Mr. Kasson to Mr.
the United States,
April 15, 1885.
(Received May 7.)
Sir: So far as is known to this legation the
following naturalization question is now presented for the first time.
John L. Geist, aged sixteen years, born in the United States in 1869, of a
father naturalized in 1872, who has since resumed German allegiance, and
resident at Frankfort-on-the-Main, Germany, with his father’s family since
1872, applies for a passport.
His father, George W. Geist, a German subject, emigrated to the United States
in 1854, but was not naturalized until 1872. It appears that he was granted
a certificate of naturalization without a previous declaration of intention
because of an honorable discharge from the Army at some time previous
thereto. The same year, and very soon after obtaining that certificate, he
returned to Germany to reside, and has resided here ever since. He has
recently renounced his American citizenship and become a German subject, as
the consul at Frankfort informs me. He adds that this was done with the
“condition that his son, John L. Geist, being a native born citizen of the
United States of America and a minor, should elect whether he would return
to and take the nationality of his birth”; he further says that John L.
Geist, the applicant, has been notified by the German authorities “that he
may not remain in Germany later than August 1 next.” The applicant says that
he intends to return to the United States about June, 1885.
The case appears as follows: (1) that John L. Geist was born in the United
States before his father was naturalized $ (2) that under section 2172 of
Revised Statutes he was to be “considered as a citizen thereof”; (3) that
under the ruling of the Department (see instruction of January 15, 1885, No.
83) he remained a minor citizen of the United States so long as his father
remained a citizen; (4) that under ruling of State Department (see
instruction of January 15, 1885, No. 84) the allegiant condition of the
minor son, while residing within the jurisdiction and under the control of
the father, follows that of the father, (this is confirmed by Attorneys
General Opinions, Vol. XV, p. 15); (5) [Page 409] that under the ruling of the German Government (see my
No. 124 of January 6, 1885, Inclosure 2) this minor continues to be an
American citizen, even after the renunciation (under treaty of 1868) by his
father of American citizenship, and cannot therefore be required to perform
military duty in Germany; (6) that by American ruling (see
Attorney-General’s Opinion, ut sup.) this minor may
by his voluntary act after attaining his majority, and by residence in the
United States, reclaim his American citizenship.
Quœre: Can John L. Geist, while still a minor, and
residing with his parents in Germany, of which they have now become
subjects, claim a passport as an American citizen?
Held at this legation, that he cannot under the American rulings, because his
option to elect the citizenship of the United States cannot be exercised
till he attains his majority.
The case is referred to the Department for revision, and for instruction to
Copy of my reply to the consul is herewith inclosed.
I have, &c.,
P. S.—Since the foregoing dispatch was written, Consul-General Vogeler
has replied to my note of the 15th instant, and transmitted a copy of
the father’s (Geist) certificate of German (Prussian) naturalization,
embracing his wife, and all his minor children by name, save the one who
applies for the passport. He also incloses a letter from this new German
subject, G. W. Geist, full of errors and contradictions. Copies of these
papers are also inclosed herewith. The most charitable view to take of
the father is that his mind is partially disordered, like the teeth
which it is his profession to extract.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 240.]
Mr. Kasson to Mr.
Legation of the United States,
Sir: After a careful examination of the
Washington rulings upon citizenship, this legation has come to the
conclusion that the minor, John L. Geist, while living with and subject
to his father, who has become again a German subject, has also himself
acquired a German allegiance, so far at least that his American
citizenship is in abeyance until he shall in the exercise of his
personal right (suspended during his minority) reclaim his native
citizenship and allegiance, and a residence in the United States, after
he has attained his majority. That seems to be the American law. He does
not need a passport to go to America. Should he be there after arriving
at the age of twenty-one it would seem that he could then claim his
right and receive in the United States a passport.
The case has been referred to the State Department for final
The passport fee of 21 marks is this day returned by postal order, and
the passport and certificate of naturalization of the father are
I am, &c.,
[Inclosure 2 in No. 240.]
Mr. Vogeler to Mr.
Consulate-General of the United States,
April 17, 1885.
