Ambassador Tower to the Secretary of State.
Berlin , January 24, 1908 .
Sir: In accordance with the instructions contained in Mr. Bacon’s dispatch (No. 731) of the 23d of October, 1907,1 in regard to marriages [Page 361] between American citizens in Germany or on German territory, I addressed a note to the imperial German ministry for foreign affairs, in which I made mention of the serious difficulty which invariably presents itself in cases where American citizens, temporarily residing in Germany, wish to be married, in connection with the certificate required by the German law to be exhibited by all aliens, which must set forth that no impediment exists to such marriage under the laws of the country to which such aliens belong, and this certificate must be attested by a diplomatic or consular officer of the German Empire.
I informed the ministry for foreign affairs that, in so far as it is known at the Department of State in Washington, there is at the present time no law, either of the Federal Government or of the government of any of the federated States, which authorizes any magistrate or other officer to issue such a certificate as that required by the German law; and that, therefore, great embarrassment is caused to the parties concerned whenever such American citizens temporarily residing in Germany wish to enter into the contract of marriage.
I informed the ministry for foreign affairs also that I had been instructed by you to bring informally to the attention of the Imperial German Government the difficulties arising in the way of American citizens who may be residing temporarily in Germany in meeting the requirements of the present German law in regard to the certificate named. I asked the secretary of state for foreign affairs to allow me to bring this subject to his attention to the end that an expression of the views of the Imperial Government might be obtained, and that, if practicable, an arrangement might be made which would afford a satisfactory solution of the difficulties now existing.
I have received in reply to my note a note from Herr von Schoen, imperial secretary of state for foreign affairs, under date of the 18th of January, 1908, a copy and translation into English of which are herewith inclosed. The secretary of state, after acknowledging the receipt of my note, in which I brought this subject to his attention, declares that the certificate required by the German authorities in cases where foreigners wish to be married in Germany, to show that no impediment exists in their own country to the legal marriage of such foreigners, has been provided for by statute in Germany in order to protect, in so far as it may be possible, the validity of the marriage contract; and that the German Legislature did not consider that the mere certificate of a diplomatic or consular officer would be sufficient proof that no impediment exists in their own country to the marriage of foreigners who desire to enter into the marriage contract in Germany, but it decided that such a certificate could be given only upon the authority of officials duly empowered by law to issue such certificates in the country of the origin of such foreigners.
The German Government is cognizant of the difficulties which attend the marriage in Germany of American citizens who may be temporarily residing within the Empire; but the secretary of state for foreign affairs suggests as a remedy for this that such difficulties could be avoided by the appointment in the United States, as has been done in most other countries, of officials duly authorized to issue such certificates.[Page 362]
This would appear to mean that the final decision of the German Government is that whilst foreigners are not obliged to come to Germany to be married, yet if they do come here and do wish to be married here they must be prepared to comply with the provisions of the German law,
I have, etc.,