Mr. Sherman to Mr. Uhl.
Washington, April 20, 1897.
Sir: Your No. 301, of the 19th ultimo, has been received. You therewith transmit correspondence had with the Imperial foreign office in the matter of the impressment into the German army of Alfred Meyer.[Page 197]
Meyer was born in Baltimore in 1875, his father being a native Prussian. In 1879 the father returned to Germany, taking his son with him, and resided there until his death. There is no evidence that the father ever became a citizen of the United States. The conclusion of the German Government is that the fact of Meyer’s foreign birth does not alter his legal status under German law, according to which he inherits his father’s Prussian nationality, and that if through the fact of his birth at Baltimore he acquired American citizenship, according to American law, he possesses a double nationality, and consequently is bound to perform the obligations of both countries, as well to Germany as to the United States, which are put upon him by the laws of both those countries.
In support of this conclusion Baron Marsehall refers to the case of Henry Rabien, which arose in 1886, as “similar.” There is a very important difference between the two cases. Rabien had made a formal declaration before a German tribunal that he did not intend ever to settle in America.
This fact alone was sufficient to justify this Government in dropping the case. The course pursued by this Government in the Rabien case can not by any means be considered as an admission of the right of the German Government to impress native-born American citizens into its military service. Questions in relation to the impressment of American citizens in Germany usually arise in cases of sons born in the United States of naturalized Americans of German origin, who return to Germany with their sons during their minority. In some such cases the German Government contended that the fathers by continued residence in Germany have renounced their naturalization in the United States; but even then it has repeatedly recognized the American citizenship of the sons and has not attempted to compel them to perform military service.
The case of Ferdinand Revermann, which arose in 1885, is a case in point, and, while the father had been duly naturalized in this country, the status of the son was considered, in view of his birth in the United States, independently of the father’s naturalization. The father emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1850, was naturalized in Illinois in 1856, and resided continuously in this country until 1871. The son was born in Illinois in 1860, was taken to Germany by the father in 1871, and continued to reside there until 1880, In the latter year the Landrath at Munster certified that as he was born a citizen of the United States his name would be stricken from the military rolls, and this was done. He was, however, in October, 1884, summoned before the Landrath and told that by order of the Royal Government at Munster he must either become naturalized in Germany or leave the country. A week later, his expulsion being ordered, he applied to the United States legation to intervene for a suspension of the order and its reversal. Minister Kasson represented the facts to the German foreign office in his note of October 31, 1884. In replying to this note, on December 31, Dr. Busch, the German foreign minister, contended that under the treaties of 1868 regulating nationality the fathers in such cases should be regarded as having renounced their naturalization by a longer sojourn in Germany than two years, and said:
The provisions of these treaties do not, however, extend to the minor children of persons naturalized in America. The rules there prescribed can not, therefore, find any application to the legal status of these children. Their legal status should, therefore, be judged rather by the principles of law governing in the United States, in view of the fact that the children have been born in America, and have thereby, apart from the naturalization of the fathers, independently acquired American citizenship. [Page 198] American law, so far as known here, contains no provision which makes the renunciation of American naturalization by the father act upon his minor sons also. The Government of H. M. the Emperor has, therefore, no hesitation in recognizing such persons as American citizens. * * * Individuals possessing this character can not be made to perform military service in Germany.
Dr. Busch contended that, when the actual circumstances indicated that the persons in question used their American citizenship for the purpose of withdrawing themselves from the duties, and in particular from the military duty devolving upon the domestic population, without being disposed to abandon their permanent sojourn in Germany and the advantages connected therewith, international principles permitted the refusal to such persons of sojourn in Germany, and the adoption of measures against them. The United German Government, he said, purposed to act in the future with respect to all such cases in accordance with the principles thus presented.
This Government, in replying to the above note, contested the right of Germany to expel such persons upon abrupt notice at the pleasure of the authorities. Mr. Frelinghuysen, in instructing Mr. Kasson, February 7, 1885, said that the decision of the German Government that the sons were not within the provisions of the naturalization treaty of 1868 was just. “But,” added he, “as American citizens by native right, they must come under the general provisions of the treaty affecting all American citizens who have not been naturalized.”
Other cases might be cited in which this Government has contended for and the German Government has conceded the principle involved in the present case; but the above will suffice. You will again bring the case to the attention of the German foreign office, in view of the above, and urge that Meyer be released from the army.