Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Olney.

No. 130.]

Sir: Your No. 79, of June 15, inclosing traced signature of John Ginzberg, copy of his application for a passport, and reviewing his case, was duly received. I am happy to note your approval of the steps previously taken by the legation, and the contents of your present dispatch have my careful attention.

I have now to report the present status of the case and to inform you of the proceedings since the receipt of the dispatch above referred to.

The status is practically unchanged except so far as it may be advanced to a decision by these proceedings.

No result following the favorable note of the foreign office to the minister of justice, reported in the legation’s No. 85, of May 30, and having your dispatch as an occasion for additional urgency, I again addressed Prince Lobanow July 19, copy of which note is inclosed.

In this note I carefully restated the whole case, following the lines already pressed and those laid down in your dispatch.

This was followed up by a personal visit to Baron Osten-Sacken, when the case was fully discussed, and a favorable view of the matter was taken by him. He said the power to dismiss the proceedings against Ginzberg lay with the minister of the interior. I pressed the case from the standpoint already taken by the Russian Government, that of desertion from the military service, urged the interest taken in it by the Department, and requested him to use his good offices with the minister of [Page 1093] the interior to dismiss the whole matter and let Ginzberg return to the United States. Agreeing with me substantially about the merits of the case, the baron also agreed that it was one his Government could not well desire to continue, and that the anxiety, expense, and suffering already incurred made up of themselves no small measure of punishment. He promised to at once comply with my request.

After this the minister of the interior was seen. He spoke not unfavorably about the case; and. despite all that had been written through the regular channels, he requested that I submit in writing a further statement of the case to him. This I did August 17, copy of which is inclosed. I am not without hope of favorable action within a short time by the minister of the interior.

Thus the case stands: The application to the minister of justice to expedite it, with the possibility of a light penalty or of acquittal is still pending. The application to the minister of the interior to dismiss the case is in the same position, and the matter will continue to be followed up in every way that may seem possible. * * *

The leniency in the present case has been, measured by the usual standard, very great. He was soon let out of prison upon mere personal recognizance; and I am informed that if his case takes its “usual” course it would be six months yet before he would come to trial.

Tour remarks about pressing the case upon the ground that it is one of punishment for the mere act of becoming a citizen of the United States by due operation of our laws if it be “necessary,” the position of the United States in that contingency and the caution as to probable error in Ginzberg’s approximate statement of the date of his birth, all have my careful attention. As I am still hoping for a solution upon the grounds already laid down, I do not yet press that point, nor do I yet move in the matter of the date of birth, which may technically, at least, affect Ginzberg’s status, since the question of his full compliance with our laws is not raised by the Russian Government.

You state such action on the part of the Russian Government to be “inadmissible and unfriendly.” This being true in a general sense it is particularly true of one who came to us when a boy, grew up with us, and has really never known any other country. So, while not urging this in the general sense, I have used it in this special case, but without of course admitting in any degree that it would be proper or just in any case. Indeed, I have taken occasion in conversation to express fully to Prince Lobanow and Baron Osten-Sacken the position of the United States upon this subject.

This case will continue to be followed up and you will be promptly informed of any changes or results.

Respectfully submitting the present statement, I have, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 130.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Prince Lobanow.

Your Excellency: My Government has communicated with me at length and with much interest in regard to John (Simon) Ginzberg, a naturalized American citizen detained in the government of Minsk upon the charge of desertion from the military service.

[Page 1094]

The last note from this legation upon this subject was on April 28/ May 10.

It seems that Ginzberg was born in 1865 and that he went to America in 1880, when he was between 14 and 15 years of age.

My Government is very far from desiring to condone in any way the crime of actual desertion from military service. It is a continuing crime, and the acquisition of citizenship in the United States by a deserter would not give him any right to invoke our intervention were he subsequently duly apprehended by the country to which he once owed such allegiance.

While these points have been alluded to in the former notes of this legation, yet, in view of the stress laid upon them by my Government, I feel constrained to bring them more particularly to your excellency’s attention.

It seems quite incomprehensible that this crime can seriously lay against a child, as Ginzberg was at the time he left or was carried from the Empire. He thus appears to have grown upon our soil to a fair and honorable acquisition of citizenship, and as the possession of such a title to have full right to our utmost solicitude and interest.

