Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Gresham.

No. 74.]

Sir: I am in receipt of your No. 50, of May 3, 1895, inclosing copy of a letter from Mr. Robert M. Lewis, of Glasgow, Mont., relating to John Ginzberg, a naturalized American citizen, under arrest in this country, and instructing me to investigate the case and to use my good offices for the prisoner.

The matter had previously been brought to the attention of the legation by personal appeal, and various steps had been taken to effect relief. As the case is of an interesting class I herewith inclose copies of the correspondence in regard to it, enumerated below, and in addition to this it has been the subject of several visits to the foreign office.

When I received Mr. Chichkine’s note of January 26/February 6, emphatically speaking of Ginzberg as a “Russian subject” and as “guilty,” thus thrusting an executive decree between the prisoner and the United States, upon the one hand, and the courts upon the other, I wrote a pointed note, presenting the case at length, and debated between sending that and referring the whole matter to you. I concluded, however, to send my brief note of inquiry of February 16/28. After that matters assumed a more amiable phase.

[Page 1084]

Ginzberg is, at least at present, among Ms kinspeople, at considerable liberty, and, with the farming season on, he ought to be comfortable. My last note to Prince Lobanow, dated April 28/May 10, shows the present status of the case. It will be followed up and I am in hopes of his release. The copies of all the papers, herewith transmitted, present the whole case for your information, and upon which to base any instructions that the points may call for.

I have, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 74.]

Mr. Robertson to Mr. Breckinridge.

Sir: I have the honor to bring the following matter to your official notice:

Some time in October last there called at this consulate one John Ginzberg, who presented his American certificate of naturalization, and a passport issued by the Department of State at Washington. He informed me that he was a native of Russia, and was then on his way to pay his former home in Russia a visit. I informed him that it would be necessary for him to obtain a visé of his passport from the Russian consul here before his departure for Russia. A few hours afterwards, he returned to this office, and informed me that the Russian consul had refused to visé his passport because he had been naturalized without the permission of the Russian Government. I thereupon warned Ginzberg not to attempt to cross the frontier without a visé, especially as he was an Israelite. He did not heed my advice, however.

On October 25 I received a postal card from him, dated Prostken, October 24, in which he informed me that the Russian authorities would not let him pass because the Russian consul here had refused to visé his passport. In reply to this card, I sent him the inclosed letter, which was returned to me by the post-office.

This morning I received a letter from Ginzberg, of which the inclosed is an exact copy.

I write Ginzberg to-day, informing him that I have referred his case to you for such action as you may deem proper.

I am, etc.,

W. Henry Robertson, Consul.
[Subinclosure to enclosure 1 in No. 74.]

Mr. Ginzberg to Mr. Robertson.

To the honorable American Counsell.

Dear Sir.

I let you know that I am arrested now by the Russians the Russian rulers are trying to put me back to the army which is colled solders for the Russian King and I am not able to go out of their power therefore I hombly beseech you to deliver me out of their hand and from their power please write to the Russian Rulers and ask them to set me free. I was arrested on the Russian gate that is near Prostken and [Page 1085] the carried me to the place which I gave you my adressa card. I pray you my honourable counsell to help me Quick as it is posible and give me assistance.

Your American truly Friend John Ginzberg my adressa

Minsk Pinsk in the thown Loguistion

I send you my adressa in the Russian language.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 74.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. De Giers.

Your Excellency: A naturalized American citizen named John Ginzberg, having a passport issued by the State Department at Washington, is reported to be under arrest at Loquishin in the government of Minsk, and the intervention of this legation is requested in his behalf.

I do not know the nature of the charge against this man, and I request your excellency to have the facts and nature of the case reported to me as soon as practicable.

I avail, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 74.—Translation.]

Mr. Chichkine to Mr. Breckinridge.

Mr. Minister: Referring to the note of the legation of the United States, dated December 2/14, treating of the arrest in the government of Minsk of the man John Ginzberg, naturalized citizen of the United States, I have the honor to inform you that, according to information communicated by telegraph by the governor of Minsk to the ministry of the interior, the man named Ginzberg, whose real name is Schimon, but who calls himself Johann or John, had escaped, in 1886, military service, and had taken refuge in America. Arrested by the Pinsk police, he was recognized by his father, Janckel Ginzberg, and by other individuals, so that there is no doubt in regard to bis identity. Consequently, according to the order of the governor of Minsk, he was delivered to the authorities of justice in virtue of the laws applying to crimes of desertion. (Arts. 325, 326, of the Penal Code.)

