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

No. 243

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch No. 166 of December 2, 1936, furnishing information regarding questions arising out of dual nationality, with particular regard to difficulties encountered by American citizens at the hands of the French military authorities when they visit France.

A representative of the Embassy called a few days ago on Monsieur de Reffye, chief of the Division of Chancelleries and Legal Matters at the Foreign Office, in an endeavor to procure further clarification of certain phases of this matter. The substance of his conversation with Monsieur de Reffye follows below. (The parenthetical notes appearing [Page 138] hereinafter refer in each case to the aforementioned despatch No. 166.)


The Embassy’s representative referred to the Foreign Office note of October 13 (enclosure 21),91 and reviewed briefly the circumstances whereby the American authorities had agreed to issue visas to military reservists who desire to return to the United States at the expense of the French Government, after having performed their military service in France. He reminded Monsieur de Reffye that the Embassy’s representative who had previously discussed the matter with the Foreign Office had understood that the French authorities were, as a counter concession, to consent to issue sauf-conduits to all naturalized American citizens of French origin, with the exception of those already condemned by default by a military tribunal. The French concession had failed to materialize as the Embassy had expected. (See enclosure 18.)

Monsieur de Reffye replied that the Secretary of the Embassy with whom he had first discussed the matter had apparently been a little too optimistic and had misunderstood the extent of what the Foreign Office had promised to do, or to try to do, concerning sauf-conduits. He added that the Ministry of War does not approve the issuance of sauf-conduits to defaulters who acquire foreign naturalization at their own request; that he had obtained for the Embassy all that the Ministry of War is ready to concede; and referred to the Decree-Law of October 30, 1935 (enclosure 17) as constituting in large measure the concession sought by the Embassy as compensation for the one regarding French reservists returning to the United States.

Although Monsieur de Reffye showed a sympathetic attitude, he offered no hope of further mitigation by the military authorities of their strict position regarding military delinquents. (Attention is invited in this connection to enclosure 13 to despatch 166.)

Decree-Law of October 30, 1935

Monsieur de Reffye’s attention was drawn to the Embassy’s non-receipt of an answer to its inquiry as to what American citizens should do to procure the authorization to sojourn in France provided by the Decree-Law of October 30, 1935. (Section I (b) of enclosure 19.)

He said he would again request the Ministry of War to furnish this information.

Article 9 (1) of the Nationality Law of August 10, 1927

Referring to the partial interpretation of this provision of law which the Foreign Office had given in its note of October 13 (enclosure [Page 139] 21), Monsieur de Reffye was asked: “Under what circumstances does a French citizen, as a result of his naturalization in the United States, ipso facto divest himself of French nationality without the authorization of the French Government?” He replied definitely that any French citizen naturalized after the running of the ten year period mentioned in Article 9 (1) of the aforementioned law, if in good standing with the military authorities, automatically loses French citizenship under French law, as a result of such naturalization.

Monsieur de Reffye promised to confirm this in writing.

Asked as to the proportion of applicants who are able to obtain authorization to become naturalized abroad before the expiration of the ten year period, he replied that it is very small. (See last paragraph on page 5 of despatch 166, December 2, 1936.92)

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Addison E. Southard

Counselor of Embassy
  1. Enclosures mentioned not printed.
  2. Ante, p. 136, paragraph beginning “In reply to these questions …”