No. 497.

Mr. Taft to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 26.]

Sir: On the receipt of your dispatch No. 7, dated December 18, 1884, relating to the reported order of the minister of the interior of this Government, requiring foreign Hebrews to have a “permit of residence” as well as a passport, in order to reside in Odessa and certain other cities in Russia, I immediately addressed a letter to the foreign office, containing specific inquiries on all the points covered by the dispatch, and communicated the desire of the President that “permits of residence” be granted [Page 656] to law-abiding American Hebrews. I have also personally called on the secretary of foreign affairs, and on the secretary of the interior, and have likewise made inquiry of ambassadors of countries which have Jewish citizens residing in Russia. There is undoubtedly such an order as you describe in force; but it is not limited to Jews. No foreigner is allowed to reside in Russia without a “permit of residence,” as well as a passport. The difficulty is that the Government, in granting permits and licenses, discriminates against foreign Jews, according to certain laws in force in Odessa and other cities, and declines generally to grant permits of residence to them unless they are merchants of the first guild, paying annually 800 rubles each for a license. This is undoubtedly a different rule from that adopted by the Government for other foreigners, or for native Jewish citizens, and I have so presented the case to the secretary of foreign affairs. But it is claimed by this Government that while according to Article I of the treaty of 1832 American citizens “enjoy the same security and protection as do the inhabitants of the country in which they reside, it is upon the condition that they submit to the laws and ordinances established there, and particularly to the rules of commerce in force,” and “that as a matter of fact Israelites are subjected to a particular regime in Russia, regulated by laws and ordinances, and rules for commerce, industry, and the police,” and “further, that this régime, referring to all foreign Israelites without national distinction, cannot be considered in the case of one individual Hebrew to whom it applies as any violation of the treaty of December 18, 1832.”

It is pretty clear that this Government adheres strongly to the opinion that it is essential to the interest of the Empire to restrict by law the residence of foreign Jews in the cities of the Empire.

I find that Germany has many more cases of the kind than we have, and England also has Hebrew citizens residing in Russia, though not so many as Germany. Both Germany and England have conventions with Russia similar to that existing between the United States and Russia. Indeed, I think the articles are identical. I understand that the German Government does not dispute the right of the Russian to adopt these laws in the regulation of its internal affairs, notwithstanding the convention.

Although the principle has been questioned by the English Government, the regulations of the Russian Government on the subject have been submitted to without any disturbance of friendly relations.

As to the number of American Hebrews residing in the Cities of Russia, accurate information is difficult to obtain, if it be at all practicable. I have requested the foreign office to give me such information on the subject as may be practicable, and I shall make such other inquiries as I can 5 but from the best information I have been able to obtain, my belief is that American Hebrews in Russia are very few. There is an evident belief on the part of the Russian Government that most of the Jews who have gone to America obtained letters of naturalization, and returned to Russia for business are speculating on their naturalization papers to evade their military duty to the Russian Government.

I write this statement without waiting for a specific written answer to my before-mentioned communication to the foreign office on the subject of your dispatch No. 7, as it may be some time before the answer will be received, and I believe that I am able to give a correct idea of the position of this Government on the subject from the verbal communications I have exchanged with the secretary of foreign affairs and from other sources.

I have, &c.,