A consul is a public officer who resides in a foreign country, principally at sea-ports and in commercial centres, to represent there the interests of his government and his fellow-countrymen. His duties are partly administrative and partly judicial. He is charged with a supervision of such ships of his nationality as arrive at the district of his consulate, receiving the ships papers, settling the disputes between the officers and men, especially guarding the rights of seamen, supervising the enlistment and discharging of sailors, and securing their pay; performing also such notarial functions as may be necessary on the entrance, re-fitting, and departure of a vessel. In maintaining their authority over captains and seamen, our consuls in most countries have the right to demand the assistance of the local police; thus being armed with full power to execute their duties. Consuls are also empowered to issue and visa passports of United States citizens, proved so to be to their satisfaction; but they may not issue passports, if residing in a country where there is a resident minister of the United States. Among their duties are those of registering births, marriages, and deaths of American citizens; arbitrating between Americans and settling disputes; serving as administrators of estates; watching over the commercial interests of the United States, seeing to it that commercial treaties are not violated, gathering and reporting commercial facts and statistics. The principal commercial function of a consul residing in an inland town is to examine and verify invoices of goods destined to be entered at the United States custom-houses. He must familiarize himself with the various grades of values of goods thus exported, and may require samples to be furnished to him with the invoices; so that, having become an expert judge, he may determine whether they are under-valued, and whether an attempt is thus made to defraud the revenue. Being satisfied that the invoice is just and fair, he certifies as much, forwarding to the custom-house a triplicate copy of the invoice for comparison and verification. In certain far-distant countries, such as China and Japan, the consular duties become much more important; for there consuls act as judges in all controversies between citizens of the United States, and exercise a criminal as well as a civil jurisdiction. It will thus be seen that a consul, in whatever foreign country he may reside, is intrusted with highly responsible and often delicate and intricate duties. His responsibility is a heavy one, and much must be confided to his sound judgment and discretion. He is the protector of Americans abroad, of the national revenue, of our seamen, and of our commercial and treaty rights. He must be always on guard to protest against and report any violation or intended violation of either. At the same time he must so act as not to embroil the two countries, or to do things which will produce misunderstandings. He is, probably, at a great distance from his official chief, the Secretary of State, and must often act solely from the promptings of self-counsel. It is true that a sort of authority is exercised over the consuls in a country by the minister or consul-general there resident; but this authority is very ill-defined and vague, so much so as to render it in practice almost useless. If a consul resorts for advice or instruction to the minister or consul-general, the usual reply is that he must apply to the State Department, or that he must act on the spot on his own discretion. So that really the consul enjoys considerable independence of action; and this renders it of the utmost importance that men of intelligence, integrity, and zeal alone should be appointed to this office.
Discipline over subordinates is easily enough maintained in the Washington departments but it is manifestly impossible to enforce rules in detail over a body of several hundred officers, scattered to the four corners of the world. The only approximate remedies to this necessary evil are: first, to appoint capable and honest consuls; secondly, such consuls obtained, to retain and not capriciously recall them; thirdly (what has not yet been done), to strengthen the hands of envoys and consuls-general with sufficient authority to positively instruct, and to keep in strict obedience to the prescribed regulations, the consuls residing in the country to which they are accredited.
But a consul has other duties besides those formally and officially imposed upon him. He is not merely a commercial agent and notary of his government, with the occasionally added functions of a State policeman: he is, or should be, in a broader sense, the representative of the country in a foreign city. His official position gives him high social privileges. He is admitted to the official society of the locality. A place of honor is accorded to him on public occasions. He appears everywhere as the principal representative American. The United States is one of the Great Powers; the United States consul, in a provincial town, holds a social position similar to that occupied by a United States minister at a royal or imperial court; he is the official equal of the British, French, Prussian, and Russian consul. Whether with discrimination or not, society looks to him to typify the best phase of American education and refinement; because the consuls of other powers are, from the tests to which they are subjected before appointment, men of culture, selected partly because of their culture. In proportion as he is respected, his official influence has weight, and his country is honored.
