Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Gresham.

No. 71.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 46, of April 15, relating to the refusal of the Russian consul at New York, under instructions from his Government, to visé passports issued by the Department to persons of Jewish faith, and instructing me, unless good reasons to the contrary should occur to me, to present to the Russian Government the views of our Government as contained in the Department’s No. 60, of February 28, 1893.

After consulting the dispatch above referred to, and the references it contained, and carefully considering the matter, I concluded to address a note to Prince Lobanow upon the subject, copy of which, of this date, is herewith inclosed.

The records of this legation have not disclosed, after a careful search, the reply of the Russian Government to the position taken by our Government in the dispatch referred to. From long absence, however, of further complaint, I presume the objectionable practice was discontinued. Its resumption or continuation after the most earnest representations of our Government, and knowing how obnoxious such an extraterritorial step, especially concerning religious liberty, must be to the United States, seemed to make it impolitic and unjust to be silent, and useless to speak in any terms but the plainest, though of course in a spirit of courtesy and kindness, which conclusion and course I respectfully submit.

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In this connection I may add that soon after writing this note to Prince Lobanow, I was handed by our consul-general two applications from Mr. Arm and de Potter, a tourist agent, of New York, to secure the visé of the passports of Hebrew families.

These I simply transmitted, calling attention to my previous note.

I have, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure in No. 71.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Prince Lobanow.

Your Excellency: I am directed by my Government to bring to the attention of the Imperial Government the refusal of the Russian consul of New York to visé passports issued by the United States to its citizens if they are of the Jewish faith.

As your excellency is aware it has long been a matter of deep regret and concern to the United States that any of its citizens should be discriminated against for religious reasons while peacefully sojourning in this country, or that any such restraint should be imposed upon their coming and going. Painful as this policy toward a class of our citizens is to my Government, repugnant to our constitutional duty to afford them in every possible way equal protection and privileges and to our sense of their treaty rights, yet it is even more repugnant to our laws and the national sense for a foreign official, located within the jurisdiction of the United States, to there apply a religious test to any of our citizens to the impairment of his rights as an American citizen or in derogation of the certificate of our Government to the fact of such citizenship.

It is not constitutionally within the power of the United States Government, or of any of its authorities, to apply a religious test in qualification of the equal rights of all citizens of the United States, and no law or principle is more warmly cherished by the American people. It is therefore impossible for my Government to acquiesce in any manner in the application of such a test within its jurisdiction by the agents of a foreign power.

When this matter was the subject of correspondence between my Government and the Imperial representative at Washington, as shown by Prince Cantacuzène’s note of February 20/8, 1893, such action by the Russian consul at New York was shown to be “according to the instructions of his Government.”

I can sincerely assure you that the continuation of this practice is as embarrassing as it is painful to my Government, especially when it is on the part of a nation for whose Government and people such intimate friendship has so long been manifested by the United States. I am happy that in this spirit I can frankly submit the matter to your excellency with the sincere hope that assurance can be given that such practices will be henceforth interdicted on the part of Russian officials located within the jurisdiction of the United States.

I avail, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.