Mr. Hay to Mr.
Department of State,
Washington, March 3,
Sir: Mr. Vignaud’s dispatch, No. 420, of the
13th ultimo, relating to the return to Paris of Mr. Felix A. Gendrot,
whose military case was the occasion of controversy with the French
Government in 1888, and his arrest in connection with his previous
alleged evasion of military service, has been received.
The Department recently received from Mr. Stevenson Burke, of Cleveland,
Ohio, a letter (of which copy is inclosed herewith) addressed to Mrs.
Burke by Mr. Gendrot, describing his surreptitious return to Paris,
“thinking,” as he says, “that in so large a city and remaining unknown I
[he] could carry on my [his] studies without trouble and at the end of a
year or two return to the States,” in which expectation he appears to
have been disappointed.
Mr. Gendrot’s action has very unnecessarily complicated the matter to his
prejudice, but in view of the attitude taken by this Government when the
question originated in 1888, and in view also of the suggestions made by
Mr. Vignaud, it is hoped that you will find an opportunity to further
Mr. Gendrot’s interest and effect his release from the embarrassing
situation in which he has placed himself. I inclose copy of a letter
written to Mr. Gendrot in November, 1897, to which I have referred in my
reply to Mr. Stevenson Burke, copy of which is also inclosed for your
I am, etc.
Mr. Burke to
Hickox Building, Cleveland, February 21, 1899.
My Dear Sir: I inclose to you a letter from
Mr. Felix A. Gendrot, who, as his letter points out, was a native of
Boston, Mass., and whose father, I believe, was a Frenchman—whether
naturalized or not, I do not know. Mr. Gendrot is an artist, and he
wrote the inclosed letter to my wife, who, as treasurer of the Art
School Association, was very well acquainted with him, he having
taught in the art school, and also in the university school, in this
city. I have a personal acquaintance with him, and know that he is
very much of a gentleman, and entitled to all the protection which
the Government can afford.
I think I shall take the liberty to write a personal letter to
Minister Porter at Paris; but this would be only to assure General
Porter, whom I know quite well, of my personal knowledge of the
standing of Mr. Gendrot.
You will note that the question is a most important one, and it may
affect many others besides Mr. Gendrot.
You will know, however, how to deal with it, and I trust you will
give the matter such attention as its public interest and the
personal interest of Mr. Gendrot requires.
With kindest regards to yourself personally, I am,
Very truly, yours,
Mr. Gendrot to
Paris, le January 31,
My Dear Mrs. Burke: It has been my
intention to write you and tell you of my sojourn in Paris, and how
I was getting on in my work, etc., but I am somewhat embarrassed
that for my first letter I should ask you for a favor. To come to
the point, it is my trouble with the French Government. Should you
not know the details of the case, and as it would be too long for me
to write them, I think Miss Norton or Miss Harper could give you
them. Now, to begin with the story of my trouble: I came to Paris
thinking that in so large a city, and remaining unknown, I could
carry on my studies without trouble, and at the end of a year or two
return to the States. Notwithstanding the fact that eleven years
have passed since my first trouble, the French Government located me
and put me under arrest, but has released me pending an
investigation into the case. I have called on the American
ambassador for protection, and he will no doubt communicate to the
Government at Washington. My favor is, if you will be so kind, that
you use your personal influence with the Secretary of State, as I
think he is a Cleveland man and no doubt a friend of yours. I
thought a letter from the Judge would be instrumental in the
Secretary taking more interest in the case. I would have written to
the Judge personally, but I feared that he would not remember me,
and by writing you you could explain the matter to him.
My argument is that I was born, brought up, educated in the United
States, lived most of my life, and have all my interests and intend
to return there, and that I owe nothing to France, and from these
facts it seems to me that the French Government should have no claim
Now, to show the injustice of their law in my case, should I be
forced to do military duty, it would establish beyond question that
I was a French citizen, and, as far as the United States was
concerned, I still would be an American citizen after my service
here. Should I go back to the States, settle there, get married, and
have children, my children would be born of a Frenchman and subject
to military duty in France, and would find themselves in precisely
the same position as I am at present. For my children, to avoid
military duty in France and be recognized as Americans by the French
law, I would first have to become a naturalized American through
process of law, a thing that can not be done; that is, I can not
become naturalized through process of law, as I am already a citizen
of the United States. And this process of taking American-born
citizens to serve France would go on indefinitely, or at least until
the United States should stand firmly by and demand the French
Government to recognize the American-born citizens. And that is what
I should like to have the United States Government do for me now—to have France recognize me as an
You will please excuse writing, as I have written in haste.
