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No. 420.]

Mr. Vignaud to Mr. Hay.


Paris, February 13, 1899.

SIR: I inclose herewith copy of a letter received from Mr. Felix A. Gendrot, a natural-born American citizen, who is claimed as French because his father was French, and copy of a note addressed on the 6th instant to the minister of foreign affairs, asserting that Gendrot is an American citizen and asking that he be recognized as such.

The case of Gendrot is well known to the Department. It was once before submitted to the French Government by this mission, and decided against, as may be seen by the correspondence published in the volume of our Foreign Relations for 1888.

Gendrot, who lives in the United States, where he has a wife and children, came back to France a few weeks ago with the purpose of remaining here for a short time only. His presence was almost immediately detected, and he was notified to appear before the military authorities to explain why he did not comply with the order issued to him in 1887 to join the regiment to which he had been assigned. He applied to this embassy for protection, and although there is very little hope of succeeding in this second effort in his behalf, I have not hesitated doing so, for the reason that Gendrot's position is somewhat different now from what it was in 1887. Having passed the age of serving in the active army, he can, according to the law of 1889, renounce French citizenship without the permission of the French Government and they may recognize him as an American citizen.

His case comes up before the second council of war on the 18th instant. Being asked if he had a lawyer, he replied in the negative, and the court provided him with one, who is a gentleman unknown to this embassy, Mr. Crochard, to whom I have sent word through Gendrot that this embassy would furnish him with all the information he may need regarding the case. I anticipate that the court will hold that, for the military authorities, Gendrot is French, and as such must be punished for having failed to comply with the military laws of France, but will leave him the right to appeal from their decision to a civil court, where the question of nationality would be finally decided. Gendrot states that, should this be the case, the want of funds would prevent him from taking any action of this kind.

I have, etc.,



Mr. Gendrot to Mr. Porter.

109 RUE DU CHERCHE MIDI, Paris, February 5, 1899.

DEAR SIR: I wish to inform you that Felix A. Gendrot, born in the city of Cambridge, State of Massachusetts, the 28th of April, in the year 1866, has been called by the French Government to appear before a council of war to give my reason for not having complied with their demands in 1887 in regard to doing military duty. I think you will find my case on file at your embassy.

Now, in view of the facts that I was born, brought up, and educated in the United States, and being a citizen and a voter, having all my interests there, and will return in a year or two after completing my studies, I feel I am an American and that I owe nothing to France.

There must be something radically wrong when a man can have two nations to serve, and should there be war between them I would be in a strange dilemma. I could not very well cut myself in two; at all events, I am the one to suffer. I don't mean to say that a war is probable, but yet possible.

Being vested by the United States law as a citizen, and considering myself as such, I call upon you for protection and aid.

I am, etc.,

[Inclosure 2.]

Mr. Vignaud to Mr. Delcasse.


Paris, February 10, 1899.

SIR: I have the honor of submitting to your excellency the following case: Mr. Felix Albert Gendrot is an American citizen, born at Cambridge, Mass., on the 28th of April, 1866. He was brought up and educated in the United States, where his home is, where he has a wife and children, and where he has discharged all the obligations incumbent on a native-born American citizen. He has never resided in France. In 1887 he made a short visit to Paris, and was then informed that, being the son of a Frenchman, he had to perform military service in the French army. He appealed to his Government for protection, and, in the year above mentioned, this embassy, then a legation, laid the case before your department, stating that Gendrot was a natural American citizen; that, having never been in France before, he did not flee to escape any obligations, of which he had never heard, and that even if the fact of his being the son of a Frenchman made him French originally, he, as well as his father, according to the law as it then stood, had forfeited their right to French nationality by being permanently established in a foreign country, which they had no intention of leaving, and accepting the honors and burdens of citizenship of that country.

The application was unsuccessful, and Gendrot, who at that time could hardly speak French, returned to his home in the United States. He is now again in Paris, and has been summoned to explain why he did not serve his time in the French army. He again appeals to his Government for protection, and I once more lay the case before your excellency. Being born in April, 1866, he is close on to 33 years of age, and has therefore passed the age for military service in the active army. The law no longer prevents him from declining French nationality without the consent of the French Government, and it is within the power of that Government to recognize that Gendrot is what he claims to be and what his Government, speaking through this embassy, asserts he is—a bona fide American citizen.

