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

No. 2300

Sir: With reference to the Department’s despatch No. 589 of August 30th, 1920 (File No. 351.117/193), and to previous correspondence relative to the military liability of certain naturalized American citizens of foreign origin, I now have the honor to transmit to the Department copy and translation of a Note from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs37 in reply to a Note from the Embassy of October 14th, 1920, in this connection.

The Note from the Minister includes the text of a circular which was addressed by the Minister of War to the various military authorities.38 This circular concedes to the desire of the Department that the equivalence of service is not made subordinate to the condition that the service has been performed on the French front. It is sufficient that the defaulters have seen service in the American Army, whether or not they served in France. The cases in which exemption from military service has been granted are only recognized when they are in accord with American legislation similar to the cases admitted by the French law covering ill-health or physical disability.

I have [etc.]

Hugh C. Wallace
[Page 948]

Circular by the French Minister of War to the Various French Military Authorities

No. 18338–2/10

The Government of the United States has called my attention to the following question:

May not a man who has preserved his French citizenship in the eyes of the French law, but who has become an American citizen through naturalization or birth in the Federal territory, return to France and sojourn there temporarily on business or for any other personal reason without risk of being disturbed, provided he holds a certificate to the effect that he has complied with the military laws of the United States?

I have the honor to communicate to you hereinbelow the modus vivendi which I deemed it my duty to adopt on this question with the consent of the Guardian of the Seals and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

It can only be a question of deserters or defaulters coming under one of the following categories:

A. Deserters

Deserters before the beginning of hostilities.
Deserters after the beginning of the war, the great majority of whom consist of men who failed to rejoin their regiment upon the expiration of a permit granted to go to the United States.

B. Defaulters

Men declared defaulters prior to August 2, 1914, for failure to respond to an order to report and to a transportation order calling them together either in order to perform their active-service obligations or in order to pass a drill period in the reserve or territorial army.
Men declared defaulters since the beginning of hostilities because they belonged to a class of the reserve or territorial army and failed to rejoin their regiment at the time of the general mobilization within the periods prescribed by law.
Men belonging, owing to their age, or assigned to the classes called to the colors subsequent to August 2, 1914, and declared defaulters for failure to respond to a duly served order to report and to a transportation order.

As regards deserters, I consider that their double nationality cannot entitle them to any special favor.

As a matter of fact, whatever may be the date on which these men acquired American citizenship, they could not, upon leaving their [Page 949] regiment, have been unaware of the fact that they were still French citizens and remained, in spite of everything, subject to the military obligations of this country.

None of them can seriously say that he was acting in good faith, and nothing but a judicial decision can rectify their status.

As to defaulters, I think it would be proper, in determining the rules to which they should be subject, to take into account both the date on which they acquired American citizenship and that on which they were declared defaulters.

1. Those who were born in the United States of French parentage should be considered as being released from their military obligations in France if they have complied with the military law of the United States, and their sojourn in France should consequently not be subject to any restrictions.

2. As far as those are concerned who were born in France but acquired American citizenship before being declared defaulters, it may be laid down as a principle that they may to a certain extent have been acting in good faith when they concerned themselves solely with their American military obligations, and the decision may be reached that if they satisfied the military laws of the United States they may return to and sojourn temporarily in France without risk of being disturbed as defaulters. It should be admitted that it will be sufficient for them, in order to reside thus in France, to request a special authorization from the French Embassy in the United States, which shall at the same time fix the length of their stay.

It should likewise be understood that those of them who have been excused from the American military service on account of ill health shall not be permanently stricken from the lists of defaulters unless they have also been considered by the physician designated by the French Embassy as being unfit for military service in France.

3. Those who, on the contrary, did not acquire American citizenship until after they had been declared defaulters in France must be treated more severely.

Ante helium defaulters have by their own act deprived themselves of any right to special treatment, since they did not deem it proper to return to France at the time of the general mobilization, when they might have had applied to them the amnesty law of August 5, 1914. They must not be permitted to return to France, even temporarily, without running the risk of being arrested to answer for their crime, and their status can be rectified only by means of a judicial decision after they have been arrested.

As to defaulters who have not been declared such until after the beginning of hostilities, they shall enjoy the benefit of the provisions of circular No. 46. 454–2/10 of May 30, 1919.

[Page 950]

Those of them who prove that they entered the service of the American Armies prior to their being declared defaulters shall be permanently stricken off the lists of defaulters, but they must, in the proper case, be called upon again to fulfill the remainder of their regulation period of service in France, after the time has been deducted which they actually passed in the American Army and for which they have benefited by the equivalence of services provided by circular No. 11.897–2/1 of June 3, 1915.

The others must have their status rectified by the court martial, which shall take into account the length of their services in the American Army, their behavior under fire, and any circumstances which may have induced them not to fulfill their duties toward France.

The advantage thus granted with respect to equivalence of services shall not be made contingent upon their having served on the French front, it being sufficient that the interested parties shall have enlisted in the service of the American Army.

These rules, of course, will cease to be in effect as soon as governmental action against the interested parties has become barred by limitation and as soon as a declaration of amnesty shall wipe away the crimes which may be imputed against them.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Circular printed as enclosure hereto.
  3. File translation revised to accord with corrected copy of French text of this circular, transmitted to the Department with despatch no. 311, Sept. 8, from the Ambassador in France (file no. 351.117/214).