Mr. Olney to Mr. Peirce.

No. 138.]

Sir: Your dispatch No. 157, of the 16th ultimo, has been received.

The position taken by the Imperial Government in Yablkowski’s case, accompanied as it is by the text of the Russian law claimed to be applicable to such cases, constitutes the most direct statement of the Russian contention in this regard that has as yet been presented.

Taking the two clauses of the law together, they amount to a claim for the punishment of a Russian subject for the imputed offense of becoming a citizen or subject of another State, or even of entering into the service of another State. Unlike the legislation of some other countries, the Russian law does not decree loss of citizenship by the fact of embracing any other allegiance, and the deprivation of civil rights and perpetual banishment from the territory of the Empire, coupled with deportation to Siberia in the event of the individual’s return to Russia, are only consistent with the assertion of continuing Russian subjection and with a claim to punish him as a subject.

The position of the United States as to the right of expatriation is long established and well known. The doctrine announced by us at an early stage of our national existence has been since generally adopted by all the European States except. Russia and Turkey; and the Turkish Government does not go so far as to assert in practice a claim to punish a Turk for the offense of acquiring any other nationality. That every sovereign State has an indefeasible right to prescribe and apply the [Page 1108] conditions under which an alien, being within its territorial jurisdiction, may be admitted to citizenship is a proposition not to be denied and scarcely capable of any material qualification. The legislation of the United States proceeds upon this theory.

Under the circumstances, and under the statutes of this country, this Government can not acquiesce in the Russian contention now formally announced, and must continue in the future to do as it has done in the past, and remonstrate against denial of the rights of American citizenship to persons of Russian origin who by due process of law have acquired our nationality, controverting any and every attempt to treat the acquisition of our citizenship as a penal offense against the law of the country of origin.

It is deeply to be regretted that no treaty of naturalization exists between the United States and Russia similar to those concluded with other States of Europe which for many years held to the doctrine of perpetual allegiance as strongly as the Imperial Government now seems disposed to do. Whatever be the abstract rights of the matter contended for by the respective parties, some form of conventional agreement in reconcilement of their conflicting claims is alike desirable and honorable. Overtures in this sense have been made at times heretofore without immediate result, but it is earnestly hoped that at no distant time the two countries may be able to come to a mutually beneficial understanding in this respect, which, while subserving their several interests, will remove a notable cause of difference between them in a manner befitting their traditional friendship.

I am, etc.,

Richard Olney.