No. 289.

Mr. Kasson to Mr. Frelinghuysen .

No. 168.]

Sir: In acknowledging reception of your important instruction (No. 84) in respect to the case of Karl Klingenmeyer, claiming to be a naturalized citizen of the United States, I beg to submit the following observations:

The prior passport issued to Klingenmeyer was canceled on the ground of swearing falsely to the statement that he was born in the United States, when, in fact, upon his present admission, he was born in Germany, and had never been in the United States. By reason of that he avoided the necessity of stating other facts which would have presented a quite different case to the legation in 1880. But this revocation was not meant as a refusal of his right to a new passport, if the fact of citizenship entitled him to it.
The Department appears to have construed the action of this legation in refusing a new passport as resting upon the two-years clause of Article IV, of the treaty of 1868. It was not my intention in my No. 94 to express an opinion in that sense. My interpretation of that clause has always been that contained in the present instruction, and I have issued many passports to bona fide citizens who have resided here for many years after naturalization in the United States. The real difficulty of this case arisen on the first paragraph of Article IV.

If the naturalized American “renews his residence in North Germany without the intent to return to America he shall be held to have renounced his naturalization in the United States.

This was the clause which applied itself to the facts of this case. For the facts assumed in my first answer to the application were not denied by the applicant, though a correction was invited. If the apparent fact of a residence resumed in his native country without intention to return to the United States was true, the period of two years was quite eliminated from consideration.

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For the renunciation in question was effected at the time however early, when he renewed his residence in Germany without that intent to return to the United States. I have regarded that first paragraph, above quoted, as binding on both countries.

The two years clause reads “may be held”; this paragraph reads “shall be held”; the one grants an option, the other imposes an obligation.

A similar distinction exists in the German text of the treaty. As the facts not denied showed a renewed German residence without any intent to return to the United States by the father, before the birth of the son, it seemed obligatory to conclude that American citizenship ceased, whether or not German citizenship was regained.

A further complication was created by the fact that the treaty came into force after the birth of the son.

Although immediately effective, can its application be retroactive in this case? This was one of the cases in which I felt justified in calling to my aid in interpretation the well-known spirit and object of the American naturalization laws. Their purpose was to make citizens in America rather than citizens of it. It was not their object to sell for a few dollars this right of citizenship to a non-resident who had never seen the American continent, nor expected to ever see it, nor had the slightest interest in it.

While I recognize the obligation to construe the law in its letter where its application is plain, in cases of doubt I have felt justified in withholding recognition of claims which rested solely on the applicant’s desire to avoid duties abroad, while at the same time repudiating all duties of allegiance and even a residence in the country claimed to have been gained by adoption, and sometimes accompanied (as in this case) by utter ignorance of our language, our institutions and even of the country which he claims. Recognition of such claims, where not plainly required by law, converts the dignity of citizenship into a mere passing convenience of a foreign claimant.

Having a passport, the German authorities turn him over to us for relief in case he is unable to support himself.

The frequent recurrence of such cases renders us cautious of claims of citizenship which are not founded on the real purpose of our naturalization laws.

While thanking the Department for its valuable instruction, I beg that this paper may be filed with the case as a part of it.

I have, &c.,