Mr. Denby to Mr. Olney.
Peking, November 11, 1896. (Received Dec. 28.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I have received recently two applications to issue passports to persons who have declared their intentions to become citizens of the United States, but who had not taken out their second papers. These applications were denied. One came from an Englishman, who simply wanted to travel in the interior, and I made no statement to him as to what course this legation would pursue should he get into trouble, because there seemed to be no necessity for his making the proposed journey. The other was a personal application made by Rev. K. S. Stokke, a Norwegian, who had declared his intention to become a citizen. This gentleman desired to visit the mission at Urga, Mongolia. While refusing to issue a passport to him, I stated to him that if he got into any difficulty he might report the facts to me and I would in a friendly way endeavor to be of some service to him. I made this assurance on the double ground that this legation has for many years rendered friendly services to the Government of Sweden and Norway, and also because he had taken out his first papers. The question as to what, if any, protection should be afforded to those who have taken out their first papers has not been—perhaps, as circumstances greatly vary, it can not be—definitely settled.[Page 92]
In Wharton’s International Law Digest (vol. 2, sec. 192) I find that—
The most that can be done for them [persons who have declared their intentions] by the legation is to certify to the genuineness of their papers when presented for attestation, and when there can be no reasonable doubt of their being authentic, and to this simple certificate, that to the best of the belief of the legation the documents in question are genuine, the European authorities are at liberty to pay such respect as they think proper.
This plan would not work well in China. Passports issued by this legation are visaed by the governor of Peking, and an indorsement is made thereon that they are issued according to treaty rights, and the local authorities are enjoined to afford protection.
The Chinese are very technical, and they would not respect a simple legation certificate, and confusion would result.
In section 175 of the same book I find a principle stated which seems to be reasonable, as follows:
Although a mere declaration of intention does not confer citizenship, yet, under peculiar circumstances in a Mohammedan or semibarbarous land, it may sustain an appeal to the good offices of a diplomatic representative of the United States in such land.
Should, therefore, occasion arise in which my interference in favor of a person who has declared his intention seemed proper, tested by humanitarian considerations, I would hold myself authorized to assist such person, unless otherwise instructed by you.
I have, etc.,