Mr. Lothrop to Mr. Bayard.
St Petersburg , January 18, 1887. (Received February 10.)
Sir: I wish to lay before you the case of Adolph Lipszyc, who claims to be a naturalized citizen, now imprisoned at Wlocklawck, Russian Poland, charged with having become naturalized in the United States without permission of the Russian Imperial Government, of which he was a native born subject.
It appears that Lipszyc went to America many years ago, where he served as a Union soldier in the war of the rebellion. His father dying [Page 944] in Poland last February, he came to Russia to claim his share in his father’s estate.
On August 10 last he wrote me asking my intervention in that matter. From that letter it was evident that there was a controversy between him and the other claimants. I answered him that 1 could not interfere, that the estate must be settled under the Russian laws, and advising him to employ some competent lawyer, who would probably enable him to secure his rights.
On November 8 last Lipszyc wrote me that the procurator refused to return him his passport and pension certificate. Anxious to avoid difficulty, I advised him to make again a respectful application for the return of his papers.
On December 15 last, being informed that the papers were still withheld, I applied to the foreign office for an investigation of the matter. Before receiving any reply I learned that Lipszyc had been arrested, and I at once wrote to the foreign office asking an investigation and for information of the cause of arrest.
On the evening of the 13th instant I received a note from the foreign office, saying that Lipszyc was charged with having become naturalized in the United States without leave of the Imperial Russian Government, whose subject he was, this being a crime under article 325 of the Russian penal code.
A copy of said article 325 was sent in my dispatch No. 43 of December 15, 1885.
It will be seen that Lipszyc is not charged with any violation of the Russian laws before leaving the country or since his return. His sole offense is his naturalization in the United States without the consent of Russia, of which he was a subject.
This presents directly the question of the status of a native-born Russian subject who, having been naturalized in the United States, revisits his native country. The laws of the two countries are in direct conflict.
I confess I have not felt quite clear as to my course under your dispatch No. 35 of January 14 last, but, on full reflection, I felt that it was my duty, temperately but firmly, to interpose in Lipszyc’s behalf, to assert his privilege and immunity as an American citizen, and to ask that he be liberated.
Accordingly, on the next day, I wrote to the foreign office, calling their attention to the fact that the act of naturalization was done under the laws of the United States and wholly outside the territorial jurisdiction of Russia; that not from any disrespect of any other country, but simply in discharge of its necessary obligations of government, the United States guaranteed to all its citizens, natives and naturalized, equal protection.
At the same time I expressed the great concern and regret with which the United States viewed the arrest and imprisonment of one of its naturalized citizens under the circumstances of this case; that it tended to excite irritation and to disturb the feelings, hitherto so cordial and satisfactory, between the two countries.
I respectfully, but earnestly, asked that Lipszyc might be set at liberty, his papers restored to him, and he be allowed to depart to the United States. Should this be denied, I respectfully ask your instruction as to any further procedure.
There is one other naturalized American citizen, Abraham Thiessen, a Mennonite, from Nebraska, who is imprisoned at Berdiansk, in southern Russia. On what charge I do not know, I have asked an investigation, [Page 945] and also written to the consul at Odessa for information. Rumor has said that Thiessen was charged with being a nihilist, but I can discover no ground for this, and do not credit it. But, for whatever reason, Thiessen is very rigidly imprisoned.
These are, so far as I know, the only Americans now imprisoned in Russia.
I am, etc.,