The qualifications which a consul should possess, in order properly to represent the country abroad, — his responsibilities being as above described, — would seem to be plain. He should possess the rudiments of a good English education. He should be not only acquainted, but familiar, with maritime, commercial, and international law, and especially with their details. He should speak, read, and write the language of the country in which he will reside, and French, in whatever country he may reside. He should be a person of prudence and sound judgment, able to conduct a discussion with temper and pith. He should have firmness and nerve to execute an often disagreeable duty without fear or favor; to resort to force, if necessary, in carrying out the regulations relating to ship-masters and seamen; and to allow no consideration to deter him from exposing an attempt to defraud the revenue in the undervaluation of invoiced goods. He should be of approved honesty and personal responsibility, so that the emoluments of his consulate—often considerable—should be accurately turned over to the treasury, and no temptation should influence him either to defraud himself, or to wink at the intended frauds of others. He should have the bearing and manners of a well-bred gentle man, accustomed to the discipline of good society, and able to sustain a good social reputation in the eyes of the foreign world. I believe it no exaggeration to say that every European government, Turkey and Greece as well as France and England, requires each and all of these qualifications to be proved as a condition precedent to a consular appointment. No one who has met any of the consuls of European nations abroad will doubt that the selections are made with minute care, and are justified by the subsequent bearing and capability of the appointees. I should not point to European examples, were it not that the qualifications which foreign nations require, and which have been indicated, are self-evidently just and necessary. The strictness of the tests which they exact are fully justified by the results. The consular services of the European powers are performed well and economically; there is a well-defined and strict organization, especially in the English and Austrian services, by which consuls are the subordinates of the ambassadors, ministers, or consuls-general, subject to their orders, relying upon their instructions, and acting constantly under their scrutiny. An inefficient consul is soon found out, and either dismissed from the service or transferred to an inferior post; while a competent and faithful consul is as readily recognized, and his name set down for certain promotion. An incident quite unknown to the British or Austrian services is the removal of an able and honest consular officer. Senator Patterson of New Hampshire, who is more familiar, perhaps, with our consular service than any other of our public men, proved in a recent speech that our system was the most extravagant as well as the worst regulated in the world. Comparing our trade with Holland and Prussia (as examples), and the expense of maintaining our legations and consuls in those countries, with the trade and diplomatic expenses of England in them, he found that relatively our officials were far more costly than those of England.
Few will be found to deny the necessity of requiring from consular candidates proofs that they possess such qualifications as have been enumerated. Are such proofs, in fact, required by the American government? Ostensibly they are required; practically they are not required.
The Department of State, which supervises and governs the consular as well as the diplomatic service, issues an octavo volume entitled “United States Consular Regulations,” elegantly bound, printed in large type and on tinted paper. A copy of this manual is presented to each consul after his appointment and before he departs for his post. In the chapter on “Applicants for the Office of Consul” occurs the following paragraph: —
“No candidate will be appointed until he has been examined and found qualified by a board consisting of three examiners, selected by the head of the department.”
What the qualifications examined into by the “board” here alluded to are may be gathered from these subsequent paragraphs: —
“Candidates must be able to write a good hand, must be thoroughly acquainted with arithmetic, geography, English grammar, and book-keeping, and must possess a good knowledge of history, especially that of the United States.
“They will be required to pass an examination, in addition to the studies above mentioned, in the Consular Manual, Kent’s Commentaries, Story on the Constitution of the United States, and the text of Wheaton’s Elements of International Law. Candidates should also be able to read and write with facility the French or some other modern language besides the English; and those who possess, in addition, the ability to speak the Ianguage of the country where they are to be employed, will be preferred.”
Elsewhere it is laid down, that if the candidate is in a foreign country he may be examined in writing by the American minister in that country.
