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(The statements referred to by Mr. Thurston are as follows:)
STATEMENT SUBMITTED BY EDWARD A. THURSTON, FALL RIVER, MASS., IN RE H. R.
12884, BILL RELATING TO NEUTRAL AND AMERICAN WOMEN INTERMARRIED WITH ALIENS.
The Alien Property Custodian statute became law on October 6, 1917. By section 6 of this statute, the Alien · Property Custodian was authorized “to hold, administer, and account” for the property taken under the general direction of the President, as provided in the act. It was also provided, by section 9, that after the end of the war the disposition of this property should be settled as Congress should direct. Congress has the power to determine at any time what shall be done with it, as the Sixty-fifth Congress which enacted the statute had no power to take away from its successor, the Sixty-sixth Congress, the power to legislate upon this subject any time that it chose, either before or after the technical end of the war.
The reason why individual alien enemy property was seized under this statute was stated on November 14, 1917, by the Alien Property Custodian, in the Official Bulletin as follows:
“ The purposes of Congress are to preserve enemy-owned property in the United States from loss and to prevent every use of it which may be hostile and detrimental to the United States. The duty of the Alien Property Custodian is to protect the property of all owners under legal disabilities to act for themselves. When a license to permit enemy-owned business is not granted, the Alien Property Custodian exercised the authority of a common-law trustee : There is no thought of a confiscation or dissipation of property thus held in trust.”
This declaration of the purpose of the act was merely declaratory of the modern civilized theory of the treatment of private property taken in war time. The modern theory of war is that war is waged, not against individuals but is a relation between State and State; that individuals are enemies only accidentally, and that their private property is immune from capture and confiscation. One of the Hague conventions categorically provides that private property can not be confiscated.” (Hague convention VI of 1907, arts. 1-5.)
This modern theory that private property should not be confiscated is not in conflict with the theory that it should be seized at the outbreak of the war. It is rightly seized and sequestered for the purpose that it or the income from it may not be used by the enemy as one of its resources during the war. But to confiscate it when the conflict is ended is a different matter. If when the war is ended it is confiscated for the purposes of paying the war costs or expenses or claims of the victor, it places the penalty of the war on the indi viduals whose property was taken, and to that extent it lets go free the Government or State against whom the war was made. It changes the nature of the war from a war against the State into a war against certain individuals.
Acting upon the thoroughly just theory of seizure and sequestration, the Alien Property Custodian, under authority of the statute of October 6, 1917, seized and sequestered alien property aggregating in value approximately $500,000,000 or over.
As to the kind of property seized, owing to the necessity for haste and the impossibility of making any distinction in those days of confusion, everything was seized upon which the Alien Property Custodian could lay his hands. The act made no distinction as to the kinds of property which were to be taken, and no distinction was made in the taking of property. Property which might be used against us and property which could not be used against us was indiscriminately seized and sequestered. I find no fault with this seizure. Time was of the essence, and we could not stop to make distinctions between different classes of property.
It takes no more than a casual glance, however, to see that the property as taken could easily be divided into several classes. For example, ships if not immediately seized could be at once turned by the enemy into instruments of warfare to be use against our troops. It is possible also that there existed here subsidized German corporations planted in our midst and which, by the aid of Government assistance. were intended to undersell and undermine our own industrial development in the manufacture of articles necessary for use in time of war, or in those articles which come in direct competition with German industry. On the other hand, there was also seized land located in this country inherited from their American next of kin by women who, at a time when this
country was on the most friendly relations with Germany, had happened to marry a subject of the German Empire and thus technically acquired a German citizenship under the old common-law theory that the husband and wife are one and that the citizenship of the husband controls. Stocks and bonds in which such persons had invested their savings, trust funds inherited by them, all were taken.
In regard to the seizure of the latter class of property, the general modern custom is stated in Phillimore's International Law, third edition, volume 3, page 148, that with respect to immovable property-lands or houses of the enemy—the general rule of civilized States appears to be that this kind of property is never confiscated; but that in cases where the income of the estate would otherwise be sent out of the country to augment the resources either of the private or public wealth of the enemy, it may be sequestered during the pendency of the war. The same principle likewise applies to shares of stock, bonds, and other forms of investmnets in which individual foreigners have invested their savings in this country. Ancther writer (Hall, International law, p. 420), says that the principle of modern usage is that property can be appropriated of which immediate use can be made for warlike operations by the belligerent, or which if reached by the enemy would strengthen the latter either directly or indirectly; but that in property hot so capable of immediate or direct use, or not (apable of strengthening the enemy, is not appropriated.
I have in the preceding statement discussed this bill (H. R. 12884) on broad general principles. I appear, however, only in support of that portion of it which provides that the alien property custodian shall now return the property in this country which he has seized and sequestered, belonging to women who prior to their marriage were subjects of a country which remained neutral in the war, but who prior to the outbreak of the World War, and at a time when all countries were at peace, had happened to marry a subject of the German Empire or of the Empire of Austria-Hungary.
