French DNA for Genealogy
A Citizenship Dispute During the American Civil War - Part 3

A Citizenship Dispute During the American Civil War - Part 1

Citizenship dispute copy
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During the American Civil War, there were those who were ready to serve in one or the other of the two armies, and those who preferred to avoid them both, if possible. Those who were not Americans were not expected to serve, quite naturally, and some of those who wished to avoid military service chose to point out that they were of foreign nationality. Some of these were French who were living, visiting or born in the United States, and thinking of themselves -- either honestly or conveniently -- as French  nationals and not as American. In some cases, the government, whether Union or Confederate, disputed these claims.
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In our happy ramblings in archives, we have come across such a dispute - epistolary and particularly clear and well written on both sides of the argument. For those of you with French forebears in the United States during the 1860s, an awareness of the nationality wrangles that were going on at the time may provide a deeper understanding of the reasons behind your ancestors' behaviour and migrations.
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The combatants over the body and nationality of Pierre Camille Dubos were, on the French side, [Charles Prosper} Fauconnet, director of the French consulate in New Orleans, and on the American side, Colonel H[arai] Robinson of the First Louisiana Cavalry and his superiors. The exchange opens, seemingly in the middle, with a refusal from Colonel Robinson of a prior request on behalf of Mr. Dubos by Mr. Fauconnet, dated the 5th of February, 1865:
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" Sir, I have the honor to inclose "Certificat de Nationalité" of Pierre Camille Dubos and to acknowledge receipt of your note relating to it.
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"The Major-General commanding this Department directs me to state to you that he differs from you in opinion regarding the nationality of young Mr. Dubos.
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"His father is a foreigner, but is permanently domiciled in this country. Mr. Pierre Camille Dubos being registered in your office according to Article "10 du Code Napoleon", may be considered a french subject when in France, but not in this country - As the fact of his being registered in your office does not prevent him from being an American citizen, by birth, at the age of twenty-one - nor can your Government, now or hereafter, claim him as a subject, or compel him to expatriate himself from the land of his birth and to proceed to France to take up arms in defence of it.
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"A man must owe allegiance to the country of his birth, when every year of his life has been spent there, and his father before him has been permanently domiciled in the country.
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"I cannot grant the pass you solicit until such time as other American citizens, subject to the impending draft, may have the same privilege.
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"Your obedient servant, H. Robinson, Col. 1st Louisiana Cavalry, and Provost Marshall General"
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Mr. Fauconnet, who had fought this battle for others, replied with force the following day:
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"Colonel, I have received the letter which you have done me the honor of sending to me on the 5th inst., together with the Certificat de nationalité française of Mr. Camille Dubos.
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"I have read carefully the opinion of the Major-General Commandant of the Department on the subject of the nationality of persons born here of foreign parents. I cannot at all accept this opinion and I take the liberty, before submitting a request to the Government in Washington for the intervention of the French Legation, of offering you some observations.
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"I will not cite anymore article 10 of the French code, which you tell me is not applicable in this country, nor that article 9 of the same code does not require any person born in France to American or other foreign citizens, to suffer, against their will, because of the consequences of their birth; it would be good if the same consideration could be extended here to people born in this country of French parents.
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"But I will cite the act of Congress of the 10th of February 1855 concerning persons born outside of the United States to American citizens and who, in the exact wording of article 10 of the French code, consequently affirm and endorse the privileges of said article.
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"In addition, I find in Wheaton, the 1863 edition, : 'In view of the military draft proposed in August 1862 on account of the Southern insurrection under the head of Aliens, it was declared, by the Government at Washington, that all foreign born persons are exempt who have not been naturalized, or who are born here of foreign parents who have not become citizens, and who have not voted, nor attempted to vote, in any state or territory of the United States.' (Papers relating to foreign affairs 1862 p. 283. Mr Seward to Mr.  Stewart Aug 20th 1862)'
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"Finally, I will extract the following from an official letter which Major-General Banks, commandant of the department, did me the honor of sending to me on the 10th of June 1864:
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" 'In this state there are a large number of citizens of french descent, who until the occurrence of the rebellion had claimed and enjoyed all the privileges due from the American Government to american citizens. At the outbreak of the war they claimed to be french subjects, and being of french origin many of them doubtless believe that they can claim the protection of the french Government. It has been deemed necessary to require from such persons, in addition to the neutral oath, a declaration that they had not assumed to act as American citizens in the elections of this country.
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" 'Should such declaration be affirmed they are admitted to any privileges that we confer upon the statement embodied in the neutral oath. Should they declare that they have exercised the privileges of American citizens, that admission will not be held to change their relations to the French Government; but it is sufficient to justify a special examination of the case where such admission is made and to grant or withhold the privileges claimed, according to the equities of the case. This is the only variation from the simple oath properly required of a foreign subject not to identify himself with the contest going on in this country.'
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"I will finish with these observations and citations, which I ask you please to bring to the attention of Major-General Heurlbut, that it would be most trying if the laws of a country are such that they are subject to the interpretations and contradictions of those charged with their execution.
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"As I await your response, I offer you the assurance of my greatest respect.
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"The Director of the Consulate of France, Fauconnet."
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Was Robinson a match for Fauconnet? Read the next post!
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©2012 Anne Morddel
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French Genealogy

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