These regulations sound well, and seem to give evidence of a regular system, requiring at least some degree of competency in the candidates. But an attentive reading of them will discover that, even if they were strictly and literally enforced, they would afford a very imperfect standard of consular competency. The candidates are not required to be familiar with maritime or commercial law; and they are only very mildly advised to know “the French,” or, at least, the language of the country in which they are to be employed. No examination, according to the text, takes place under either of these heads. If he knows “the French” or the language of his destined place of residence, well and good; it is not, clearly, essential.
But the serious objection to these regulations is, not so much that they would not, if enforced, provide the government with competent consuls: it is that they are really not enforced at all. This is true as far as the personal experience of the writer is concerned, and as far as the experience of all consuls with whom he has ever conversed upon the subject is concerned. Speaking with this limitation, such a board “of three examiners, selected by the head of the department,” has no existence whatever. It would be difficult to find any American consul appointed within twenty years, who had ever seen this board, or who had ever heard of it outside of the manual. Neither was any such examination as that described proposed to the writer, before or after his appointment; nor has he ever found a consul who had passed through any such ordeal. It is possible to assert positively that, in one instance at least, the department officials did not see even the handwriting (the first and simplest of the alleged tests) of the candidate until after he had been nominated, confirmed, and had received his formal appointment. The Secretary of State had never seen him nor had he ever heard of him until within a week before his nomination was sent to the Senate.
The truth is that very little attention is paid by President or State Department to the qualifications of the consular appointees. The appointments are not determined, and apparently are not professed to be determined, by the test of competency. The selections are made from other motives, with other views, and certainly with other results, than would emanate from a pure intention to establish an efficient corps of officers, who are to perform important functions at a distance from departmental control. The great bane of our political life, the corrupting consequences of an irresponsible executive patronage, naturally adopting the base maxim, “To the victors belong the spoils,” enter into and work great evils in the consular system. Consuls are appointed just as the more familiar home officials are appointed; just as judges and collectors, postmasters and clerks, are appointed. There is as little scrutiny into qualifications, as little reference to personal character, even less method in enforcing the regulations laid down to guide official conduct. Consuls are the nominees of Congressmen, the personal pets or political managers of Presidents and Secretaries; consulships are the rewards of “party services” and persistent flattery, and are among the pieces of good fortune due to a happy consanguinity with men in power. Sometimes consuls are senators or representatives with whose services their constituents have dispensed, and who must be provided with a reward for past devotion; oftener they are the obscurer lobbyists of State legislatures, or persons, of whatever profession and status in life, who either have promoted a Congressional election, or whom it is necessary to propitiate and get rid of. Wealth and family influence secure to some the “consular dignity”; sometimes scholarship and real fitness, literary merit and social eminence, when well backed by political influence, attain consular offices. But it must be confessed that the large majority of consuls are appointed simply and purely for party reasons, and with little regard to their individual qualifications for their official or social duties.
The men so selected are submitted to no examination worthy of the name, and are not even required to prove as much “moral character” as a college freshman, a school teacher, or a new domestic servant.
What actually occurs, on the appointment of a consul, may not be without interest to the great majority who have not been consuls, and may be briefly stated.
According to the manual already quoted, the appointee is required to report in person at this department for further instructions; as a matter of fact, this turns out to be not absolutely necessary. “Instructions” are not seldom sent to the new consul at his residence. Following the manual again, the favored servant of the government learns that he will, when duly arrived at the department, “be employed in the consular bureau and at the Treasury Department during the usual business hours, in such employment as will best acquaint him with the nature of the consular service.” This process, he is informed, will consume two weeks. He goes to Washington, picturing to himself the grave ordeal of the examination “by a board of three,” and the equally awe-inspiring prospect of toiling daily under the vigilant eyes of the Secretaries of State and of the Treasury. Tremblingly he mounts the steps of the State Department. He is about to enter the presence of his august chief, to be by him handed over to his inquisitors. All things at the State Department are quiet and dignified and proper. There is a lull in the corridors and anterooms; primly white-cravatted men are talking softly to each other; the negro messenger has a decorous, gloomily stately air. At least six typical Tite Barnacles are encountered gliding to and fro on the first floor. The echoes of your steps are painfully loud and jarring in this solemn place. An irreverent man would say that place and clerks had an air of indolence. A new-fledged consul is simply awestruck; this is the repository of great state secrets, the temple which encloses the original parchment of the Constitution.
