The Secretary of State to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: On April 11th, you decided that (1) Declarants and non-declarants of neutral treaty countries should both [Page 189] be discharged from the Army; and (2) Non-declarants of non-treaty countries should be also discharged upon certain conditions. The question has arisen as to the meaning of “treaty countries.” As I pointed out to you in my former letter,16 there are three classes of neutral countries with which we have treaties, namely: (1) Countries with which we have treaty provisions explicitly exempting their nationals from military service. We have such treaties with Argentina, Costa Rica, Honduras, Paraguay, Spain, and Switzerland. The treaty provision generally runs as follows:

“The citizens or subjects of each of the High Contracting Parties shall be exempt in the territories of the other from all compulsory military service, by land or sea, and from all pecuniary contributions in lieu of such, as well as from all obligatory official functions whatsoever.” (Treaty with Spain, 1902.)17

Some of the other treaties end with the word “sea.”

(2) Countries with which we have naturalization treaties stipulating that declarants are not citizens. These countries are: Costa Rica, Haiti, Nicaragua, Peru, Salvador, Sweden, Norway, Honduras, and Uruguay. The treaty provision generally runs as follows:

“The declaration of an intention to become a citizen of one or the other country has not for either party the effect of citizenship legally acquired.” (Treaty with Sweden and Norway, 1869.)18

The Supreme Court of the United States has uniformly held that a declaration of intention by an alien does not make him a citizen of the United States.

(3) Countries with which we have naturalization treaties stipulating that persons “naturalized” shall be regarded as citizens, from which it may be inferred that declarants are not regarded as citizens. The only neutral country with which we have such a treaty is Denmark.

I would be pleased to be informed as to whether one or all of these classes of countries are included in your order of April 11th.

In this relation, may I venture to point out some advantages accruing to a broad interpretation of your order, so as to include all of these three classes of countries? If all are included, all the neutral countries of Europe except Holland would be treated alike, and the great body of neutral aliens in the United States would be cared for, the greater proportion of which are Scandinavians. So far as I am advised, there are probably more Scandinavians affected by the Draft Act than there are nationals of all the other European neutral countries combined. If the broad interpretation were taken, a large part [Page 190] of the difficulties with neutral countries would be cured, in case the amendment to the Draft Act, which has passed the House and is now pending in the Senate, should for some reason not be passed, or if passed should not be interpreted as being retroactive in effect. The Swedish and Norwegian Ministers are protesting vigorously that Swedish and Norwegian declarants are being sent to France with their units and to the battle front as rapidly as possible. In a personal call on April 27th the Norwegian Minister said that ten declarants had just been sent, and he was very much upset about the matter. . . . No doubt the chance of these neutral aliens being killed or wounded at the front would be minimized if they were detained in the United States or in France until the cases in which diplomats have requested discharge had been investigated. This, however, is not being done, as the War Department has just advised us that its policy hereafter will be to have such soldiers remain with the organizations to which they belong until final action has been taken in their cases. It would seem to me that the applicants should be detained where they are, either in the United States or in France, until their cases have been finally disposed of.

In view of the fact that there are pending several hundred applications for the discharge of declarants of countries in classes two and three, which the War Department refuses to consider, on the ground that these countries are non-treaty countries, and in view of the urgency of making some definite statement to the representatives of these countries here, who are greatly irritated over the situation, I should be pleased if you could indicate to me your decision as to which are “treaty countries” as soon as possible.

Faithfully yours,

Robert Lansing
  1. Letter of Mar. 18, 1918, p. 185.
  2. Malloy, Treaties, 1776—1909, vol. ii, p. 1701.
  3. Ibid., p. 1758.