Mr. Coombs to Mr. Gresham.
Tokio Japan, July 14, 1893. [Received August 21.]
Sir: In referring to your No. 84 of the 28th of April, I have the honor to say that I understand from your instruction that my action is approved of so far as refusing a passport to Alexander Powers and in giving a passport to Basil Powers during his minority; that my conclusions relative to the status of the Powers brothers are not approved in that you draw such a distinction as to hold that while a person may preserve his citizenship, yet he may place himself in such a position as to forfeit his rights and privileges as such. In other words they are held in abeyance during his absence from home.
That the case of Powers brothers, as you say, is to be viewed in the same light as any other persons, and as if they were born in the United States and had not the right of electing Russia as their country.
That Philip Powers, by reason of the fact that he has for many years been away from America without being connected with any concern having its place of business in the United States, loses his rights as a citizen.
I hope I may be able to call your attention to the practical operation of this rule in the East without seeming to question its correctness. There are many Americans in Japan engaged in a variety of occupations who must fall under the ban of this law; some employed by the Japanese Government, some in mercantile pursuits, some in the professions, and all in their different places exercising an influence on civilization and giving strength to the position of our country.
Our institutions are upheld, our flag honored, and the national character exalted. If they are not afforded the ordinary protection of their country their influence would be destroyed and, I imagine, their places would be filled by other nationals. These men exert as much good for their country as they could if they were within its territory.
They, nevertheless, are called upon to perform jury duties in consular courts and are otherwise amenable to the processes thereof. To suspend their rights means to destroy one of the great national influences of our people in the East.
I hope what I have said can in no wise be construed into a criticism of the existing law, but simply as an observation of its practical working in an oriental country.
I have, etc.,