Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward

No. 302.]

Sir: In the month of August, 1865, application was made to this legation for its interference in behalf of George Schneider and J. Baptiste Cochener, naturalized citizens of the United States, who were thrown into prison to await the [Page 292] result of an inquest in regard to their liability to military service in France.

I have the honor to transmit copies of a communication which in each case I addressed to the minister of foreign affairs. They are numbered, respectively 1 and 2. To these communications I received a reply, of which enclosure No. 3 is a copy.

In March of this year I received another appeal from a man named Frank Pierre, who was in the service of the New England Glass Company of Boston, and who represented himself to have been the victim of brutal treatment from the authorities of his native place, which he had just revisited after an absence of sixteen years. I spoke of the matter to M. Drouyn de Lhuys, who requested me to make a written representation of the case, when he promised to give the subject prompt attention. Thereupon I sent him the annexed communication, numbered 4.

The following day I had occasion to address the minister of foreign affairs the annexed communication, No. 5, in behalf of still another naturalized citizen, who had appealed to me from prison for protection against conscription.

To these communications I received in reply two notes, of which copies, numbered respectively 6 and 7, are annexed.

Meantime Frank Pierre called upon me and gave me full details of his treatment and of his liberation. I made up my mind that if naturalized citizens of the United States, on their arrival in France, were subject to such brutalities; without the knowledge of the government, it was my duty to take such notice of them as should leave the government no such excuse for their repetition; and if, on the other hand, they were in accordance with government instructions, it was proper that the government should be required to avow it, that we may take such steps for the protection of our adopted citizens as circumstances and our national dignity may prescribe. It is certain, at least, that our adopted citizens of French origin should be notified, before leaving America, of the indignities to which they expose themselves by returning to France, unless this government is prepared to recognize in an American passport presumptive evidence of nationality, sufficiently strong, at least, to protect its bearers from imprisonment.

Under the influence of these considerations, I addressed to the minister of foreign affairs to-day a protest, of which enclosure No. 8 is a copy, thereby reserving to our government the right to reopen the subject, if it shall ever see fit to do so.

I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,

JOHN BIGELOW.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a communication received from Mr. Charles Adam, notary at Marmoutier, Bas Rhin, to which I beg your excellency’s attention.

Mr. Adam represents that a native of that canton named George Schneider left his native village with a passport at the age of seventeen years and went to the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen, and whence, after a residence of some thirteen or fourteen years, three of which were spent in the military service of his adopted country, he returned to France in July last.

Mr. Adam further represents that, in his absence, Schneider was conscripted, and, consequently, upon his return to France he was arrested, his naturalization papers taken from him, and he was thrown into prison at Strasbourg, where he is now lying.

I beg your excellency will take an early opportunity of satisfying yourself of the correctness of these allegations, and, if established, that no time maybe lost in restoring to Schneider [Page 293] the privileges and immunities to which he may be entitled in France as a citizen of the United States, including the naturalization papers of which he is alleged to have been deprived.

I beg your excellency will accept assurances of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be, your very humble and very obedient servant,

JOHN BIGELOW.

His Excellency Monsieur Drouyn de Lhuys, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paris.

[Translation.]

Mr. Adams to Mr. Bigelow

Mr. Minister: The undersigned has the honor very respectfully to represent to you that the person called George Schneider, native of Allen wilier, canton of Marmoutier, left his native place, provided with a passport, at the age of seventeen years; that he went to America, where he remained until the month of June, 1865; that he served as a soldier in America during three years; that he has a certificate of naturalization from the American authorities; that he came to France in the month of July, 1865; that in passing through Paris he went to call upon your excellency to place himself under your protection; that he passed fourteen days at Allenwiller, and on yesterday was arrested by the gendarmerie of Marmoutier as refractory; that he is now at prison at Strasbourg, and that his papers emanating from the American authorities are in the hands of the military authority at Strasbourg.

It seems that, during his absence, which lasted thirteen or fourteen years, his parents caused his name to be borne on the recruiting census list, and his father, on drawing lots, drew an unlucky number for him, and he was consequently matriculated in the seventh regiment of the line.

He has charged me to send you these details, and to beg you will be so good as to interest yourself in him as an American citizen. He has also told me that, at the time of his visit to you, you were pleased to promise him your protection. As the moment has arrived when he has need of that protection, he ventures to recall your promise, hoping not to do so in vain.

Shall I venture, your excellency, to beg myself that you will please to give effect to the applications of Mr. Schneider, and receive in advance the thanks of—

Your humble servant,

CHARLES ADAM, Notary.

