U.S. Department of State: A Reference History

By Elmer Plischke | Go to book overview

cern with the potentiality of naval bases in the area and the construction of an isthmian canal in Central America. On the other hand, it opposed intervention in Hawaii and other Pacific Islands.

By law the United States created a new office of Assistant Secretary of State and in the mid-1850s reformed and systematized its Diplomatic and Consular Services, including specific salary arrangements and consular functions. It modified the ranking of American diplomats, elevating most envoys to the status of Envoys Extraordinary and Ministers Resident, and virtually eliminated that of Chargé d'Affaires. Foreign representation was expanded substantially, in Europe and Latin America and also extended to diplomatic relations in Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. And the Secretary of State and Congress fussed over diplomatic ceremonial attire.

Technically, the Diplomatic and Consular Services remained unprofessional, the spoils system was applied to presidential appointments, and some nepotism pertained, 160 but a few individual diplomatic and consular officers served for long periods and in various assignments, and they matured into professionals. In 1856, suggesting the initiation of professionalism in the Consular Service, Congress provided for the appointment of a limited number of trainees based on prior examination and experience, but this was short-lived. Some appointees served in both administrative posts in Washington and in diplomatic and consular assignments abroad, thereby providing for a degree of interchange. However, although the Diplomatic and Consular Services remained separate, a few individuals bridged the gulf and served in both capacities.

The United States also extended its treaty making considerably, both territorially and substantively, by adding thirty-six more countries and other territories to its treaty roster and by extending its treaty concerns to include extradition, personal inheritance, postal affairs, isthmian canal construction, and other matters. All but one of these treaties and agreements were bilateral, and, although the United States was a primary exponent of neutral rights, it refused to accede to the Declaration of Paris ( 1856). It also experimented with alternative treaty ratification procedures and tailored them in particular cases to bridge constitutional prescriptions with the needs of the times, which influenced subsequent practice. But it was not yet ready to participate freely in multipartite international conferencing.

In short, despite major concern with domestic issues and responsibilities during these three decades, the United States was becoming globally involved in terms of commercial and other nonpolitical matters, diplomatic and consular representation, and treaty making. As a consequence, the Secretary and Department of State were burdened with increasing duties and responsibilities.


NOTES
1.
William Henry Harrison served as President for only thirty-one days, and Zachary Taylor for sixteen months.

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