Mr. Bayard to Mr. Winchester.
Washington, March 19, 1888.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 190, of the 13th ultimo, in relation to the application made in behalf of Mrs. Eliza Weiss, an insane pauper, by the authorities of Zurich, for a passport as a citizen of the United States.
As appears by previous correspondence, Mrs. Weiss, a native of the canton of Zurich, was married in the city of New York, in March, 1873, to John Weiss, a native of Baden, Germany, who in October of the year named became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 1878 Weiss and his wife left the United States and returned to Europe. Two years later, in 1880, while residing in the canton of Zurich, Weiss deserted his wife and, it is said, returned to the United States, leaving her in her native place, where she has since remained. From the date of the desertion, eight years ago, to the present, it does not appear that anything has been heard of Weiss, and it is not known that he is alive or that he ever reached the United States.
Mrs. Weiss having been abandoned by her husband, it was held by the Department that her remaining in Zurich after her desertion would under ordinary circumstances presumptively revive her Swiss domicile and nationality; and it was also held that, notwithstanding her lunacy, such a revival of domicile and nationality might be caused by the election of her local guardians.
Upon reading the instruction of the Department you declined to issue Mrs. Weiss a passport; but having misgivings as to your decision, you present the case again to the Department for consideration.
It is not thought necessary to enter into the discussion of the abstract question you suggest, of how far the revival of original nationality of a wife which takes place when she elects to remain in her native country after the death of her husband may be held to exist where she elects so to remain in case of desertion by him. The Department would be disposed in such a case to make every allowance for the unfortunate situation of the wife, and in making its decision would not be unmindful of any circumstance of which humanity might require notice to be taken.
But in the case you now present consideration for the helpless condition of the wife seems to be altogether against and not in favor of an extreme assertion by the Department of her American citizenship. The Department does not see in her what you describe as “a poor, helpless, demented woman, deserted by her husband, with neither the means nor the mind to do anything, asserting her American citizenship by the presentation through others of the naturalization certificate of her husband.”
On the contrary, turning to your No. 178, of the 22d of December last, the Department finds that it was the cantonal ministry of justice and police who obtained from the New York court a copy of the decree of naturalization of her husband; that the same authorities obtained the certificate of her marriage to Weiss in New York; that they presented these papers to the United States consul at Zurich and requested for her a passport; and that, having failed in this request, they are now having a search made in the United States for the missing husband. This is explained by your statement in the same dispatch that Mrs. Weiss must, unless supported by her husband, remain a public charge.[Page 1532]
The only use to which, so far as the Department is informed, a passport could in her case be put would be to enable her to be exported to the United States, from which she would, as an insane pauper be excluded unless able to establish American citizenship. So far as known, such exportation would merely involve, if she were admitted into the United States, the transfer of the burden of her support from the place where she now is to some community in this country. She claims no rights of property here and no political privileges; and her removal from the canton of Zurich to the United States would only be taking her from her place of nativity, where she has chiefly resided and is now cared for, to a place where, as a stranger, she would be wholly dependent upon fortuitous aid.
At present, therefore, the Department does not perceive any reason for revising your decision.
I am, etc.,