Receive, etc.,

[Inclosure 4 in No. 74.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Chichkine.

Your Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of December 24/January 5, relating to the arrest in the government of Minsk of John Ginzberg, otherwise known as Schimon, a naturalized citizen of the United States.

[Page 1086]

I take notice of the statement that Ginzberg violated the law in regard to military service in 1886 and took refuge in America, and that upon the occasion of his recent arrest he was recognized by his father as well as by others, and that he is now in the custody of the judicial authorities, in accordance with the laws applicable to the crime of desertion. (Arts. 325, 326, of the Penal Code.)

While it is my duty to render all proper assistance to citizens of the United States, whether naturalized or native born, yet from the foregoing statement I feel at liberty to ask of your excellency only that this legation be kept informed of the progress and conclusion of Ginzberg’s case, and that he be secured that humane treatment and a speedy and fair trial as, of course, is contemplated by the laws of the Empire. I earnestly request that this attention be given to the matter in hand.

I avail, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure 5 in No. 74.—Translation.]

Mr. Chichkine to Mr. Breckinridge.

Mr. Minister: In your note of the date January 25/13 last, concerning the arrest in the government of Minsk of the Russian subject John Ginzberg, guilty of the crime of desertion, you express the hope that the said Ginzberg will be treated with justice and humanity.

You can be assured, Mr. Minister, that it could not be otherwise, the Russian authorities, administrative as well as judicial, being always deeply imbued with sentiments of humanity toward all persons with whom they have to do.

Receive, Mr. Minister, etc.,

[Inclosure 6 in No. 74.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Chichkine.

Your Excellency: I have delayed some time in replying to your note of January 25/February 6 in regard to the case of John (or Schimon) Ginzberg, partly with the hope that I might be favored with a further communication of a more explicit character.

While I have no doubt, nor have I ever entertained or expressed any doubt, of the general high standard of humanity and justice of Russian executive and judicial officers, yet if your excellency’s meaning is that the imperial foreign office is taking such an interest in this case as will insure comfortable conditions of confinement pending the trial, prevent unreasonable delay, and secure for the prisoner capable counsel for his defense, which is sometimes necessary in all countries, and which, I take it, is the least that can be requested in a case of this character, I would be glad to be explicitly informed of the facts.

If, upon the other hand, the meaning is that this case in its present status is not an acceptable case for diplomatic intervention or correspondence, then I would respectfully beg that that meaning be made clear.

[Page 1087]

Permit me, however, to express the sincere hope that the latter is not the meaning intended to be conveyed. But in either event I am sure you will quite agree with me that if any doubt exists in a matter of this character it is better to dispel it by asking for a more explicit statement of the intended meaning.

I respectfully request that your excellency will kindly favor me with as early a reply to this note as may be convenient.

I avail, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure 7 in No. 74.—Translation.]

Mr. Chichkine to Mr. Breckinridge.

Mr. Minister: In answer to my note of January 25/February 6, you have expressed the desire to receive information of a more explicit nature in regard to the course of the case of John Ginzberg.

You will not ignore that the purpose of the note mentioned by you was to reassure you as to the humane treatment on the part of the imperial authorities; as regards the case of Ginzberg, it is at the present time, as I had the honor to inform you, in the hands of the justice and is following its course, and I therefore can not give the desired explicit details before a corresponding communication reaches me from our judicial authorities.

Receive, etc.,

[Inclosure 8 in No. 74.]

Mr. Ginzberg to Mr. Breckinridge.

To the greate educated Minister of the U. S. of America in St. Petersburg, Russia.


I let you know that I am a sittison of the U. S. of America Because I lived among the dwellers down there I behaved myselfe among the inhabitends of the U. S. of America for 14 years very nicely I am a true democratic man I always Paid them my texess and I have done good for the contry every time all the days that I lived there I was true to them and they were true to me and it came to pass on a time when my hart desiered once for 14 years to see how are my Friends getting along in Russia Europe so I took a Passport out of Washington the U. S. of America and I have paid them for 2 years and I start to go where my desiere was it came to pass on my jurney when I came to Prussia Jermany Prostken on the Russian gaite the Russian Rullers took a hold on me without a couse and they arrested me and moreover they rubbed me all my property that I had with me and they humbled me very Beastly so that my body could not bare it and also they carried me with the arrest from Prostken to stoochin and straight trough till they brought me to the place where they wanted and once for all I have no Passport with me now and I can not go nowhere for employment I am poor and needy I have no bread to eat and nor a garment wherwitoll to cover my body the rullers in the City of Pinsk took [Page 1088] away from me my American papers and since the Falls Sison till now and I can not get them back now therefore my dear master and Minister I humbly pray you to be kind unto your servant and to look quick for my cause atend for my trial and pity me send me Please som assistence for my need so much as you are able and willing. The Lord bless you and strengthen you and give you life everlasting I am your Truly American Friend John Ginzberg.

