No. 180.
Mr. Sargent to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 112.]

Sir: The case of [Car] William Scheibert presents such peculiar features that I beg to lay it before you, and to ask for definite instructions in case you think it proper that I should further intervene in it. That of the Staarbach brothers involves much the same considerations, and I group them together.

On the 20th of December, 1882, Mr. Julius Scheibert, father of William Scheibert, called in person at the legation and stated that he himself emigrated to the United States in 1856, and was there naturalized in 1864. His said son was born in New York, December 22, 1856. The father returned to Germany with his family, including this son, in 1869, where he has since resided.

The son returned to the United States after three years, and came back here in 1879, and has since resided here. On the 19th of December the son was impressed into the military service.

Upon this statement, which was the apparent evidence of an extreme case, I addressed a note the same date to Count Hatzfeldt, imperial secretary of state for foreign affairs, in which, after stating the above facts, I urgently requested him to have the case promptly investigated, and, if possible, that the young man should be set free from military service and allowed to return to his parents for the Christmas holidays, and until a definite decision could be arrived at, as I believed him to be an American citizen by virtue of both his birth and his father’s naturalization, and not liable to military service in Germany; and that he had the right of any native-born American citizen to remain quietly in this country.

On the 28th of December I had a note from Dr. Busch, of the imperial foreign office, in which he assured me that the proper authorities had been instructed to expedite the matter, and the right was reserved to make further answer.

December 31 Julius Scheibert wrote to me that his son arrived at home on the 28th for a fourteen days’ furlough, and praying me to take steps for his entire liberation. To this I replied that I had fully presented his son’s case, and hoped for a speedy and favorable result, which should be at once communicated to him.

January 17 the father again wrote to me, stating that on the expiration of the furlough the son had returned to his regiment, stating his [Page 343] own extreme distress, and asking that another furlough be demanded. An answer was sent to this, calculated to soothe his feelings, and induce him to await with patience the somewhat deliberate methods of the foreign office.

January 28 he again wrote, urging diligent attention to the case.

January 29 I addressed another note to Count Hatzfeldt, again calling his attention to the fact that Scheibert is an American by birth, who has resided twenty years of his life in America, and that his parents are naturalized citizens of the United States. Inasmuch as I was not aware of any case where a native-born American had been put into the German army against his will, I stated that I could not understand why an exception should be made in this case, or why the simple facts in the case should require so long to investigate and decide upon. As the parents of the young man were much disturbed by their son’s compulsory detention in the army, I requested prompt decision, not doubting that it would result in Scheibert’s release.

On the 30th I informed the father of my second application to the foreign office on his son’s behalf, and that I hoped soon for a favorable reply. This letter the father misunderstood as an announcement that his son’s release was already ordered, and then writes under date of February 8, expressing his pain that its promise was not fulfilled, and reiterating the reasons for the release.

On the 9th I called at the foreign office and had an interview with Dr. Busch, under secretary of state in the absence of Count Hatzfeldt, and made urgent representations in the case, asking for speedy decision, and the same day informed the father that I had done so, and that he had misunderstood my previous letter in supposing that it announced his son’s release.

On the 16th of February I received a note from Count Hatzfeldt requesting me to call the next: day at the foreign office, which I did. Referring to the Scheibert case, he said he wished to be agreeable to me, and do all possible things, but the case presented difficulties.

He then told me that the father became renaturalized as a Prussian when the son was fifteen years old, and had then all his family in Prussia, and named each of his sons, including [Carl] William, the eldest, in his written application for renaturalization; that this son remained in Germany thereafter until the time came to be of service in the army, when he absented himself for some years, but had now been back for several years, and had married and settled in Prussia and engaged in business here. He thought the son was naturalized a German at the time of the renaturalization of the father, and his acts tended to show that to be his understanding also. He read to me the petition of the father and decree of the court for naturalization, copies of which I inclose, with translations. I asked for copies, and stated that I could say nothing decisive without reflection upon these new facts; that neither I nor my Government wished to ask unreasonable things, and I might refer the whole matter to you for instructions.

