Mr. Vignaud to Mr. Gresham.
Paris, August 22, 1893. (Received September 4.)
Sir: In his No. 29 of July 16, 1889, printed in the Foreign Relations for 1890, p. 276, Mr. Reid gave an account of the French nationality law of June 26, 1889, which introduced quite a change in the principle upon which French citizenship was founded, and in my No. 513 of April 7, 1892, I explained the construction given to an essential part of this law by the French supreme court (cour de cassation).
Previous to the enactment of that law, parentage (jus sanguinis) was the only source of French natural citizenship; that is to say, a man was French, no matter where he was born, if he was of French parentage, while those, on the other hand, born in France of foreign parentage could preserve the foreign status from generation to generation. The law of 1889 did not alter the first point, but it declared that those born in France would lose the privilege of preserving their foreign status after the first generation. The question then arose whether the children of a father born abroad and of a mother born in France would be considered as being of the first generation or of the second. The supreme court decided that they were of the second generation, and therefore, native-born French, with no right to disclaim French citizenship (see my No. 513 above referred to).
This decision gave rise to so many complaints on the part of the English and the Belgians that the French Government resolved to yield the point. The British embassy was unofficially informed that a bill would be introduced in the Chamber to modify the law, and that in the meantime the military authorities would abstain from calling those, situated in the case above mentioned, to perform military service.
In execution of this promise, a law has just been enacted (July 22, 1893), which provides that hereafter children born in France of a mother also born there shall have the privilege of disclaiming French nationality if the father is a foreigner born abroad. I inclose herewith a copy of the law with a translation of the principal clauses.
I have, etc.,
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.