[Inclosure 9 in No. 74.—Translation.]

Mr. Chichkine to Mr. Breckinridge.

Mr. Minister: Referring to my note of February 22/March 8, No. 1603, I have the honor to inform you, according to a recent communication of the ministry of the interior, that the case of Mr. Schimon Ginzberg was turned over to the judge of instruction of the district of Stchoutchin, and that the individual in question was set free on the 4/16 of January, under surety of one named Leiser Tchetchik.

Receive, etc.,

[Inclosure 10 in No. 74.]

Mr. Lewis to Mr. Breckinridge.

Dear Sir: I am in receipt of a letter from John Ginzberg, now at Minsk Pinsk, Loheshin, Russia, in which he states that on entering Russia at or near Prostken he was arrested and carried from place to place, finally being lodged in jail at Pinsk, where the authorities took away his certificate of naturalization and passport. Mr. Ginzberg left this country last October on a visit to his parents at Minsk, he having left Russia when a boy of 14 and has been away from Russia about fifteen years. Took out his naturalization papers at Wilmington, Del., and procured a passport when he left this country last October. The cause given for his arrest was that he became an American citizen. Please take this matter up to the end that Mr. Ginzberg may be released from the surveillance of the Russian authorities and may return to the United States.

Thanking you in advance for your action in this matter,

Very respectfully,

R. M. Lewis.
[Inclosure 11 in No. 74.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Prince Lobanow.

Your Excellency: Referring to my notes of December 2/14, 1894, January 13/25 and February 16/28, 1895, relating to the affair of Schimon (or John) Ginzberg, a native of Russia and a naturalized citizen of the United States, I now have to state that I am in receipt of information [Page 1089] that Ginzberg went or was taken to the United States when only 14 years of age and that he desires to return to that country.

I am informed by a note from Mr. Chichkine, dated April 6/18, 1895, that on the 4/16 of January Ginzberg has been turned over to the judge of instruction of the district of Stchouchin, and that he was released upon that date under surety of one Leiser Tchetchik.

Without entering upon the differences in the laws of the United States and the Empire of Russia, and of their respective legal obligations toward citizens and subjects, I yet wish to acknowledge a frequent kindly disposition to adjust matters arising under those differences as far as can be done, and I submit that this case presents a very appealing feature in the extreme youth of Ginzberg at the time he left Russia. Now, for fifteen years his ties have grown up in the United States, and if he wishes to return I hope the imperial permission will be granted him to do so. To charge an offense as a subject at so tender an age is to anticipate by a great leap the obligations of manhood; and the fact that he seems to have been in America, beginning in extreme youth, at the time any public obligations would have matured here, presents in this particular the antagonistic principles and laws of the two countries at their most pronounced points of difference, and in a way that, for my part, I always wish to avoid, especially when dealing with a Government that has been historically friendly to America. I trust that Ginzberg can be given permission to return and to assume without danger of further question at any time his obligations as a citizen of the United States.

I avail, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure 12 in No. 74.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Lewis.

Sir: I am in receipt of your letter of April 23, in relation to John Ginzberg, who has been under arrest in Minsk, and stating that he desires to return to the United States. You also state the interesting fact, in a case of this character, that he was a minor when he moved or was taken to the United States, being at that time, some fifteen years ago, only 14 years of age. I have just written to Ginzberg and will further follow up his case. I don’t think I ever knew of a man who more persistently disregarded the advice he sought, or seemingly tried harder to get into prison than Ginzberg. After a deal of work he is at last out of prison, and has been since the 16th of January, and I hope will get the consent of the Russian Government, which denies the right of expatriation, to return to America.

I am, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure 13 in No. 74.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Ginzberg.

Sir: The consul-general hands me your postal card of April 19/May 1, saying that you could not hear from me. I received your letters and have been earnestly trying to get you out of prison, from which place I was happy to learn some time ago that you had been released.

[Page 1090]

I am just in receipt of a letter from Mr. R. M. Lewis, a banker at Glasgow, Mont., saying that you want to return to the United States, though you have not expressed this wish to me. If this is your wish, so inform me, and I will do what I can to get the Imperial Government to release you of every claim and let you go back to the United States.

What was your age when you went to the United States?

I am, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.