No. 421.
Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Wallace.

No. 157.]

Sir: Your dispatch No. 318, of the 26th ultimo, reports the several requests addressed to you by the Porte looking to your intervention to secure an official census registry of citizens of the United States in certain parts of the Turkish dominions, and acquaints me with your reply of January 25, in the form of a note verbale sent to the imperial ministry for foreign affairs.

I readily comprehend the difficulties pointed out in your dispatch, which lie in the way of prompt accession to these apparently simple and [Page 547] practical requests. In addition to these, however, most of which, as you rightly explain, concern only the peculiar relations with the Government of the Porte which spring from the capitulations and from the radical differences of administrative methods in the two countries, there is another consideration, general in its application, which this Government has found it necessary to insist upon in its dealings with certain of its neighbors, notably Mexico, and which might arise with Turkey, if it be admitted that we are under an obligation to cause a registry of our citizens abroad to be made. While such registry may be convenient in the relations of countries, it cannot be admitted as a determination of the question of citizenship. Failure to register should not exclude the party from opportunity to show his citizenship by competent proof; and a Government which has failed through any cause to procure the registry of one of its citizens in the consular list can under no circumstances be deemed to have thereby barred its citizen or estopped itself from the diplomatic resort in case of wrong being done to him.

Hence this Government abstains from any action which might imply an obligation on its part, or on the part of its officers, to furnish any foreign Government with lists of those whom it will, in a given emergency, protect as citizens. The laws of the foreign state may require some form of registration. In such a case, although it is no part of the duty of our officers abroad to execute the local police regulations with regard to their fellow-citizens, we place no obstacle in the way; on the contrary, where such local registry requires the production and filing of a consular certificate independent of or supplementary to a regular passport, our regulations permit the issuance of such a certificate. (Consular Regulations, 1881, paragraph 163.)

These being the views of this Department, I cannot entirely approve your proposition to the minister of foreign affairs. Your first condition prescribes the unquestioned recognition of the citizenship of any person borne on the consular lists as transmitted by the legation to the foreign office, which may imply a responsibility on our side to perfect such lists, and a disability on the part of any omitted citizen to prove his status or claim diplomatic redress.

Your second condition asks that a consular certificate shall be accepted by Turkish officers everywhere as conclusive proof of the fact of citizenship. It does not appear from the correspondence you transmit that the Turkish authorities request the issuance of such certificates, or that the exhibition of a regular passport is not entirely sufficient to comply with their police requirements. Statute and regulations are alike clear in inhibiting the granting or issuing of any instrument in the nature of a passport as a substitute therefor. As the issuance of the certificates you suggest does not appear to fall within the exception contemplated by section 163 of the Consular Regulations of 1881, and does not appear to be made dependent upon the possession of a passport, it is thought that it would prove an embarrassing irregularity to prescribe the issuance by the several consuls and consular agents in Turkish dominions of an independent certificate of citizenship for which it would seem that the same immediate respect is to be claimed as is usually paid to a formal passport.

The true principle would appear to be to regard local registration as a police requirement, which it is not our concern to perfect or in any way to make conclusive against any unregistered citizen. In the provinces our consuls may counsel their fellow countrymen to register as required; in Constantinople you may, for convenience sake, furnish a list of American residents there, so far as known to you. For all purposes [Page 548] of protection a passport should suffice as prima facie evidence of citizenship and identity. If required, a consular officer’s certificate in the Turkish language may supplement a passport, and be entitled to consideration.

With these explanations you will have no difficulty in remodeling your proposition to the minister of foreign affairs, especially if, as is not unlikely, an indisposition should be manifested to accept your proposition in toto.

I am, &c.,