Mr. Sherman to Mr. Breckinridge.

No. 379.]

Sir: Your No. 489, of the 23d ultimo, in relation to the application of Mrs. Louisa Lassonne for a passport, has been received. From the statement of your dispatch and Mrs. Lassonne’s letter it appears that the applicant, being a native of Switzerland, was married in St. Petersburg in 1874 to Mr. Charles Lassonne, stated to be a naturalized citizen of the United States. She is now a widow. She has never been in the United States and has no apparent intention of coming hither.

No question appears to be raised as to the nationality of the applicant’s late husband, and it is presumed that you have satisfied yourself that he was a duly naturalized citizen. The only question for the Department to consider is whether, under the circumstances, Mrs. Lassonne is entitled to protection as a citizen of the United States.

Mrs. Lassonne’s claim can, of course, be no better than her husband’s would be were he alive; and it would seem that at some time in or prior to 1874 he virtually abandoned his American residence for a European domicile. The widow’s case is even weaker, for, during nearly a quarter of a century since her marriage, she has never enjoyed an American domicile.

Moreover, a somewhat peculiar aspect exists in this case. By our statute an alien wife of an American citizen shares his citizenship. By the usual rules of continental private international law a woman marrying an alien shares his status, certainly during his life; but thereafter on widowhood reverts to her original status unless she abandons the country of her origin and returns to that of her late husband. Were Mrs. Lassonne now sojourning in Switzerland, it would probably be claimed that she had on widowhood reverted to her character as a Switzer; and the converse claim that she had become a citizen of the United States by operation of the laws of the United States, without ever having been within their jurisdiction, would probably be contested by Switzerland. As the lady, however, is not in her native country, but in a third state, this point is not material to the question whether she is or is not entitled to protection as an American citizen. It is merely mentioned by way of suggestion that, as she is certainly not a Russian so far as appears and is not entitled to protection as an American citizen, her Swiss character may be found to remain intact, entitling her to a Swiss passport.

The Department’s conclusion is that it can not authorize you to grant Mrs. Lassonne a passport upon the facts as stated by you.

Respectfully, yours,

John Sherman.