504.418A2/276: Telegram

The Minister in the Netherlands (Diekema) to the Acting Secretary of State


67. [From Miller.] Your telegram No. 30, April 10, noon. The two articles to which Miss Stevens refers read as follows in text adopted at plenary session of Conference yesterday:11

  • “Article 10. Naturalization of the husband during marriage shall not involve a change in the nationality of the wife except with her consent.
  • Article 11. The wife who under the law of her country lost her nationality on marriage shall not recover it after the dissolution of the marriage except on her own application and in accordance with the law of that country. If she does recover it, she shall lose the nationality which she acquired by reason of the marriage.”

The convention was voted on as a whole at the plenary session, not by articles, and, as I informed you earlier today,12 the United States delegation voted against the convention as a whole; we were the only delegation that voted against it.

At one of the commission’s previous meetings when convention was voted on article by article, the delegation with my express approval and direction voted in favor of articles 10 and 11, quoted above, which then had different numbers. Before that vote was taken the delegation had offered amendments to the two articles which would have made them general in language; as, for example, saying in No. 10:11

“Naturalization of one spouse during marriage does not of itself involve a change of nationality for the other spouse.”

The amendments had been rejected by the commission, so it seemed to me not only proper but desirable that the United States should vote affirmatively on the two articles quoted above. That naturalization of a husband shall not automatically and without the consent of the wife bring about her naturalization is wholly in accord with [Page 222] United States law and policy. That a wife upon dissolution of her marriage shall not recover a former nationality which she had except upon her own application and in accordance with law is also wholly in accord with United States law and policy. In my view it was impossible for the United States to vote against such proposals. I was quite aware that Miss Stevens wanted me to vote against them and I refused to do so because I refused to put the United States in position to have it said that we supported views that consent of wife in either of two cases which I mentioned was necessary. To say that this Government should vote against such proposals merely because their language in terms does not apply to both sexes when we all know that in practical application and in fact only one sex is concerned would be to make a fetish of words. I fully believe that my action was right, and in accordance with your views. As you know, the Conference has acted on the nationality question. On the point, however, that we should have attempted to prevent the adoption here of any convention at all, it is quite obvious that any such attempt would have been fruitless. At an international conference the United States is not in the position of a dictator and the vote last night of 40 to 1 on this convention shows in itself what were the views of the other countries including all the other great powers except Russia.

The views of the United States on expatriation and married women, the subjects which I regard as the two major issues, were put before the Conference here definitely and very strongly—the first in my declaration on expatriation which had Department’s approval;14 and the second in the resolution offered by our delegation, also approved by Department, regarding the principle of equality of sex, the substance of which is first part of recommendation No. 4 in my telegram Conference No. 22, April 8, 6 p.m. and which passed last night by the Conference as recommendation No. 615 in language almost identical with that reported in my No. 22.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I do not hold the opinion that action of the Conference here regarding nationality has altogether crystallized the views of other countries in opposition to our policy. I believe, on the contrary, that discussions here have shown that world sentiment on the whole question of nationality is in state of flux and that the trend is our way despite fact that at this time various countries have other views which are based partly on social and economic conditions and partly on religion. Miller.

  1. Quoted passage not paraphrased.
  2. Telegram No. 65; not printed.
  3. Quoted passage not paraphrased.
  4. Telegram No. 25, April 7, 4 p.m., to the Minister in the Netherlands, p. 214.
  5. League of Nations, Acts of the Conference for the Codification of International Law, vol. i, p. 163.