The amount of property sequested by the Alien Property Custodian is, as I have already stated, in value approximately $500 000,000 or more. If the property is now returned to neutral women, such as I have described above according to the best of my information it will probably affect less than onefifth of 1 per cent of this amount. The property was seized and sequestered by the Alien Property Custodian not for the purpose of confiscation, but so that during the conflict the income should not be sent abroad as a possible aid to the enemy. In this particular case in which I am interested, the property consists of real estate and personal property inherited from her American next of kin by a woman who, prior to her marriage, was a subject of Holland. Her mother was an American girl, her father a native of Holland. Unable to leave Germany upon the outbreak of the war, she was obliged to reside there up to the time of the armistice. As soon as it could be done after the armistice she, with her three children, the eldest 15 and the youngest 2, left the country and rejoined her father's people in Holland.
At the possible expense of repetition, I wish to say again that I have no quarrel with the public policy by virtue of which this property was seized at the outbreak of the war. It was taken so that the income could not run the chance of finding its way to aid and strengthen the resources of the State ve were fighting. It is a different matter, however, now to retain it. If we do not return it we deliberately turn back our pages of history to the harbaric policy of placing the penalty of the war upon individuals and letting the State, against whom we waged the war, go free. In this particular case we turn our guns upon a helpless woman, who was an enemy only by a technicality, and we let off, without even a demand for reparation, the State against whom we waged the war. For these reasons I believe and hope that this property will be returned to its owner by the American Government.
Let me end by stating in summarized form the points which I wish to make:
1. The purpose of seizing and sequestering private alien property at the outbreak of the war was to prevent it, or the income from it, accruing to the enemy during the conflict, and thus adding to the resources of the nation with whom we were engaged in conflict.
2. There was no intention at the time of seizure not to return this property when the conflict ended. If this should not be done it will be a return to a barbaric principle now discarded by civilized nations, and which is contrary to the purpose of the act by virtue of which the property was sequestered.
3. Not to return this and similar property is equivalent to placing the penalty of the war upon individuals and letting the State with which we were at war
4. It is no defense to say that the unfortunate individuals whose property has been taken can obtain reparation from the German Government. knows the value of such a claim, and the chances are that if collectible at all it could not be collected for years. The act of our Government would be no different in principle from ordering our troops now occupying German territory to go into private houses, seize the pictures from the wall and the silver from the tables, and turn this property over to our Government to be used for paying the costs, expenses, or claims arising from the war; leaving the victims to obtain reparation from their own Government if they are ever able.
5. If we are to demand money either to pay claims of our own citizens or war expenses, it should be demanded of and paid by the State with which we have been at war.
6. The preceding points apply to the confiscation of any individual alien property to pay the debts caused us and owed to us by the offending State.
7. How much worse, however, would it be not to return the real estate and individual personal property located here and inherited from her American next of kin of the subject of a neutral country, because before the war and when all countries were on a friendly basis she married a citizen of Germany?
8. Leaving aside the reasons of fair play, which I have stated above, and looking at the question, if anyone wishes to, from a totally different angle it will in the future repay us one hundred times over to return this neutral property. We shall need the friendship of these neutral countries. In trade relations and in other ways there is no doubt that there will be many occasions when we shall want their friendship. A statute of this nature passed in broad general terms and looking ahead into the future is in accordance with a wise and humane public policy.
STATEMENT TO ACCOMPANY MEMORANDUM FILED BY EDWARD A. THURSTON, FALL
RIVER, MASS., IN EE H. R. 12884, BILL RELATING TO NEUTRAL AND AMERICAN WOMEN INTERMARRIED WITH ALIENS.
Margaret de Stuers Oberndorff, a married woman, 42 years of age, now living
with her father's people in Holland. Her history is as follows:
Her father, Alphonse Lambert de Stuers, was a citizen of Holland. In 1870, when a young man, he was a member of the Dutch Legation in Washington. While there he met Margaret Laura Carey, of New York City, they became engaged and were married at her father's house in New York City in 1875.
Shortly after the marriage he was transferred to London, where he held the position of first secretary of the Dutch. Legation. From there they went to Paris. They had three children, and Margaret de Stuers was born at Versailles, France, in 1878. (The other two children were boys. One died several years ago, and the other is now living in Holland.)
De Stuers was then made Dutch minister to Spain, and he lived in Madrid until 1886. In 1886 he was made Dutch minister to Paris, and he held that position uninterruptedly until his death in 1919, less than a year ago. Occasionally he used to revisit America, as he had many friends here, with whom he kept in constant communication. At the outbreak of the war in 1914 he was at his post in Paris, and remained there, with German airplanes dropping bombs around him, during the entire war. At the time of his death he left practically no property, except his house in Holland.
His daughter, Margaret de Stuers, on January 2, 1904, when the relations between foreign countries were friendly and amicable, was married in Paris to a citizen of Germany, Alfred von Oberndorff. At the time of her marriage she was a subject of Holland, although with strong American affiliations, as she herself by birth was half Dutch and half American, and she had been brought here by her mother and knew and liked her American relatives. They had three children: Marie Theresa, now aged 15 years ; Carl Alfons, now aged 13 years; and Elizabeth, now aged 2 years.