Mounting to the Secretary’s ante-room, he asks to see that dignitary; of course he, a consul, will be admitted at once. The messenger coldly murmurs that the Secretary will see no one. The new official observes, with surprise, that no line of the messenger’s visage changes when he announces himself as the new Consul to X. That makes no difference. The Secretary can’t waste his time on consuls. If the visitor is a consul he must go to the consular bureau, the last door on the left, graciously imparts the messenger, who is putting enormous wax seals on an enormous white package at a little table.
A pleasant gentleman awaits him in the decorous apartment designated as the “consular bureau.” He is rather pleasant than respectful; he has, indeed, manifestly no awe for the consular title. He chats with the new-comer about his consulship, dilates on the climate, the wines, the people, the theatres of the new-coiners destined residence. Asked about the examination and instructions, he laughs a subdued, amiable laugh, and, ignoring the former topic, says that here are the late consuls despatches, you may look through them if you like; and here is the manual, which you had better run your eye over at the hotel in the course of to-night or to-morrow; and here are the consular forms, but you’ll find all those in the manual; and generally, the instructions usually given are — well, the manual covers the whole ground, and you’ll get them all out of that. Is that all? Well, yes, about all. And the being employed in the bureau and the Treasury Department? O, of course, there’s no need of your doing that, you know! That is meant for inexperienced persons. You won’t have to do that. And about staying here two weeks? Well, if you want to stay two weeks — O no. Well then, just look over the manual; and if you want to ask any questions about anything, drop in to-morrow, at ‘leven or twelve o’clock, and I’Il post you; and then you can be off. The consular vade mecum is perused with avidity, and, although often turgid in expression and vague in precepts, affords a general view of the consular duties. The new consul, finding his presence at the department not encouraged by the officials, makes haste to depart, and sails for his post. He has duly deposited his bond, with sureties, to the amount of three or four thousand dollars, as security that he will not embezzle the funds or make way with the “consular property” of the government. The consular property he finds, on arriving at his post, to consist of various articles in various stages of dilapidation. There is a great bookcase, a chair or two, a very forlorn coat of arms with the eagles head obscured by accumulated dirt and long exposure, a national “tattered ensign” and flag-pole; the “Statutes of the United States”; a plethora of Patent Office Reports, diplomatic correspondence, and other eminently entertaining and practical official literature; a few seals, a few sheets of paper and envelopes, a few printed forms, and sundry heavy volumes of record.
He goes to work as best he can with the materials at hand. He resolves to justify the confidence and win the further approbation of his government. Perhaps he will thereby win promotion; at least, by a faithful discharge of duty, he may retain his place, indifferent, behind his barrier of a good official reputation, to the accession or retirement of Presidents. So he requires the captains to pay the sailors three months extra wages to the uttermost farthing; studies and administers the law in ship matters with unflinching justice; posts himself on the values of merchandise, and laboriously scrutinizes every sample which he exacts from exporting natives; spends hours in delving among reports of ministers of commerce and superintendents of ports, and burns the midnight oil in drawing up elaborate commercial statistics and essays addressed to the Secretary of State; follows anxiously the minutest instructions of the manual as to the manner and form of doing things, measuring the margins on his despatches to the hundredth of an inch, using exactly the right sort of paper and no other, and observing in his language the closest possible conformity to the official communications which, at rare intervals, he receives from his chief; burrowing away steadfastly at the language; sedulously attending all the official receptions and on all public occasions; performing, as far as he can know, all the duties of his position.