Sir: Pursuant to the letter of the legation,
dated the 15th instant, instructing me to report by what process the
father of John L. Geist, an applicant for a passport, renounced his
American citizenship, I have the honor to inclose two documents just [Page 410] handed to me by G. W. Geist,
father of said applicant, viz: (1) a letter addressed to this office,
giving Mr. Geist’s version of said renunciation, and proving, as it
seems to me, not only the weakness of his case, but also the like
condition of his mind; and (2) a copy of his certificate of
naturalization as a German subject.
I send the letter aforesaid in the original in order that the legation
may realize the fiery indignation they have evoked by declining to issue
a passport to the minor son of a German subject, and the amount of
patriotic feeling that has been, I fear, irretrievably crushed.
The Messrs. Geist had been first made fully acquainted with the contents
of the letters of the legation on the subject of John L. Geist’s
I am, &c.,
[Inclosure 3 in No.
Certificate of Prussian naturalization of Dr. G. W.
The undersigned Royal Government hereby certifies that the dentist, Georg
Wilhelm Geist, born at Waldmichelbach, on September 27, 1836, and
heretofore an American citizen, has at his request, and in order to
settle at Frankfort-on-the-Main, governmental district of Weisbaden,
acquired Prussian allegiance for himself, for his wife Deborah, née Pierce, born at Marblehead, on the 15th of
December, 1840, and for his following minor children, standing under
- George Pierce, born June 3, 1867.
- Friederich Wilhelm, born November 23, 1870.
- Sara Anna Sophia Christina, born December 17, 1873.
- Marry Pierce, born February 14, 1881.
- Alice Pierce, born February 14, 1881.
This naturalization document, however, confers all the rights and duties
of a Prussian subject only upon the persons expressly named therein, and
from the date of the delivery of the same.
Wiesbaden, April 4, 1885.
Royal Prussian Government. By direction.
Naturalization document. I. A. 2017.
[Inclosure 4 in No. 240.]
Mr. Geist to Mr.
April 17, 1885.
Sir: I write you this letter to enable you to
answer the letter dated American legation, Berlin, April 15, 1885,
referring to the application of Mr. J. L. Geist, about which the
legation begs you to inform it by what process
the father of the applicant renounced American citizenship and resumed
I am astonished that the memory of the personnel
of the legation is so short. I did “neither renounce the American citizenship nor resume the German allegiance; the former was not required of
me and the latter could not be, as I never before
owed allegiance to Germany. As I said, the memory of the legation is
On or about the 15th of March, 1884, I was called to the police office
here, and informed to either apply for admission to Prussian citizenship
(yet not quite that; as I cannot properly interpret the meaning I will
give you the German, which you probably understand better than the
United States ministers at Berlin did) or expect to be ordered to leave
the country. Not being able to leave the country at short niotice, I
applied personally to the United States legation at Berlin.
On the 24th of March, 1884 at an interview with Mr. Sargent, then
minister of the United States at Berlin, I was told, “Try help yourself;
if you can’t, I will do all I can to help you.” I informed Mr. Sargent
then that if I must leave the country I would need a year to close up my
affairs; he thought it would not be necessary to leave.
Mr. Sargent’s successor answered me on my first
application to him in the matter: “It is for her [meaning Germany] to
say whether you are an American citizen or not,” or words to that
effect. In consequence of this I made the required application, as the
United States did, or their minister did, renounce me (not I the United
States citizenship). I had no choice but to acquire at least the right
to live here until such [Page 411] time
as I may be enabled to return to the United States. That the authorities
here considered me an American citizen is clear, or they need only claim
me without any application from me. As it was seen that it cost me great
pains to give up my American citizenship, I was told that my reception
as a member of the Prussian state was not necessarily giving up the
United States citizenship.
As to my son J. Louis, he has not been received a member of the Prussian
state and his excellency need not fear any disagreeable correspondence
on that account.
That the case of a minor receiving a passport is not the first, Mr.
Kasson may find in the records of the legation under “Hugo Rettig.” I
think that as my son J. L. was born in the United States he is entitled
to a passport. I may be wrong.
I inclose copy of my naturalization paper to ease Mr. Kasson’s mind as to
German claim on J. L. I would also inclose my correspondence with the
United States legation, but all papers have been sent to the United
States for publication.
I am, &c.,