Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Alling)

Mr. Pierre Dupont, French Vice Consul at New York, who happened to be on leave in Washington, called today to discuss the effect of the above-mentioned Agreement.10 Mr. Dupont made it clear that he was not authorized to speak on behalf of his Government.

I told Mr. Dupont that this matter had been brought to our attention in several recent communications and that we had sought enlightenment from our Consulate General at Beirut since we appeared to have received no official information regarding the Franco-Turkish Agreement in question. I explained that from our point of view the right of our Government to protect naturalized American citizens of Syrian or Lebanese origin had been recognized by the so-called Gouraud-Knabenshue Agreement effected by exchanges of notes dated November 15 and December 2, 1921, by the French High Commissioner and the American Consul General at Beirut. I showed Mr. Dupont the text of this Agreement as it appears on pages 343–345 of the publication Les Actes Diplomatiques, issued by the French High Commission at Beirut. Mr. Dupont, after reading the text, agreed that we had apparently been accorded the right to extend our protection to naturalized Americans of Syrian or Lebanese extraction. He seemed at a loss to understand the somewhat contrary instructions which the French Consulate General in New York had received from the French Foreign Office and from the High Commissioner at Beirut.

I then read to Mr. Dupont the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the letter addressed to the Department on September 9, 1937, by Mr. George A. Ferris, an attorney in New York (a copy of the letter in question was transmitted to the American Consulate General at Beirut under date of September 27, 193711). After reading these paragraphs Mr. Dupont said that they correctly set forth the situation. I then asked him whether the application blank, a copy of which is attached to the foregoing letter, was an example of the forms which French consular officers in this country were sending to people of Syrian and Lebanese origin. Mr. Dupont said that the present form differed slightly from this example but that the differences were not material. I then asked him to explain the formalities involved in connection with these applications. He said that persons desiring to fill out the blanks filled out three copies and were given a receipt therefor. The forms in question were then transmitted to the High Commission at Beirut which investigated [Page 930] the statements made in the forms with respect to date and place of birth, etc. If the forms appeared to be in good order the High Commission then authorized the Consulate General to enroll the applicant as a Syrian or Lebanese national.

Mr. Dupont confirmed the statement made in Mr. Ferris’ letter that persons of Syrian and Lebanese origin who failed to opt for Syrian or Lebanese nationality would be considered as Turkish subjects and that, since the laws of Turkey did not permit aliens to inherit real property, those persons of Syrian or Lebanese origin who had failed to opt for one of those nationalities would be unable to inherit real property in Syria or the Lebanon.

Mr. Dupont then inquired what effect the signature of such an application and the granting of Syrian or Lebanese nationality would have upon persons of Syrian or Lebanese origin who had been naturalized as American citizens. I explained to Mr. Dupont that the Department had not yet taken any formal decision in this matter since we did not yet have full information, but that the nationality expert in the Legal Adviser’s Office had expressed the view that the acquisition of Syrian or Lebanese citizenship following the signature of such an application would result in the termination of the American citizenship of a naturalized American of Syrian or Lebanese extraction who returned to Syria.mr. Dupont stated that he was very much interested in having this informal opinion and that so far as the Consulate General in New York was concerned he would advise persons of Lebanese or Syrian origin to seek legal advice before executing the applications in question. In this connection Mr. Dupont said that the majority of the people who had approached the Consulate General in this matter were actually naturalized American citizens, since those who had acquired such citizenship were the more intelligent among the Syrian and Lebanese population in this country and, being more intelligent, were more likely to have property in Syria or the Lebanon.

Mr. Dupont volunteered the information that the Consulate General in New York had sought instructions from the High Commission at Beirut on certain aspects of this matter. The Consulate General, for example, had inquired whether it was authorized to issue visas good for Syria to naturalized Americans of Lebanese or Syrian origin. They had raised this question because it appeared from instructions they had received that such persons could not be regarded as American nationals unless they had obtained, either from the Ottoman authorities or, after 1919, from the French authorities, permission to acquire American nationality. The High Commission had replied that the Consulate General could until May 29, 1938, visa such American passports, but that such visas would not be considered as recognizing the American nationality of the person concerned.

  1. Franco-Turkish Agreement of May 29, 1937.
  2. Instruction of September 27, not printed.