Mr. Olney to Baron von Thielmann.
Washington, February 28, 1896.
Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 24th instant in reply to mine of the 7th, relative to Jacob Franck, a seaman, now destitute and insane in Savannah, Ga.
My inquiries had regard to the two aspects presented by Franck’s case, first, that he appears to be a destitute German seaman, apparently a deserter; second, that he is an alien, who, having come within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, has become a burden upon the community by reason of mental disease. It was as to the first of these phases that my inquiry had more especial reference.
The laws and regulations of this Government in respect to the relief of destitute or disabled American seamen provide for such relief being given in foreign lands by the consular representatives of the United States, in all cases where the pauper or invalid seaman is found to be a citizen of the United States, even though he may have deserted from the vessel upon which he last served. The facts of citizenship and of being by calling a seaman are the only tests required. I had supposed that similar provision might exist under German law, and be applicable to the present case. I infer, however, from your note that no obligation exists on the part of the German consulate to care for Franck, on the ground that he had deserted his vessel while not responsible for his acts.
Touching the second phase of the case, namely, that of an alien, impoverished and diseased, being stranded in a foreign land and thrown upon the charity of the community, the precedents you cite showing the custom of local charitable administrations to care for such unfortunate person are sound, and if we eliminate Franck’s character as a merchant seaman from the case, applicable thereto, so that it becomes necessary to examine whether the man is still a subject of the German Empire. In his present condition, of course, no trustworthy information can be [Page 202]obtained as to whether he has relatives in Germany or elsewhere who would furnish his transportation home and care for him.
Under the existing immigration laws of the United States, and regarding Franck simply ns a foreigner who has come or been brought within the jurisdiction of the United States and becomes a charge upon the community within one year from the time of landing, the case falls under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Treasury, who by the statutes is authorized to return a person so circumstanced to the country whence he came. The matter will, therefore, be referred to the Secretary of the Treasury for such action as may be requisite and proper.