Mr. Straus to Mr. Hay.

No. 135.]

Sir: I have the honor to submit for the decision of the Department an application for a passport, typical of a class of cases of like character. The circumstances are as follows:

Consul Ravndal, at Beirut, Syria, has been forwarding to this legation during the past year a number of applications for passports from naturalized American citizens of Turkish (Syrian) origin, but in each case the applications were made upon recently issued naturalization certificates unaccompanied by any previous passport. The circumstances appeared to me suspicious that so many Syrians, native-born Turkish subjects, well knowing the requirements of the Turkish regulations about passports, should leave the United States for a visit to Turkey without first obtaining an American passport. I wrote to the consul-general on December 6, 1898, asking for an explanation of this circumstance and calling his attention to the Department’s decision, a copy of which dispatch is inclosed, also the consul’s reply of February 17 last, to the effect that the applicants had entered Turkey on Turkish passports, they alleging that before leaving New York they were informed (by whom is not stated) that neither American passports nor naturalization certificates were recognized in Turkey, I inclose herewith the affidavit which accompanied the application for a passport of Abdou Sowma, a naturalized American citizen, received at this legation on the 5th instant, in which Sowma certifies that before leaving the United States in December, 1897, he was instructed to provide himself with a Turkish passport, such being absolutely necessary; that he purchased a Turkish passport, by means of which he entered the Turkish Empire; that immediately after his arrival he registered himself at the American consulate. I inclose herewith an affidavit to the same effect by one George Joseph, which also accompanied the application of Sowma.

[Page 935]

The issuing of a Turkish passport is only granted on application and is predicated upon the applicant being a subject, the applicant presenting his certificate of birth (hamidieh) with the implied, if not the expressed, assumption that such applicant has always been and still is a loyal Ottoman subject.

The question is thereby presented, Have not such persons, by applying for and receiving an Ottoman passport regardless even of the form of such application, voluntarily abandoned their acquired American citizenship and their right to protection as such? In the event of the intervention of our diplomatic or consular agents for the protection of such persons naturalized in the United States, who having returned to Turkey, their country of origin, with Ottoman passports, or tezkerehs, our agents would be confronted with the statements of the applicants that they are Turkish subjects. So by their own acts it would seem they are estopped from claiming the protection of the United States.

The question has assumed considerable importance, as eleven similar applications have been received by this legation during the past year, and it will be seen from Consul Ravndal’s letter to the consul-general, of the 24th ultimo, a copy of which is inclosed, that there is a prospect of many more such cases recurring. Pending your decision upon the class of cases hereby submitted, I have declined to issue passports to the applicants in question.

I have, etc.,

Oscar S. Straus.
[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Straus to Mr. Dickinson.

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 70, of the 13th instant, containing, with other inclosures, the passport applications of Saleem Jereissati and Mansour J. Urmott and 50 postage stamps of I piaster each.

I inclose herewith a passport for Saleem Jereissati and return his certificate of naturalization.

A passport can not be issued to Mr. Urmott on the strength of a letter from Mr. Edson C. Marschall stating that he had forwarded by registered letter his passport and naturalization certificate, but which did not reach their destination. In order to procure a new passport from the legation Mr. Urmott should obtain from America a certified copy of his naturalization certificate and forward it to this office.

It is a suspicious circumstance that Mr. Urmott, a Turkish subject of origin, naturalized in the United States, on setting out from New York for Syria on November 5, 1897, should have deliberately left behind his passport, a document whose chief utility is for foreign travel, with instructions that it be forwarded to him at his journey’s end some ten or fifteen days later.

How he managed to enter Turkey without an American passport or any document to prove his nationality the legation is not advised.

As instances have come to the knowledge of this legation where naturalized Americans of Turkish origin returning to Turkey have suppressed the fact of their acquired citizenship and have entered Turkey under their old passports as Ottoman subjects, in order to avoid bringing in question their disputed nationality, it is desirable that the consul at Beirut should make a searching inquiry upon what papers or in what character as to his citizenship Mr. Urmott arrived in Tripoli on December 5, 1897, or in Beirut, presumably a day or two earlier. Should it prove to be the case that Mr. Urmott entered the country as a Turkish subject, our Government is absolved from the obligation to extend protection to him. On this point I would refer our consul at Beirut to this legation’s dispatch No. 232, of April 20, 1894, and the Department’s instruction No. 181, of May 10, 1894, printed in the Foreign Relations for 1894, pages 757, 758, and 761.

[Page 936]

The position of our Government in the instruction referred to is stated as follows:

“The return of a naturalized Turk to Turkey as an Ottoman subject, under Turkish passport and with submission to Turkish authorities over him as a subject, clearly dissolves the obligation of his adopted country to protect him longer as a citizen, and the obligation can certainly not be revived by the assertion or admission of the individual that his reassumption of his original allegiance has been colorable merely and in bad faith, with deliberate intent to deceive. The agencies of the United States in Turkey can not be privy to such a deception.”

