Mr. Blaine to Mr. Lincoln.

No. 251.]

Sir: Your dispatch No. 213 of the 9th instant, in relation to the status of Mr. H. C. Quinby, who claims to be an American citizen, has been received.

The facts appear to be that Mr. Quinby, who is understood to have resided continuously in England for some 39 years past, visited the legation on the 1st ultimo for the purpose of making inquiries in regard to the issuance of a passport to him as a citizen of the United States. The statement of Mr. McCormick, second secretary of the legation, recites [Page 336] that Mr. Quinby “said that he left the United States in 1851, taking up his residence in England; that he still had property in the States on which he paid taxes; and that he never expected to return to resume the duties of citizenship.” Upon being told by Mr. MeCormick that a passport could not be issued to him upon such a declaration, he declined to fill up the prescribed blank and departed without making application. He has since written to you from Liverpool, where he resides, asking for a copy of the instructions relating to passports, for the express purpose of writing “a statement of the case to one of the Boston papers.”

Your reply to Mr. Quinby declining to furnish him with an official blank form to be used for the sole purpose of writing to a newspaper, as stated by him, is, under the circumstances, approved.

The blank forms of applications for passports and the printed instructions to applicants are supplied to our representatives abroad in order that any persons contemplating an application for a passport may be advised of the requirements of the case and enabled to comply therewith. They are in like manner sent out by this Department to all those who ask for them here, in assumption that the inquiry is made in good faith by persons believing themselves entitled to passports and competent to fill up the prescribed forms and instructions, they having been printed in the volume of Foreign Relations for 1888, part ii, pp. 1663, 1665. They are in no sense secret, although their official use is restricted to legitimate applicants. The volume in which their text is published will be found at the United States consulate in Liverpool, where Mr. Quinby will be courteously afforded an opportunity to see them if he should so desire.

As to the merits of Mr. Quinby’s case, there is nothing officially before the Department on which to rest a decision. He has simply declined to make application for a passport. His refusal to do so is a matter which concerns only himself. This Government does not constrain citizens of the United States, at home or abroad, to apply for or take out passports. It stands ready, under the discretionary power which the statute lodges in the Secretary of State, to issue passports when desired upon satisfactory evidence that the applicant is entitled to protection. It neither compels an American citizen to obtain proof of his citizenship, nor interferes with any voluntary act of his whereby he may in law or fact renounce his allegiance. What Mr. Quinby’s actual status may be is only matter of inference. It is not known whether he is a naturalized citizen who has returned to and is continuously residing in the country of his original allegiance or a native citizen who, in the exercise of an indefeasible right, hag voluntarily withdrawn himself from the allegiance he possessed by birth. On one point, however, stress may be properly laid. Mr. Quinby’s age is not stated, but it appears that his long absence from the United States includes a period during which the resources of the nation were most severely taxed; and there is nothing to show that Mr. Quinby then performed any of the duties of citizenship, either by personal service, by the payment of personal taxes, or by any of the other means by which allegiance to the Government of the United States was exhibited.

The policy of this nation in regarding good citizenship as involving correlative duties of allegiance and obligation of protection has been consistently expressed since the foundation of our Government, and the proposition is too self-evident to require repetition or argument at this late day, especially upon a hypothetical case.

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Had Mr. Quinby filled out the blank form offered to him, with a declaration under oath of his intention never to return and bear effective allegiance to the land whose protection he craves, it would have been easy to deal with his application as it deserved in accordance with the facts.

I am, etc.,

James G. Blaine.