Mr. Bayard to Count Sponneck.
Washington, April 10, 1888.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 26th ultimo, inclosing the petition of Charly A. B. Johnson, soliciting release from the duties of American citizenship on the ground of having been granted Danish protection.
From the explanatory statement in your note it appears that Mr. Johnson, while born in the United States of Danish parents in 1855, has lived uninterruptedly since he was two years old in Denmark, animo manendi, and was by a special law admitted on the 10th of February last to the enjoyment of the rights of a native of Denmark; and, further, that before the law referred to can take effect the interested party is required to furnish evidence (before the expiration of one year) that he has been released from his foreign citizenship. To this end you ask for the official certificate of such release or some equivalent declaration.
While it is not competent, under existing statutes, for the Department of State to issue at their request certificates to particular citizens admitting the renunciation of their allegiance, I have no hesitation in saying that the Government of the United States recognizes the right of expatriation, and this Department has frequently declared, as a general principle, that when a citizen of the United States voluntarily becomes naturalized or renaturalized in a foreign country, he is to be regarded as having lost his rights as a citizen of the United States.
In the particular case you present a special doctrine is applicable besides the general one thus announced; and that is that a child born abroad of American parents, or in the United States of foreign parents, although subject to the parental domicil during minority, has, on becoming sub juris, the right of election of citizenship; and, in the event of choosing American nationality, the best proof of such election is to be furnished by continued residence in the United States, or by return hither, if abroad, and the discharge of the duties and obligations of the elected citizenship. The converse of this proposition would seem to meet Mr. Johnson’s case on the facts as stated by you.