His Excellency the Minister from America at Paris.

Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a communication which reached the United States consulate at Paris, duly forwarded by the French military authorities, from Mr. Jean Baptiste Cochener, now in confinement in the military prison at Metz, to which I beg your excellency’s attention.

Mr. Cochener represents that he is a native of Uni, in the department of the Meuse; that he left France at the age of seventeen years, and went to the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen, and whence, after a residence of some fourteen years, he returned to France in July last, at the request of his dying mother, leaving his four children in the United States, where he intended shortly to return. He further represents that he has all the papers requisite to establish the fact of his being a citizen of the United States, but that, on being denounced as not having submitted to the conscription, he was arrested at Van Couleur and thrown into the military prison of Metz, where he is awaiting judgment.

I beg your excellency will take an early opportunity of satisfying yourself of the correctness of these allegations, and, if established, that no time may be lost in restoring to Cochener the privileges and immunities to which he may be entitled in France as a citizen of the United States.

I beg your excellency will accept assurances of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be, your very obedient and very humble servant,

JOHN BIGELOW.

His Excellency Monsieur Drouyn de Lhuys, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paris.

[Page 294]

[Translation.]

Mr. Consul: I come to ask from your kindness, as representing the rights of my country, to be so good as to ask from the French government that I be set at liberty.

I was born in France, at Uni, canton of Van Couleur, department of the Mense. Hoping to make a position for myself, I embarked at the age of seventeen, in the year 1851, for Pennsylvania—that country having pleased me—and having created by my labor resources enough for living, I made myself a naturalized American in the month of May, 1857, taking the oath of fidelity to this nation, which for fifteen years has been mine.

I married in Pennsylvania, and my wife died the 25th of March, 1865, leaving me four children; and my actual domicile is at Tidionte, called “Filtam Chipp,” and makes part of the jurisdiction of Warren county, in Pennsylvania.

My mother being at the point of death, wrote begging me to come and see her before her last hour. I yielded to her entreaties, and embarked for France, leaving my family in my country. The authority at Meadville delivered me a passport and all the papers necessary to enter France. Thinking myself quite safe, I landed on French soil the 2d of July, 1865, was denounced as refractory, and not having been subjected to draft, was arrested the 15th of July at Van Couleur and taken to the military prison at Metz, in the fifth military division, and shut up to be tried. It is for this reason, Mr. Consul, I ask from your kindness to make application to obtain my being set at liberty as an American citizen.

I am provided with all my papers, and ought to be back in Pennsylvania by the 27th to take care of my family and continue to support them by my toil.

Relying on your generous aid, I am, Mr. Consul, with respect, your very obedient, humble servant,

JEAN BAPTISTE COCHENER, At the Military Prison at Meutz, Mozelle.

The United States Consul.

[Translation.]

Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys to Mr. Bigelow

Sir: I have received the two despatches which you have done me the honor to address to me on dates of 10th and 11th of this month—and subject of Messrs. George Schneider and Jean Baptiste Cochener, lately arrested in France as refractories, although after having become naturalized Americans, and who ask you to have them set at liberty.

This is not the first time that questions of this kind are presented, and my predecessor has already had occasion to make known to Mr. Faulkner, especially by a letter of July 5, 1860, relative to Mr. Zeiter, that in a matter so serious as that of military recruiting, where an extensive public interest may be complicated with the rights of individuals, it becomes incumbent to invest with the surest guarantees the decision to be arrived at, and to restrict the interference of the administration within the straitest limits. Thus the law of March 21, 1832, which governs the matter, has reserved the appreciation of questions of nationality to the courts, before which Messrs. Schneider and Cochener will have to present their reclamations.

This delegation of jurisdiction should not, moreover, awaken the susceptibilities of foreign countries, because it constitutes the best guarantee of impartiality which can be offered to those having right, as can be proved in case of need by the decision rendered in 1860 in favor of Mr. Zeiter by the court at Wissemburg. Nevertheless, I hasten to communicate, by way of information to the marshal minister of war, the reclamations of Messrs. Sehneider and Cochener.

Accept the assurances of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be, sir your very humble and very obedient servant,

DROUYN DE LHUYS.

The Minister of the United States at Paris.

Mr. Bigelow. to Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys

Sir: I am sorry to be compelled to invite your excellency’s attention to another case of imprisonment of an American citizen in France, upon the pretext of the liability to military service.

