Mr. Foster to Mr. White.
Washington , November 26, 1892 .
Sir: Referring to my instruction, No. 12, of the 7th instant, in relation to the case of Jacob Goldstein, detained at Harkov on charges reported in Mr. Wurts’s No. 249, of October 17, last, I have now to inform you that Baron Schilling, Russian chargé d’affaires ad interim called, informally, this morning, on the Second Assistant Secretary, and exhibited to him Mr. Goldstein’s passport, No. 35320, issued by this Department February 23, 1892, with a view to ascertaining its genuineness. Baron Schilling, at the same time produced the original certificate of naturalization before the superior court of the City of New York, October 8, 1888, with a view to making like inquiry in regard thereto.
Mr. Adee advised Baron Schilling that official response would be made to such inquiries, if the request to that end were addressed by the legation to the Secretary of State. As a matter of fact, the passport appeared to be genuine, and the certificate of naturalization to agree with the Department’s record, upon which the passport had been issued, but he, Mr. Adee, could not competently declare those facts.
It thus appears that, instead of the passport being “sent to New York for investigation,” the Russian legation here has been intrusted with the inquiry.
No previous instance is recalled of such a proceeding on the part of the Russian Government. I should regret were it to form a precedent. The passports issued by the Secretary of State, under the seal of this Department, being prima facie evidence of the facts therein certified, the purpose for which they are issued would be defeated were foreign authorities at liberty to disregard them until certified anew by the issuing authority. Their examination and visé is properly the function of the legation of the United States in the country where the bearer may chance to be.
In several recent instances, notably in Austria and Turkey, this Government has had occasion to remonstrate against the inconvenience and restriction of personal liberty to which the holders of United States passports have been subjected by the dilatory action of the local authorities in detaining them and sending their passports to the American legation for attestation. In the present case, by forwarding the passport and certificate of naturalization to this country for a like purpose, the holder, Mr. Goldstein, would seem to have been needlessly restrained of his liberty for several weeks longer than he would have been had application been seasonably made to your legation for the desired information. Moreover, the occasion for the inquiry is not apparent, for the ascertainment of the genuineness of the passport and certificate of naturalization granted to Jacob Goldstein neither proves nor disproves his alleged identity with Yankel Zlotow, of Harkov, nor establishes whether the present holder of these papers himself acquired them lawfully as Jacob Goldstein, or is falsely impersonating the individual to whom they were issued.
As already intimated in my instruction No. 12, of the 7th instant, this Government stands ready to cooperate in the investigation of any case where reasonable evidence of the fraudulent use of a United States passport may be forthcoming. You may say to the minister of foreign affairs that where there may be good ground to believe that a passport has been forged or tampered with, or is held by another than the person [Page 531] to whom it was lawfully issued, your legation will cheerfully render assistance so far as an examination of the authority of the document is concerned, and will, in case of need, refer the matter to this Department, but that otherwise it is the just expectation of this Government that its passports will be duly respected abroad as prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated, and that its validity is only to be traversed by competent proof.
For your further information I inclose a copy of Mr. Goldstein’s application to this Department for a passport.
I am, etc.,