File No. 4908.

The Acting Secretary of State to Ambassador Tower.

No. 615.]

Sir: Since January 1 of the present year naturalizations have been conferred in accordance with the provisions of the naturalization law, approved June 29, 1906, and the inauguration of the more rigid system which that law requires makes the present an appropriate time in the opinion of this Government to open negotiations with certain foreign Governments looking to conventional agreements defining the rights of American citizens when they return to the country of their origin. Under the new law it is required that the Federal Government shall receive notice of all naturalizations, pending and accomplished, and adequate means are provided for setting aside naturalizations improperly granted in the past as well as in the future, while general control of all naturalization matters is lodged with the Federal Government. Copies of the act of June 29, 1906, are herewith inclosed for your use.

So far as Germany is concerned, the negotiations which you are instructed to open relate only to the point of an extension of the treaty provisions which now cover all of the Empire, except, as the German Government insists, the imperial territory (Reichsland) of Alsace-Lorraine, which was acquired after the treaties were made. This Government adverts with satisfaction to the intimations conveyed to you last summer by the German foreign office that overtures for such negotiations would not be untimely, and in opening them you may lay before the foreign office the considerations set forth in this instruction adding such supporting arguments as may seem to you judicious.

In the history of our relations with the German Empire and the German States which were formed into the Empire the circumstance which has had the greatest influence in drawing the people of the United States and of Germany into friendly accord is the negotiation in 1868 of what are known as “the Bancroft treaties.” Before they were made, exasperating disputes over the rights of American citizens of German origin traveling in the German States were of frequent occurrence; but since the treaties have been in operation American citizens of German birth have felt assured of their rights, and the occasional cases of disagreement which have arisen have yielded readily to friendly diplomatic treatment. Undoubtedly the fact of the existence of the treaties has been an important contributory cause to the increasing commerce and trade between the two peoples which has redounded to the material benefit of both.

Only in the case of American citizens formerly Alsacians or Lor-rainers who visit their native land are the satisfactory conditions which prevail throughout the rest of the Empire wanting. These people are, according to the German Government’s contention, not [Page 512] protected by treaty, and they are liable to be subjected to the German military law, if they venture, for any reason, however praiseworthy or necessary, to return for a visit, however brief its intended duration. This state of affairs not only works hardship upon a deserving class of American citizens, but has an unfortunate influence upon the relations of the United States and Germany; for every American citizen of Alsace-Lorraine origin who suffers molestation for nonperformance of military service relates his grievances to his friends in the United States and spreads information concerning his grievances. Often, also, they receive publicity in an exaggerated form through the newspapers, and produce an undesirable effect on public opinion in the United States.

This Government has no desire to reopen what would probably prove to be a fruitless discussion of the question of the applicability of the existing treaty stipulations to the territory of Alsace-Lorraine. It is beyond dispute that Mr. Bancroft, who negotiated the treaties, considered that they covered the Reichsland, and he so informed the department soon after it became a part of the German Empire; and it is also beyond dispute that for ten years after the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine it was not denied by Germany that the naturalization treaty with North Germany was operative in the newly acquired province.

You will, therefore, address yourself to the practical question which now confronts us and endeavor to secure from the German Government an arrangement, conventional or otherwise, which will put American citizens born in Alsace-Lorraine upon the same footing as other American citizens of German origin returning to that country for legitimate purposes.

I am, etc.,

Robert Bacon.