Mr. Anderson to Mr. Bayard.
Copenhagen, October 18, 1887. (Received November 2.)
Sir; The representations to the Department in regard to Denmark’s sending ex convicts to the United States, and the articles in the American newspapers seem to be based on an article which appeared last spring in the Danish “Morgenbladet.” It was stated that a counterfeiter, by name Riemenschneider, had been released from prison on the condition that he should go to the United States; that he had been sent by one of the Thingvalla ships, and that the ship’s officers had been instructed not to let him go ashore before they reached New York. I at once made careful inquiry, both at the steam-ship office and everywhere elsewhere I thought information might be obtained, and according to the best information I could get, Riemenschneider had taken passage by an English steamer for Scotland. I had no doubt in my own mind that he had gone to America, but I saw no way of stopping him, especially as he traveled under an assumed name. The Danish Government sometimes pardons convicts on the condition that they leave the country, but it is left for the criminal himself to determine where to go. He may go to Germany, England, Australia, South America, Canada, the United States, or to any other crountry. I think this manner of pardoning is reprehensible, but I understand that it is practiced by several European countries.
It is presumed that the majority of the ex-convicts go to the United States, where they hope to be lost in the large population, and where they expect to find an opportunity of beginning a new life. This Riemenschneider above mentioned was in partnership with one Salomansen in the book trade. Having a large note to pay and no assets, Riemenschneider, who was a clever engraver, struck off several Danish bills in 1,000 kroner notes. These were so skillfully made that had they been given a little more time to dry before being presented they might not have been detected for a long time. As it was the parties were arrested and sentenced to prison, where Riemenschneider further showed his ingenuity and, as it seems, earned considerable money by constructing a system of bills for use in the building where he was confined. Some months before the expiration of their terms both the convicts [Page 477] were offered pardon upon the usual condition that they would leave Denmark forever. Riemenschneider accepted these terms, while Salomansen declined to leave his native land and is serving out his term of imprisonment. It has, as stated, been reported that Riemenschneider went to America with his wife, and that he is now in the United States.
I am inclined to deem it most probable that if he went to America at all he went via Germany or England.
In this way he would sooner escape notice and avoid a long voyage in company with people who knew his past.
Since I came here, two and a half years ago, I have heard some reports of paupers going to America under rather suspicious circumstances, but the particulars have been so difficult to secure that I have not reported them, and I am now unable to give any more than a general, superficial statement.
Last winter it was said that a man, with his wife and children, had for a long time been supported by the community. Suddenly he disappeared from the poor-house, and in course of time a letter came from him from America. He requested that his wife and children be sent to him.
These accordingly disappeared in two installments, but where the money for their passage came from no one knows. It is hardly probable that the husband furnished the means. Of course, the Government of Denmark can in no wise be blamed for such things, as they happen without its knowledge, but I suppose that there are poor house boards that do not shrink from disposing of their paupers in this manner.
I do not know what measures could be taken by our Government to guard our society from the infliction of European outcasts, to which it has been so long subjected. Perhaps the inspection at our American ports of entrance might be made more rigid, but, as our foreign service is now organized, it is, in my opinion, impossible to do much on this side of the Atlantic. Certainly our ministers and consuls could not examine the half million of Europeans who emigrate annually, nor could we well demand passports from all those who wish to land in American ports.
I have, etc.,