The Ambassador in France ( Wallace ) to the Secretary of State

No. 729

Sir: Referring to the Department’s instruction, No. 283 of November 22, 1919 and the Embassy’s telegram, No. 88 of January 10, 1920,28 relative to the liability to military service in the French Army of naturalized American citizens of French descent or persons born in the United States of French parents should they return to France for a temporary sojourn, I have the honor to enclose, in copy and translation, the answer which has been received, under date of January 5, 1920, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I have [etc.]

Hugh C. Wallace
[Page 939]

The French Minister for Foreign Affairs ( Pichon ) to the American Ambassador ( Wallace )

Mr. Ambassador: By a letter dated December 12th, last,30 Your Excellency was good enough to call my attention to the status of those persons who, belonging both to the French nationality and the American, have served in the forces of the United States during the hostilities.

Referring to the terms of the convention of September 5 [3], 1918, the American Government suggests that conditional to their showing proof of their compliance with the stipulations of the American military laws, persons of the category specified should not be called upon to perform military service in France in the event of their sojourning for more or less time in that country.

I have the honor to point out to Your Excellency that the sole object of the convention above mentioned was to prevent American citizens residing in France and French citizens residing in America from taking advantage of their presence on foreign soil to elude their military duties, by obliging them, should they not enlist in their own national armies, to take service in the military formations of the country in which they were residing. The convention has in nowise determined any ruling relative to the status of the said individuals with regard to their country of origin. Article 5 even specified very clearly that the citizens of either country serving in the ranks of the other shall not thereby lose their nationality; this stipulation implies that their status with regard to their mother country remains unchanged. If they are considered by the latter as delinquents who have not responded to the call to the colors, the fact of having served in the army of the other country does not efface their delinquency. Nevertheless, inasmuch as by serving with an Allied army these persons have served a common cause, the French Government has already agreed with Italy, for instance, that it considered as having met the military obligations imposed by France proportionately with the service given during the war or the time passed in captivity, those Frenchmen who have fought in the Allied army. Thus a person belonging both to the French and the Italian nationality who has given two years’ service in the war in the Italian Army, will have to give only one year’s service in the French Army where the active service is for three years.

[Page 940]

In June 1917, the French Government gave notice through its representative at Washington of similar measures to be applied in regard to Frenchmen serving in the American Army.

The French Government is unable to do more than to consider as though it were service in its own Army that accomplished in the Army of the United States. It cannot concede a premium of reduced military service in time of war to persons who, according to the laws it is bound to enforce, are of French nationality, because they have been incorporated in an Allied army during a shorter period of time than that imposed upon their compatriots, whereas, to begin with, they may have even in some cases eluded the obligations fulfilled by the latter.

Despite its earnest desire to be able to give satisfaction to the request presented by Your Excellency, the French Goverment does not deem it possible at this time, still so close to the termination of the war which has inflicted such terrible sacrifices upon the French population, to create a regime of favor on behalf of a special category of persons who, so long as they shall be considered as such, are legally French citizens.

With assurances [etc.]

For the Minister and by authorization:
Maurice Herbette

The Minister Plenipotentiary, Director
  1. Telegram no. 88 not printed.
  2. File translation revised.
  3. See instruction no. 283, Nov. 22, 1919, to the Ambassador in France, p. 937.