The American Consul: A History of the United States Consular Service, 1776-1914

The American Consul: A History of the United States Consular Service, 1776-1914

The American Consul: A History of the United States Consular Service, 1776-1914

The American Consul: A History of the United States Consular Service, 1776-1914

Synopsis

Kennedy has written a long overdue history of the Consular Service, an unheralded, but significant element in the promotion of American commerce and influence abroad from the Revolution onward. He introduces, through brief histories, anecdotes, and vignettes, some of the men sent abroad by an imperfect system to represent our country. This book is an evolving chronicle of their contributions to the expansion of American influence from the start of the Revolutionary War to to the eve of the First World War, when American diplomats assumed the predominant role in America's foreign relations.

Excerpt

For the first 130 years of the United States as an independent nation, the principal business of the Department of State overseas was in the hands of American consuls, not American diplomats. From the very beginning of the Republic, American consuls went out to serve, their numbers increasing as they spread out to most major ports and cities throughout the world, not only in Europe and Latin America but in the cities of the far-flung colonial empires of the European powers. American diplomats, however, were limited to the courts of European monarchies, those of the few sovereign rulers in the Near and Far East, and the capitals of independent nations, mainly in Latin America.

While the small diplomatic corps of the United States found its work, for the most part, undemanding and often centered upon social niceties, the much larger consular service was promoting American trade, helping American shipping, protecting and often disciplining seamen, and assisting American citizens who fell into trouble in their consular districts. Neither the secretaries of state of successive administrations nor their clerks in the State Department paid much attention to the consuls' activities.

The U. S. consular service was not only ignored by the government in Washington, except as a source of political patronage, but also by historians of American foreign relations. Long-held prejudices supporting the inequalities between diplomats and consuls are based upon class distinctions inherent since the beginning of the consular service, distinctions that permeate not only American but also British and other foreign services. Until recently diplomats in all countries came almost exclusively from the families of the upper classes, the professionals, the affluent; consuls came more often from families with modest trade or commercial backgrounds.

Because the diplomatic work of the Foreign Service has been looked upon as more prestigious, the contributions of consuls in diplomatic history have . . .

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