From information derived through different sources, I am advised that Francis Pierre, a [Page 295] naturalized citizen of the United States, whither ho was taken by his parents sixteen years ago, when but sixteen years of age, has been arrested as a conscript at Sarreguemines, deprived of his passport and naturalization papers, and thrown into prison at Metz. From the evidence furnished me of the character of this person, I do not permit myself for an instant to suspect him of having incurred this degradation through any violation of the laws of France; neither can I understand. why an American citizen travelling under the usual passport of his government should be subjected to indignities which ought only to be visited upon criminals.

I trust your excellency will find it convenient to give to Pierre’s case your early attention, that neither his imprisonment nor his separation from his family and his affairs may be unnecessarily prolonged.

I am sure it would be a satisfaction to my government, also, to know upon what pretext Americans, armed with the presumptive evidences of their nationality, should be imprisoned while the authenticity of those evidences is being tested. This is the third case I have had occasion to bring to your excellency’s attention within the last seven months of American naturalized citizens seized, stripped of their naturalization papers and passports and thrown into prison.

The two other cases, one of a Mr. Schneider, and the other of a Mr. Cochener, were the subjects of communications to your excellency, dated respectively the 10th and 11th of August last. Your excellency replied that the law of 21st March, 1832, committed the decision of nationality to the tribunals to which the parties in question should address themselves. Since then I have been favored with no information of the fate of these men. No charges of crime against them have been communicated to me neither has the news of their liberation, if they have been liberated, transpired at this legation. I am far from supposing that there has been in either of these instances any deliberate intention on the part of the French authorities to treat with disrespect the protections of my government, but I fear from what has occurred, and is frequently occurring, that such protections do not possess the value in France that in the United States they are supposed to possess. They are supposed with us to furnish presumptive evidence of nationality; in France it appears that, practically, they do not. I would be glad to know if such is the view taken by the imperial government. If it is, I would wish to be authorized to correct the grave misapprehension which exists upon the subject in the United States; and if it is not, it would gratify me to be assured that measures were to be taken to prevent a repetition of mistakes similar to those with which it is so often my unwelcome duty to trouble your excellency.

I pray your excellency to accept renewed assurances of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be your very humble and very obedient servant,

JOHN BIGELOW.

His Excellency Monsieur Druyn de Lhuys, Minister of Foreign Affairs, &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys

Sir: Recalling the note which I had the honor to address your excellency yesterday in reference to the reclamation of one François Pierre, a naturalized citizen of the United States, detained in prison at Metz under pretext of liability for military service, I beg to invite your excellency’s attention to another case of similar character which has been brought to my notice to-day. The particulars of this, so far as they are known to me, are recited in a note from the party complaining, who calls himself Frederick Todry. He states that he left France when only seventeen years of age; hat he has resided in the United States since 1853; that he was naturalized there in 1858; that he returned to France in February last, when he was arrested, deprived of his naturalization papers, and placed under military arrest in the fortress of Besançon, from whence he writes.

Permit me to express the hope that this case also may occupy the early attention of your excellency, and that it, as well as those already referred to your excellency, may receive such a disposition as the principles of humanity and the comity of nations may dictate.

I avail myself of this occasion to renew to your excellency assurances of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be your very humble and very obedient servant,

JOHN BIGELOW.

His Excellency Drouyn de Lhuys, Minister for Foreign Affairs, &c., &c., &c., Paris.

[Page 296]

[Translation.]

Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys to Mr. Bigelow

Sir: You have done me the honor to write to me under date of 27th of this month, on the subject of the arrest and imprisonment of the person called François Pierre, claiming the quality of naturalized American citizen.

I hastened to write to the minister of war to beg him to give me precise information on this affair, and I shall have the honor to answer you as soon as I shall have received it.

As for Messrs. Schneider and Cochener, an order of no cause has taken place in favor of the second for the reason that he was a naturalized foreigner more than five years, and in consequence the offence of refractoriness which was charged against him was covered by limitation of time.

As for Mr. Schneider, the departmental commission has pronounced his discharge, and he also has been set at liberty. I had reason to suppose the parties, interested had brought these decisions to your knowledge.

Accept the assurance of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be, sir, your very humble and most obedient servant,

DROUYN DE LHUYS.

Mr. Bigelow, Minister of the United States, Paris.

[Translation.]

Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys to Mr. Bigelow

Sir: You have done me the honor to write to me yesterday, March 29th, on the subject of Mr. Frederick Todry, who had been arrested at Besançon on as refractory.

