Mr. Uhl to Mr. Peirce.

No. 130.]

Sir: Your No. 148, of the 4th instant, has been received. You therein state that upon consultation with Minister Breckinridge, before he took his leave of absence, it was thought that it would be more prudent to await the Department’s reply to the legation’s No. 133, of August 28 last, inclosing a copy of Prince Lobanow’s note of August 24 and of the Russian laws bearing upon the question of the admission of Jews into the Empire, before again addressing the Imperial Government pursuant to Mr. Adee’s instruction No. 107, of August 22, upon the subject of the [Page 1071] withholdment of the visés to passports of American citizens of Jewish faith by Russian consuls in the United States.

Mr. Breckinridge’s No. 133 has been examined attentively and marked for eventual publication in the printed volumes of diplomatic correspondence. Its inclosure did not directly deal with the question presented in the Department’s previous instructions. The prohibition of a visé to the passports of American Jews by Russian consuls in the United States does not distinctly appear therein, although its existence in some form may be inferred from a footnote stating that in virtue of an Imperial order of March 14, 1891, Russian legations and consulates may without the previous authorization of the minister of the interior issue passports and visés to Jews who are bankers and chiefs of important commercial houses, and that this discretion is extended also to visés of passports to commercial travelers, representatives, clerks, and agents of such commercial houses when the bearers are duly certified by the principal thereof and the consul has knowledge of the standing of the house.

This does not touch the essential question to which the Department’s previous instructions have invited attention, namely, the assumption by the agents of Russia in the United States of inquisitorial functions touching the religious faith of applicants for passports. If anything, it presents the subject in a still more unfavorable light, for it seems that those Russian agents in a foreign territory may in their discretion inquire into the business standing of the principal of the commercial house employing a Hebrew agent, and act favorably or unfavorably, according to their own judgment of its “importance.”

The question is not whether the Russian Government by Imperial order or ministerial regulation has directed its consuls to make such inquiries in respect to the religious faith or business transactions of American citizens, but whether the Imperial Government has any right to make such inquisition in a foreign territory when the effect may be to disregard the Government’s certification of the fact of citizenship; or, assuming for the argument’s sake, but not by way of admission, that such a right may technically exist, the question remains whether the assumption to exercise it in face of the temperate but earnest remonstrance of this Government against foreign interference with the private concerns of its citizens is in accordance with those courteous principles of comity which this Government is so anxious to observe in all its relations with foreign States, and which it naturally expects from them in return.

I am, etc.,

Edwin F. Uhl,
Acting Secretary.