Surely no deserter would ever have gone back to be apprehended as this man did. He was warned by our consul at Hamburg not to visit Russia unless his passport was visaed. The consul knew that the Russian consul had refused to visé Ginzberg’s passport, and so wrote me. But he said nothing of any liability to arrest for any crime, and I do not suppose Ginzberg dreamed that any such charge could possibly be laid to him. He was turned back from the frontier; but with a sense of innocence and safety he returned to his birthplace without permission and was there arrested as stated.

It is not charged that Ginzberg entered the Empire with any evil purpose, and hence it may be said that no remarks upon this point are necessary. But I can not refrain, as indicative of the complete harmoniousness and innocence of character of this man, from inclosing a copy of a letter I recently received from him. This was in reply to a letter kindly sent to him, from me, by the foreign office. This copy shows that the man is still but a child in mind and disposition, and can not but incline the imperial authorities to believe that this man never committed a crime; he certainly never will commit one.

In conclusion, I submit especially to your excellency those observations particularly arising from the present communication from my Government; and I ask that Ginzberg may be permitted to return to America, as formerly requested, without further let or hindrance.

I avail myself, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 130.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Dournovo.

Your Excellency: I hasten to comply with the wish you so kindly expressed to the secretary of this legation that I should submit a statement of the case of John Ginzberg, a naturalized American citizen, in detention at Loguishin, Minsk Pinsk. I wish to express my appreciation at the same time of your goodness in accepting this statement [Page 1095] in English instead of in one of the several other languages at your command, for I regret to say that English is the only language in which I can express myself.

Ginzburg was born at Minsk, Russia, in 1865. He went to the United States when he was 14 years of age, and upon becoming of age he was made a citizen according to the laws of the United States.

In the month of December of last year he returned to Russia to visit his family. He is the bearer of passport No. 17003, issued by the Department of State of the United States on the 8th of October, 1894.

Upon reaching Prostken he was arrested upon the charge, as I am informed by the imperial foreign office, of desertion; and I have been further informed that he is now released from confinement, but is required to confine himself to the locality of Loguishin, Minsk, under the bond or assurance of Leiser Tchetchik.

This case has been the subject of my earnest representations from my Government, and of repeated communications and interviews between this legation and the foreign office.

As to the merits of the case my Government wishes it first to be clearly understood that if Ginzberg had actually deserted from the military service of the Empire, or had fed from service which had matured, it would not interpose in his behalf. It has no desire to condone the crime of desertion.

But the accused left the Empire when he was a boy, an irresponsible child, and surely he was not liable at that tender age to any military service.

Having come to the United States at that age, and having grown up there, my Government thinks it unfriendly to hold him liable as one who has consciously and purposely sought to avoid a matured duty. Hence it earnestly desires that in this state of the case he be discharged and permitted to return to the United States.

Attention is also called to the obvious fact that Ginzberg is a man of simple, I may well say, of weak mind, and one hardly to be held responsible for at least such acts as are not hurtful to others. His letters to me strongly indicate this. Your excellency doubtless has a copy of one of these letters with the papers from the foreign office, and two or three more of such childish communications have been received by me. The character of sympathy shown for him by persons in the United States further indicates this. The very fact of his coming here in the way he did, clearly shows that, since he is not a vicious man, he must be a man of very weak mind. The United States consul at Hamburg wrote me that Ginzberg applied to the Russian consul there to have his passport viséed, which was refused. He then applied to the United States consul for advice, and was strongly advised not to attempt to enter Russia under the circumstances. Yet he came to the frontier and was turned back by the Russian officials. Even after this experience he eluded the guards and entered the Empire, all of which, in so harmless a man, with no very strong inducement of any kind, shows a lack of intelligence that must attract attention.

I have fully submitted the case to your excellency, and I hope that the earnest wish of my Government can be complied with and that in accordance therewith Ginzberg can be set at liberty and permitted to return to his home in the United States. He has now suffered from great anxiety and long detention, and I ask the kindness of information of your excellency’s decision in the matter.

I avail myself, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.