No. 353.
Mr. Vignaud to Mr. Bayard.

No. 519.]

Sir: I have to acquaint you with the circumstances of the case of Albert F. Gendrot, an American citizen, who has been summoned to perform military service in France, and whose discharge, firmly and repeatedly demanded by this legation, seems more difficult to obtain than at first supposed.

Gendrot wasborn at Cambridge, Mass., April 29, 1866. His father, Pierre Gendrot, is a Frenchman, who emigrated to the United States in 1847, and who continued to live there, at Boston, or nearby, until 1870, when he returned to France, where he remained a few years, after which he again resumed his domicile near Boston until 1885. In that year he came back to France with his family.

Albert Gendrot, then aged nineteen, accompanied his father and mother, with the view of learning French and studying art. He procured before he left an American passport.

A few months ago he was notified that, being the son of a Frenchman, he was liable to military duty in France. He protested that he was a native-born American citizen, temporarily residing in France, and declared that he would perform no military service in any other country but his own. He was, nevertheless, put on the recruiting list of the village where his father lived, and ordered to join the regiment to which he had been assigned. Upon being informed of this fact Mr. McLane addressed the following note to Mr. Flourens:

Legation of the United States,
Paris, October 25, 1837.

Sir: I have the honor to call your kind attention to the case of Albert F. Gendrot, an American citizen, who has been placed on the military lists, in spite of his protest, by the mayor of the village of Torcé, near Bonnetable (Sarthe), where his father lives, and who has just received orders to join the corps to which he has been assigned.

Gendrot is not a naturalized American; he is a native American, born and brought up in the United States, where he received his education. He speaks French badly, and only came to France to perfect himself in that language. He is the bearer of an American passport and proposes soon to return to his country.

Under these circumstances, Mr. Minister, I trust you will have no objections to ask the minister of war to be good enough to give urgent orders that Gendrot, who has never been French, may not be impressed into a service the honors and obligations of which belong to Frenchmen alone.

This case being one of those which can hardly be postponed, I would be under still another obligation to yon if you would be kind enough to take it immedately into consideration.

I avail, etc.,

Robert M. McLane.

On the 8th of November Gendrot was arrested and imprisoned for having failed to comply with the military order he had received. He telegraphed at once to the legation, and on the same day Mr. McLane again called the attention of Mr. Flourens to the matter in the short note herewith:

Legation of the United States,
Paris, November 8, 1887.

Sir: I am advised by a telegram from Savigné Levèque that Albert Felix Gendrot to whose case I have called your excellency’s attention on the 25th ultimo, has just been arrested to be incorporated in the army. Mr. Gendrot being a natural American, that is to say, an American born and brought up in the United States, his case is a very simple one, and I beg your excellency to intervene at once in order that be released.

I avail, etc.,

Robert M. McLane.

[Page 496]

This request was complied with. Gendrot was released temporarily after one week’s confinement, that is to say, November 17, and Mr. Flourens informed Mr. McLane of the fact in these lines:

Paris, November 11, 1887.

Sir: In reply to your letter of the 8th of this month, I hasten to inform you that the minister of war is only waiting, to decide upon the case of Gendrot, for the arrival of certain information which he has been obliged to ask for from the prefect of the Sarthe and the commander of the recruiting bureau of Mamers.

Orders have, moreover, been given by my colleague that the departure for the regiment of the individual in question should be temporarily delayed.

Accept, etc.,


This note, although not quite satisfactory, led us to hope that Gendrot would finally be discharged. But to my surprise he called yesterday at the legation and stated that he had received another notice to join his corps, and that he would be again arrested if he did not comply with the order. He said he had come to the legation to be advised, and asked if we were able to protect him or if he had to take care of himsef. I assured him that the legation would exert all means to obtain his final discharge, but added that, judging from my experince of the delays attending in France the consideration of cases of this class, I feared no definite result could be reached before many weeks, perhaps months, during which time he might be subjected to annoying and vexatious proceedings.

I nevertheless promised him to communicate again with Mr. Flourens with reference to his case, and did so at once in the following note:

Legation of the United States,
December 15, 1887.

Sir: Albert F. Gendrot, a natural-born American, who has been erroneously inscribed on the recruiting list of the French army, advises this legation that, notwithstanding Mr. McLane’s interposition, he has received the order to join the twenty-eighth regiment of the line at Rouen. I can hardly admit that this information is correct. The two communications which Mr. McLane had the honor of addressing you with reference to this subject, October 25 and November 8, show so clearly the right of the United States Government to claim Gendrot, who was neither born nor brought up in France, and who is not domiciled there, that I must believe in a misunderstanding.

I beg your excellency to give your immediate attention to this case, which, in point of view of principle, has for us much more importance than it can have for you, and to take such action as will bring about the only solution dictated by reason and justice, if not by the strict letter of law.

I avail, etc.,

Henry Vignaud,

The experience we have had in this legation with reference to cases of this kind is so little encouraging that I will not venture now to express any hope of succeeding in the present application but, even with the knowledge or belief that it would be denied, it had to be made, and I trust that the manner in which this has been done will meet with your approval.

I have, etc.,

Henry Vignaud.