No. 897.
Mr. Rives to Mr. Roosevelt.

No. 30.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 34, of the 6th instant, inquiring whether the form of application for a passport issued by this Department can be modified to meet a particular case which you state, and generally “whether any discretion in the matter of modifying the late forms is allowed to diplomatic officers.”

The forms in question have been drawn up with great care to meet the usual cases of application for passports and are in conformity with the requirements of law and with the settled doctrine of this Department in regard to the evidences of possession and retention of American citizenship by persons abroad, as expounded consistently and continuously since the organization of our Government.

Without knowing the character and extent of the modifications you have in view, and whether the discretion to which you refer relates to questions of law or to mere details of facts, it is not practicable to give you general instructions in response to your inquiry.

The particular case to which you advert is that of “an application for a passport from a person born abroad, and taken while a child to the United States by his father who was duly naturalized. He holds an old passport.”

Had you stated the facts of the case, the name and age of the applicant, the time of the father’s naturalization, the date and place of issue of the old passport,” and the name of the person to whom issued, it would have been practicable to give you precise instructions in the case. All the facts being proved in conformity with law and the animus revertendi of the applicant being established, simple interlineation and erasure may be resorted to in order to adapt the general form to the exigencies of a particular and lawfully exceptional case, but no discretion as to the fundamental requirements of fact and law upon which the right to citizenship depends could be permitted.

The Department could not delegate to its agents an authority which it does not itself possess. Too much care can not be exercised to prevent a passport, which is the international evidence of citizenship in foreign parts, from falling into the hands of persons not entitled thereto Hence, in doubtful cases, the Department expects reference to it of all the facts necessary to enable it to reach a decision.

The volumes of the Foreign Relations for several years past may be consulted by you, and numerous cases found reported therein will serve to show the scrupulous and minute care of the Department in dealing with this class of questions.

I am, etc.,

G. L. Rives,
Acting Secretary.