I had, up to that time, acted upon this case upon the theory that Scheibert père had given me all the facts, and that his son was unquestionably an American citizen, and I did not doubt the father was one also. On the same date I caused the father to be informed that in answer to my inquiries I was informed that his son, during his first visit to Germany in 1869–’72, voluntarily and with the consent of his parents became a German citizen; that he is married here, and to all appearances had taken up his residence here, and wished to know if these statements were correct.

[Page 344]

The answer to this letter was dated on the 20th, and stated that when his son was recently called before the authorities to ascertain his intentions, if he intended to remain in Germany, he replied, “Not if he would have to become a soldier.” He does not admit or deny his or his son’s naturalization as a Prussian, but says the latter is not yet married, though engaged to be. It is possible I misunderstood Count Hatzfeldt in that particular, as he spoke in French. He insists that his son would not wish to remain here if he had to be a soldier, and complains that the advice of the consul at Bremen had deceived his son into security. The consuls are usually quite discreet in turning over such questions to me, as out of their province. * * *

On the 20th of February I received the accompanying legitimatization papers, and wrote to the father that I had before me copies of the document submitted by him January 20, 1870, to the magistracy of Nienberg, wherein he applied for himself and family, naming each of his children, to be readmitted to Prussian citizenship, stating that he had built a house, and intended to settle down permanently with his family; also of the decree of the magistracy granting the request. Although all my previous letters had been promptly answered, he has never responded to this one.

Copies of all this correspondence I inclose, that you may have the whole record before you. My examination of cases does not show to me any one in which the same question has arisen, and I respectfully ask your views upon it.

The following considerations present themselves to me:

The Scheibert father gave up his American citizenship for himself and family in 1870, naming this son, then sixteen years old, in the document, in which he prayed to be admitted to German citizenship. This son was then with him in Germany. By United States law it is held that where a German becomes naturalized in the United States his minor children who are with him become naturalized by the act also. I do not see how it can be claimed by the United States that the naturalization of a German in the United States naturalizes his minor children, and yet denied that the naturalization of an American in Germany does not naturalize also his minor children here. If the above consideration is not conclusive, as it may well be held to be, there are circumstances of ratification by the son which tend to fortify the view that this man is a German subject. Thus, being naturalized when sixteen years old, he said here two years thereafter, and then went to the United States when eighteen years old, and when twenty-three returned here, where he has since remained four years, engaged himself to be married, and has settled down permanently. When questioned by the authorities if he intended to remain in Prussia permanently, he said he would if he did not have to serve as a soldier. America he might use as a convenience to escape military duty, but he was willing to keep this as his home, only not to render an equivalent of service for the protection which he would receive here. His casual absence in the United States after his naturalization here was not for the purpose of regaining American citizenship, for he does not appear to have taken any steps to that end, but probably to avoid military service, which, as a Prussian, he was liable to. He has devoted himself for the past four years to comfortably settling down here as a German, upon the theory that he could at last do it without performing the duties of one, and if worse came to worse, would plead that he was born elsewhere.

These acts tend to create an estoppel in pais; to ratify the act of the father to justify the view of the imperial Government.

[Page 345]

The father has two other sons, also born in America, who are serving in the German army without question on his or their part. He suddenly takes exception when this one is called on for that purpose, but conceals from me the fact that he had applied for and obtained renaturalization for himself and family.

This case illustrates the difficulty that sometimes occurs in getting the truth from the excited or secretive applicants. Like some suitors in law courts who fear to tell their lawyers the truth, these claimants sometimes conceal the essential points in their cases, and lead the legation upon a mistaken track.

Considering the peculiarities of this case, the strong reason there is for holding young Scheibert a German subject, the little value he places on any possible right from his birth by his avowed desire to live in Prussia if he can escape military service; and believing that indiscriminate demands on the imperial Government for all sorts of pretenders to Americanism should not be insisted on, but only legal and judicious ones made, such as commend themselves to our own judgment and conscience, I have informed Mr. Scheibert that I can do nothing more in his son’s case until I have definite instructions from the State Department, to which I would refer the whole matter.

The case of the Staarbach brothers involves much the same principles. The young men were born in the United States in 1857 and 1859, respectively, returned with the father to Alsace in 1871, where they have since lived, and the father became renaturalized when the sons were fourteen and twelve years old, respectively.

