to Mr. Lawton.
Washington , September 8, 1887.
Sir: I inclose herewith for your information a copy of a dispatch to this Department from Mr. von Versen, the American vice-consul-general at Berlin, relative to the treaty recently concluded between Austria and the German Empire in relation, to the right to sue in forma pauperis; also a copy of the Department’s instruction to Mr. Pendleton, our minister at Berlin, in regard to the subject, called out by Mr. von Versen’s suggestion as to the propriety of negotiating a similar treaty between the United States and the German Empire.
The question of how far foreigners can sue in forma pauperis is determined by the lex fori, which, under our Constitution, it is not within the province of the Federal Government to settle by any general law. As a mere matter of practice, however, it may be mentioned that there are, so far as this Department is informed, no jurisdictions in the United States in which an alien, as such, is precluded from suing in forma pauperis. In view of the fact that such a convention is apparently necessary to give Germans in Austria the right to sue in forma pauperis, you may, as a matter of interest, inquire and report how far the privilege of so suing is granted to American citizens bringing suit in Austria.
I am, etc.