File No. 763.72115/3293

The Attorney General ( Gregory) to the Secretary of State

Dear Mr. Secretary: For your information I herewith enclose copy of a letter written to me by the French Ambassador on March 18 and of my reply thereto bearing date March 22.

I also enclose one of the alien registration cards we are using. You will note the changes which the Ambassador suggested, appearing [Page 207] on pages 2, 3 and 4.1 You will also observe that I have agreed to the change suggested on page 2 of the card, though it will put my representatives to a great deal of trouble and will cause the expenditure of considerable Government funds.

Faithfully yours,

T. W. Gregory
[Enclosure 1]

The French Ambassador ( Jusserand) to the Attorney General ( Gregory)

Dear Mr. Attorney General: I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 15th concerning the cards delivered to those friends of the common cause the French Alsatian-Lorrainers and in which they are described as enemy aliens.

I have considered with the greatest care the statements and explanations which you were so good as to supply me with. But, as it seems to me, the situation really and truly continues to offer the glaring anomaly and illogism which I had taken the liberty of pointing out to you.

The card must, of all necessity, be the counterpart of the registration, and must show the same statements. In the case of Alsatian-Lorrainers duly provided with a certificate of identity, countersigned by the proper French consul, you kindly recognized the appropriateness of having the registration forms altered, so that they appear there as “French Alsatian-Lorrainers,” which is what they are, and not as “enemy aliens,” which is what they are not.

It seems impossible to understand how what was legitimate in one case would be inappropriate or illegal in the other, and how those men in favor of whose cause the President spoke so clearly and nobly in his address of January 8 last,2 would have to go about, ever bearing a card which brands them as “enemy aliens.”

[Page 208]

As is well known, those so-called “enemy aliens” of Alsatian blood showed at the time when war became imminent in 1914, whose enemy they were, by crossing the frontier in large numbers and enlisting in the French Army. Thousands of them were thus received in each of our frontier cities.

The Germans, on their part, seem to entertain no doubt as to this. On several occasions, they reminded their troops that when they had crossed the Rhine, and found themselves in Alsace, they ought to consider themselves in “enemy territory.” It seems difficult to believe that this friendly American country, now nobly fighting for the same cause as ourselves, which, teste the President, includes the Alsatians, would persist in calling them, by a sweeping statement, enemy aliens, causing them in many cases, both the greatest possible humiliation and the loss of their employment.

Is it, on the other hand, a wise policy to oblige those men to consort with the Germans? to tell them that they are Germans, that they cannot be trusted? Is this a way to confirm them in their feelings, or to breed disgust and discontent? The question, I believe, answers itself.

I beg to commend these facts to your earnest consideration, hoping that, with the same fair-mindedness which caused you to have the registration forms altered, [you] will cause the cards to be similarly modified.

Believe me [etc.]

[Enclosure 2]

The Attorney General ( Gregory) to the French Ambassador ( Jusserand)

Dear Mr. Ambassador: I have read with interest your letter of March 18, which you delivered personally.

In the first part of page 2 of this letter you again insist that French Alsatian-Lorrainers born after 1871 are not alien enemies, and, after all, my dear Mr. Ambassador, this seems to be your real contention, as it is the contention of the attorneys who have written the Department on the same subject. I can only again repeat my statement that under the act of Congress persons born in Alsace-Lorraine since 1871 are alien enemies, and that I have no power to change an act of Congress, but it is my sworn duty to enforce those acts. I have never at any time conceded that these men were not enemy aliens, but I have most emphatically stated that by virtue of the act of Congress referred to they were such in the eyes of the law.

[Page 209]

Because of your earnest insistence that they should not be required to describe themselves as enemy aliens, I agreed that in registering they might describe themselves as Alsatian-Lorrainers, and further agreed that a separate list of these persons might be made under the head of Alsatian-Lorrainers. I cannot acquiesce in your suggestion that we are compelling these men to consort with Germans. We are not insisting that they cannot be trusted, but, on the contrary, we have given you assurances that the utmost liberality practicable will be shown them, but I cannot take any action which can be construed as an admission that they are not within the regulations governing alien enemies or that they will not be dealt with for violating those regulations in case the necessity for doing so arises.

The certificate proper, appearing on page 3 of the alien enemy registration card which I sent you, is, to my mind, not subject to objection, as the holder of the card is merely described therein as a “registrant” and as “a registered person.”

The note appearing on page 4 is a simple statement that the holder of this card is subject to the regulations concerning the conduct of alien enemies. To leave this off would make the card incomplete, and the taking of it off in the cases of these persons would be a practical admission that this Department did not consider them so subject.

As to the change you suggest in this note, the only regulations are those concerning the conduct of alien enemies. If the note were changed in the manner you indicated it would state that the holder of the card was subject to the regulations concerning the conduct of “said registrant.” You also insist that the certificate should be changed so as to describe the holder as a French Alsatian-Lorrainer. As there are no regulations prescribing the conduct of French Alsatian-Lorrainers, as such, or prescribing the conduct of any specified registrant, the change you suggest in the note, or the changes you suggest in the note and the certificate, would render the card meaningless and confusing.

Having an earnest desire to comply with your wishes as far as practicable, I have given this matter consideration for the third time, have discussed it with a gentleman very high in authority, and am reluctantly compelled to say that I cannot change the form of the certificate or the form of the note appearing on page 4, and that this decision is final.

As to the change you suggest on page 2, under the heading “Penalty,” out of deference to your wishes, and because I think this can be done without affecting the legal status of these persons, I am willing to instruct the United States marshals in all districts in which these Alsatian-Lorrainers have registered to erase the words “alien enemy “and substitute therefor the word “anyone” on every card presented by an Alsatian-Lorrainer appearing on the separate lists [Page 210] of those people now being made up by the Government. It will be quite a while before all these lists are complete, as the work is one of very great magnitude, and it will therefore probably be some 60 days or more before such an arrangement can be carried out.

I am returning to you one of the cards changed as you suggested.

Sincerely yours,

T. W. Gregory
  1. Card not printed. In the sentence on p. 2 reading: “An alien enemy required to register shall not, after the date fixed for his registration and the issuance to him of a registration card, be found within the limits of the United States, its territories or possessions without having his registration card on his person under liability, among other penalties, to arrest and detention for the period of the war,” the words “Any one” to be substituted for “An alien enemy.”

    Following the certificate on p. 3 stating that the registrant is “a person required by law to register under the proclamation of the President of the United States, dated November 16, 1917,” the words “being a French Alsatian-Lorrainer” to be added.

    In the note on p. 4 reading: “The issuance of this registration card does not relieve the registrant from full compliance with any and all laws and regulations now existing or hereafter made concerning the conduct of alien enemies,” the words “said registrant” to be substituted for “alien enemies.”

  2. Supplement 1, vol. I, p. 12.