Mr. Sargent to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Berlin, March 29, 1884. (Received April 14.)
Sir: Referring to your No. 198, of March 6, 1884, received March 21, in regard to the case of Mr. Oscar Stern (or Stein), who is said to be in Germany to aid in the settlement of his father’s estate, and whom the authorities threaten to draft in the army, I beg leave to remark that immediately upon the receipt of your said instruction I caused a letter to be written to said person, directed to Zweibrücken, inclosing to Mm one of our military case forms, requesting him to fill, it up and return it to us, so far as the questions it contained were pertinent to his case, and that he transmit to me his citizen paper and any papers the German authorities might have served upon him, and sent to him also a copy of the treaty of 1868, directing his attention especially to article 4 and the power of the Bavarian authorities thereunder. To this fetter, which was sent poste restante, no reply has come, and so much time has elapsed it has probably not reached the person intended. An answer to the question in the military case form is necessary to present a case satisfactorily to the foreign office, and it is also needful to send in the complainant’s citizen papers. The slight particulars given in Mr. Hamburger’s letter, a copy of which accompanies your instruction are of no value for such a purpose, and do not even enable me to find the person most interested. Had Mr. Hamburger directed Mr. Stern to address the legation directly, I could have sifted the case at once and prepared to vindicate the rights of Mr. Stern.
But Mr. Hamburger errs in the construction he puts upon the treaty. The German authorities have not admitted the right of any citizen of the United States of German birth to remain in this country longer than two years. They are especially stringent in guarding against a more prolonged residence in the cases of persons who are, like Stern, still of military age; probably because they consider the example set by such persons to German youth to be deleterious. On application from this legation, permission has usually been granted for an extension of a few weeks, at most, for persons to leave the country who have staid the two years; but this has been asked and granted as a favor. The “bona fide intention” of the party involved to leave in the third or fourth or other year is not inquired into or admitted by the German Government to be of weight. It is the apparent aim, observable from the study of the whole body of cases, to limit residence of persons of military age to the treaty term.
With regard to persons who have passed the military age the practice is somewhat variable, though as a rule such persons are not molested, where they have an apparent ability to provide for their own support, and consequently there are thousands of naturalized Germans [Page 195] in Germany, who have lived here for years, without question. But the police sometimes seem to question the right of this class to remain. During the past week Dr. G. W. Geist, a resident for twelve years past of Frankfort-on-the-Main, practicing dentistry there, a man who fought against the rebellion and is a naturalized American citizen, called upon me and told me he had been verbally notified by the local police to leave the country-in two months or to become a German citizen. In answer to my questions he said he knew no cause for this notice; that he does not interfere in political matters, pays his taxes, is a quiet man, has no known enemies, does a good business as dentist, &c., and intends to go to America as soon as he has finished educating his children, who were born in the United States, as well as his wife, and none of them are yet of military age, the eldest lacking three years of it. I gave him a copy of the treaty and advised him to write to the chief of police of his city inquiring if lie had authorized such notice, and, if so, for the reasons therefor, promising that I would be of any service to him that I could when I learned the authority and motives for such notice. Unfortunately I can do little in such a case, unless it be to get a little time to enable this man to save his property and credit from entire sacrifice.
This case illustrates the hardships of our naturalization treaty. It is, perhaps, the best that can be had, but the difference between the conduct of the United States towards foreign residents in its midst and the treatment of its citizens residing in Germany is in marked contrast. I am not able, for want of more particulars, to pronounce absolutely upon Dr. Geist’s case; but, taking his statement to be absolutely correct, it is hard to see the propriety of the policy that excludes him so summarily from Germany. Where a person between twenty-four and thirty-four, able-bodied, &c., returns here after naturalization, and insists on remaining, public or military policy may see objections. But for a man of forty-seven years old, like Dr. Geist, these objections do not exist, unless there is some extrinsic matter in the case not revealed to me. I suppose Mr. Stern will present himself at the legation when his passport expires, and my successor will observe still farther your instructions.
I have, &c.,