The facts in this case were called to my attention by a letter of Consul-General Vogeler at Frankfort, a copy of which is inclosed; and I inclose a copy of my reply to him, wherein all the facts are stated, and the considerations governing the case are fully discussed. In that case I beg to direct attention to what I say about the additional element of difficulty, inasmuch as the youths are residents of Alsace.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 112.—Translation.]

Count Hatzfeldt to Mr. Sargent.

The undersigned has the honor, referring to the personal interview of yesterday, to inclose herewith for the information of Mr. A. A. Sargent, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America, a copy [of] proceedings at Nienberg on the 20th of January, 1870, according to which the American citizen, Julius Scheibert, made application to have Prussian citizenship conferred [on] himself and family, among which was his son William, born December 22, 1856; also the answer referring to the application dated February 3, 1870, conferring the requested naturalization.

The undersigned, while remarking that the investigation into the citizenship of “W. Scheibert has not yet been completed, and that consequently he reserves to himself the honor of a further communication as soon as a definite result shall have been reached, avails, &c.,

[Page 346]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 112.—Translation.]

The landmarschal of Hanover to the magistrate of Nienberg.

In answer to the report of the 21st instant, we do hereby consent to the reinstatement of Julius Scheibert, baker and confectioner, of New York, as a Prussian subject, permission having already been given to the said Scheibert to take up his residence in Nienberg by the magistrate. Said Scheibert is to be informed of this in our name.


A copy of the foregoing is herewith transmitted to you in lieu of any special reply to your written application of the 20th of last month.

The magistrate:


To Mr. Julius Scheibert, Baker, Present.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 112.—Translation.]

Application of J. Scheibert to become a German citizen.

Done at the magistracy of Nienberg, January 20, 1870.

There appears before us Julius Scheibert, baker and confectioner, and deposes upon proper examination as follows:

I am a son of August Scheibert, farmer, who is still living, of Broessow, in the district of Prenzlau, in the jurisdiction of Potsdam, born on the 2d December, 1833, in Broessow. In the year 1856 I emigrated to America and settled down in New York, where I lived until my return to Germany. In New York I was married to Ernestine Denker, of Nienberg; from this marriage there issued seven children: William, born December 22, 1856; Henry, born December 19, 1858; John, born December 15, 1860; Francisca, born January 8, 1862; Johanna, born December 31, 1864; Julius, born October 19, 1866; Christian, born May 1, 1869.

I can prove these statements by certificates of baptism, or perhaps correct any misstatements as to the proper dates by exhibiting—

A citizen paper, dated New York, June 8, 1864, which proves me to be a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.
A passport of June 22, 1869, identifying me as an American citizen.

[On the part of the magistracy, these statements, after a careful examination of the papers, are pronounced to be correct.]

I left the Prussian Monarchy in the year 1856, without a permission to emigrate; but I can prove by the exhibition of a certificate dated Prenzlau, August 28, 1855, that I reported for duty and was placed in the army reserves by the royal department of the Ersatz commission.

[On the part of the magistracy this is corroborated.]

If my withdrawal from the Prussian territory without permission to emigrate be a punishable offense according to laws then in force, it has ceased to be such now. At present I am building me a house here in Nienberg, as is well known, for the purpose of carrying [on] the baker business, and intend to settle here permanently with my family, and desire to be again reinstated as a Prussian subject.



Further necessary steps shall be taken.

Certified to.

[Page 347]
[Inclosure 4 in No. 112.]

Mr. Vogeler to Mr. Sargent.

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herein copy of a letter addressed to me by L. Staarbach, of Strasburg, Alsace, dated February 21, and two orders, inclosures to said letter, commanding Rudolph Staarbach and Julius Staarbach, sons of L. Staarbach, to report on the 26th instant in person to the military recruiting commission for the district of Strasburg.

In transmitting the request of Mr. Staarbach, as expressed in his letter, I beg to state the case of Rudolph and Julius Staarbach, as I understand it from verbal statements heretofore made to me by Mr. Staarbach and sundry written communications received from him.

Mr. L. Staarbach lived in the United States many years, and did business there, and in due time became a naturalized citizen. His said sons were born after his naturalization. While these sons were minors Mr. Staarbach returned with them to Alsace.

