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The soldier scholar

So The Legal Genealogist was back poking around the statute books yesterday and came across a Joint Resolution of the United States Congress, passed in January 1912.

AlienNow many joint resolutions are things like allowing the Grand Army of the Republic to borrow tents for its encampment in Pullman, Washington, in June 1912,1 or thanking the captain of the Carpathia for that ship’s efforts to save the lives of passengers from the Titanic.2

This one, though, was a little different:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of War be, and he is hereby, authorized to permit Mr. José Pasos Diaz, of Nicaragua, to receive instruction at the United States Military Academy, at West Point : Provided That no expense shall be caused to the United States thereby, and that the said José Pasos Diaz shall agree to comply with all regulations for the police and discipline of the academy, to be studious, and to give his utmost efforts to accomplish the courses in the various departments of instruction : And provided further, That in the case of said José Pasos Diaz the provisions of sections thirteen hundred and twenty and thirteen hundred and twenty-one of the Revised Statutes shall be suspended.3

Reading through it, you can’t help but ask… who in the world was José Pasos Diaz of Nicaragua, and why did it take an act of Congress to get him into West Point?

Let’s look at the second question first, because there’s a big fat clue right in the language of the resolution itself.

See it? I’m sure you do. It’s that part that says that “in the case of said José Pasos Diaz the provisions of sections thirteen hundred and twenty and thirteen hundred and twenty-one of the Revised Statutes shall be suspended.”4

So… what were the Revised Statutes? They were the end result of the first official codification of federal law, codification being lawyer-speak for the “process of collecting and arranging the laws of a country or state into a code, i.e., into a complete system of positive law, scientifically ordered, and promulgated by legislative authority.”5 In 1870, Congress passed a law authorizing the President to hire three commissioners to put the code together.6

You’ll find the Revised Statutes online at the Library of Congress Century of Lawmaking website, as Volume 18, Part I, of the Statutes at Large, and that’s where you’ll find out what “sections thirteen hundred and twenty and thirteen hundred and twenty-one of the Revised Statutes” were.

Section 1320 required that each cadet admitted to West Point “take and subscribe an oath or affirmation” to “support the Constitutipon of the United States and bear true allegiance to the National Government,” to “maintain and defend the sovereignty of the United States, paramount to any and all allegiance, sovereignty, or fealty” owed “to any State, county, or country whatsoever.”7

And section 1321 required each cadet to agree to serve eight years in the U.S. military.

A bit of a problem for a young man described as “of Nicaragua.”

As in the Central American country, tucked between Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south.8

Where his father was then serving as the American-supported President of Nicaragua. As explained by the U.S. State Department:

In the years leading up to the First World War, the United States and Mexican governments competed for political influence in Central America. As a result, the U.S. Government intervened more directly in Nicaraguan affairs in two separate, but related, incidents in 1911 and 1912, with the objective of ensuring the rule of a government friendly to U.S. political and commercial interests and preserving political stability in Central America. …

Nicaraguan President José Zelaya… had come to power in a military coup in 1893. … In the fall of 1909, a revolt broke out against Zelaya in Nicaragua, and … when two U.S. citizens who were serving as officers in the rebel army had been captured and executed by Zelaya’s forces(,) U.S. Marines landed on the Caribbean coast… Thereafter, the Nicaraguan government agreed to a U.S. loan, a new constitution, the abolishment of monopolies, and conceded to the previous demands that the United States had placed on the new government in exchange for recognition (and a new President’s) political rivals succeeded in replacing him with his vice president, Adolfo Diaz.

…In July 1912, Diaz’s political rival, the Minister of War, Luis Mena, began a revolt to seize power. Although he had already won election to succeed to the presidency in 1913, Mena was uncertain of securing U.S. backing. Diaz asked the U.S. Government to intervene in order to secure the property of U.S. citizens. With U.S. support, Diaz maintained his hold on power, and Mena left the country. Concerned about preserving stability in Nicaragua, the U.S. kept a small detachment of 100 marines in Nicaragua until 1925.9

Which pretty much answers the first question. The kid was connected.

He wasn’t the only non-citizen admitted to West Point with a waiver of these two sections of the law. In that same year, Humberto Mencia and Juan Dawson of Salvador10 and Manuel Aguero y Junqué of Cuba11 were also the beneficiaries of special resolutions that would have allowed them to enroll.

Only Diaz appears to have actually entered West Point, however, and he didn’t graduate. His name is on the roster of the class of 1916 with an x before the year — designating a non-graduate.12

And you thought only U.S. history — and U.S. genealogy — would be found in U.S. laws…


  1. 37 Stat. 633 (22 Apr 1912).
  2. 37 Stat. 639 (6 July 1912).
  3. “Joint Resolution Authorizing the Secretary of War to receive for instruction at the United States Military Academy, at West Point, Mr. Jose Pasos Diaz, of Nicaragua,” 37 Stat. 628 (26 Jan 1912).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 216, “codification.”
  6. “An Act to provide for the Revision and Consolidation of the Statutes of the United States,” 16 Stat. 96 (4 May 1870).
  7. Rev. Stat. §1320.
  8. See “Nicaragua,” The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency ( : accessed 25 June 2014).
  9. U.S. Intervention in Nicaragua, 1911/1912,” U.S. Department of State, Archive 2000-2009 ( : accessed 25 June 2014).
  10. S.J. Res. 87, 37 Stat. 632 (19 Apr 1912).
  11. Ibid., S.J. Res. 91 (19 Apr 1912).
  12. Alphabetical Locator of Graduates and Former Cadets,” West Point Association of Graduates ( : accessed 25 June 2014).
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