Mr. Wright to Mr. Seward

No. 1.]

Sir: In answer to the request of Mr. Judd, the minister of foreign affairs, Baron Yon Bismarck replied the King would receive Mr. Judd and myself in audience at Baden Baden on the 3d instant at 11 o’clock a. m. The day previous I met the King with his brother, Prince Carl; they both greeted me with words of compliment; his Majesty remarking in English, “I am most happy to welcome you again to Prussia.” At the appointed hour Mr. Judd and myself were presented by the minister of foreign affairs, (Mr. Judd preceding me.) The interview was brief. The King spoke highly complimentary of Mr. Judd’s course at Berlin, and bade him an affectionate adieu. His Majesty said, among other things, he was rejoiced at the termination of our war, and the prospect of the restoration of law and order. I had remarked on this subject, that during the last four months we had discharged eight hundred thousand soldiers, and paid out more than two hundred millions of dollars; yet, amid all this, there was no perceptible change in society except the labor of the soldier being transferred to his ordinary avocations of life. I assured the King of the sentiments of friendship and esteem entertained for him and his subjects by the President, and the ardent desire of the President and people of the United States that the two nations might become more and more closely united in the bonds of friendship. To this his Majesty warmly responded, most fully reciprocating the sentiment, and closed by saying to me personally, [Page 62] “I trust your future residence at Berlin will be as happy and productive of good feeling as the past.” The day before this interview with the King I was introduced to the minister of foreign affairs. In the course of our conversation he alluded, with some feeling, to the subject of military duty of Prussian citizens, and to the position of the Prussian government. I hear every few days of cases of arrest throughout Prussia. Some of these purchase their way out of the country; others leave in a manner not very creditable to an American. The consul general at Frankfort (Mr. Murphy) writes me as follows: “I have before me four new cases in Cassel and Nassau. One of the parties is too old to serve in the military; he has no money to procure a substitute or pay a fine, and he lies in jail now. He emigrated to America when he was seven years old, and has lived there twenty-one years, and now for the first time visits his old home.” There is a great increase in the number of our German adopted citizens returning this year, many of whom have been soldiers of our army. In this connexion the views of our government on this subject, as expressed from time to time, are well known to Prussia, and hence I have no doubt the subject is now attracting the attention of the Prussian government. I have no evidence of any change in the police of the government. Yet I do believe good will result from a direct and firm issue on this subject. Prussia desires our friendship and good will; her ministers fully comprehend what is to be the condition of things resulting from the past, present, and future emigration to our country. I am not mistaken in saying some of them are anxious to settle this vexed question. A despatch from you at this hour may be of incalculable benefit.

I enclose copies of correspondence with P. F. Von Rhein, of San Francisco, California, on the subject of his return to Prussia. I deem it my duty to call the attention of the government to the probable demand for our agricultural productions on this side of the Atlantic. In some portions of the country the drought has entirely destroyed the grass crop, and farmers are shipping their stock away or making hurried sale. Already there have been some heavy importations of American rye into Hamburg at a good profit. I believe this is only the commencement of large importations from our side to supply the wants of many portions of the country on this side of the Atlantic. It should be known also that during the past year a considerable business was done in importing corn to Hamburg, (called here the white horse tooth-corn,) for seed. They cut the plant green and use it for fodder, so that every year the demand for the seed is renewed, and constantly increased.

Emigration to our country is on the increase; every berth on steam or sailing vessel from Hamburg (and I hear the same is true of Bremen) is taken up to the last of October, and the companies are sending out extra vessels.

We have some German papers which are willing to publish articles giving acorrect condition of things at home. I shall not fail to furnish such papers and pamphlets, or items sent from the department or may come to my notice, whichare adapted to the German mind.* * * * * *

I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

Mr. O. F. Von Rhein to Mr. Wright

Sir: It is not unlikely that circumstances will make it desirable for me to reside in Berlinfor some length of time, or it may be permanently. You would, therefore, confer a greatfavor if you will kindly reply to one or two questions which I shall take the liberty to askYour answer must in some measure decide whether I return to my native city or not. I am [Page 63] by birth a Prussian, my father having served as captain in the royal army. I left Berlin some twelve years ago, taking with me a passport which entitled me to remain abroad for one year only. I remained in New York, however, for over five years, when, having become of age and a citizen of the United States, I returned to Germany on a visit to my mother, who resided in Berlin. I remained but two weeks, being, during that time, in hourly fear of being arrested and forced to enter the army. With the exception of these two weeks, I have never been in Europe since my sixteenth year. The question, then, to which I crave your reply, is, can I, being an American citizen, permanently reside in Berlin without danger of being forced to do duty in the Prussian army? In order that your honor may understand my case fully, it may perhaps be well to add that on my return from my former visit to Germany, feeling somewhat annoyed at being obliged to make my stay in Berlin very much shorter than I would have done had it not been for fear of the army, I addressed a few lines to the New York Herald, to which, contrary to my expectations, the editor attached my full signature.

I do not now recollect the exact words I used; but they were about as follows: “To the Editor of the New York Herald. Sir: I am by birth a Prussian; by adoption a citizen of the United States. On a recent visit to Berlin, finding myself in danger of being forced into the Prussian army, I called on Governor Wright, the American minister in Prussia, for protection. That gentleman, after examining my passport, told me that while he had the wish and inclination, he lacked the power to protect me. Governor Wright, therefore, advised me to leave Berlin as soon as possible. Such being the case, Mr. Editor, would it not be better to withhold a passport from naturalized citizens than to consign them to the very grasp of a tyrant, with no better protection than a worthless piece of paper?”

The appearance in the New York Herald of a notice something like the above aroused some little discussion, through the public press, by parties who were strangers to me personally, but felt interested in the principle involved. It is, therefore, not impossible that the fact that I have written and published a notice similar to the above may have come to the knowledge of the Prussian government; and if so, can I be held responsible on the ground that I have formerly been a Prussian subject?

I am a married man, having a wife (a native of New Orleans) and two young children, and, if I decide to reside in Berlin any length of time, not being rich enough to live on the interest of my money, shall be obliged to do something towards the support of my family. I should either engage in some mercantile pursuit or establish myself as a teacher of languages; (I speak French, English, Spanish, and German.)

The subject is to me a very important one. I have for this reason been more lengthy than I at first intended, at the risk even of trespassing on your honor’s patience.

Be kind enough to address your reply to the undersigned at San Francisco, California.

Very respectfully, your honor’s most obedient servant,

O. F. Von RHEIN.

The Hon. United States Minister to Prussia.

Mr. Wright to Mr. Von Rhein

Sir: Yours of the 18th of July, dated San Francisco, is just at hand. I am not yet the accredited minister to Prussia, but shall be in a short time. I hasten, however, to say, in reply to your note, that no change has been effected on the subject of expatriation and the rights of citizenship between our government and Prussia since you called upon me in 1858. The subject is now being agitated on account of the great number of German soldiers from our army and others returning to the land of their fathers. I will advise you if any change occurs. Under all the circumstances you name, I cannot at present deem it advisable for you to change your residence.

In haste, yours truly,


O. F. Von Rhein, 105 Montgomery street, San Francisco.