteco, and subject to all of the requirements of a citizen of this republic. He is liable to military duty, and to all of the abrupt and arbitrary methods of a personal government. While he remains here and it is possible that his departure may be legally prevented as that of any other citizen, he is entitled to no protection from the government which has declared him, as the son of an American, an American citizen. But the person who has acquired naturalization under our laws, though he may not have resided in the United States two weeks, who has permanently abandoned our country, and engaged in business by the side of the unprotected American boy, laughs at the obligations of a Guatemalteco, prosecutes his business, feels assured of his goods, and lives in peace and quietude under the protection of the American flag.

I trust I do not draw the picture larger than the facts will warrant. If I err in my statements or conclusions, I shall be happy to be corrected.

I have, &c.,