Mr. Gresham to Mr. Terrell.

No. 161.]

Sir: The present attitude of the questions which have been raised by the Turkish Government in regard to the status and treatment of persons of Turkish origin who, having been lawfully naturalized in the United States without the previous permission of the Sultan, may return to Turkey, demands a concise recital of the views and position of this Government in this relation, in addition to the instructions heretofore given you.

The essential principle in dispute is not new, and the different points of view of the two Governments have been, from time to time, shown by correspondence exchanged in particular cases during the past few years. Its phase, however, has latterly been materially changed in a sense permitting the friendly accordance of the two Governments touching the main points involved.

With Mr. Hirsch’s No. 380, of January 25, 1892, was communicated an explicit statement of the Turkish contention that naturalization of a Turkish subject in another country, without imperial consent, was to be deemed invalid by Turkey. In a note, dated January 9, 1892, the Porte requested the legation to instruct the consuls of the United States in the Ottoman Empire to refuse protection to those natives of Turkey who, as the note stated, “furtively betake themselves to America and, after remaining there for some time, return to their country provided with American passports and claiming to pass as citizens of the Republic.” Besting on the Ottoman law of nationality of 1869, whereby Ottomans have not the right to acquire foreign naturalization without having first obtained the authorization of the Sultan, the Porte declared its inability “to admit illegal changes of this nature,” [Page 755] and therefore requested formal withdrawal of protection from such persons “in order to prevent difficulties with the imperial authorities.”

In reply, Mr. Hirsch pointed out that the laws of the United States entitle foreigners to be admitted to citizenship on due compliance with their provisions, thereupon conferring upon them all the rights and privileges of an American citizen, including the right to travel either for business or pleasure; wherefore, being unable to accede to the Turkish request for withdrawal of protection in the case stated, he permitted himself to hope that instructions might be given to the minister of the police that should insure the respect due to every American passport presented. Mr. Hirsch’s course was approved by instruction, No. 284, of February 18, 1892, and the Turkish contention does not appear to have subsequently been renewed in that shape.

It has revived, however, in the more recent application by the Turkish Government of the alternative provision of article 6 of the same law of Ottoman nationality of 1869, whereby a Turk, naturalized abroad without imperial permission and returning to his native land, may be decreed to have lost his Turkish nationality, and as a consequence his right to sojourn in the Ottoman dominions.

It thus appears that on the one hand the foreign naturalization is to be wholly disregarded, the individual being treated thereafter as still a Turkish subject, in conflict with all claims of his adopted country to demand his allegiance or to protect him as a lawful citizen. On the other hand, by decreeing forfeiture of the original Ottoman character, the foreign nationality acquired by naturalization is admitted and confirmed, the individual being thereafter dealt with as an alien whose presence in the Turkish Empire is objectionable.

As was declared by the President, in his annual message of the 4th of December last, the right to exclude any or all classes of aliens is an attribute of sovereignty, asserted and, to a limited extent, enforced by the United States themselves with the sanction of their highest court. While the President, in the absence of a treaty of naturalization, recognized the right of the Turkish Government to enforce its policy against naturalized Armenians, he made no announcement inconsistent with the position that excluded or expelled Armenians may claim the protection of this Government as naturalized citizens.

The Turkish Government has, however, apparently not comprehended the nature, of the concession made by the Government of the United States, or apprehended the extent of the duty of this Government in respect to persons whose American citizenship is thus placed beyond question. It seems to be equally unable to discern the vital distinction between the exercise of a sovereign attribute to which it professedly resorts as an expedient to prevent or restrict the sojourn in the Empire of persons whose presence may be deemed fraught with danger to the state and the punitive treatment of such persons as offenders by reason of their renunciation of Ottoman nationality and acquisition of another allegiance. Hence, we have seen such persons arrested and imprisoned and indefinitely detained despite your unremitting efforts to relieve their unhappy lot in obedience to the instructions given to you at the outset. My own remonstrances with the Turkish minister at this capital have so far had no obvious result.

Ottoman subjects who voluntarily leave their native land and are duly naturalized here become clothed with full rights of citizenship, and are entitled to the protection of this Government in Turkey against all claims of that Government originating after naturalization. And while the sovereign right of Turkey to exclude, and under proper circumstances [Page 756] to expel, undesirable classes of people from the imperial dominions is recognized, the United States can not and will not consent that their naturalized citizens formerly the subjects of Turkey shall be there imprisoned or otherwise punished simply because they have become invested with citizenship here without the imperial permission.

It follows that, while such arrest and detention as may be fairly incident to the exclusion or deportation of such persons will not be objected to when directed to the single purpose of preventing their sojourn in the Ottoman Empire, the right to arrest and imprison them for other purposes is not conceded. It is important that this be made clear to the minds of His Imperial Majesty’s counsellors.

These considerations will serve to guide you in bringing about the good understanding which it is the strong desire of this Government to reach.* * *

It is clear that the best permanent settlement of this class of issues may be found in a treaty of naturalization, such as Turkey has already twice accepted in the shape presented by the as yet uncompleted convention of 1875.

I am, etc.,

W. Q. Gresham.