I respectfully call your excellency's attention to these new features of the case. I avail, etc.,

HENRY VIGNAUD, Chargé d'Affaires ad Interim.

P. S.-In 1887, when Gendrot was in Paris, he went by the name of Albert Felix Gendrot. He had not then his certificate of birth, showing that his real name was Felix Albert.

No. 427.]

Mr. Porter to Mr. Hay.

Paris, February 24, 1899.

SIR: Referring to Mr. Vignaud's No. 420, of February 13, concerning the citizenship of Mr. Gendrot, I have now to report that his case came up before the second council of war on the 18th instant, and that upon the application of his lawyer a lawyer given him by the courtit was postponed in order to give Gendrot time to have the question of his nationality decided by a civil court. Gendrot's lawyer informs this embassy that if no step of this kind is taken his client will be brought up again before the military court, where he is sure to be sentenced to imprisonment and be obliged to serve some time in the French army.

I inclose herewith copy of a letter received from Gendrot, in which he claims the protection of this embassy as an American citizen and asks to be provided with the necessary means for bringing before a French civil court the action without which his rights will not be respected.

I respectfully ask for authorization to comply with this request. I have, etc.,



Mr. Gendrot to Mr. Porter.

Paris, February 17, 1899.

DEAR SIR: Being a citizen and born in the United States, I come to ask the ambassador for the protection and aid he owes his countryman.

My case has already been the object of diplomatic correspondence in the year 1888, as that period, while sojourning in France, the French Government called upon me to do five years' military service, basing their claim upon the fact that I was born of French parentage. I was arrested, released, and was about to be arrested a second time when I departed for the United States.

In the diplomatic correspondence that took place the minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Flourens, replied to the United States ambassador that if I insisted upon claiming American citizenship I was at liberty, in order to establish my true position, to apply to the civil courts; only on seeing a decision of the French courts declaring I am a foreigner can the military authorities consent to order that my name be stricken from the rolls of the French army?

At that period I was ignorant of this means of repudiating the quality of Frenchman. But recently having arrived in France for the purpose of study, I was arrested as (ensoumie), and am about to pass before the second council of war to-morrow. If I do not find means to stay the proceeding I am liable to be condemned to from one month to one year imprisonment.

My lawyer will try to secure a postponement of the case, declaring that you, the United States ambassador, was having official correspondence with the French Government in my behalf. However, he considers that this means is not a legal one, and that the judges could ignore this appeal and pronounce their verdict. He says, should I address a request to the French civil court, that tribunal, by having taken up the question of my citizenship, would thus prevent the council from passing finally upon my case until the civil court rendered its verdict.

He also believes that, my case being a peculiar one, the courts might find that I could repudiate the quality of French citizenship in view of article 17 of the Code Civil, which says, to lose the rights of French citizenship, first, "A Frenchman naturalized in a foreign country." Having been born and lived for twenty-six years in the United States, and am a voter there, it seems to me I am less of a Frenchman than one born in France and who has been naturalized in the United States.

This civil case that M. Flourens has indicated might terminate in my favor and which is actually the only means out of my present difficulty.

In view of my United States citizenship, and not having the means to protect myself, I appeal to the United States Government, or to you, its ambassador, to give me the means to carry on this civil case, or to carry it on for me.

There is a grave question of principle in my case, and should the verdict be in my favor it would establish an important precedent.

I am persuaded that this question interests in the highest degree the rights of American citizens abroad.

I am, etc.,


No. 566.]

Mr. Hay to Mr. Porter.

Washington, March 3, 1899.

SIR: Mr. Vignaud's dispatch, No. 420, of the 13th ultimo, relating to the return to Paris of Mr. Felix A. Gendrot, whose military case was the occasion of controversy with the French Government in 1888, and his arrest in connection with his previous alleged evasion of military service, has been received.

The Department recently received from Mr. Stevenson Burke, of Cleveland, Ohio, a letter (of which copy is inclosed herewith) addressed to Mrs. Burke by Mr. Gendrot, describing his surreptitious return to Paris, "thinking," as he says, "that in so large a city and remaining unknown I [he] could carry on my [his] studies without trouble and at the end of a year or two return to the States," in which expectation he appears to have been disappointed.

