A Citizenship Dispute During the American Civil War - Part 2
Genco 2012 - A Local Genealogy Get Together

A Citizenship Dispute During the American Civil War - Part 3


Citizenship dispute copy


Mr. Fauconnet was still waiting for an answer from Washington and so continued on his own, trying to keep various men whom he considered to be French nationals from being drafted into the United States Army. In April, 1865, he wrote again to Major General Hurlbut, repeating his argument that a man born in the United States, the son of a French citizen who was residing in the United States but who had not taken American nationality was a French citizen like his father and therefore a neutral in the American Civil War and not eligible for the draft. He rather heroically said of his work on their behalf:

"...I will continue to fulfil my duty, which is to protect, with all means in my power, all those French nationals so declared to me, wherever they may have been born."

 He then added a claim for the exemption of another young man:

"The attached pages which I have the honour to send to you concern a young Frenchman, a minor of 21 years, who consequently has not relinquished his French nationality by exercising the rights of an American citizen [eg. by voting in an American election].

"For minors living with their parents, I am certainly not in the habit of requiring that they register [as French citizens with the consulate] until they reach the age of majority, however this young man was entered into the register on the 11th of August, 1864, which is to say at the age of 20 and a few months. According to his father, he was born in France* and his registration reflects this and is shown in the certificate of nationality attached. Additionally, I send you affadavits made before a notary by the father, the son, and two witnesses that neither the one nor the other ever violated their neutrality nor committed any act that would have compromised their French nationality.

"I do believe, General, with all these considerations, that you will be pleased to admit the French nationality of Antoine Aimé Dupierris and will give the necessary orders for him to receive a certificate of exemption, which you will please send to me immediately."

Hurlbut was having none of it:

"...In the case in question [of Pierre Camille Dubos], the party has never put himself beyond the control of his native state since his birth. The general right of transfer of allegiance must be exercised by a change of domicile as this is the only evidence to the Government of the fact. In this case, even if the party had gone to France and become a naturalized citizen of that country, upon a return to this country, his national character would revert with his domicile.

"...Holding as I do to these premises, I must decline to exempt this party [Antoine Aimé Dupierris] from the Draft, nor can I admit the right of the class of persons referred to by you, to demand time to remove from the country. Neither am I authorized to suspend the Draft until the question has been settled at Washington. But I can assure you that, should the authorities decide in favor of the rule held by you, those who shall claim exemption in time will not be held to service. 

"I am your most obedient servant, S.A. Hurlbut. Maj. Genl. Comd'g"


Mr. Fauconnet wrote back, repeating his argument again, and quoting Wheaton and Major General Banks once more, to no avail. He received this from Major General Hurlbut:

"Headquarters Department of the Gulf

"New Orleans April 8th 1865

"I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication the 7th of April, inst.

"I have had the honor to inform you that the principle of Law settled heretofore by Major General Canby in approval of my views must stand unless overruled in Washington, and that the whole business of the Draft moves under his orders.

"I will do all I can; if you contemplate an appeal to the Secretary of War through the French Minister, I will grant time to those who claim your intervention, until the appeal can  be decided, upon their giving the usual bond of $1000 to appear in case they shall be held to service.

"If this meets your wishes, you will please forward to me the names and residence of the persons of American birth claiming  French nationality who have been drafted, and I will frame the necessary orders for delay.

"I am Sir, with high respect,

"Your Obedient Servant,

"S.A. Hurlbut, M.G.C."


No list of names appears in the file. We fear that Mr. Fauconnet, for all his bravery, may have had to surrender. 

And so, we see that 150 years ago, the views on nationality between New World and Old World countries was even then as we described in our post On Nationality:  in the New World, nationality is determined by political borders, in this case a person having been born or residing within them; in the Old World, nationality is a matter of race, which is why Mr. Fauconnet insisted that a man with a French father was himself nothing other than French.

Europe has been a crowded place for a long time. America is only just beginning to be so. One wonders if, in another 150 years, the United States will so fervently insist on the American nationality of anyone residing within its borders.

©2012 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

*Apparently, not quite true, if the birth record for the man on Ancestry.com is to be believed.