Mr. Lothrop to Mr. Bayard.
St. Petersburg, September 7, 1886. (Received September 20.)
Sir: As the question has recently come up again, I think it my duty to advise the State Department of the present status of the right of citizens of the United States being of the Hebrew faith to enter into or dwell in Russia.
The laws of Russia forbid this. It is true there are some exceptions in favor of members of great banking or commercial houses, but this is of no practical value to Americans.
This matter has heretofore been the subject of careful and extended correspondence between the State Department and this legation, especially in 1880 and 1881. A digest of the Russian law may be found in Mr. Foster’s dispatch of July 14, 1881.
Every effort seems to have been made to induce the Imperial authorities to modify its laws in favor of our citizens, but wholly without success. There is now no probability of any such modification. Indeed, there seems now to be a revival of strictness in enforcing the restrictions. Strict orders have been issued to Russian officials abroad not to visa the passports of any persons recognized as foreign Jews. The object is to turn all such persons back at the frontier, and thus prevent their entering the Empire. If, however, any get through, their passports are subjected to renewed scrutiny in all large cities, and if they are recognized they are forthwith ordered to leave. The papers announce that only a few days ago two English Jews, one of them a member of Parliament, were peremptorily expelled at Moscow.
On August 29 a most respectable Hebrew merchant of New York, a native-born citizen of the United States, who was traveling in Russia as a tourist with his family, was waited on at his hotel in this city by the police, his passport returned to him, and he was ordered to leave the city that night. He came to me immediately, and I at once not only went to the foreign office, but filed a protest in writing against this order, and asked its revocation. At the same time I advised him to remain pending my application. My explanation of this gentleman’s character and the purpose of his visit was very readily accepted and the order of expulsion revoked.[Page 774]
* * * The Imperial Government defends its position on the ground that every country must have full liberty to determine who shall have the right to enter and dwell in its territory.* * * It is not pretended that American citizens of the Hebrew faith have ever at any time proved dangerous to the peace or safety of the Empire. But it is urged that discrimination between nationalities is inadmissible, and that the harshness of the general rule is mitigated by special permission given in all proper cases upon special application.
I believe that the Russian officials are disposed to be obliging in this respect, but it can never be acceptable that any body of American citizens should be subject to any such necessity. It seems to be an imputation on that which is justly held most sacred.
Still, as there is not the slighest inclination to abrogate, or even modify the law, it may be desirable that the facts should be more fully known in America.
Much annoyance and mortification would be saved if our Hebrew fellow-citizens desiring to come to Russia should apply for special leave. Letters of introduction to the legation would be most useful in promoting such application. Permission could doubtless be obtained in all ordinary cases.
This question has arisen in several other cases; but in no other case of an American citizen has an actual order of expulsion been made.
I submit the matter to you for such consideration arid direction as you shall think best.
I am, very truly, &c.,