This took place, I think, before the annexation of Alsace to Germany. Mr. L. Staarbach, while his sons were still minors, surrendered his American citizenship and elected to and did become a German subject. He is doing business at Strasburg, his said sons, who have both passed the age of majority, being associated with him. They have declared to the German authorities that they intend to remain American citizens; also that they intend to return to the United States for a permanent residence,’ but being pressed by the authorities have failed to fix a time for their return. The authorities have deferred action, but have from time to time importuned them to fix a time for their departure. They now take a definite step.

Pursuant to Mr. Staarbach’s request, and without exprssing any opinion in the matter, I submit the case to your consideration, feeling confident that you will take such action in the premises as the nature of the case requires.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 5 in No. 112.—Translation.]

Mr. L. Staarbach to Mr. Vogeler.

Inclosed I beg leave to forward two military orders of the burgomaster of this place, from which you will perceive that the local police authorities have had the impudence to call upon two American-born citizens for military duty, a proceeding which caused a general indignation here. The two sons, Rudolph Staarbach, born in New York, July 13, 1857, and Julius Staarbach, born in New York, November 6, 1859, are not at all inclined to obey this illegal summons, nor even to leave the city, as they have formerly repeatedly been importuned to do in this matter, but they insist upon their American citizen rights; and are of an age when they can certainly not be interfered with in their actions, in spite of the opinion which seems to prevail here, that even those children who are born in America must needs follow the nationality of their father.

I would request you most urgently to bring this case before his excellency Mr. A. A Sargent, the American ambassador in Berlin, and ask his speedy help and protection.

I look forward to a kind answer as well as further advice how I am to conduct myself in the matter.

With much respect,


As the examining commission meets next Monday, I beg you to ask Mr. Sargent to take speedy measures to bar these proceedings.

[Page 348]
[Inclosure 6 in No. 112.]

Mr. Sargent to Consul-General Vogeler.

Sir: Your esteemed letter concerning the case of the Staarbach brothers is received. The young men were born in the United States in 1857 and 1859 respectively, of a German-American father; returned with him, sometime before 1871, to Alsace, where they have since lived, they being then not over fourteen and twelve years old. The father became renaturalized as a German citizen. The authorities have summoned the sons to appear for military service, after repeated inquiries of them as to their intentions about going to America if they considered themselves as American citizens—the young men responding that they claim to be American citizens, but declining to go, or to fix any time for going there, and the authorities at last taking the decisive action above stated.

The question raised in this case is now pending [in] the imperial foreign office in another case, and I have referred it to the Department for instructions. It is simply this: Does the naturalization of an American citizen in Germany, by which he becomes a German subject, work the naturalization of his family, including his minor sons who are then present with him in Germany? For the purpose of this question a native and a naturalized American may be held as on the same footing.

By American law and practice the minor sons of a German naturalized in the United States, if then with him, become Americans. Do not the minor sons of such an American who may be naturalized a German become German subjects, if with him at the time in Germany? Can we insist on one doctrine for ourselves and another for Germany? It seems to me not.

Had these youths promptly, on gaining their freedom at majority, gone to the United States and assumed the duties and functions of American citizenship, any defect in their title to this would probably have been passed sub silentio. Instead of so doing they have settled down here, engaged in business, perhaps married and ratified their father’s acts by their own except so far as indefinite declarations go, which were made merely to avoid service to the country whose protection they seek and enjoy.

Until corrected by the Department, I must hold the American citizenship of these parties to be doubtful at least. The foreign office considers such persons as naturalized with the father, according to the American doctrine. I do not see how these young men can escape military service if they remain in the country.

There is another complication in their case: The foreign office has not yet formally admitted, and has heretofore denied, that Alsace-Lorraine is covered by the naturalization treaties which were made with the original separate States before the Empire and before the acquisition of those provinces. If it should revive this consideration in this case, the only ground on which it would consider it would be one of national comity, which, of course, must be consistent with its own views of justice to itself. As already said, it looks upon youths so circumstanced as naturalized with the father; and its own rights and interests are involved not to surrender to us those whom it considers as its own subjects.

I may add that the United States has some right to be considered in this matter, and to require that those who expect to rely upon its protection in the sacred name of citizenship shall in some way, except by barren declarations to foreign officials, show their fidelity to it.

I have, &c.,