No. 737.
Mr. Hubbard to Mr. Bayard.

No. 511.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose a copy of a communication addressed to me by Mr. G. R. Greathouse, United States consul-general at Kanagawa, inquiring as to the political status of a Japanese wife of one Joseph Ratcliffe, a British subject now and for the past seven years a seaman in the United States Navy. The particulars of the marriage of the said Joseph Ratcliffe to a Japanese woman at Hong Kong are fully set forth in the inclosed communication 5 and the consul-general desires to be informed as to whether or not he has the authority to register Mrs. Ratcliffe in his consulate-general as under the temporary protection of the United States while her husband is serving under the United States flag.

It is, of course, generally conceded that while serving under the United States flag a foreign seaman is under the protection of the United States and to be considered during the time of said service as a citizen of the United States; and it is equally well established that “a wife’s political status follows that of her husband;” but according to the principle laid down by Attorney-General Hoar and quoted by Mr. Secretary of State Fish in his instruction to Mr. Jewell, dated June 9, 1874, it appears that Mrs. Ratcliffe’s status in Japan would depend to a great extent on whether or not the Japanese Government recognized her marriage at Hong-Kong.

It is understood that the Japanese Government does not recognize the legality of marriages between Japanese women and foreigners without the consent of the Government, and after certain formalities have been complied with. The Japanese Government has a thorough system of registry of its subjects, and when all formalities have been complied with by a woman marrying a foreigner, her name is then, and not till then, stricken from the register of Japanese subjects. With a view of ascertaining the position of the Japanese Government in regard to such marriages, I have, without stating the case of the said Ratcliffe, asked Count Okuma, in an official note, what would be the status in Japan of a Japanese women who had married a foreigner abroad, complying with all the laws of the country in which the ceremony was performed, the wife returning to take up her residence in Japan with her husband, and asking him to inform me to what extent the marriage would be recognized by the Japanese Government.

When the reply of the minister for foreign affairs to my note is received I will have the honor of forwarding a copy of the same to the Department.

In view of the fact that the case under consideration presents some complications, I have the honor to refer the same to the Department of State for instructions on the following points:

If the Japanese Government did not recognize the legality of such marriages would I not, under the opinion of Attorney-General Hoar referred to above, be bound to consider Mrs. Ratcliffe a Japanese subject until her marriage had complied with all the requirements of Japanese law?
In case her marriage was recognized by the Japanese Government would she as the wife of a British subject serving under the [Page 1076] United States flag follow his political status to the extent of being entitled to the temporary protection of the United States?
In the event it should be construed that Mrs. Ratcliffe was entitled to the temporary protection of the United States, what would be the status of the wife of a Japanese subject serving in the United States Navy?

This last inquiry is not a speculative or hypothetical one, but respectfully made in view of the fact of information received that a number of Japanese subjects are now serving on United States men-of-war on the Asiatic Station.

I have, etc.,

Richard B. Hubbard
[Inclosure in No. 511.]

Mr. Greathouse to Mr. Hubbard.

Sir: I have the honor to state that Joseph Ratcliffe, a seaman on the u. S. S. Monocacy, has made application for the registry of his wife at this consulate-general with a view of having her placed under American protection. His statement, which I have every reason to believe is true, as he produces regular documents to prove the essential parts of it, is substantially as follows:

He was born a British subject and has never been naturalized, and enlisted, seven years ago, when under twenty-one years of age, in the naval service of the United States and has served continuously and has still some time to serve.

In March, 1887, he married a woman in Hong-Kong. His marriage papers seem to be regular, and to be made out with more than usual care, and I assume that in Hong-Kong, as well as in the United States, the marriage would be held valid. It does not appear that the Japanese representative took any part in the matter.

As I understand the instructions of the State Department, all seamen sailing on vessels under the flag of the United States are to be considered as under American protection, and in fact treated as citizens of the United States, but that, as soon as they lose their status as American seamen, are relegated to their original nationality.

Under this it seems to me that Ratcliffe, so long as he remains in the naval service, is entitled for himself and his property to American protection, but that as soon as discharged he will occupy the status of a British subject. But is his wife entitled to the same protection? Strictly speaking she is not the wife of a citizen of the United States, but only the wife of a man under American protection by reason of the fact that he is in the naval service.

Respectfully asking what I shall do in the premises,

I have, etc.,

C. R. Greathouse.