No. 298.
Mr. Stevens to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 125.]

Sir: In view of the large and increasing emigration of foreign-born persons to the United States and the augmented military armaments of the European nations, resulting in more stringent regulations as to military service and obligations, the question of American naturalized citizenship is assuming increased importance, and necessarily will demand more attention and vigilance on the part of diplomatic and consular agents of the United States in foreign countries. It therefore seems to [Page 488]me proper that I should report to the Secretary of State two cases as to which I have been called to take action—one in Sweden and the other in Norway.

C. M. Cedergren was born in Munsteras, Sweden, September, 1845, and emigrated from the country in June, 1864. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States February 28, 1880, in Washington Territory, having taken out his preliminary paper in 1877. In 1881 he came on a visit to the vicinity of his birth for the first time after an absence of seventeen years, having in his possession his certificate of naturalization, which was in due form. Not long after his return he was called on by a local Swedish official and a fine demanded of him for a non-performance of military duty. The Swedish law does not demand military service of the subject until he is twenty-one years of age. Cedergren was less than nineteen years of age at the time of his emigration, more than two years before he would have been liable to military service had he remained in the country. He informed the officer that he was a naturalized citizen of the United States and could show his naturalization paper. Being in Stockholm not long after, if he did not come here for the express purpose, early in August, 1881, he called on the United States consul, Colonel Elfwing, for information and advice. Consul Elfwing brought the case to my consideration.

I directed him to have Cedergren certify under oath as to his age at the time of his emigration and the date of his departure from the country to show his naturalization paper to the Swedish local official, to be respectful in his demeanor to the Swedish officials, to pay no fines, and not to go to the military drill. Cedergren certified under oath before the consul as to the time of his emigration and his age at that date. Nothing more was heard from him until nearly the close of March of the present year. He then wrote from his place of temporary domicile that he had just been called on by the district official, his fine for past delinquency demanded, and ordered to appear April 14, for military service. He had then been in the country since his return from the United States less than one year and had from the beginning declared his purpose to leave during the present year. He at once wrote Consul Elfwing of the new and imperative demand made on him, saying that the Swedish official would not even look at his United States naturalization paper. Consul Elfwing promptly communicated with me, and I instructed him to write Cedergren to pay no fine and not to go to the military drill, and this instruction the consul at once complied with

I deemed it my duty to make known the facts of the case to His Majesty’s minister of foreign affairs, and to secure his intervention before April 14, the date of the beginning of the demanded military service. To secure prompt action and to more surely avoid awakening sensibilities, knowing how keenly the leading men of the country feel in regard to the large draft now being made on their population by emigration, I deemed it expedient not to make a formal demand by written communications, but to call in person on His Majesty’s minister, Baron Hochschild, state the facts verbally, and adjust the case in as informal a manner as possible. Accordingly I called on the minister of foreign affairs and gave him a full statement of the facts, laid before him the letters of Mr. Cedergren, in which he had stated his griveance, and informed him that the naturalization certificate of Cedergren was correct and in due form. I called the minister’s attention to the treaty of 1869 between the United States and Sweden and Norway, and expressed the opinion that according to its terms Cedergren was free of all liabilities as to Swedish obligations. He gave me a candid hearing, and said he [Page 489]would confer with the minister of justice, to whose cognizance the ease properly came, and I would be promptly informed of the conclusion reached. Two or three days after I received a note from Baron Hochschild to the import that the minister of war had ordered Cedergren’s name to be stricken from the conscription roll, as he was indisputably an American citizen, but as he had not taken his first step to naturalization until 1877, his naturalization could not have a retroactive effect, and that therefore he was still liable to Sweden for his military fine imposed for his prior delinquency.

Believing that this decision had been arrived at without sufficient examination of the terms of the treaty, and that a verbal statement of the case would be less embarrassing and more speedy in its result, as soon as practicable I sought another personal interview with the minister of foreign affairs. With him I reviewed the language of the treaty and protocol of 1869. I called to his consideration the discussion between the United States and France in 1859 and 1860 relating to the case of Michel Zeiter, in which our government claimed that the naturalized citizen could be held responsible on his return to his native country only for liability incurred prior to his emigration; that the French judicial tribunal finally decided the case of Zeiter in favor of the United States, and without any treaty on the subject; that the object of the treaties of naturalization which we had with Sweden and Norway and other nations was to shut out all chance for controversy on the essential point relating to Cedergren. I informed the minister of foreign affairs that in 1879 and 1880 we had nearly forty cases similar to that of Cedergren with Germany, with which we had a similar treaty, and that in ail these cases where there was no military liability before and at the date of emigration Germany admitted our claim.

