Mr. Runyon to Mr. Gresham.

No. 202.]

Sir: I have the honor to invite your attention to the case of Karl Friedrich Seifried, which, while it differs but little from other “military cases” and while it has, as is usual, been settled in a manner favorable to the naturalized American citizen, has been made the occasion for the expression of certain opinions on the part of the German Government which may be of interest to the State Department.

[Page 515]

Seifried was born in Wurtemberg in 1863, and when about 17 years of age emigrated to the United States, where he became naturalized in 1889, and where he resided continuously from the spring of 1881 until the summer of 1894. Had Seifried remained in Germany he would have been liable to be called on for military service, and as he neither presented himself for examination as to his fitness for such service nor made any explanation of his absence or statement as to his having become an American citizen, the customary order in this case to pay a fine of 600 marks, or in default of payment to be imprisoned for three months, was made in 1889, which in 1891, as the fine had not been paid, and as there was still no explanation of his absence, was changed to an order for his arrest, and an advertisement for his apprehension was published in the Wurtemberg official paper.

In November last Seifried returned on a visit to his native place, and on the 14th of that month he was arrested, and it being necessary to take him from his home at Engberg to Maulbronn and thence to Stuttgart and Heilbronn—the order for his arrest having been made by the court at the last-named place—he remained in arrest until the evening of the 16th. At the court at Heilbronn he protested against the treatment which he had received and claimed exemption from fine or imprisonment through his American naturalization. He had, however, left his certificate of naturalization in the United States, but on the strength of his passport (issued by the Department of State, October 10, 1894) he was given until February 1, 1895, to prove his right to be treated as an American citizen, and was released upon bail to the amount of 700 marks, being furnished for him.

The embassy first heard of the case on December 3 last, two weeks after Seifried had been released on bail. Upon its intervention, which was made after the case had been investigated, on the 11th of that month, the money deposited by Seifried’s mother as bail was, on January 14, ordered to be repaid. This was not done, however, until after proof of Seifried’s naturalization and continuous residence for thirteen years in the United States had arrived from America and had been submitted to the court.

In commenting upon the case, the foreign office remarks that the only thing which Seifried had in his possession to show that he had become a citizen of the United States was an American passport, which, though the Wurtemberg authorities accepted it (claiming, however, that they were at liberty to decline to recognize it, because it was not certified to by a German consul), did not state that he had resided in the United States for five years. The foreign office claims that no fault can be found with the Wurtemberg authorities for their action in the case, as it is stated in the treaty of 1868 that subjects of the kingdom of Wurtemberg who shall become naturalized citizens of the United States of America and shall have resided uninterruptedly within the United States five years, shall be held by Wurtemberg to be American citizens and shall be treated as such, and no proof of Seifried’s residence in the United States was present—the passport simply describing him as an American citizen. The foreign office claims that it was Seifried’s duty to bring with him on his return to his native place such papers as would satisfy the court as to his right to have its order against him canceled.

It will be seen (1) that the Wurtemberg authorities claim that they are at liberty to refuse to recognize a passport unless it be certified to by a German consul, and (2) that it is claimed by them (and by the imperial foreign office) that granting that they are bound to recognize the passport, they are still, in such cases as the above, entirely at liberty [Page 516] to ignore the claim of citizenship unless proof of five years’ residence in the United States be given, the passport being silent on that subject.

I have, etc.,

Theodore Runyon