Mr. Eustis to Mr. Gresham.

No. 5.]

Sir: In a disnatch numbered 154, of date February 1, Mr. Foster requested Mr. Coolidge to use his good offices in favor of Victor Poidebard, an American citizen of French birth and parentage, residing in New Jersey, who has been called for service in the French army, and received notice to join the regiment to which he was assigned.

Mr. Coolidge presented the case to the minister for foreign affairs in a dispatch dated March 22, stating fully the circumstances under which Poidebard became an American citizen.

He went to the United States at the age of 13, was naturalized first through his father and a second time when he became of age. He had also applied through the proper French legal channel for the recognition of Ins naturalization, which the law of 1889 declares void unless it is obtained with the permission of the Government. Considering that these facts plainly establish that Poidebard had not left France in order to escape military obligations, and that he was a bona fide citizen and resident of the United States, Mr. Coolidge asked that the order requiring him to perform military service in France be cancelled so that he could, should he desire to do so, visit France without being subjected to prosecution by the military authorities.

On the 3d of May, Mr. Develle replied substantially that the case had been submitted to the minister of war and that the request could not be granted. He does not discuss the circumstances of the case, and simply states that, according to the law of 1889, a person of French birth can not acquire another nationality before having complied with the military laws of France, unless he obtains from the Government permission to do so, a permission which is refused to Poidebard because it would be an encouragement to young Frenchmen to have themselves naturalized abroad, in order to escape military service in France.

With reference to the privilege of visiting France without being subjected to military prosecution, he states that Poidebard might have done so under the provision of article 50 of the law of July 15, 1889, but that having failed to do so at the time, it is now too late.

I inclose herewith a copy of Mr. Coolidge’s note and of Mr. Develle’s reply, with a translation of the same.

I have, etc.,

J. B. Eustis.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 5.]

Mr. Coolidge to Mr. Develle.

Sir: I beg leave to call your excellency’s attention to the case of Victor Poidebard, an American citizen of French nativity, residing for many years in the United States, who has been drafted in the French army, and who has been notified to join the second regiment of artillery at Grenoble. The circumstances of this case are as follows:

Victor Poidebard was born at Lyons, June 5, 1871. He emigrated to the United States in 1884, being then only 13 years of age, and became an American citizen by the naturalization of his father, Antoine Poidebard, which took place October 30, 1888. Antoine Poidebard had gone to the United States in 1880, and is still residing there. He is a manufacturer at West Hoboken, N. J.

[Page 301]

As article 17 of tire French civil code (amended in 1889) provides that the change of nationality of a Frenchman liable to military service shall not be recognized if it takes place without the consent of the Government, Antoine Poidebard applied in 1890 for the recognition of the new status of his son Victor, who was then still a minor. He was told by the minister of justice that his request could not be acted upon before Victor Poidebard had reached his majority.

In 1892, Victor Poidebard, being then of age, fearing that his change of nationality through the act of his father would not be considered in France as sufficient evidence of his personal intention to renounce his original French citizenship, applied to an American court of justice for papers of naturalization, which he secured under date of December 29, 1892. He then renewed the request made by his father in his behalf that his change of allegiance be ratified by the French authorities. In the meantime, however, he had been placed on the recruiting list of the class of 1891, and in February, 1893, he received, in the United States an order to proceed to France and to join the regiment to which he had been assigned.

Considering himself a full American citizen, Victor Poidebard submitted his case to my Government, by whose instructions I am directed to exert, my good offices in behalf of this young man. Your excellency will observe that the change of allegiance of Victor Poidebard was effected not only through the naturalization of his father, which is a mode of naturalization legal in the United States as well as in France, but also by his own free will and action after he had come of age. You will observe besides that when he left France he was a boy and could not therefore have acted with the view of escaping military service and that he is a bona fide citizen and resident of the United States, where his father is engaged in an important manufacturing enterprise.

Under these circumstances I venture to ask that the order which Victor Poidebard has received to join a French regiment be cancelled so that this young man may visit France to complete his education, without being considered as an “insoumis”and subjected to prosecution by the military authorities.

I am, etc.,

T. Jefferson Coolidge.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 5.—Translation.]

Mr. Develle to Mr. Coolidge.

Mr. Minister: On the 22d of last March you were kind enough to write me with a view of obtaining the erasure from the conscription list of our army of the name of Mr. Victor Poidebard, born in Lyons on June 5, 1871, and who became an American citizen through the naturalization of his father in the United States.

The minister of war, to whom I immediately transmitted your communication, observes, firstly, that according to the terms of article 17 of the civil code, modified by the law passed on the 26th of June, 1889, a Frenchman still subject to the obligations of active military service can not lose his French nationality by means of naturalization in a foreign country unless this naturalization has been authorized by the French Government. Under these circumstances the only request that Mr. Poidebard could consistently make was to ask of the Government of the Republic their authorization to his becoming a naturalized American.

Gen. Loizillon thought it his duty to examine carefully this point in order to see if such a favor could be granted in this special case, and he was obliged to realize that such a decision would have the serious disadvantage of encouraging young Frenchmen to become naturalized in a foreign country in order to avoid military service, which would not fail to provoke violent protestation on the part of those families having relatives in the service.

Mr. Poidebard, it is true, could have availed himself of the dispensation contained in article 50 of the law of July 15, 1889, on recruiting, by claiming he moved to the United States before the age of 19, and had not since then made a longer stay in France than three months; but he failed to claim this dispensation before the court of revision of the class of 1891, which alone, according to the terms of article 18 of the aforesaid law, is privileged to act in this respect. Consequently he is definitely debarred from having recourse to this channel.

Under these circumstances my colleague, the minister of war, charges me to express to you his regrets that he finds himself unable to reply favorably to your request.

Accept, etc.,

Jules Develle.