to Mr. Manning.
Washington, November 20, 1886.
Sir: The attention of the Department has recently been drawn to a “Notice to Americans,” published by the legation of the United States in Mexico, in August last, and of which the following is a copy:
Americans are hereby notified that in conformity with Article I, Chapter V, of the Law of Foreigners of June, 1886, foreigners who may have acquired real estate or have had children born to them within (the) Republic will be considered by the Mexican Government as Mexican citizens, unless they officially declare their intention to retain their own nationality and to that effect obtain from the department of foreign affairs a certificate of nationality on or before December 4, 1886.
Said certificates may be obtained for Americans through the legation of the United States, in this city. Applications for same must be accompanied by one dollar for the necessary revenue stamps.
(Signed): Legation of the United States, Mexico, August 20, 1886.
A copy and a translation of the law in question were transmitted to the Department in Mr. Jackson’s No. 241, of the 21st of June last, but as the dispatch contained copies and translations of other Mexican laws, to which specific references were made for the Department’s guidance, the provisions of Article I of Chapter Y of the Law of Foreigners, to which no reference was made, were overlooked, until the notice above quoted, which was not submitted nor communicated to the Department, was subsequently and only incidentally brought to its attention. A comparison of the notice with the law shows that there are certain provisions of the latter to which the notice does not refer; but they do not in any way tend to remove, but rather to increase the dissent of this Government from the position of Mexico as disclosed in the notice. The law in question, having been adopted for the purpose of denationalizing certain classes of foreigners in that country, unless they take some affirmative action to preserve their nationality, contains a principle which this Government is compelled to regard as inadmissible.
The United States, while claiming for aliens within its jurisdiction, and freely conceding to its citizens in other jurisdictions the right of expatriation, has always maintained that the transfer of allegiance must be by a distinctly voluntary act, and that the loss of citizenship cannot be imposed as a penalty nor a new national status forced as a favor by one Government upon a citizen of another.
Not only is this believed to be the generally recognized rule of international law, but it is pertinent to notice that it was accepted and acted upon by the mixed commission under the convention bf, July 4, 1868, between the United States and Mexico. The first umpire of that commission, Dr. Francis Lieber, held, and the commissioners subsequently followed his decision, that a law of Mexico declaring every purchaser of land in that country a Mexican citizen unless he expressed a desire not to become so, did not operate to change, against their will, the national status of citizens of the United States who had purchased land in Mexico, but who had omitted in so doing to disclaim an intention to transfer their allegiance.
The notice in question is not interpreted by the Department as an admission by the legation of the defensibleness, on generally accepted principles of international intercourse, of legislative decrees changing [Page 724] the national status of foreigners without their consent. Americans are notified that, unless they do certain things, they “will be considered by the Mexican Government as Mexican citizens.” This, it is to be observed, does not assert or imply that the legation acceded to the Mexican position. But in order to avoid any question of this kind hereafter you will take occasion to make known to the Mexican Government that this Department does not regard the publication of the notice above referred to as admitting the doctrine of involuntary change of allegiance, or that the same can be held conclusive upon our citizens; and that this Government is constrained to withhold its assent from that doctrine, as embodied in Article I, Chapter V, of the law referred to.
I am, &c.,