I hastened to inquire into this affair, as well as into that of Mr. François Pierre, and for precise information from the minister of war, and will have the honor to answer you as soon as I shall have the elements necessary for making a decision with full knowledge of the cause.

Accept the assurances of high consideration with which I have the honor to be your very humble and obedient servant,

DROUYN DE LHUYS.

Mr. Bigelow, Minister of the United States of America at Paris.

Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys

Sir: Recalling the communication which I had the honor to address to your excellency on the 27th ultimo in reference to the arrest and imprisonment of Francis Pierre, a naturalized citizen of the United States, I beg now to invite your excellency’s attention to the sworn statement of Pierre, which is enclosed.

By this statement, the main facts of which your excellency can readily verify, it would appear that Pierre has been treated with excessive rigor, and subjected to indignities which would hardly be visited upon the most degraded criminals. The only pretext assigned for his arrest is, that he was liable to military service, though he was fortified with papers which proved that he had been a citizen of the United States sixteen years, and with an American passport, which should have protected him from insult in all countries in friendly relation with the United States.

While I do not permit myself to suppose for a moment that the hardships of which I complain had their origin in any unkind feeling towards the, people or government of the United States, I feel it to be my duty, in view of the frequent recurrence of such cases during my residence near his imperial Majesty, to protest, and I accordingly do hereby formally protest, against the original incarceration of Francis Pierre, and against all the indignities of which he was subsequently the victim.

I beg to renew to your excellency the assurance of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be your excellency’s very obedient and very humble servant,

JOHN BIGELOW.

His Excellency Monsieur Drouyn de Lhuys, &c., &c., &c.

[Page 297]

Deposition of Frank Pierre.

Legation of the United States, London, England.

I, Frank Pierre, being duly sworn, depose and say, that I am a native of the canton of Bitche, in France; that I lived there up to the age of sixteen years, and then emigrated to America in, the year 1851; that I became a naturalized citizen of the United States on the 23d of October, 1856. On the 8th of January, 1866, I applied for and received a passport from the Department of State, and came to France to visit my sisters, who reside at St. Louis, department of the Moselle. I arrived at that place on the 15th of March, and on the day following the mayor of that city informed my aunt, Miss Shild, that my presence in the place was unlawful, and that, unless I immediately left the town, he (the mayor) would be obliged to inform the gendarmes of my presence and order my arrest. I then sought a personal interview with the mayor, and asked him under what pretext this warning was given. The mayor said I was liable to military service, and that as soon as my presence was known to the gendarmes I would be arrested. I then said I would myself inform the gendarmes of my presence; that I was not engaged in any improper or unlawful practices, and would not leave the city until I was ready. I then went to Bitche, the capital of the canton, and saw the brigadier of the gendarmes, showed him my passport and papers of naturalization. The brigadier admitted that no claim for service could be made upon me, and the next day he asked me for those papers, saying that he would use them to have my name erased from the rolls, and would then restore them to me again. The next day, which was Monday, the 19th of March, while I was at dinner in the house of my uncle, Francis Pierre, glass worker of St. Louis, I was seized by a party of gendarmes and taken in an open vehicle, at my own expense, through a drenching rain-storm to Bitche. When [arrived there, after a journey of ten kilometres through the rain, I was thoroughly chilled and exhausted. My clothes were saturated with water, and valuable papers and drawings which I had collected for the use of the New England Glass Company, in whose employment I am, were entirely spoiled. In this state I was thrust into a damp prison, where I remained all night without an opportunity of drying my clothes, notwithstanding that my uncle, M. Gerard, of Bitche, requested permission of the brigadier to keep me at his house during the night, offering to hold himself responsible for me and to pay the expense of a guard for me. After passing a night without sleep, in the morning half a loaf of bread and a bottle of water were offered me for my breakfast, which I refused. It was only after an altercation with the guard that I was at last permitted to eat the breakfast that my uncle had prepared for me. I was then taken to Sarreguemines in a wagon which I hired at my own expense, being unable to walk that distance—32 kilometres. I was there thrown into a prison with common criminals of every description, and kept two days and nights in their company. The second day the procurer imperial came and searched my person and valise, and took from me all my papers, even including my letters from my wife and family, and kept them for five days. The third day I was taken from Sarreguemines to Metz, and there I had to live on prison fare in common with the rest of the prisoners. I had asked them repeatedly to let me have some food that I could eat, at my own expense, but the answer was that the prison regulations did not permit it. I was detained there seven days. I was then set at liberty, my papers restored to me, without a word of explanation.

FRANK PIERRE.

BENJAMIN MORAN, Secretary of Legation.