No. 98.
Mr. Morton to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 555.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith copy of a note dated April 7, which, agreeably to your instructions, I address to Mr. Jules Ferry in relation to the case of Alfred Jacob, an American citizen by birth, but considered by France as French, with a copy of the reply of the minister of foreign affairs thereto, and a translation of the same.

The circumstances of this case, briefly recalled, are as follows:

Alfred Jacob was born in the United States. His father was a Frenchman, who became naturalized long after the birth of his son. Jacob, jr., having gone to France, was called upon to perform military service on the ground that being the son of a Frenchman he was French notwithstanding his foreign birth. He protested, declaring that he was an American citizen, but this protest was not accepted, the French Government stating that it had no authority in the matter, as all questions involving citizenship were to be determined in France by courts of justice. Jacob was thereupon advised to submit his case to a French civil tribunal, which he declined to do, and served in the French army. After having been honorably discharged, he returned to his American home and appealed to the United States Government with the view of securing the erasure of his name from the French military rolls, and the recognition of his American citizenship.

Your dispatch No. 436, of January 21, 1884, instructed me to make the desired application should the facts, as stated by Jacob, be found correct.

I have found them correct in the main, but before complying with the [Page 149] instructions I deemed it proper to call the attention of the Department to the principles of law which govern the action of France in all cases of this kind, and intimated, in No. 494, of the 5th of February, that in the actual state of French legislation the application, if made, could not be granted.

Upon considering the peculiarities of the case and the hardship suffered by Jacob, who, although of American birth, was compelled to serve four years in a foreign army, the Department very properly thought that he had the right to ask the interposition of his Government, and your dispatch No. 474, of March 18, 1884, renewed the request contemplated in your No. 436.

It was made accordingly, but I regret to say with hardly any success. Mr. Jules Ferry replies by reasserting the reasons already given by Mr. Waddington in the note which is annexed to my No. 494, that the Government is powerless in such matters, that it cannot change the nationality of one who is French by law, and that now, as heretofore, Jacob has only two ways of establishing legally in France his change of nationality:

By applying directly to the French Government for the permission provided by law to acquire another citizenship.
To obtain from a court of justice a decision that he has lost his French citizenship.

Mr. Jules Ferry adds, however, that in view of the fact that Jacob has performed his active military service the minister of war would consent to his change of nationality should he apply to the minister of justice for the permission to do so.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 555.]

Mr. Morton to Mr. Ferry.

Sir: In 1879, Alfred P. Jacob, born at Philadelphia, July 10, 1858, of Peter Jacob, a native of France, who became an American citizen on the 2d of December, 1874, applied to this legation to obtain the erasure of his name from the French military rolls. This request was presented by General Noyes to Mr. Waddington, whose reply, dated April 9, 1879, stated substantially that the personal status of Jacob had not been modified by the naturalization of his father, and that if he, the son, had lost his French citizenship it was for him to establish that fact before a French court of justice, which alone had jurisdiction in the matter.

Jacob, being unable to apply to the courts, allowed himself to be drafted into the French army, where he served four years, never giving up, however, his desire and intention of retaining his original American citizenship.

After having been honorably discharged he returned to his home in the United States, and asks now that his American citizenship be recognized by the French authorities, so that he may travel as such on the Continent without being liable to be called upon for further service in the French army.

In directing me to present this request to your excellency, my Government has expressed some surprise that an American-born citizen who had never resided in France, and who was possessed with an American passport, should have been compelled, notwithstanding his protest, to serve in the army of a foreign country.

My Government thinks as the obligation to perform military duty, whether rightly due or not, is extinguished, it does not appear that the status of Mr. Jacob can be carried before the courts, and that the only available way of obtaining the result desired by Mr. Jacob is to present the case and to ask that this American citizen he formally recognized as such.

I avail, &c.,

[Page 150]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 555.—Translation.]

Mr. Ferry to Mr. Morton.

Monsieur: You were good enough to write to me on the 7th of last month with the view of obtaining the erasure from the lists of our army of Mr. Alfred Jacob, born at Philadelphia on the 10th of July, 1858, son of Pierre Jacob, of French origin, naturalized a citizen of the United States December 2, 1874.

One of your predecessors, General Noyes, had already made an application to my department in 1879, on behalf of this young man, then serving in the army, but the matter was not followed up as his alienage could not be established.

The personal status of Alfred Jacob could not be considered, according to our law, as having been modified by the change of nationality of his father, which change occurred subsequent to his birth. The question which arose was, besides, of the exclusive competence of the civil tribunals to whom the interested party has not seen fit to apply.

At the present time Mr. Alfred Jacob has completed his term of active service in our army, and he has retired to the United States. The Government of the Union requests that he may be definitively erased from the lists of our army, as a foreigner, in order that he may enter our territory without having to fear that lie will be called upon for the fulfillment of his military duties.

The minister of war, to whom I hastened to submit this application, states in his reply that he finds, to his regret, that it is legally impossible for him to comply with the wish of the American Government.

According to the terms of article 10 of our Civil Code, Alfred Jacob is French as having been born of a Frenchman in a foreign country.

The military administration is no more authorized to-day than it was five years ago, in the absence of a contrary decision made by the civil tribunals, alone competent to deal with questions of personal status, to consider the applicant as having lost his French nationality, in consequence of the naturalization of his father, which happened after his birth.

Our legislation does not admit in fact, like that of the United States, that the naturalization of the father applies to his children, born before the naturalization, no one in France having the right, by his act alone, to modify the status and qualifications of others.

Mr. Alfred Jacob is, then, French in our view, and he remains, in France, submitted to the obligations of the reserve and territorial army set forth by article 37 of the law of the 27th July, 1872; he could not be erased from our lists, except under a judgment declaring him a foreigner, or unless he became naturalized an American citizen after having obtained permission to do so from the French Government, but as he has finished his time of active service General Campenon would be quite willing to give his support, by a favorable note, to the application which the interested party would address, with that object, to the minister of justice.

Receive, &c.,