Mr. Porter to Mr. Hay.

No. 427.]

Sir: Referring to Mr. Vignaud’s No. 420, of February 13, concerning the citizenship of Mr. Gendrot, I have now to report that his case came up before the second council of war on the 18th instant, and that upon the application of his lawyer—a lawyer given him by the court—it was postponed in order to give Gendrot time to have the question of his nationality decided by a civil court. Gendrot’s lawyer informs this embassy that if no step of this kind is taken his client will be brought up again before the military court, where he is sure to be sentenced to imprisonment and be obliged to serve some time in the French army.

I inclose herewith copy of a letter received from Gendrot, in which he claims the protection of this embassy as an American citizen and asks to be provided with the necessary means for bringing before a French civil court the action without which his rights will not be respected.

I respectfully ask for authorization to comply with this request.

I have, etc.,

Horace Porter.

Mr. Gendrot to Mr. Porter.

Dear Sir: Being a citizen and born in the United States, I come to ask the ambassador for the protection and aid he owes his countryman.

My case has already been the object of diplomatic correspondence in the year 1888, as that period, while sojourning in France, the French Government called upon me to do five years’ military service, basing their claim upon the fact that I was born of French parentage. I was arrested, released, and was about to be arrested a second time when I departed for the United States.

In the diplomatic correspondence that took place the minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Flourens, replied to the United States ambassador that if I insisted upon claiming American citizenship I was at liberty, in order to establish my true position, to apply to the civil courts; only on seeing a decision of the French courts declaring I am a foreigner can the military authorities consent to order that my name be stricken from the rolls of the French army?

At that period I was ignorant of this means of repudiating the quality of Frenchman.

But recently having arrived in France for the purpose of study, I was arrested as (ensoumie), and am about to pass before the second council of war to-morrow. If I do not find means to stay the proceeding I am liable to be condemned to from one month to one year imprisonment.

My lawyer will try to secure a postponement of the case, declaring that you, the United States ambassador, was having official correspondence with the French Government in my behalf. However, he considers that this means is not a legal one, and that the judges could ignore this appeal and pronounce their verdict. He says, should I address a request to the French civil court, that tribunal, by having taken up the question of my citizenship, would thus prevent the council from passing finally upon my case until the civil court rendered its verdict.

He also believes that, my case being a peculiar one, the courts might find that I could repudiate the quality of French citizenship in view of article 17 of the Code Civil, which says, to lose the rights of French citizenship, first, “A Frenchman naturalized in a foreign country.” Having been born and lived for twenty-six years in the United States, and am a voter there, it seems to me I am less of a Frenchman than one born in France and who has been naturalized in the United States.

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This civil case that M. Flourens has indicated might terminate in my favor and which is actually the only means out of my present difficulty.

In view of my United States citizenship, and not having the means to protect myself, I appeal to the United States Government, or to you, its ambassador, to give me the means to carry on this civil case, or to carry it on for me.

There is a grave question of principle in my case, and should the verdict be in my favor it would establish an important precedent.

I am persuaded that this question interests in the highest degree the rights of American citizens abroad.

I am, etc.,

Felix A. Gendrot.