Mr. Tripp to Mr. Gresham.
Vienna, August 13, 1894. (Received August 28.)
Sir: Permit me to present for your consideration the case of David Hofmann, a former citizen of Austria-Hungary, now a naturalized citizen of the United States, expelled from this country by order of the district authorities at Prague.
You will find herewith the correspondence between Mr. Karel, the U. S. consul at Prague, and the district commander, as well as the decision affirming the decree of expulsion appeal to the government of the province, together with the correspondence between this legation and Mr. Karel.
It appears from the letters herewith inclosed that Mr. Hofmann was born in Bohemia, on the 21st day of March, 1864, and in July, 1883, at [Page 31]the age of of 19 years, he emigrated to the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen, and whence, after a residence there of eleven years, he returned to his native country, on or about May 15, 1894. Mr. Hofmann brought with him a certificate of his American citizenship and a passport from the State Department at Washington, which were exhibited to the proper authorities on his arrival in Bohemia. It does not appear from the correspondence what was the object of Mr. Hofmann in returning to Austria-Hungary, further than that Mr. Karel incidentally refers to it as being for the purpose of visiting his parents. Nor does the correspondence anywhere disclose how long a sojourn he intended to make in the country. About two months after his return, to wit, on the 8th day of July, 1894, Mr. Hofmann was served with a notice from the district authorities to leave the country within eight days, “for reasons of public welfare,” and for the further reason, given by the district captain in his note of July 11 to the U. S. consul at Prague, “because it appears contrary to public peace and order that persons who have evaded the military law in this manner sojourn in this country.”
From the decision of the district authorities Mr. Hofmann appealed to the governor of the province, which appeal was subsequently dismissed as not having been taken within the time allowed. An examination of the decision on appeal reveals the fact, however, that the governor did examine the case upon its merits, for after announcing the fact in his decision dismissing the appeal that it was not taken within the three days after sentence had been made known, he further adds, “Aside from this, the reasons for expulsion are Justifiable,” and we may therefore treat the decision on appeal as affirming the sentence for expulsion on the ground that it is contrary to public peace and order that persons who have evaded the military law sojourn in the country.
Mr. Hofmann has, I presume, left the country in obedience to the sentence of expulsion, as he would undoubtedly have been forcibly ejected had he declined so to do.
I have written to Mr. Karel, in answer to his request for the presentment of this matter to the foreign office, that I have submitted the case to the Department of State at Washington, and shall be governed by instructions received.
It will be observed that the authorities of Bohemia are careful to base their decree of expulsion, not upon the ground of the acquired citizenship Of Mr. Hofmann in America, nor do they in anyway deny the right of the former Austrian citizen, owing military duty to his native country, to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, and thereby evade such duty. By their action, on the other hand, they admit all we claim under the treaty in behalf of the naturalized citizen, to wit, the full right of expatriation and an exemption from punishment for nonfulfillment of military duty, unless he be at the time of emigration enrolled as a recruit in the standing army, or in actual service, or on leave of absence for a limited or unlimited time, or belonging to the militia or reserve, he emigrated after call into service, or after public proclamation requiring his appearance, or after war had broken out. The action taken by the authorities in Bohemia is sustained by the position taken by the foreign office, and is in accordance with the action of the district authorities in several cases in the past, against which former ministers, my predecessors, have mildly protested, but no question of tangible international importance has been definitely presented for your consideration.[Page 32]
My own convictions are very strong in this matter, that every nation has the right to bar its doors against obnoxious citizens of other nations for reasons which to itself may seem sufficient, without cause of complaint on the part of the nation whose citizen is thus debarred. We have assumed the right in case of China and in particular classes of cases in reference to the citizens of other countries. I am disposed to think the reasons that Austria-Hungary gives for closing her doors to former citizens who have openly evaded her military laws a good one. It is an undeniable fact that hundreds of young Austro-Hungarian citizens approaching the age of military service emigrate to America, and, remaining there just long enough to acquire citizenship, return again to their native country to permanently reside, resuming their former citizenship and allegiance to the Government in everything but its military laws. Many of these returned pseudo-Americans are loud in their defiance of the military power, and openly and shamelessly boast of their smartness in being able to enjoy all the privileges of a government without being obliged to share its burdens or responsibilities. The example of these “Americans” before the young men of the country, to say nothing of their teachings and boastful assertions of immunity, is pernicious, and against public order and ready obedience on the part of the citizens to the necessarily harsh enforcement of the military laws of this Government. I have seen very much of these “American” citizens during the past year. Many of them are married and in business here; they have no intention of returning to America, they own no property, and they pay no taxes in America, they have not even the ties of family or friendship to bind them to their adopted country; their citizenship is a fraud, a fraud against their adopted as well as against their native country. In time of peace they burden us with their claims of loyalty; in time of war they deny their assumed allegiance, and claim, by abandonment, a restoration of their civil rights to which they are entitled by birth.
* * * * * * *
I have digressed somewhat, and at considerable length have attempted to give you a partial view of the position of the legation here in reference to these returning American citizens, and as the question is an important one, and one that must likewise trouble our ministers and ambassadors at other courts, I have thought proper to set forth the condition of affairs existing here somewhat at length, and I shall with pleasure modify any action that may have been taken, if deemed necessary, to bring myself in accord with the general administration of the State Department in reference to all foreign countries in which similar cases may arise.
I may further add, in reference to the treatment of naturalized Austro-Hungarian citizens returning to their native country, I have several times had occasion to ask permission for such citizens, even some who were liable to arrest and imprisonment under the treaty, to return for a brief visit to their parents and friends, and in every instance it has been cheerfully granted. From my observation here and my intercourse with the ministry of foreign affairs of Austria-Hungary, I am free to say that this Government has not only been very courteous, but has exhibited on every occasion a desire to fulfill with exactness the conditions of the treaties existing between the two governments in reference to expatriation and naturalization of citizens of either nation.
It is probable that something may have arisen in reference to David Hofmann during his two months’ visit in Bohemia that made his longer [Page 33]sojourn undesirable, for the remarks and conduct of all foreign citizens are under complete surveillance here. But in the case as it appears upon the record, the question is squarely presented, is it a sufficient reason for expelling a naturalized American citizen, that he has evaded the military laws of the country? If you say it is, and that this country has the right to declare what class of citizens are obnoxious and shall be prohibited from crossing its boundaries, that will end the matter. If you say it is not, I trust you will explicitly give me your views in referenced the course to be pursued in such cases; and in this connection be so kind as to lay down the rule of action that ought to govern in the renewal of passports of American naturalized citizens remaining indefinitely abroad.
I shall await your answer with much interest. In the meantime,
Permit me, etc.,