No. 505.

Mr. Porter to Mr. Lothrop.

No. 8.]

Sir: Acknowledging the receipt of Mr. Wurts’s No. 51, of the 14th ultimo, in the case of the arrest in Russia of Mr. Israel Müller, a naturalized American citizen, which so clearly states and illustrates the position taken by the Russian Government as regards its citizens who have left Russia without permission and become naturalized citizens of some other nation, I inclose for your information a copy of an opinion on this case by the law officer of this Department.

While the Department approves Mr. Wurts’s course in reporting the general aspects of the case before action, and concurs with his inference that a favorable reply from the Russian Government is not probable, yet it would be as well, on general principles, to state Müller’s case in the most favorable light to the foreign office without demanding his release as a right, expressing the hope that there may be circumstances which would dispose the authorities to be lenient, as has occasionally happened in previous cases.

It will thus be a matter of record that the Department and your legation have used their best efforts for our citizens, and each additional case will add to the evidence of the necessity for a naturalization treaty when a favorable moment arrives.

I am, &c.,


The question brought up in the dispatch of Mr. Wurts—which may be commended for its clearness and for the valuable information it gives as to the practice in this relation of the legation at St. Petersburg—is whether Russia may, without a violation of international law, refuse to relieve Russians by birth who, after being naturalized in the United States, return to Russia, from the obligations imposed on them as Russian subjects.

On this question it may be observed—

That we have no treaty with Russia in any way conceding on Russia’s part the right of expatriation.
That even should we maintain that, by the present state of international law, the right to transfer allegiance by naturalization is generally established, this is subject to the right of the sovereign of original allegiance to disregard such naturalization [Page 670] when, so far as it concerns himself, it appears to have been illusoryand insincere on the part of the party naturalized.

It appears from the cases noted in Mr. Wurts’s dispatch that the Russian Government, in the present case, has not transcended the right thus conceded of treating as inoperative foreign naturalizations which are thus illusory and insincere. The course, therefore, taken in the present case by the United States legation at St. Petersburg should meet with the approval of this Department.

All of which is respectfully reported.

Law Officer, &c.