To this interview with the minister of foreign affairs I took and read the circular of the German minister of interior of July, 1868, with which the circular of the German minister of justice, of the same year, was in entire accord, which contained the instructions to the local German officials, fully sustaining the construction of the treaty which I urged. After hearing my presentation of the case and carefully re-examining the text of the treaty and protocol, Baron Hochschild frankly declared my construction correct, and the case of Cedergren clear of Swedish claim of liability.

In the evening of the same day April, 8 I received his official note fully covering the conclusion reached in our verbal consideration of the case, and remitting the fine which had been imposed on Cedergren, thus acknowledging his unqualified American citizenship.

Late in November, 1880, I received a letter from Peder Sigbjornsen, Skoland, district of Stavanger, Norway, where he was then stopping with his father, saying that he was a citizen of the United States on a visit among his relatives and friends, and intended to return to his adopted country in 1881. He forwarded to me his naturalization certificate which was in due form and properly authenticated. He informed me that his American citizenship had been disregarded by the Norwegian officials. As he had not in this communication furnished me all the necessary data to enable me to take action in his behalf, I wrote him for further information as to the regiment in which and the names of the officers under whom he was called to perform military service. Some time expired before he received my communication, as it did not go to the post-office at which he was accustomed to receive his letters. The distance of his place of domicile was about four hundred miles from this legation. It was not until early in March, 1881, that [Page 490]I was able to present the case to the foreign office of His Majesty’s Government, which took the necessary steps to investigate the case through the Norwegian officials. Sigbjornsen was found to be a native of Norway who had lived eight years in the United States, and had been naturalalized as a citizen of the latter country. He had returned to Norway in April, 1879, and was residing with his father in the autumn of 1880, when the military authorities demanded of him military service. This he refused declaring himself a citizen of the United States. But it did not appear that he showed his naturalization paper to the Norwegian authorities. He was fined for non-performance of military duty, and paid the fine. Afterwards he was informed by the Norwegian officials that he would be required to perform military service early in 1881, as a Norwegian subject. In the sequel there was found to be some conflict of statement and some evident misunderstanding as to the facts in the case between Sigbjornsen and the Norwegian local military authorities. As the acting minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Lagesheim, and the Norwegian minister of state, Mr. Kierulf, residing officially in Stockholm, seemed ready to act equitably in the case, I suggested it might be informally adjusted, and this suggestion was accepted. By the express terms of the treaty of 1869, Sigbjornsen could remain two years in Norway without rendering himself liable to be claimed as a Norwegian subject. The two years had now nearly expired. But in view of the fact that his American citizenship had been disregarded for the period of several months, and a fine imposed on him, it was agreed that he might remain in Norway until August 24, 1881, about two years and five months in all, after his return from the United States, and his fine refunded him. I had contended that he was entitled to two years of unmolested residence in Norway as a citizen of the United States, and that during the time in which military pressure had been made on him and the fine remained enforced against him, he had not had unmolested residence as an American citizen. This informal adjustment of the case seemed to me equitable, and was accepted as satisfactory by the Norwegian minister and the acting minister of foreign affairs, Baron Hockschild being then absent from his post on leave.

I have given thus somewhat minutely an account of these two cases of disputed citizenship and the manner of their adjustment, because, so far as I know, these are the first which have arisen, as to which this legation has been called to take action, since the going into effect of the treaty of 1869, and because they may serve as precedents for the settlement of future cases of like character which can scarcely fail to arise more often in the future. And in this connection I can bear testimony to the courtesy and good faith with which the Swedish and Norwegian ministers of His Majesty’s Government dealt with the issues raised, when they had the opportunity fully to consider them.

I have, &c.,

JOHN S. STEVENS.