Mr. Hay to Mr. Porter.

No. 566.]

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 information.

I am, etc.

John Hay.
[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Burke to Mr. Hay.

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.

[Page 268]

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,

Stevenson Burke.

Mr. Gendrot to Mrs. Burke.

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 on me.

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 American citizen.

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.,

Felix A. Gendrot.
[Inclosure 2.]

Mr. Hay to Mr. Burke.

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.

[Page 269]

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 appeal.

The ambassador has been instructed to continue to do all that he properly can to effect Mr. Gendrot’s release.

I am, etc.,

John Hay.

Mr. Adee to Mr. Gendrot.

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.

Respectfully, yours,

Alvey A. Adee,
Second Assistant Secretary.