Hoping it is in your power to do this favor for me,
I remain, etc.,
Mr. Hay to Mr.
Department of State,
Washington, March 3,
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of
your letter of the 21st of February in relation to the arrest of Mr.
Felix A. Gendrot, who, having had trouble with the French Government
in 1888, growing out of a claim to his military service as the son
of a Frenchman (although himself born in the United States), has
recently returned to France and been arrested at Paris on the charge
of evasion of army duty.
A dispatch received from the United States embassy at Paris, under
date of February 13, ultimo, reports the arrest of Mr. Gendrot and
the steps taken by the embassy to afford him all possible relief
from the situation in which he has voluntarily placed himself by
returning to France, against the advice of this Department, given
him on the 26th of November, 1897, by the letter of which I inclose
a copy for your information.
Mr. Vignaud, chargé d’affaires of the United States at Paris, states
that Mr. Gendrot’s case was to come up before the second council of
war on February 18, and he anticipates that the military court will
hold that, so far as the army authorities are concerned, Mr. Gendrot
is French and, as such, liable to punishment for having failed to
comply with the military laws of France, but that such action will
still leave to him the right of appeal from the decision of the
military court to a civil court, where the question of nationality
would remain to be finally decided. Mr. Vignaud adds that Mr.
Gendrot, having passed the age of service in the active army, can,
according to the law of 1889, renounce French citizenship without
the permission of the French Government, and that the civil court
may perhaps recognize him as an American citizen. Mr. Gendrot,
however, states that want of funds would prevent him from taking
The ambassador has been instructed to continue to do all that he
properly can to effect Mr. Gendrot’s release.
I am, etc.,
Mr. Adee to Mr.
Department of State,
Washington, November 26,
Sir: Your letter of November 17, making
inquiries as to your present status with regard to the claim of your
allegiance heretofore put forth by the French Government, has been
received and considered, and I am directed by the Secretary of State
to make reply thereto.
Your case is an interesting one, and the correspondence had on the
subject in 1888 is printed in the volume of Foreign Relations of the
United States for that year, pages
495, 497, and 498.
Your case was then held to be one of those common in private
international law wherein the individual is invested with a dual
allegiance, each complete in its own sphere. By your birth at
Cambridge, Mass., April 28, 1866, you were held by the law of the
United States to have possessed the status of an American citizen
while subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. By the
French laws, being born abroad of French parents who never lost
their French status, you were a natural-born French subject so far
as the jurisdiction of France is concerned. Being held for military
service in France, you appear to have taken Mr. Bayard’s advice,
then given to Minister McLane, to elect and maintain your American
nationality by a prompt return to this country. Such return,
however, could not affect the proceedings instituted against you
under French law within French jurisdiction further than to leave
them undetermined or determinable by a judgment pronounced by
default, of which, however, the Department is not advised.
The purport of your present inquiry is not clearly understood. You
ask whether you would be entitled as an American citizen to the
protection of the United States Government under the circumstances
you recite, and you conclude by requesting to be informed fully as
to your rights under the circumstances.
As to your rights as a citizen of the United States there can be no
question so long as you are within the jurisdiction of the United
States, and, although this is a hypothetical case, you would possess
equal rights and be entitled to equal protection in the territory of
a third state. But should you voluntarily put yourself within French
jurisdiction, the dual claim of that country to your allegiance
would revive and you could scarcely hope to escape judicial
proceedings, perhaps under added disadvantage of being regarded as a
fugitive from military service by reason of your return to the
United States in 1888. There is no naturalization treaty between the
United States and France. Under the French code a person born a
Frenchman can only lose that status by process of law, one of the
causes of such loss being naturalization in a foreign country. You
have not been naturalized in the United States, and the fact of your
being born in the United States is by French law no bar to the
French claim upon your allegiance; it is, on the contrary, a case
expressly provided for by that law, [Page 270] so that the French courts would be precluded from
declaring you to be anything but a French citizen should the case
actually arise for judicial determination. This contingency,
however, could not arise, so far as seen, except by your own
voluntary act in returning to France, and in such a case it is
doubtful if this Government could efficiently protect you outside of
its own jurisdiction.
Alvey A. Adee,