No. 107.

Mr. Young to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 658.]

Sir: A question has arisen in Canton as to the right of a son of an American citizen born in China of a Chinese mother to claim American citizenship. I have instructed the consul that under section 1993 of the Revised Statutes he must recognize this right, unless it can be shown that the claimant has sought naturalization from another power.

These questions are awkward, as in most cases the claims are made by people whom it is not desirable to have under our protection; at the same time the law seems clear and I do not see how it can be avoided.

I am, &c.,

[Page 158]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 658.]

Mr. Seymour to Mr. Young.

No. 101.]

Sir: I have the honor to present a case, involving the question of citizenship, in respect to which it is desirable to have clear and definite instructions.

An American citizen, native of the United States of America, named Frederick Pearson, lived many years in China, and did business at and around Shanghai, where he died 14th June, 1868, leaving children by a Chinese woman, to whom he was married by Rev. Father Desagque, as per the records of the Roman Catholic Church.

A son of Frederick Pearson, born at Shanghai, August 26, 1854, named John Frederick Pearson, was baptized by the same priest and now lives in Canton. The question as to whether this son was or was not born in wedlock is not satisfactorily settled, but if the decision as to American citizenship hinges upon that point, care will be observed in arriving at the facts as to whether the marriage of the parents occurred previous or subsequent to the birth of the son; whose appearance favors the impression that his age is correctly stated at about thirty years. This young man, who wears the garb, cue, and outfit of a native of China, with the name of “Whey Ting,” seems thoroughly determined to maintain all the peculiarities and characteristics of a Chinese subject; but at the same time (evidently to have recourse to consular aid and influence in pushing his schemes when resisted by Chinamen), seems desirous of having registration at American consulates where he may require assistance.

This man “Whey Ting” asked for registration at this consulate, as the son of an American citizen, during the past week, for the declared and obvious purpose of assisting him to evict occupants of a building and premises to which he claims title, and to obtain possession of the property, for which the occupants refuse to pay rent. The value of the property is stated at about $1,300 and cost $800. The rent agreed upon many years ago was 10 taels, equivalent to about $15 per month—50 taels paid in advance.

From examination of his title-papers there is no evidence of his ownership, as the deed runs in favor of one “Chang Ho See,” whom “Whey Ting” claims as his wife’s aunt, she having supplied a portion of the purchase-money; and he being her heir, as he alleges, without substantiating his statements. Consequently I declined to take up his case as the claim of an American citizen, in the absence of any evidence that he was born in wedlock, or that he is the owner of the property to which through the aid of this consulate he desires to obtain possession.

Furthermore, while invoking consular assistance of this nature, he objected to a full and frank statement of his parentage to the Chinese authorities, evidently to avoid incuring the risk of subjecting himself to the restraints or restrictions to which foreigners or citizens of the United States are subject in China.

In order to more fully understand the peculiarities of this case, it should be known that the father, Frederick Pearson, who was well known in business circles in China, sent this son, John Frederick Pearson, alias “Whey Ting,” when young to the United States of America for an English education, and, beside four years of schooling and residence in Massachusetts, the son was two years in England previous to A. D. 1878, the year in which he claims to have acquired an interest in the property mentioned. He speaks and writes the English language as accurately as any educated Englishman or American. Both in respect to pronunciation and grammar, as well as to orthography in the use of the English language, his precision is faultless.

By further reference to his written statement it appears the name of his relative who supplied $300 of the purchase-money for the property in 1878 is “Seng Woo Ting,” which does not agree with the name given in the deed; but “Whey Ting” (alias Pearson) claims he paid $500 of the $800 purchase-money; and that no rent has been paid since the first payment of 50 taels already mentioned. So there is nothing clear about the title to the property being vested in the claimant, respecting whom the American firm of Messrs. Russell & Co. have from their knowledge of him advised caution. Apart from the property title deeds, the question of registration as an American citizen should be settled. And this brings us to the consideration of section 1993 of the Revised Statutes of the United States and its application, to “Whey Ting” (alias Pearson), who may, perhaps, like other Chinamen, have a variety of names. This section declares—

“All children heretofore born or hereafter born out of the United States, whose fathers were or may be at the time of their birth citizens thereof, are declared to be citizens of the United States.”

