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MARRIAGES OF MEMBERS OF AMERICAN FORCES IN FRANCE
File No. 851.4054/8
[Received February 1.] Mr. SECRETARY OF STATE: The sojourn in French territory of American troops which must be expected to involve ever growing numbers and to last for a time to which no limit can be set has led my Government to consider the necessity of taking in accord with the Federal Government measures calculated to prevent the difficulties that may arise and the serious troubles that may result from irregular marriages of French women to soldiers of the American Armies in connection with the existing exceptional circumstances.
The French Minister of Justice has drawn the special attention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic to the interest which attaches to arriving without further delay at an agreement between the two Governments regulating the formalities to be fulfilled by American soldiers wishing to marry French women in French territory during the hostilities.
Taking into account the discrepancies that may be found in the marriage laws of the several States of the Union together with the fact that the mobilized American forces are placed under one military command my Government would deem it necessary to have the question settled by means of a military measure ordered by the Commander in Chief of the American Armies and enforceable on all the men belonging to the said Armies.
In this respect the French Government would be interested in knowing whether marriages of American soldiers are subject to the previous assent of corps commanders, and whether and how banns must be previously published in America. It would further deem it very desirable to obtain from the Federal Government guarantees on this point equivalent to that furnished, in the case of a British soldier for instance, by the “ statutory declaration ” to which very severe penalties are attached by the penal law of the United Kingdom in addition to the penalties provided by the Army regulations.
In order to facilitate as far as possible the Federal Government's examination of this important question, I have the honor to forward herewith to Your Excellency copies of the arrangements arrived at on the subject by the French and English authorities, viz.: 1. The note written to the Ambassador of France at London by
the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United
Kingdom under date of June 19 last; 2. The general order issued by the Field Marshal in Chief Com
mand of the British Armies in France under date of June
4, 1917. These two papers contain the essential parts of the agreement concluded on this point by the French and English Governments. I will however add that it was further agreed:
1. That the contemplated provisions should apply not only to the British soldiers of the European Army but also to those of the British Colonial Armies.
2. That with respect to the customary certificate delivered in due course by diplomatic or consular officers, its necessity did not seem so imperative, considering the value of the papers which British soldiers must henceforth produce.
3. That, among the said papers, a certificate of baptism may validly take the place of a certificate of birth when Scotch and Irish soldiers are concerned, under the provisions of their own local law.
4. Finally, and this on the request of the British Government, that copies of marriage certificates issued by the French authorities when the parties are French women and British soldiers shall be regularly and as promptly as possible furnished by the French Minister of the Interior to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic who will deliver them through the
Embassy of France at London to the Foreign Office. I shall be very thankful to Your Excellency if you will kindly acquaint me with the Federal Government's views and disposition as to settlement of this question which is one of very great interest to the Government of the Republic. Be pleased to accept [etc.]
[Enclosure-Translation] The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Balfour) to the French Ambassador at London (Cambon)
LONDON, June 19, 1917. EXCELLENCY: Referring to M. de Fleuriau's memorandum of the 2d instant relative to marriages in France between British soldiers and French women, I have the honor to transmit herewith to you for the information of Your Excellency's Government a copy of the general field order issued on the subject by the Field Marshal in Chief Command of the British Armies in France. It will be seen on perusal of the document that a statutory declaration and not an affidavit is required of the soldier who wishes to marry. The said declaration is the form provided by the law of England for cases like those under consideration and the adoption of this procedure would afford the same safeguard as would be fixed in an affidavit in cases where it could be resorted to.
I have been advised that no regulation form is prescribed for the certificate of the officer in charge of records. That certificate, as I have had the honor to inform Your Excellency by my note of January 31 last, is the one that will best fit the peculiar conditions of each individual case and it will be drawn up in accordance not only with the declarations entered in the soldier's personal record but also the information that may be at the disposal of the officer in charge of records. That is the reason why the form of the certificate may vary according to circumstances and why the adoption of a fixed regulation form to be used in every case would very likely seem to be apt rather to lessen the value of those papers. I have [etc.]
For the Secretary of State:
[Subenclosure-Translation] General Field Order of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander
in Chief, British Armies in France
GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, June 4, 1917.
