Mr. Sperry to Mr. Foster.

No. 23.]

Sir: I have the honor to report, in continuation of the case of Hajie Seyyah, as given in my No. 18, and No. 20, that yesterday morning, [Page 493] February 28, I had an interview continuing for four hours, with the Moandes-el Mamalek, who represented the Persian prime minister during the latter’s absence from Teheran.

The Persian view of the civic status of Hajie Seyyah, as disclosed by this interview, is this: That under the treaty between the United States and Persia the United States possess such rights as are accorded by Persia to the most favored nation, and no others; that the most favored nation, in respect to a transfer of allegiance, in its relations with Persia, is Russia; that the rights of Russia in such cases are determined by the treaty, concluded at Teheran on the 8th of July, 1844, between Persia and Russia, in regard to emigration; that the Persian word, which is expressed in French by émigrer, while it really means merely to migrate with one’s goods for the purpose of acquiring a residence, does, in the third article of the Treaty of Teheran, include the idea of a transfer of allegiance, and of all that is necessary for such transfer of allegiance by the subjects of either nation; that under the said article third the prior consent of the government of origin is required in order to validate the naturalization of a Russian subject by Persia, or of a Persian subject by Russia; that this is the most liberal and only arrangement which Persia has made in regard to a change of nationality on the part of its subjects; that under the terms of the treaty between the United States and Persia the United States were and are bound by the third article of the Treaty of Teheran; that in respect to the alleged naturalization of Hajie Seyyah the United States did not obtain the prior consent of the Persian Government, as the United States were required to do under the Treaty of Teheran, and that therefore the said Hajie Seyyah is not a citizen of the United States, but is still a Persian subject, in every sense of these words.

M. Butzow, the Russian minister at Teheran, informs me that the interpretation of the Treaty of Teheran by the Persian Government, as stated above, is perfectly correct, and agrees with the usage of the two governments under it. I have not seen Sir Frank Lascelles, the British minister at this court, in regard to this point, but Mr. Crow, vice-consul at the British legation, informs me that Great Britain now concedes the authority of the convention between Russia and Persia in regard to emigration and naturalization, and declines all responsibility for Persians who, after having been made British subjects by naturalization without the consent of the Persian Government, return to their native land. Mr. Crow spoke as if Great Britain at one time had demanded more, but had yielded to the rule of the most favored nation. It is to be observed that in regard to the relations of both Russia and Great Britain to Persia this question is mainly one of frontiers. The Russian territory to the north and India to the east are each occupied by tribal families or races which require a strong government, and the mass of the Persian people have no knowledge of self-government. There is, therefore, a degree of reason in regulations which hold under government control all changes of nationality in this part of the world among these varied, excitable, and uninstructed peoples.

My reply to the representative of the prime minister was that I was bound, under my oath of office and under the act of Congress of July 27, 1868, by the seal of a United States court, affixed to the certified copy of the decree of naturalization issued to Hajie Seyyah, until otherwise instructed by the Department of State. The Moandes-el-Mamalek urged strenuously that I was competent to say that under our treaty with Persia the naturalization of Hajie Seyyah was not valid. It was [Page 494] in vain that I pointed out that our treaty with Persia is a treaty of friendship and commerce, and not a treaty of naturalization. I entirely refused, however, to decide so delicate a question. I had Mr. John Tyler, the interpreter of this legation, translate certain passages from the dispatch of Mr. Bayard (November 28, 1885) to Mr. Cox, and from Mr. Fish’s dispatch of February 13, 1872, to Mr. Nelson. The invariable reply to all was that the treaty settled the matter, and that the Persian Government would, from that time forward, regard Hajie Seyyah as a Persian subject.

This assertion of complete authority by the representative of the prime minister was accompanied by profuse promises in regard to Hajie Seyyah’s safety and wellbeing, these promises of course being unofficial. The Moandes-el-Mamalek said that the Naib-es-Sultanneh would be requested not to annoy Hajie Seyyah in any manner; that the prime minister would take Hajie Seyyah under his own protection, upon Hajie Seyyah asking the prime minister to do so, the usual form being for a man asking this protection to place himself in the stables of the prime minister; and that the Shah would give to Hajie Seyyah a sum of money, so that the latter could go to his own village in comfort and safety. After the interview ended I laid the results of it before Hajie Seyyah, who still remains at this legation as my personal servant, for which he is paid weekly wages.

I stated to Hajie Seyyah that I should not send him away from the legation until I received instructions from the Department of State to do so, but that he was entirely free to decide for himself whether he would remain or go, and that I had no advice to offer to him on the subject. He decided to remain.

Hajie Seyyah still continues to manifest every desire to be regarded as a citizen of the United States. He says that when he was in India, to which country he went from the United States, he announced repeatedly that he was a citizen of the United States. He says that he has never had an American passport, one not being necessary upon his departure from the United States for India, and no passport being required in order to enter Persia from India. He also says that he declined after returning to Persia to accept a Persian title, on the ground that the laws of the United States forbid a citizen of the United States to accept foreign titles. (This is his statement.) He has thus far disclosed no intention of returning to the United States, but he has repeatedly said that he desires to leave Persia and go to Constantinople. Hajie Seyyah’s real estate in Persia has consisted of two adjoining villages, numbering altogether about 30 families. This property was bought by him partly with money made by him in India and partly with money inherited by him in Persia. When his troubles came upon him, resulting in his imprisonment, he gave the property acquired by his inheritance to his brother, and the remainder of the real estate owned by him to his two wives and his children. I should say in regard to his having two wives that the first proved to be barren, and his statement is that this is the reason why he took a second one.

The case of Julio E. Santos, a citizen of the United States of Ecuadorian origin, which is cited by Mr. Bayard in his dispatch of November 29, 1886, to Mr. Hall, has confirmed me in my original intention to wait for instructions from the Department of State in regard to the case of Hajie Seyyah. It has been my effort to lay all the facts, as fast as acquired, before the Department. I respectfully trust that my course [Page 495] may be regarded by the Department as prudent and judicious, and that instructions may be sent to me by the Department at the earliest moment possible.

I have, etc.,

Watson R. Sperry.