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United States Department of State / The executive documents of the House of Representatives for the first session of the fiftieth Congress. 1887-'88

Circulars,   pp. 1133-1136 PDF (2.0 MB)

Page 1133

                               No. 699.
               To dip-omatio and 4bnsular officers abroad.
                                     DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
                                       -Washington--February 8,1887
  GENTLEMEN: Information has reached the Department that it is the
practise with some of its diplomatic and. consular representatives to
issue, at the request of American citizens proposing to marry abroad,
certificates as to thelfreedom of such parties. from matrimonial disabili-
ties, and asto the law in the United States regulating the mode of solem-
nizing marriage.
  Waiving other objectiom tocertificates of this class, it is enough nowý
to say that the practice of issuing them is objectionable, because they
may contain erroneous statements which may be productive of difficulty.
  Diplomatic and consular agents can ordinarily certify in respect to
the matrimonial disabilities of individuals (e. g., as to prior marriage,
or parental control).uponwhearsay only, and therefore unreliably.
  In certificates as to the laws in the United States regulating the solem-
nization of marriage the possibilities of error are great and manifest.
Of these laws no accurate or reliablee summary could be given. It is
essential, for instance, to the validity of a marriage solemnized in Mas-
sachusetts and other New England States, that it should be solemtiized
by a local clergyman or magistrate after a license taken out in the office
of the town clerk, which is virtually a publication. In other States [it
is alleged] it is necessary to theýceremony that it should be solemnized
by a minister of, the gospel. In most States a marriage by consent,
sofar as concerns ceremoniallform, is vIalid; but even in these States law
is frequently undergoing alteratio6n.
  Serious consequences may ensue from errors made in this relation in
diplomatic or consular certificates,' A foreign local official may! solem-
nize a marriage on such a certilate, but when'a question involving the
validity of the marriage arises in a superior court of law, it may well be
decided that such certificate can not prove ma-tters of fact, nor the law
in that particular State, Territory, or District of the' United States in
which the parties were domiciled.
  The issue of these certificates is not authorized by statute nor by the
instructions to diplomatic- agents or consuls.
  The withholding ofsuch f certificates may prevent serious disaster. If
citizens of the United"States desire to be married before a foreign
who requires informatio.n.-as to their individual status and the-laws of
their domicile, the information can be obtained from persons familiar
with the facts or from experts acquainted with the laws ofIsuch domicile;
and in matters involving the validity of marriages and the legitimacy
of children, too great trouble in this respect can not be taken.

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