At the outbreak of the war she was unable to leave Germany. As soon as possible after the armistice was signed she got out with her three children to Switzerland, thence to Paris, and thence to Holland, where she resides with
her father's people. Her two girls are with her, and her boy is in Holland at a Dutch school.
From her mother's side of the family she and her brother inherited some real estate on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Seventeenth Street, in New York City, of which she owns eight-fifteenths and her brother seven-fifteenths. It is Husiness property, consisting of stores and lofts, and is leased to different tenants. The value of her eight-fifteenths is about $250,000. This property of hers and the rentals have been taken by the Alien Property Custodian. In 1867 her grandmother's brother, a resident of New York, put some property in trust, the trustee to pay the income to himself and his wife, and upon his death to distribute the property among his heirs. He and his wife died in 1917. Margaret de Stuers is one of his heirs, and her share is worth about $210,000. This also has been taken by the Alien Property Custodian. In addition, there was a trust fund of $60,000 held here for her benefit by a relative; this also has been turned over to the Alien Property Custodian.
STATEMENT OF MR. CYRUS SARGEANT, 60 STATE STREET,
Mr. SARGEANT. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I represent my sister, Mrs. Louise Rittler, who is now in Bohemia, a part of the new Czecho-Slovakian State. She was born in Plymouth, N. H., of American parentage, and her father and mother were born of American parentage. When her father and mother died in 1902, besides some securities, she inherited with me seveneighteenths of some real estate in New England, through her father, and one-half interest in real estate through her mother, and she also owns the Old Homestead in Plymouth, N. H. In 1907 she was married to Mr. Rittler, at that time an Austria-Hungarian. She resided in Vienna for a while and then resided in Steiermarch, Austria, and then in Pilsen, Bohemia.
She has four boys and she wants to come over here. She wanted to come just before the war began, but she could not. Now she wants to come back here and bring the boys and educate them in our universities. She wanted to come before now, but I advised her not to come because I thought that in the treaty with Austria the rights of citizens of Czechoslovakia would be recognized and the property would be handed back. That is why she is staying over there. I contemplated asking for her property back under the peace treaty as a citizen of Czechoslovakia, and wanted her to wait there to prepare papers, etc. If the peace treaty does not go through and we do not recognize the Czecho-Slovaks as an independent nation she is like any other wife of an Austrian or a German. Her husband was one of the revolting Czecho-Slovaks who, in the latter part of the war, revolted and killed their Austrian officers and fought against Austria and Germany. I know that he has affirmed his Czechslovagia citizenship. I was prepared to put Mrs. Ritter's case before the Alien Property Custodian and ask to have her property freed under the treaty, as the Czechs were exempted from any liability. But now, as the treaty has gone by the board, I do not understand that the Czechoslovakian citizenship helps at all. This bill would help her very much.
I think everything that I could say in support of this bill has been pretty well gone into, and I do not want to take the time of the committee in going over it again. But I would like to refer to one point in regard to the Alien Property Custodian. He says in his report that “ The enemy investments in America divide themselves into two classes. In the first are the private investments of individual German subjects who, attracted by the possibilities in America, invested their funds in a small way in this country in real estate, in mortgages, and in securities, chiefly of industrial and transportation companies. In the second class are the investments which have been made by combined capital in Germany having close affiliations with the great political and financial powers of the empire. These latter investments sought dominance, and frequently secured control of great industrial establishments of the United States. It seemed to me from the beginning that these two classes of property should be treated differently when they came into the possession of the Alien Property Custodian. Speaking in a general way, investments in this first class were friendly. As to them the Alien Property Custodian is constituted a sort of trustee or guardian to see that they are conserved and protected as against the time when the treaty of peace or the act of Congress shall make final disposition of them in kind."
I understand from that that Mr. Palmer, the Alien Property Custodian, thought the friendly investments were to be handed back in kind.
In the history of our country during the Civil War period there are many court decisions against confiscating private property for a nation's war debt. There are two or three cases that stand out especially, particularly the case of Mrs. Alexander's cotton. In those cases Chief Justice Chase and other judges said it was very much against public policy to take private property for the payment of a public debt. Furthermore, in the confiscation acts after the Civil War, of which there were a number, the situation was the same. When our armies were going South, the enemy fled, leaving abandoneil property behind and that property was held. It was provided that where affidavits were filed to show that the property was not used to help wage the war the property was handed back to the owners. The last act of Congress in connection with that situation gave back all that property. Referring to the act the court said it was "against modern enlightened thought and practice to take the private property of a defeated enemy's citizens to pay a debt which the defeated enemy owed."
Mr. MONTAGUE. The war was at an end at that time when those decisions were rendered.
Mr. SARGEANT. Yes; I think that must be so.
Mr. BARKLEY. Your brother-in-law who married your sister was an Austrian citizen?
Mr. SARGEANT. Yes, sir.
Mr. BARKLEY. He remained an Austrian citizen, technically, at least, and your sister followed him as an Austrian citizen until the Czechoslovakian nation was set up?
Mr. SARGEANT. Yes, sir.
Mr. BARKLEY. He immediately declared his allegiance to the new nation?
Mr. SARGEANT. Yes.
Mr. BARKLEY. That nation has been re ognized by a number of governments?