Mr. Wurts to Mr. Bayard .
St. Petersburg , June 14, 1885. (Received July 6.)
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your instruction No. 21, of May 25, 1885, on the subject of the arrest in Russia of Mr. Israel Müller.
This is the first intelligence of the matter communicated to this legation. As stated by the instruction, it is a penal offense to leave Russian territory without permission of the Emperor. Mr. Müller having thus transgressed was liable to punishment, and the fact of his being a Jew would doubtless not have the effect of making the authorities lenient towards him.
Any Russian going abroad without permission would be liable to punishment on his return home, whether his military duties had been performed or not. Still more severely would he be dealt with if his emigration bore the character of evasion of conscription, and the fact of his becoming a subject or citizen of another state would be ignored in treatment of him, and therefore be inefficient to protect him. The Russian Government has never shown the least disposition to swerve from this principle, and there is no reason to believe that it may be moved to do so by any argument that our Government is able to put forth. It is strongly opposed, on the contrary, to encourage anything that could be interpreted as a mitigation of its laws of conscription or of those on emigration. Om this latter point the note of the foreign office, a translation of which accompanied my No. 49, of the 2d instant, on the subject of measures to prevent the immigration into the United States of paupers, indicates the unwillingness of this Government to take any action which might lead to the belief that it does not still forbid emigration.
A number of cases in many respects similar to that of Mr. Müller have occurred in this country. I will mention only three which have arisen since my connection with this legation.
(1) That of Reinhardt Wagner, in 1883, which was fully reported to the Department and printed, considerable attention having been attracted to it by the report that Wagner was languishing in exile in Siberia. [Page 664] As, however, he was at that moment safe in America, the affair came to an end.
(2) That of Mr. A. V. Perrin, alias Pravin, who, in 1878, requested this legation to obtain permission for his return to Russia for a few months. He, at the same time, asked what would be the penalty if he came without permission. Mr. Stoughton, then minister, replied that if he came with a United States passport and confined himself to legitimate business he would not be disturbed, provided he did not owe military service; that if he owed such service he might be arrested; in case of arrest, under these circumstances, the Russian Government generally, at the request of the United States minister, releases the party under conditions, “but this is regarded as a concession from courtesy and not of right.” Mr. Perrin deemed it prudent to remain out of the Empire, and the matter dropped until 1882, when he applied again to this legation, then under Mr. Hunt, who advised him not to return, and under date of September 13, 1882, wrote him that his case had been carefully considered by his predecessors, who had done all in their power for him; that their action had been reported to the State Department, and approved by it, and that under these circumstances he could do nothing for him.
On the 2d of October following, Mr. Hunt writes again, in answer to persistent letters from Mr. Perrin, that he finds the records of the legation so loaded down with letters concerning his case, that it has consumed much of his time to read and master them; and he again refuses to recommend his return to Russia with any assurance that he will not be molested. He will, however, refer the matter once more to the Department of State. Mr. Frelinghuysen, upon this, instructs Mr. Hunt “to abstain from any further action in the case. It is regarded as taken out of the Department’s control by the admission of Mr. Perrin that he is a Russian Jew owing military service.” One would suppose that this would end the matter, but on the appointment of Mr. Taft as minister to Russia last summer, Perrin inundated this legation with communications asking it to obtain permission to return, as if his request had never been made before, and apparently on the supposition that a new minister would know nothing of his case, and, perhaps, apply on his behalf. Another long correspondence followed. Mr. Taft, having made himself familiar with the merits of the case, felt reluctant to take any step for Perrin’s return, but, in the hope that the Russian Government might be indulgent in the matter, he asked for permission for Mr. Perrin to pass six weeks in the Empire. The reply from the ministry of foreign affairs was to the effect that there were no obstacles in the way of Perrin’s return, but added that it could not guarantee him impunity if his identity with the Jew Pravin, who owed military service, should be established. Since the communication of this note of the foreign office to Mr. Perrin, alias Pravin, he has not been heard from.
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(3) The third case is that of a Dr. J. Mordaunt Sigismund. Last July Mr. Lowell asked me to apply for the return of a passport issued by the London legation in 1880 to Dr. Sigismund, which had been taken from him on his arrest in Poland in the same year. Dr. Sigismund transmitted me a long statement of his case, by which it appears that he was arrested on the denunciation of a personal enemy, and charged with emigration and evasion of military duty, but he was able to escape over the frontier; his passport, however, was left in the hands of the Russian police. He wished to obtain it again, as Mr. Lowell declined to issue another until it was produced. The Russian Government promptly [Page 665] granted the request and returned me Dr. Sigismund’s passport, with the remark only that it had been left by Dr. Sigismund himself with the police at Cheustochovo, in Poland; no reference was made as to his arrest or to the affair in any way.
I believe it was the intention of Dr. Sigismund to come to Russia with his new passport, but we have had no information of his having done so.
In these cases and in others of former years, needless to cite, the Russian Government has shown its intention to assert its power to make its laws respected within its jurisdiction, and it refuses to admit the right of a foreign State to exempt by naturalization its subjects from their unfulfilled prior duties to the land of their birth. The fact of birth in Russia of parents at that time Russian subjects entails upon it duties from which the Government considers itself alone competent to grant absolution. Emigration without permission is regarded as equivalent to desertion, even though the emigrant may be an irresponsible infant, and on the return of such emigrant he is liable to arrest and punishment.
This Government has, in certain cases, conceded the release of the parties arrested, but this has been done, in the words of Mr. Stoughton, “by courtesy, not by right,” and in order to avoid discussion liable to affect the friendly relations with the Government of the United States.
It is not likely that the Government of Russia will ever consent to do more than this, release by courtesy, and then only under peculiarly favorable circumstances, in regard to persons of Russian birth, considered by it as still owing military duty, or as having disobeyed the laws of the Empire on emigration, and arrested on their return within its dominions.
It is difficult to see the way to obtain any redress for the injury to persons thus arrested, or to bring about the recognition of the principle maintained by our Government, as that of Russia repels all advances on our part to regulate the question by means of a treaty of naturalization, towards which overtures were made in April, 1884, by a formal note from this legation in obedience to an instruction from the Department. To this note no written reply has yet been vouchsafed by the Russian foreign office; but verbally it has been given to us to understand that the Imperial Government cannot accept our views of the act of naturalization as a citizen of the United States being sufficient to protect a subject of the Czar from punishment for offenses against the laws of the Empire committed before his emigration.
I have, &c.,