Mr. Olney to Mr. Runyon .
Washington , October 14, 1895 .
Sir: I inclose herewith copy of a dispatch from the United States consul at Stuttgart, under date of September 18, in which Mr. Johnson invites the attention of American citizens who were by birth subjects of the King of Wurtemberg, and have not served in the German army, to certain important facts respecting the production of evidence of their citizenship and naturalization in the event of their return to that country.
Mr. Johnson’s information does not profess to rest upon any regulation or order issued by the authorities of Wurtemberg, but is presumed to represent, in a convenient form, the facts which have come under his observation as indicating the evidence which will suffice to prevent the molestation of any such naturalized American citizens returning to Wurtemberg in good faith and not chargeable with the offense of desertion after actual enrollment in the army.
The position taken by this Government in regard to the prima facie evidence and validity of a United States passport as showing that the bearer is lawfully a citizen of the United States, and as such entitled to all treaty rights, has been frequently set forth and is conveniently summarized in correspondence had with the United States legation in Austria in the case of John Benich, printed in the Foreign Relations for 1893, page 23. You will observe that Mr. Gresham takes the ground that the five years’ residence in the United States, which is by treaty made a joint condition with that of lawful naturalization, is covered by the statutory requirement of five years’ residence prior to such lawful naturalization, and that, therefore, a duly issued passport is evidence both of the fact of naturalization and of the five years’ residence, except in some few exceptional cases, such as minor children of naturalized parents and honorably discharged soldiers of the United States Army, which latter may acquire citizenship in less than five years.
Should circumstances within the knowledge of the German officials indicate that the bearer of a passport comes within one of these exceptional cases, it would be right and proper to require evidence in regard thereto, and the fullest assistance of the consular and diplomatic officers of the United States should be given toward the ascertainment of the fact in question. Otherwise, and in the absence of the reasonable doubt, this Government must hold that the passport itself is prima facie evidence, and that the bearer can not be required to produce independent evidence on his own behalf of five years’ continuous residence in this country. As Mr. Johnson intimates in his dispatch, the certificate of naturalization is often found not to express that the citizen has lived five years uninterruptedly in the United States. This is true. In most certificates of this character which have come under the observation of the Department of State it is sufficiently recited that the applicant has complied with the naturalization laws of the United States, and independent certification by the court as to the time of residence would be as unnecessary as similar certification of attachment to the principles of the Constitution or good moral character would be, for these are all comprised in the general statement that the applicant has fulfilled the statutory conditions, and are equally covered by the passport granted to him by this Department.
So far, therefore, as may concern any regulation of a State of Germany requiring the holder of a passport, if he be of German origin, to produce further evidence as to his time of residence in the United States, [Page 518] it would be your duty to point out that this Government would regard such additional requirement as detracting from the authority of the formal passport issued by the sovereign power and as wanting in the respect due to that instrument. Internationally speaking, it is the exclusive right and duty of every Government to certify to the character of citizenship with which its dependents are invested, and, that being done, it can not pertain to a foreign State to make it the duty of an individual so certified to prove his lawful citizenship, or his right to treaty protection as a citizen, by any other means. Certainly a sworn statement made by two private citizens before a notary, to which the German consul’s authentication is added, can not be regarded as evidence of higher or greater value than the passport issued by the Secretary of State and bearing the seal of this Department, and yet such a sworn statement would seem to be demanded in most cases to entitle the holder of a passport to his attested rights as a citizen of the United States.
You may take occasion to inquire whether the report of the consul at Stuttgart rests upon any formal regulation or decree of the Government of Wurtemberg, and should this prove to be the case you will invite attention thereto in the line of the foregoing instruction.
I am, etc.,