Mr. Sargent to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Berlin, January 22, 1883. (Received February 9.)
Sir: As the matter of a new treaty between the United States and Germany is being mooted in Congress, and as it was alleged in the newspapers that announced the appointment of Mr. C. Von Eisendecher as German minister at Washington that his instructions include power to negotiate for the extension of the present treaty to cover Alsace-Lorraine, and as the negotiations for such new or modified treaty may take place at Washington, I beg to inclose extracts from the laws of the Empire relating to the acquisition and loss of German citizenship, with translations, merely to direct your attention to these provisions in case [Page 331] a reference to German law on these points becomes useful in the course of the discussions.
In my dispatch No. 72, of October 12, 1882, I endeavored to give the present state of opinion in Germany upon these topics, and subsequent observation confirms the opinions which I then expressed.
But I may remark that while there is considerable jealousy on the part of those who perform military service of those who escape it, and a feeling on the part of some German statesmen that the present treaties go very far to facilitate the depletion of the military force of the Empire, yet the extracts from the laws which I inclose show that the treaty is not more liberal in that respect than the law, and perhaps a fair construction of the five years’ clause in section 21 shows it to be more liberal than the existing treaties. It may be suggested that this clause absolutely recognizes the fact that five years’ absence from Germany, during which citizenship in a foreign country has been acquired, causes the relation of German citizen entirely to cease and determine; and, of course, terminates all reciprocal duties and obligations.
The late German, now, say, an American, if traveling or residing in Germany, comes under the protection of this law, that accords his full rights as an American.
Only by the restriction upon this law made by the present treaties is there a limit fixed to the time that a naturalized American of German birth can reside here. If the treaties were liberalized in that regard the law would, it appears to me, not need to be amended to cover further privileges of that kind. Perhaps Germany might be induced to allow as much liberality in the treaty as the law discovers.
But the right of an unlimited residence away from their country by citizens of either nation who at the same time demand constant protection from their Government, is undesirable, and perhaps ought not to be provided for by treaty, either for native or naturalized citizens.
The feature in the German law that declares that ten years’ uninterrupted absence from the Empire shall work, ipso facto, a loss of citizenship, might work well if enacted in the United States and applied to all citizens. I have met American citizens in Europe, both native and naturalized, who reside permanently abroad and never intend to return to America. They spend their income here, make investments here, and identify themselves as fully as if Europeans with Europe.
From this many of the consequences of the absenteeism which is so injurious to Ireland result. These persons are Americans only in name. They have children born here who arrive at manhood without ever having seen America, and speak its language, if at all, with strange accent. They avoid the society of Americans usually, are contemners of American institutions, despise its simplicity, mourn their own lack of titles, and besiege the legation for presentations at courts, where they may wear a gilded coat and sun themselves in the condescending smiles of royalty. To them republican institutions are a failure, and the failure is largely due to the absence of a privileged class that could give dignity and tone to our otherwise uninteresting and uncouth modes. Such affect to believe that all grace of manners departed from France with the Empire; that the United States can never have any until it recognizes an aristocracy of blood, and prefer these as rulers at home and representatives abroad. It is noticeable that such always assume that they would be of the elect in the happy day when the Republic shall so change its features as to be a desirable residence for them, although the ground for the assumption is not always obvious.
A law like that of Germany would certainly not injure our reputation [Page 332] abroad, while it might be of service to these ungrateful children by compelling them occasionally to come in contact with and see the sterling value of the practical democracy at home. It might free them from “many a foolish notion” that long uninterrupted residence abroad fosters.
Materially, such a law would be better for the United States. Immense sums of money derived from interests in the United States are spent abroad by such permanent self-exiles, which would tend to our prosperity if spent at home. Of course these remarks apply only to a class, and not to American travelers and students abroad.
Such a law, to be of value to America, should not contain a provision that a declaration of intention made before a consul shall have the effect to suspend the period of limitation.
The German Government does not, in fact, molest any naturalized German-American after he has passed the military age, but allows him to live here indefinitely. Hence, thousands of Germans come here after that age and pass the remainder of their lives. These are as anxious as the native Americans whose children are born here that their sons here shall escape military service, though these sons have never seen the United States. It would be a curious subject of study to discover what interest the United States has in exerting itself to protect such absentees, either native or foreign, who render it no equivalent of service, and not even of respect or affection.
There would be nothing to regret if such a law should reach a class, too numerous, who have made of our naturalization laws a mere convenience to escape obligation to the countries of their birth, and who discharge none to the alleged country of their adoption. Such go to the United States and live there the bare time for naturalization, and then return to Europe with citizen papers, never intending thereafter to visit the United States. Their bad faith prejudices, in the eyes of European authorities, the case of the honest emigrant who has acquired citizenship in good faith and returns here for temporary purposes, and causes the latter to be molested where he otherwise would not be, because the Governments have so often before them cases of what is morally little else than fraudulent pretense of American citizenship.
In short, experience and observation in Europe have led me to the conclusion that, while it is desirable to secure greater clearness and scope to our naturalization treaties, it would also be advantageous to our interests to enact that any American absenting himself uninterruptedly for a period exceeding ten years from the United States should cease to be a citizen of the United States.
The law regulating the acquisition and loss of citizenship is, it will be observed, extended to Alsace-Lorraine. As the five years’ clause requires to be vitalized by treaty, and was probably intended as a sanction or affirmation of the American treaties, it would not be of force in Alsace-Lorraine unless the treaties can be held to apply to these late acquired provinces. But the existence of this feature in the law did not prevent the act of extension of the whole law to Alsace-Lorraine, by which the implication might arise that Germany was ready to extend the treaties.
In Mr. Fish’s instruction No. 569 of April 14, 1873, and No. 583 of June 4, 1873, a forcible statement of some objections to the existing treaties may be found; and in Mr. Bancroft’s dispatch No. 481 of May 8, 1873, an earnest defense of the treaties by the negotiator thereof.
I have, &c.,