No. 294.

Mr. Kasson to Mr. Bayard.

No. 240.]

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 this legation.

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. Hogue.

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 decision.

The passport fee of 21 marks is this day returned by postal order, and the passport and certificate of naturalization of the father are herewith inclosed.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 240.]

Mr. Vogeler to Mr. Kasson.

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 application.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 3 in No. 240—Translation.]

Certificate of Prussian naturalization of Dr. G. W. Geist.

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 paternal control:

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. Vogeler.

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 German allegiance.

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 short.

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.,

Dr. G. W. GEIST.