MARRIAGES BETWEEN BRITISH SOLDIERS AND FRENCH WOMEN A soldier wishing to do what is necessary in order to marry a French woman shall: 1. Immediately notify the officer in command of his unit who
will then take the action herein below specified; 2. Obtain a copy of his birth certificate; 3. Obtain a certificate showing that the banns have been pub
lished at his usual residence in England; 4. Make a statutory declaration as provided by the Act of 1835
in which he will affirm that he is legally competent to
contract marriage. This declaration may be made before a justice of the peace, a notary public or an oath commissioner. There is an oath commissioner at the General Headquarters, at the headquarters of each army and a list of available officers who are justices of the peace shall be kept at the headquarters of every division and base.
The declaration shall be drawn up as follows:
I the undersigned (names and surname of the declarant) solemnly and sincerely declare that I am unmarried and legally competent to contract a valid marriage and I make this solemn declaration believing it in my soul and conscience to be true and in accordance with the Act of 1835 relative to statutory declarations. Declared at
(day of the week and month) of --
19.--. Before me (names and surname of the officer, justice, notary or commissioner before whom the declaration is made).
(Signature of the said officer)---
(His office) -The person before whom the declaration is made shall ask the declarant:
Are these your names and handwriting?
You solemnly and truly declare that the contents of this document which is your declaration are stating the truth. The officer in command of the unit, immediately upon receiving notice of the contemplated marriage will instruct the D.A.G. 3d echelon who will inquire of the officer in charge of records whether he has any information showing that the soldier concerned is already married. The D.A.G. 3d echelon will report the result of his inquiry to the officer in command of the unit. The officer in command of the unit will then send:
1. The report of the D.A.G. 3d echelon;
of the banns;
to be true by an interpreter officer; to the Republic's attorney of the district in which is the commune where the marriage is to be solemnized.
The Republic's attorney will arrange the particulars of the marriage ceremony with the mayor of the commune where it is to take place.
File No. 851.4054/10
(Jusserand) No. 2097
WASHINGTON, March 12, 1918. EXCELLENCY: I have the honor to refer to your note of January 26, 1918, in which you suggested the necessity of some agreement being made between this Government and the Government of the Republic in order to prevent difficulties which may arise as a result of irregular marriages of French women to soldiers in the American Armies. As you were informed in the Department's note of February 21,' the matter was referred to General Pershing for an expres
sion of his views and I have the honor to give as follows, for your information, an extract of a cablegram received from him on this subject:
Have delayed replies awaiting expression of French wishes which has not yet been received. Impossible in most cases for our soldiers to obtain, as do the British, copies of birth certificates and certificate of publication of banns at soldier's domicile as required by French code. Concur with Judge Advocate General as to allidavit by soldier of competency and that affidavit state whether bachelor, widower or divorced man, but believe that divorced men should be required to produce an authenticated copy of the decree of divorce. Also believe there should be a certificate by the soldier's company commander that he believes the soldier's affidavit to be true.
The Secretary of War states that General Pershing has been directed to issue, upon the receipt of an expression of views of the French Government, such instructions as he may deem most expedient to cover such marriages. The Secretary of War has also promised to inform this Department of the final action taken in this matter. Accept [etc.]
FRANK L. POLK
File No. 851.4054/11
[Received April 1.] Mr. SECRETARY OF STATE: Referring to my note of January 26 last and to that which Your Excellency was pleased to send me under date of the 12th of this month on the same subject, I have the honor to submit herein below to you the bases upon which my Government deems it possible for the two Governments to arrive at an agreement relative to the marriages of French women to soldiers of the American Army.
Taking into consideration the law in force in the United States it would seem possible to relieve the Americans mobilizeil in France from the obligation to produce a certificate of birth and a certificate of publication of banns, in order to contract marriage in France. But in that event it would become necessary to require of American citizens desiring to marry in France an “affidavit ” or declaration made under oath in which they would affirm their civil condition and capacity to contract marriage. This would correspond to the “ statutory declaration” required of soldiers of the British Armies. It would be advisable to agree upon the form of such affidavits and the French Government would like to know the customary form of such documents in the United States.