File No. 21481/12.

The Acting Secretary of State to Minister Brown.

No. 64.]

Sir: The department is in receipt of your dispatch, No. 109, of the 24th ultimo, inclosing copies of correspondence between you and the acting consul at Ceiba, and between you and the Honduranean minister for foreign affairs, concerning the Honduranean law respecting the registration of foreigners in connection with the arrest and detention of Mr. John Hulse, an American citizen, at Ceiba.

The department approves your note to the minister for foreign affairs, in which you informed him that the failure of an American citizen to be registered as an American citizen with the local authorities in no way can work a forfeiture of his claim to protection as such and, consequently, to the good offices of the American consul, whenever it may be deemed necessary.

The question of matriculation of foreigners as a condition precedent to the recognition of their nationality has not infrequently been the subject of diplomatic correspondence between this Government and that of certain Central and South American Republics. This Government has upon this question always adhered to the principle that no foreign power could by municipal law disturb or affect the relationship which exists between an American citizen and his Government. The consistent attitude of this department upon the question has been well stated in two instructions from Secretary Frelinghuysen to Mr. Morgan, minister to Mexico. In the first, dated July 24, 1882, Mr. Frelinghuysen expressed himself as follows:

We hold, under the general principles of international law, that the right of an American citizen to claim the protection of his own Government while in a foreign land and the duty of this Government to exercise such protection are reciprocal and are inherent in the allegiance of the citizen under the Constitution of his own land, and that, inasmuch as this reciprocal right on the part of the citizen and duty on the part of his Government is not created by the laws of any foreign country, it can not, on the other hand, be denied by the municipal [Page 364] law of a foreign State. Holding thus, it is impossible for this Government to accept the proposition that its right to intervene for the protection of one of its citizens in Mexico can only begin with and be created by the matriculation of such a citizen as a foreign sojourner in Mexico and can only exist and be exercised with respect to the redress of wrongs which such a citizen may suffer there after his name shall have been inscribed on the books of the foreign office in the City of Mexico. * * *

I repeat, the status of a foreigner is, under international law, inherent, and neither created nor destroyed by Mexican law. The evidence of the foreign status of an individual consists in the facts as they exist or by the authentic certification of his own Government, as in the form of a passport; it does not originate in compliance with a Mexican municipal statute. (Foreign Relations, 1882, pp. 395396.)

In a later dispatch, dated February 17, 1885, Mr. Frelinghuysen again set forth the doctrine in the following language:

The Mexican Government contends that the national character of the foreigner is proved by this matriculation, which entitles him to special privileges and obligations called the rights of foreigners. These are (1) the right to invoke the treaties and conventions existing between his country and Mexico; (2) the right to seek the protection of his own Government.

They further contend that the want of a certificate of matriculation will be considered sufficient to deny to this Government the right of diplomatic intervention in any case.

Against this contention this Government protests as an interference in its relations to its citizens. The Government of the United States recognizes the right of Mexico to prescribe the reasonable conditions upon which foreigners may reside within her territory and the duty of American citizens there to obey the municipal laws; but those laws can not disturb or affect the relationship existing at all times between this Government and one of its citizens. The duty is always incumbent upon a Government to exercise a just and proper guardianship over its citizens, whether at home or abroad. A municipal act of another State can not abridge this duty, nor is such an act countenanced by the law or usage of nations. No country is exempted from the necessity of examining into the correctness of its own acts. A sovereign who departs from the principles of public law can not find excuse therefor in his own municipal code. This Government, being firmly convinced that the position of the Mexican Government is untenable, can not assent to it. ( Foreign Relations, 1885; 6 Moore, 312.)

If it appears that it is the intention of the Honduranean authorities to insist upon the enforcement of laws falling within the principle thus so fully stated by Secretary Frelinghuysen you will bring to the attention of the Honduranean foreign office the views of this Government as they are set forth above.

I am, etc.,

Alvey A. Adee.