711.674/30: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the High Commissioner at Constantinople ( Bristol )


178. Your telegram 219 of August 24. While realizing the force of your suggestion that we should make every effort to avoid anything which would endanger or delay the ratification of the treaty, the Department desires to invite your attention to the following considerations:

In 1874 a naturalization treaty between the United States and Turkey was actually signed, and it was ratified by both countries. It was, however, never proclaimed. See Moore, J. B.: A Digest of International Law, III, 707.
A clause on naturalization came near being included in our Lausanne treaty, and we gave the Turks to understand that before long negotiations would be resumed. See our telegram 236 of July 13 to the Special Mission at Lausanne.47
Already the Department is feeling pressure on the question of naturalization, and this undoubtedly will come to the front when the treaties go to the Senate. The Department would be better able to answer those who may attack the treaty on this point if it were possible before then to reach a modus vivendi or even to state that negotiations were continuing.
The Department believes it to be debatable that after relations are resumed the Turks will be more favorably disposed. They may not consider it any longer worth while once recognition is given to make further efforts to meet our views.
The Department feels that on account of your experience and personal relationships you might be able in friendly conversations at Angora to remove misunderstandings or even to reach a workable solution.

In starting conversations you should not only refer to our own Lausanne negotiations but also to the discussions last winter which took place in the subcommission on nationalities. At that time Montagna pointed out that the Turkish laws on naturalization were inherited from the old empire, that apparently they were drawn up to meet the situation under a regime of capitulations and a system by which large bodies of protégés were created by certain foreign missions. Montagna called attention to the fact that an entirely new situation had arisen with the disappearance of the empire and of capitulations and suggested that a nation which was anxious to put its legislation in line with that of other modern nations might well take note of this changed condition. Montagna suggested in this connection that the Turks might meet certain difficulties by giving their retroactive and general consent to the bona fide naturalization in foreign countries of subjects of Turkey. Accordingly the Turks informally intimated that if the capitulations questions were settled in accordance with their wishes, they might consider changing their law of nationality.

You might then discreetly intimate that as the old regime has passed away and capitulations have been abolished by mutual consent, the American Government does not see any essential reason why there should be more difficulty in settling naturalization questions with Turkey than with other European countries. The United States has naturalization treaties with most of the Latin American nations and with Great Britain, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and [Page 1195] Portugal. We had treaties with the German States and Austria-Hungary prior to the World War. We are negotiating at present with Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. As yet we have no such conventions with France, Greece, or Italy. We have, however, an arrangement with France concerning Syria, by which the special status of persons born in Syria but entitled to the protection of the United States under American law is recognized by the local authorities. However, in such countries as France, Italy, and Greece, from which a considerable proportion of our naturalized citizens come, the liability to military service is the only difficulty which arises. The American Government has always taken a reasonable attitude on this issue and it would be disposed to do so in any treaty with Turkey regarding naturalization. The American Government does not insist that naturalized citizens be immune from punishment if, prior to acquiring a residence in the United States or becoming naturalized, they had violated the military laws of their country of origin.

Furthermore, the various provisions of the naturalization laws should be explained, especially those regarding naturalized citizens who again take up residence in the country from which they came. You should emphasize that we discourage in every possible way the acquisition of citizenship merely as a temporary convenience. Finally, you should stress the point that this Government does not give retroactive effect to naturalization. One cannot, therefore, acquire American citizenship and on the basis of such citizenship claim redress through this Government for losses sustained before he was naturalized.

In suggesting these considerations the Department of course has no wish to question the sovereign right to keep out dangerous aliens or to place you in the position of intervening in the domestic legislation of Turkey. The American Government does not feel that all naturalized American citizens of Ottoman origin can be properly assumed to be dangerous and that they should therefore be excluded from Turkey. In this connection see our telegram 194 of June 23 to Lausanne48 and other telegrams.

For the reasons given above, especially those set forth in point 5, the Department is convinced that the matter might be presented by you informally and personally to the Turkish authorities in such a way as to take advantage of their wish to have Turkey considered as a modern and progressive nation. Thus the way might be prepared for disposing of this question which is unnecessarily troublesome.

  1. Not printed.
  2. ,Ante, p. 1094.