This, however, is in the verdant spring-time of his consular career. He learns as he advances. A perplexing matter arises, which he cannot himself decide, and concerning which the oracular voice of the manual for once affords him no illumination. He applies to the consul-general for counsel; that dignitary, distracted by the vagueness of his powers, answers in effect, that he really cannot undertake to advise or instruct, and that the consul had better apply at the department. Accordingly he addresses the Secretary. His despatch lies in the department pigeon-holes till it is dust-laden; goes slowly the rounds of three or four clerks; finally reaches the assistant secretary; and in the course of two or three months a neat despatch in reply is forwarded to the consul, so ambiguous in explanation and so pompously vague in expression, that, in his despair, he is tempted to toss up a cent to decide in which way he shall interpret it. Gradually the fact dawns upon him that all his vigilance and care does not advance him a step in the estimation of his superiors. He sees consuls who have been cited to him as examples of efficiency and official diligence suddenly removed, without notice or excuse; sees men assuming their places who cannot read or write correct English, who are, in their own localities, bankrupt in name and fortune, whose manners betray a familiarity with bar-rooms and frontier towns, who are looked upon with wonder and disgust in the places to which they are accredited. He finds that a consul, be he ever so excellent, who has no “political influence,” is in constant danger of being ordered home as if he were a boy in disgrace; and that a consul, be he ever so incompetent, be his manners ever so gross, be his accounts ever so behindhand, be he ever so often a truant from his post, — a consul who has “political influence” may go on indefinitely bringing odium upon the American name, and converting the consular fees “to his own use,” with his political head untouched and his security unmolested.
Is it wonderful that this fact, impressed again and again upon the mind of the earnestly striving officer, should discourage him; that he should lose his ambition to do his duty faithfully; that he should determine to make the best of his place while he has it, squeezing as much money out of it as he might, escaping from duty and going off on pleasure tours when he thought the way was clear, and leaving the business in the hands of French or German clerks? Is it strange that he found his predecessors’ accounts and records a mass of confusion and a monument of deliberate neglect, and that he leaves his own equally awry to his successor? Is it strange that he gets careless about sailors’ pay and invoices, that captains get off without disgorging the dues of their men, and that Continental Jews slip their goods in at our custom-houses on false valuations and to the detriment both of the revenue and of honest merchants?
This is, indeed, one, and only one, of the evils worked in the consular service by our world-wide famous system of rotation in office. To be an American consul is not, if it ever was, held to be an honor in Europe. A consul who arrives at his post often finds himself an object rather of curiosity than of respect. I have often heard it remarked by Europeans, that American consuls were a very different sort of men from the consuls of other nations. Europeans, with their notions of system, gradation, permanency of efficient service, and promotion for merit, are at a loss to comprehend the sudden changes made by our government. For this reason, the removal of a consul who has tried to do and consciously succeeded in doing his duty, is painful to him for other reasons than the mere loss of salary and position. To a man of sensitive honor, these are but secondary considerations. Even the affront—for it is nothing less—which is offered to him by a removal, not only without explanation, but without the least notice, — a removal effected simply by the appearance at his desk of his successor demanding his chair, — is not the most serious feature of his position. He has resided long enough at his post to make official and social acquaintances, and to form ties of friendship; he has won, perhaps, the esteem, confidence, and respect of the community. How can this community regard his sudden dismissal? Even those who are his friends and have esteemed him are constrained (arguing from their own official system) to suspect him of having forfeited the confidence of his government. Is he inefficient, has he embezzled, what can be his fault? Only a very few, abroad, understand the “rotation-in-office” system; and the effect is that the removed consul’s reputation is in jeopardy when so curtly dismissed, without a reason.
The only possible way to make our consular service efficient and honorable is to insure permanency, if not to hold out a prospect of promotion, to those who prove themselves to be good officers.