Under this section “Whey Ting” (alias Pearson) claims registration and the aid of the United States consulate as to his property. I respectfully submit that the language [Page 159] of that section (1993) is too full or loose to admit of proper restrictions, such as may be necessary in cases similar to the one under consideration, and especially in regard to children of American fathers born out of wedlock, or previous to the marriage of the parents; and also in regard to children who practically ignore all obligations that rest upon native or naturalized citizens of the United States and become thoroughly identified with the life, habits, customs, laws, and requirements and privileges of the subjects of China and other countries of Asia with entire abandonment of every charactertic of an American citizen.

In my investigation of facts touching the case of “Whey Ting” (alias Pearson), it appeared that during a portion of his absence from China, since 1878, until his recent return here, he has resided at Bangkok, Siam, at which place, on December 19, 1879, David B. Sickels, United States consul, gave him provisional protection; and that in dispatch No. 135, dated January 3, 1880, Consul Sickels reported his action in the case to the Department of State; and that in dispatch No. 66, under date of March 24, 1880, Hon. Charles Pasoen, then Third Assistant Secretary of State, approved of Consul Sickels’s action; the precise particulars of which are not disclosed, except verbally, through “Whey Ting “(alias Pearson).

Respectfully submitting the entire question of citizenship of “Whey Ting (alias John Frederick Pearson) to your consideration by the light of all the facts within my reach, and hoping it may lead to a clear understanding of the rights of all persons similarly concerned,

I am, &c.,

United States Consul.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 658.]

Mr. Young to Mr. Seymour.

Sir: As a further reference to your dispatch No. 101, dated January 24, 1885, I have the honor to say that the question you there present has received careful consideration. The statute you quote is clear as to the intent of the law, namely: That the children of American citizens born abroad share the nationality of their father, unless they accept naturalization from another power. The right is inherent, and so long as the holder maintains it we cannot take it from him. To do so would be virtual outlawry. The case as you present it, in my opinion, rests largely upon evidence; and that of course you are in a position to obtain. If it should appear (1) that Pearson’s father was an American, who had not renounced his nationality; (2) that Pearson himself had not accepted naturalization from another power, I do not see how we can deprive him of his citizenship.

A question of the same kind has arisen at Amoy. The consul at Amoy reported to the legation that a resident at that port was the son of a negro who had been born in Maine. The resident had never been in the United States, but was a native of Singapore, if I remember. He had been registered in 1861, had been tried for an infraction of bur laws by an American consul and American assessors, found guilty, and imprisoned for a year. The consul at Amoy held, however, that as the Dred Scott decision before the war had deprived negroes of their rights as citizens, and as the person in question had not been in the United States since the war,’ had, in fact, never been there, he rested under the ban of that decree. I found it impossible to accept this view of the law, and the same difficulty was shared by the Department, which approved my action. In that case, as in yours, the question is a matter of evidence. The consul at Amoy may be able to ascertain that the claim of American parentage is unfounded, and that when he told the legation that the father was born in Maine he was not correctly informed. I think he is giving a good deal of time to the inquiry, but with what result remains to be seen.

If the consul at Amoy had given his attention to the evidence instead of confirming the Dred Scott decision his case might now have been determined. My advice in Pearson’s case would be to look well into the evidence. I am not anxious to have every adventurer who wishes to use the consulate for purposes of gain or revenge a citizen of the United States. I should, when any such claim is advanced, take the utmost pains to ascertain the facts. I should throw upon the applicant the burden of satisfying every doubt that might arise in your mind as to the validity of his claim. All doubt removed, the law leaves you no option.

In the case at Amoy the consul held, and holds, that the bad character of the claimant [Page 160] made it undesirable that he should be a citizen. I should assent to that as a moral precept, but, unfortunately, character is not an issue.

As to the question you suggest, namely, how far the fact of a child being born out of wedlock may affect his nationality, I speak somewhat with reserve. But my opinion is that the misfortune of an illegitimate birth cannot deprive a man of his nationality. It may interfere with rights of property and inheritance, but citizenship remains with him. He is a part of society. The laws are made for the protection of society. He must submit to them, and submission involves protection.

As I have said, the question in Pearson’s case is one of evidence. The law is clear. If after due examination you find the facts to be as you present them, in my judgment I do not see how, under section 1993 of the Revised Statutes, you can refuse to regard Pearson as an American citizen.

I am, &c.,