Mr. Gresham to Mr. Terrell.

No. 198.]

Sir: An interesting, and in some respects important case is presented for consideration by Mr. Riddle’s dispatch No. 248 of the 2d ultimo, relative to the claim of the Turkish authorities of the vilayet of Aidin to try and punish one Socrates A. Seferiades, a naturalized citizen of the United States, for an alleged criminal offense done by him in that province.

The charge against Mr. Seferiades is apparently that of involuntary homicide, corresponding to our definition of manslaughter. Being, as it appears, engaged in agriculture at Nazli, about 100 miles inland from Smyrna, he last year attended the World’s Fair in Chicago, purchasing there a number of farming implements, among which were a threshing machine and a traction engine. While endeavoring to run the machine and engine from the railway station at Nazli, and despite precautions taken to keep back the curious crowd, a boy 13 years old ran in between them and received injuries from which he died in a few days. His parents, believing his death due to accident, brought no suit, but the authorities of Nazli ordered the arrest of Mr. Seferiades, who took refuge in the United States consulate at Smyrna, where he was at the time of Consul Madden’s report, May 16.

Mr. Madden, acting under what he calls “special instructions” from this Department, in November last, to extend to Mr. Seferiades the fullest protection of his consulate, addressed the vali of Aidin, on the 11th ultimo, asking that any claim or complaint against Mr. Seferiades be referred to his consulate, in compliance with the laws and with the treaties and capitulations in force.

The vali replied May 14, alleging that, although Seferiades had resided in the United States, he had never been permitted by the Sultan to abandon his Ottoman nationality; that he must consequently be recognized as a Turkish subject, and that even in the case of his being an American citizen, his trial and punishment pertained exclusively to [Page 734]the Turkish courts. The vali accordingly asked that Seferiades be ordered by the consul to submit to Turkish jurisdiction.

The case presents several features deserving careful consideration. It is distinct from the large class of cases recently under discussion between the two countries, inasmuch as Mr. Seferiades is not an Armenian nor charged with complicity in any alleged seditious agitation in Armenia. It involves the positive and direct claim of the authorities of Aidin to treat Mr. Seferiades as a Turk, and, disregarding any acquisition by him of foreign nationality, to try him as a Turk. More than this, the vali claims such right even were Seferiades admitted to be a citizen of the United States.

This Government has never acquiesced in the doctrine of perpetual allegiance. On the contrary, it asserts the just and enlightened doctrine of expatriation. The position of the United States in regard to extraterritorial jurisdiction under the treaty of 1830 is well known.

I do not find warrant for Mr. Madden’s statement that, as long ago as last November, this Department had given him “special instructions” to protect Mr. Seferiades. This gentleman’s case was first brought to the notice of the Department by a letter of Mr. T. T. Timayenis, of New York, dated September 19, 1893, stating that Mr. Seferiades, an American citizen residing in Smyrna, Turkey, was constantly harassed by the Turks for no other cause than his wealth; that he was then in the United States “buying machinery for his vast estates in Asia Minor,” and that his “interests in this country are vast,” in view of which, Mr. Timayenis requested a letter to the consul directing him to give Mr. Seferiades the protection due him as an American citizen. Mr. Madden was instructed September 23, 1893, to investigate the case and report to the Department. His report, dated November 10, 1893, states that he has been unable to ascertain the whereabouts of Mr. Seferiades; that no complaint had been filed by him in the Smyrna consulate, and that he was not registered there as an American citizen. This report was communicated November 29, 1893, to Mr. Timayenis, from whom nothing further was heard.

In view of Mr. Riddle’s present report, the passport records of this Department have been examined, and it is found that on the 26th of January last, a passport, No. 6950, was issued to Mr. Socrates A. Seferiades upon his sworn application, in which it was declared that he was born at Smyrna February 21, 1865; that he emigrated from Liverpool about March 15, 1882, and resided in Illinois and New York uninterruptedly until 1892; that he was naturalized before the circuit court of Cook County, Ill., on the 21st of July, 1892; that New York City is his permanent domicile and residence, where he follows the occupation of a merchant, and that he was about to go abroad temporarily, intending to return “in about one year,” with the purpose of residing and performing the duties of citizenship in the United states.

From a letter addressed to me by Mr. Seferiades, dated Smyrna, June 7, 1894—of which I append a copy—it would appear that he first visited the United States while a minor, and left this country to return to Smyrna, where he had “much to do” as the eldest of the family on account of his father’s and brother’s death; and that his American nationality having been “accidentally known,” it was disputed by the authorities of Smyrna. I may add that Mr. Seferiades’s recollection of my brief conversation with him is fuller than mine. I simply declined to give the desired letter when our agencies in Turkey were already instructed touching their duties to any bona fide American citizen should such a case arise.

[Page 735]

Upon the facts, as meagerly outlined by Mr. Seferiades’s application for a passport by the letter now received from him and by Consul Madden’s report, this Department does not clearly see how this young man of 28, domiciled continuously as a merchant in the United States for the eleven years next preceding his naturalization, should at the same time be a resident of Smyrna, possessing vast estates in Asia Minor, engaged apparently in agriculture on a large scale and visiting the United States during the Chicago Exposition for the purpose of purchasing agricultural machinery.

It would be pertinent to ascertain whether these holdings were acquired before or after naturalization.

It should clearly appear that Mr. Seferiades’s naturalization was regular and in good faith, and that no concealment of his American citizenship attended his return to Smyrna—a point which may be important in view of his singular allusion to the fact of his naturalization having become “accidentally known.”

Should you be satisfied, after careful consideration of the case, that his return to Turkey was consistent with retention of American citizenship, it would be your duty to afford Mr. Seferiades proper protection. Should it fairly appear, however, that his naturalization was not in good faith, or that he has a domicile in Turkey, inconsistent with his American citizenship, you are authorized and instructed to make a declaration similar to that which, by another instruction of the 2d instant, you are directed to make in regard to Mr. Aivazian.

Finally, your attention is drawn to the statement in Mr. Madden’s report that Mr. Seferiades had taken refuge in our Smyrna consulate. You should clearly ascertain whether he is held by Mr. Madden in his judicial capacity, or is simply his protected guest in his consular capacity. This Government does not sanction the so-called right of asylum, even as to the admittedly extraterritorial precincts of an envoy’s dwelling, and it does not recognize it in respect to a consulate.

In oral conference at the Department you have expressed your willingness to visit Smyrna on returning to your post at the expiration of your present leave of absence, in order to investigate this important case upon the spot. Should such a course be convenient to you, you are authorized to pursue it.

I am, etc.,

W. Q. Gresham.