Mr. Gendrot's action has very unnecessarily complicated the matter to his prejudice, but in view of the attitude taken by this Government when the question originated in 1888, and in view also of the suggestions made by Mr. Vignaud, it is hoped that you will find an opportunity to further Mr. Gendrot's interest and effect his release from the embarrassing situation in which he has placed himself. I inclose copy of a letter written to Mr. Gendrot in November, 1897, to which I have referred in my reply to Mr. Stevenson Burke, copy of which is also inclosed for your information.

I am, etc.


[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Burke to Mr. Hay.


MY DEAR SIR: I inclose to you a letter from Mr. Felix A. Gendrot, who, as his letter points out, was a native of Boston, Mass., and whose father, I believe, was a Frenchman-whether naturalized or not, I do not know. Mr. Gendrot is an artist, and he wrote the inclosed letter to my wife, who, as treasurer of the Art School Association, was very well acquainted with him, he having taught in the art school, and also in the university school, in this city. I have a personal acquaintance with him, and know that he is very much of a gentleman, and entitled to all the protection which the Government can afford.

I think I shall take the liberty to write a personal letter to Minister Porter at Paris; but this would be only to assure General Porter, whom I know quite well, of my personal knowledge of the standing of Mr. Gendrot.

You will note that the question is a most important one, and it may affect many others besides Mr. Gendrot.

You will know, however, how to deal with it, and I trust you will give the matter such attention as its public interest and the personal interest of Mr. Gendrot requires. With kindest regards to yourself personally, I am,

Very truly, yours,



Mr. Gendrot to Mrs. Burke.

PARIS, le January 31, 1899.

MY DEAR MRS. BURKE: It has been my intention to write you and tell you of my sojourn in Paris, and how I was getting on in my work, etc., but I am somewhat embarrassed that for my first letter I should ask you for a favor. To come to the point, it is my trouble with the French Government. Should you not know the details of the case, and as it would be too long for me to write them, I think Miss Norton or Miss Harper could give you them. Now, to begin with the story of my trouble: I came to Paris thinking that in so large a city, and remaining unknown, I could carry on my studies without trouble, and at the end of a year or two return to the States. Notwithstanding the fact that eleven years have passed since my first trouble, the French Government located me and put me under arrest, but has released me pending an investigation into the case. I have called on the American ambassador for protection, and he will no doubt communicate to the Government at Washington. My favor is, if you will be so kind, that you use your personal influence with the Secretary of State, as I think he is a Cleveland man and no doubt a friend of yours. I thought a letter from the Judge would be instrumental in the Secretary taking more interest in the case. I would have written to the Judge personally, but I feared that he would not remember me, and by writing you you could explain the matter to him.

My argument is that I was born, brought up, educated in the United States, lived most of my life, and have all my interests and intend to return there, and that I owe nothing to France, and from these facts it seems to me that the French Government should have no claim on me.

Now, to show the injustice of their law in my case, should I be forced to do military duty, it would establish beyond question that I was a French citizen, and, as far as the United States was concerned, I still would be an American citizen after my service here. Should I go back to the States, settle there, get married, and have children, my children would be born of a Frenchman and subject to military duty in France, and would find themselves in precisely the same position as I am at present. For my children, to avoid military duty in France and be recognized as Americans by the French law, I would first have to become a naturalized American through process of law, a thing that can not be done; that is, I can not become naturalized through process of law, as I am already a citizen of the United States. And this process of taking American-born citizens to serve France would go on indefinitely, or at least until the United States should stand firmly by and demand the French Government to recognize the American-born citizens. And that is what I should like to have the United States Government do for me now-to have France recognize me as an American citizen.

You will please excuse writing, as I have written in haste.
Hoping it is in your power to do this favor for me,
I remain, etc.,


[Inclosure 2.]

Mr. Hay to Mr. Burke.


Washington, March 3, 1899.

SIR: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 21st of February in relation to the arrest of Mr. Felix A. Gendrot, who, having had trouble with the French Government in 1888, growing out of a claim to his military service as the son of a Frenchman (although himself born in the United States), has recently returned to France and been arrested at Paris on the charge of evasion of army duty.

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