One instance may be stated, of the apparent indifference of our political authorities to the good of the public service, and the consequent detriment it receives. It is that of Mr. Abbot, the late consul at Sheffield. This officer, after serving for many years in the State Department, some of the time as the head of the consular bureau, was appointed to Sheffield on the ground of his great familiarity with the consular duties and rules, the laws bearing upon the office, and his ability and uprightness as long exhibited in the department. His conduct of the Sheffield consulate was such as to call out repeated commendatory despatches from successive Secretaries. He was known, both at the department and in the service, as the most indefatigable, exact, diligent, painstaking, and efficient consul in the corps. He was regarded as the best authority on consular matters, and was often consulted by the department and members of Congressional committees on subjects relating to this service. He had edited the manual. He never shrank from any controversy with the Sheffield merchants, but, on the contrary, had a long and bitter conflict with them in relation to the valuation of the cutlery imported by them into the United States. His object in this was to insure our government the just and exact revenue due. His action was approved by the department. He received a despatch, not only of approval, but couched in terms of high and cordial commendation of his performance of the duties. A few months afterward, no incident affecting the case intervening, he was summarily removed, curtly and without explanation. The President had visited Connecticut; and a week or two after the visit a Connecticut man was named for consul at Sheffield. Mr. Abbot doubtless saved our revenue many thousands, besides maintaining a consulate which was a model to all others; and this was his reward.
Of the many things in which our consular service needs a thorough and vigorous reform, I have space to designate but a few. The first of these would doubtless be, to ascertain, by pertinent tests, the ability and character of the candidates, excluding all from office who were evidently unfit, or rather who were not evidently fit. If the regulations already quoted were vigorously enforced, something would be gained. But the gain would be greater if a competitive examination, free to all comers, were established; for this, faithfully carried out, would exclude Presidential pets and Congressional favorites, unless these prevailed on the test of competency. The board of examiners should be both experts, and wholly independent of the appointing power and of all other political influence. The next rule would seem to follow naturally from such a mode of selection. Let the term of office depend on the competency of the officer, and on that alone; put it out of the power of political hands to disturb a faithful servant. Then give ample, distinct, and responsible powers to consuls-general, to exercise control over the consuls of the country where they reside. As it is, consuls-general are in a thick mist as to their powers, which has rather a worse effect than if they had no powers at all.
A reform of the consular service embracing these points would go far towards elevating its character and improving its efficiency; but it would not be yet complete. A reorganization as regards the consulates themselves, and the salaries attached to them, is perceived to be necessary by those who are familiar with the subject. Secretary Seward probably did more for the reformation of the consular system than any other occupant of that office. Something like method and order, though of an imperfect kind, grew out of his efforts. The judiciousness of his appointments was often remarked, and is one of the conspicuous features of his administration. He rarely appointed a consul who proved unfit, and he appointed many of eminent fitness. He found the system costly to the government, and left it more than self-sustaining. This he did by recommending the abolition of some consulates, the cutting down of fees and salaries in others. Probably he went as far, in consular reform, as he could do in the troublous era of his secretaryship, and under the pressure of influential politicians. At all events, although he showed zeal in reorganizing the service, he left the work incomplete. There are still many consulates which might properly be abolished altogether; others whose emoluments to the consul might be diminished; others which might easily be reduced to consular agencies under the supervision of a neighboring consulate. At Moscow, we are told, the fees collected amount annually to $9, while the salaries paid are $2,228; at Brindisi, fees collected $2.50, salaries about $2,000; at Boulogne-sur-mer the fees are next to nothing, and the consul’s salary is $1,500. These are only three out of many instances. Each might be abolished or made consular agencies without injury to the government. But the more the offices, the more hungry mouths are filled; and thereby hangs the mystery of many of these things. On the other hand, consular agencies might be named, yielding good incomes to foreign agents, which could be raised to the rank of consulates and filled by responsible American citizens.
