File No. 811.203/28
The French Ambassador ( Jusserand ) to the Secretary of State
[Received July 17.]
Mr. Secretary of State: In reminding me of the scope of the notes which I had the honor to exchange with Your Excellency under dates of January 3 and 14, last,2 respecting military penal jurisdiction and affecting persons coming under such jurisdiction regardless of the territory where the forces operate and of the nationality of the men concerned, my Government notes that it has thereby relinquished the right to seek and prosecute the French deserters and delinquents who might come to France as members of the American Army.
Without the slightest intention of eluding the engagements reciprocally made in that connection, the Government of the Republic deems it its duty unofficially to point out to the Federal Government certain awkward consequences that may result from the operation of those provisions and which it believes it very important to remedy.
The French military authorities have indeed had occasion to note the presence of French deserters or delinquents among non-combatant American troops either in the army zone or in the interior, and this may create regrettable incidents from the standpoint of public order. Those men might be recognized by former comrades in arms or by the Frenchmen whom they met in France or the United States and who are doing or have done their duty as combatants, at the risk of their lives. For instance, one Giselon, a French deserter, was recently identified at Chaumont while doing police duty in the American Army.
Without questioning the right of the Federal Government and Commander in Chief of the American Armies to use the services [Page 750] of Frenchmen belonging to the American Army as they see fit or as may best befit the man’s aptitude, my Government believes it has a right to prevent, as far as possible, friction or even public scandal that might be attended with very unpleasant consequences.
If the Federal Government were disposed, for its part, to make allowance for the apprehensions caused to the French authorities by that condition of affairs, it seems that it might send to the front as combatants or keep in the United States with the local forces the French deserters or delinquents who have enlisted in its Army. Both these solutions would have the happy result that the Frenchmen who answered the call to the colors on the very day of mobilization and stood true to the flag would have no opportunity to manifest sentiments liable to misinterpretation by the American authorities.
I am instructed to add that it would also be to the interest of the French delinquents and deserters wearing the American uniform to be called to the honor of fighting the enemy at the front.
The agreement contemplated by the two Governments with respect to military service provides that French delinquents who fight at the front will be given the equivalence of their services. On the other hand, the French deserters sheltered from search or prosecution while in an American uniform, by virtue of the notes of January 3 and 14, but wishing hereafter to clear their situation under the French law could, in all likelihood, rely on the clemency of their judges if they can show proof that they actually bore arms and so atoned for their desertion.
I venture to draw Your Excellency’s very special attention to this matter to the settlement of which the French High Command attaches great importance.
Be pleased to accept [etc.]