File No. 351.117/48.

Mr. P. A. Lelong to the President .

Dear Mr. President: On March 27, 1915, I sent to Hon. William J. Bryan, Secretary of State of the United States, a letter of which I annex a copy. To that letter I am in receipt of an answer, dated April 2, 1915 (of which I annex a copy) signed for the Secretary of State by Robert Lansing, Counselor. From the conclusion thus reached on the facts of my case by the Secretary of State and his subordinate, “I appeal to Caesar.” I make this appeal in my own behalf and in behalf of the large number of American citizens similarly situated.

Conceding the proposition that I was born with a dual nationality (if such a thing can exist) this duality of nationality ceased when I became of age and elected to exercise my birthright granted to me by the Constitution of the United States as one born in its territory and under its dominion, took an oath to support that Constitution and held office under its authority, and under the authority of two States of the American Union. This proposition must be true unless the Government of the United States shall permit its organic law to be overridden by the laws of a foreign country. It is manifest that between that Constitution and the personal statutes of France which would make me a French citizen against my will and deprive me of my birthright as one born in the United States, there is an irreconcilable conflict. I cannot believe that you will permit the State Department to commit this nation to the policy outlined in the letter to me from that Department, and thus bow its august neck to the yoke of a foreign statute.

Under this policy, one who had been President of the United States or Chief Justice of its Supreme Court, or a Senator and Representative in the Congress, or Commander-in-chief of its armies or High Admiral of its navies, could be seized in France and put into its armies, or punished for evasion of military duty. I am only a humble citizen, but my rights are as great and sacred as those of any other citizen.

I therefore respectfully ask you and your Cabinet to take up the serious matter herein propounded, to reverse the ruling of the Department of State, and to lay down the proposition that one born in this country of French parents, who elects when he becomes of age to be a citizen of the United States, is such citizen and is entitled to the full protection of the United States both in and out of France, free and exempt from any provision of the French law as to his citizenship.

Your obedient servant,

P. A. Lelong, Jr.
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[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Lelong to the Secretary of State .

Your Excellency: My father, P. A. Lelong, was a native of France and came to New Orleans when he was about 20 years of age; lived here about 40 years. He died here about two years ago, but about five years before his death, took out naturalization papers.

I was born in New, Orleans June 18, 1880. I have never been out of the United States and have regularly voted as an American citizen since I reached the age of 21 years, and if war had ever occurred between France and the United States, I most certainly would have fought for the United States. I have held the office of Township Commissioner in Henderson County, North Carolina; have held several court appointments, both Federal and State, and am a member of the State and Federal bar, and have considered myself as much an American citizen as President Wilson or any of the members of the Cabinet.

I wish to visit France on business in the near future, and am informed by Mr. Ferrand, the French Consul here, that if I go to France I could be either impressed into the French service or punished for not having reported for military duty, and also for having served in the State Militia of Louisiana without permission from the French Government.

I contend that if the French Government had any right to claim me as a citizen under their laws, in time of peace they should have called on me to serve my three years in their military service.

Wishing to know whether my constitutional privileges as an American citizen follow me wherever I go, with its constitutional guaranties, or whether the United States Government will allow the French Government to act in the manner as stated by Mr. Ferrand, the French Consul, I respectfully request an answer at as early a date as possible.

Respectfully yours,

P. A. Lelong, Jr.
[Inclosure 2.]

The Secretary of State to Mr. Lelong .

Sir: The Department has received your letter of March 27, 1915, stating that you expect to go to France on business in the near future and inquiring whether you would be molested by the French military authorities. You say that you were born in New Orleans June 18, 1880, and that your father, a native of France, resided in this country about forty years and obtained naturalization as a citizen of the United States shortly before his death, which occurred about two years ago.

Under the provision of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, all persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States. Section 1 article 7 [8] of the French Civil Code states that the following are Frenchmen: “Every person born of a Frenchman in France or abroad.” It thus appears that you were born with a dual nationality, and the Department cannot therefore give you any assurance that you would not be held liable for the performance of military service in France should you voluntarily place yourself within French jurisdiction.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Robert Lansing,