Consular agents are officers, subordinate to full consuls, exercising duties within the limits of the consulates at places different from those at which the full consul resides. These are usually nominated by the consul, and are native merchants, lawyers, or notaries. The seats of consular agencies are places which have some, but not a very extensive trade with this country; and where, therefore, it would not pay to accredit a full-salaried consul. In such cases it is well enough, if there be no resident American willing to accept the agency, to appoint natives. But there are two offices to which it will be generally thought it is improper and injurious to appoint foreigners; these are the full consulships and the vice-consulships.
It is probably not widely known that a considerable number of our consuls abroad are persons of foreign birth. Many of them are natives of the countries in which their consulates are situated; some of them are natives of countries which are on ill terms with the countries where their consulates are situated. An Irishman, until recently, was consul at Southampton; and several of the English, Scotch, and Irish consulates are held by natives of those countries. The same is true of nearly every nation; especially of Germany, where the large minority of American consuls are Germans. The proportion is still greater in the vice-consular offices. The vice-consuls are the deputies of the consuls acting with their full power when they are absent, and, in the larger consulates, performing at all times the substantial, every-day work of the offices.
This is certainly an evil. The interests of American citizens are thus committed to foreign hands in a foreign country. In cases of misunderstanding or conflict of opinion between the consul and the native authorities, the former, being himself a native of that country, must often decide between the instinct of patriotism, the sympathy with the land of his birth, and his official duty to the land of his perhaps recent adoption. No one would expect an American consul, who is a German, residing in Germany, retaining the old affection for Germany, to be the judicial, prompt, and energetic officer, when a contested matter arises, which it is imperative that our consuls should be. The zeal necessary adequately to perform these functions should be, if not prompted, at least encouraged, by patriotic feeling. I have no intention of protesting against the appointment of naturalized citizens to office. There are reasons why intelligent and capable naturalized citizens should share in the gifts of the public service; and such examples as Schurz, Sigel, and Meagher show that our Senate and army may be honored by the advancement of such men. But in our foreign appointments, the reasons would seem to be clear, why, unless the case is extraordinary, foreigners should not be selected. Under a well-ordered, firmly established system of equal competitive examination (not a mere formal examination, but one sufficiently simple and practical to effect a real test of qualifications), the only valid argument for appointing foreigners to positions abroad would disappear; for they would not then be the only persons capable of comprehending the language of the consular locality. This policy is only one more of those evils brought into our public administration by the greed of party and the exigencies of politicians. The “foreign element” must be courted. There are so many thousand German or Irish votes in a Congressional district. These must be conciliated, at any cost. Fit or unfit, their leaders must be “provided for.” And so, whether the service is well performed or not, Germans and Irishmen must be sent to be American representatives at Dublin and Berlin.
Every consideration which refers to the abuses and corruptions of the consular service, or to the remedies to be applied thereto, — as every consideration regarding all our offices, — leads us to one conclusion. No matter what the point of view from which we look at this subject, — whether we regard the method of nomination and of appointment, the position of the officer at his post, the scope and application of the rules by which he is guided, the supervision exercised over his conduct, the organization of the consulates themselves, the apportionment of salaries, the status of the vice-consuls and consular agents, — we are always coming in contact with the one prevailing disease which impairs the usefulness and soils the good name of the American civil service.
This is irresponsible, interested, and partial political patronage, which impedes necessary reforms, compels the appointment of incompetent persons, dictates arbitrary removals, denies the rewards of approbation and promotion to the worthy, and shields the delinquencies, and often the guilt, of the unworthy; which corrupts not only subordinates, but the heads of departments, and the Presidential office itself; which favors, not loyalty to the nation, but loyalty to party and persons only; which breeds extravagance in the disposal of the public moneys, carelessness and peculation in the official who knows that his time is short, and a disregard of the public weal in successful aspirants to power.
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