Mr. Seward to Mr. Wright

No. 15.]

Sir: Recurring to your despatch No. 8, which has already been acknowledged, I have now the honor to give you the President’s views in regard to the proceedings in Prussia, by which natives of Prussia who have voluntarily exchanged allegiance from that government for the rights and privileges of citizens of the United States, and have been duly naturalized as such, are nevertheless arrested and held liable to perform military service on occasions of their transient visits to their native country. The question involved in these proceedings is an old one, and was a subject of elaborate discussion between the two countries before the occurrence of our late civil war. Considerations of ease and policy prevailed with this department to allow the subject to rest during the continuance of the war. We became even less anxious upon the subject when it was seen that Worthless naturalized citizens fled before the requirement of military service by their adopted government here, and not only took refuge from such service in their native land, but impertinently demanded that the United States should interpose to procure their exemption from military service exacted here. Those circumstances, however, have passed away, and the question presents itself in its original form. The United States have accepted and established a government upon the principle of the rights of men who have committed no crime to choose the state in which they will live, and to incorporate themselves as members of that state, and to enjoy henceforth its privileges and benefits, among which is [Page 69] included protection. This principle is recommended by sentiments of humanity and abstract justice. It is a principle which we cannot waive. It is not believed that the military service which can be procured by any foreign state in denial of this principle can be important or even useful to that state. The President desires that you will present the subject to the serious consideration of Count Bismarck. In doing so, you will assure the minister for foreign affairs that we are animated by sentiments of sincere friendship and good will to Prussia, and that, therefore, we shall be ready to receive and consider with candor any opinions upon the subject that the Prussian government may think proper to communicate.

You will also assure Count Bismarck that any suggestions that he may think proper to make relative to the extradition laws of the two countries will receive just and friendly attention.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Joseph A. Wright, &c., &c., Berlin.