Mr. Tower to Mr. Hay.
Berlin, May 27, 1904.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your instruction No. 182, of the 5th of May, 1904, in regard to the case of Emil Vibert, whose request to return to Germany to visit his father was refused by the German Government on the ground that as the naturalization treaties of the United States do not apply to the Imperial provinces of Alsace and Lorraine the said Vibert is still a German subject, and that if he returns to Germany he will be subject to pay the fine of 600 marks which was imposed upon him for nonperformance of military duty.
In accordance with your instructions, I had an interview, immediately upon receipt of your dispatch, with His Excellency Doctor von Mühlberg, acting Imperial German secretary of state for foreign affairs, to whom I presented again the subject of this case. I called to the attention of Dr. von Mühlberg the fact that Mr. Vibert emigrated to the United States in 1886, when he was but 12 years of age, and that he has been absent from Germany for a period of about eighteen years, in consequence of which he has lost his German allegiance under the German law of 1870; and I reminded Doctor von Mühlberg that Mr. Vibert has in the meantime been duly naturalized a citizen of the United States.
In regard to the fine which was imposed upon Vibert, Doctor von Mühlberg replied that it would not be affected by the fact of his having been absent from Germany for more than ten years, because it had been kept alive and been renewed from time to time under due process of law, and that it would accordingly apply to Vibert if he returned to Germany. The case resolves itself, therefore, into a question as to whether the German Government will recognize the citizenship of Mr. Vibert under the treaties of naturalization between Germany and the United States. The German Government does not consider these treaties as extending to the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, largely because of a great variety of difficulties as to the application of the local treaties between the various German States themselves, which arose from the formation of the German Empire, and as no means have as yet been discovered to compose these questions of internal administration the position of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine has been left until the present time undefined in this regard, whilst still forming a portion of the Empire. There is evidently no intent upon the part of the German Government to create any difficulties in connection with the application to Alsace and Lorraine [Page 321]of its naturalization treaties with the United States, although this application has been held in abeyance up to the present time for the reasons which I have just mentioned; but I judge from the conversation which I had with Doctor von Mühlberg that if the Government of the United States wishes to open negotiations the Imperial German Government would be inclined so to extend the provisions of the naturalization treaties with the United States that they should apply also to the provinces of the Reichsland.
In the meantime, however, I presented to Doctor von Mühlberg the case of Emil Vibert and called to his attention as forcibly as possible the fact that Vibert has legally acquired American citizenship and is entitled under it to the rights and privileges which such citizenship carries with it; and I asked him to have Vibert’s citizenship duly recognized, permission granted to him to return to Lorraine upon a visit to his father, and the fine of 600 marks removed.
Doctor von Mühlberg very courteously examined the details of the subject and promised me to give it his personal attention.
I have, etc.,