I return herewith Mr. Urmott’s duplicate application, the letter addressed to him by Mr. Edson C. Marschall, and 25 piasters in postage stamps.

I am, etc.,

Oscar S. Straus.
[Inclosure 2.]

Mr. Ravndal to Mr. Dickinson.

Sir: I have to inclose herewith three applications for passports and $3 in French stamps, also two certificates of naturalization.

With reference to the two naturalized Americans of Syrian origin applying for passports, it is my duty to report that they both landed in Syria on the strength of Turkish passports.

I refused a few days ago to entertain an application for a new passport in such a case (Khalil Zainy, naturalized by the court of common pleas, Lucerne County, Pa., December 1, 1890). Knowing, however, that there will appear a great number of such applicants during the approaching season, I have decided to bring the matter before you before taking a final stand.

Why did these people secure a Turkish passport instead of an American one?

They invariably tell me that they were informed before leaving New York that neither American passports nor naturalization certificates would be recognized in Turkey; that frequently such papers were torn up and destroyed by Turkish landing-place officials; that hey never heard until now of any American consul in Beirut as being in position to protect naturalized Syrians as Americans; that such American Syrians who returned to Turkey as avowed Americans were almost without exception insulted and molested; that they were compelled for some urgent reason to return for a time to Syria, and that they therefore bought a Turkish passport to avoid trouble, not knowing that such a course would be considered a repudiation of their American obligations and a renunciation of their American rights. Now they are anxious to return to the United States. Such is their story.

Mr. Charles Saleeby has two brothers and a brother-in-law in America and sends occasional Syrian goods thither to supply their store, he being a partner in the business. He came to United States when 16 years of age and speaks English fluently. He is very concerned over his doubtful status.

I am, etc.,

G. Bie Ravndal,
United States Consul.
[Inclosure 3.]

I, the undersigned, Abdou Sowma, do hereby solemnly declare, under oath, that I left the United States December, 1897; that before leaving I made inquiries as to the requirements for entering Syria; that I was instructed to provide myself with a Turkish passport, as such passport would be absolutely necessary; that I came to Syria on a Turkish passport; that I registered myself at the American consulate on my arrival in Syria, and that I do not intend to submit to Turkish authority over me as a subject, but shall remain a loyal American.

Abdou Sowma.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this day and year next above written.
G. Bie Ravndal.
[Page 937]
[Inclosure 4.]

I, the undersigned, George Joseph, do hereby solemnly declare, under oath, that I left the United States July 8, 1899; that before leaving I made several inquiries as to the requirements for entering Syria; that I was instructed to provide myself with a Turkish passporrt, as such passport would be absolutely necessary; that I came to Syria on a Turkish passport; that I do not intend to submit to Turkish authority over me as a subject, but shall remain a loyal American.

George Joseph.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this day and year next above written.
G. Bie Ravndal.
[Inclosure 5.]

Mr. Ravndal to Mr. Dickinson.

No. 70.]

Sir: In answering the inquiries made by the legation through your dispatch No. 44, dated October 26, 1899, the receipt of which I hereby have the honor to acknowledge, I beg to refer to my No. 45, dated February 17, 1899, in which are summed up the reasons why so many Syrians naturalized in the United States fortify themselves with Turkish passports on returning to their native land. Much misinformation prevails both at home and abroad in regard to the efficacy of American passports and American authorities to protect Syrians returning to their original home after acquiring naturalization in the United States. As stated at the close of my No. 69, I am inclined to think the practice will soon abate. But before such a result can be obtained, hundreds of citizens will be affected by the final position to be taken in this matter by those in authority. In many cases the loyalty of the Syrian applicants for American passports presenting themselves in this office is unquestionable. Many of them own considerable property in America, and while some appear ignorant and more or less indifferent, and while it may be found necessary to adopt a strict policy in order to wipe out the present abuses, I am, to say the least, impressed with the gravity of the situation. It may not be amiss to add that most of those naturalized Syrians who have this year applied for passports through this office have departed for the United States.

It is a fact which should perhaps not be overlooked in the consideration of the present question that quite a number of returning citizens land here clandestinely without possessing passports of any description.

In regard to the nine applicants mentioned in your Nos. 42 and 44, they are to be classed with George Youseph, whose affidavit I inclose for the sake of illustration.

Other affidavits accompany the applications (in duplicate) of Abdou Sowma, of Buffalo. N. Y., and Alex. Mansur, of Detroit, Mich., which are herein inclosed, along with their certificates of naturalization and the usual fees.

I am, etc.,

G. Bie Ravndal,
United States Consul.