CONSUL, the title given to the two c.hief magistrates of the ancient Roman Republic and to the three supreme magistrates of the first French Republic during the last five years of its existence. In present usage the term indicates an official who resides in a foreign seaport or other commercial centre as the representative of his home government and who is charged with the protection of his fellow-countrymen and the safeguarding of their interests.
The office of consul was created in Rome about 508 a.c., after the expulsion of the lcings. The election to the consulship was annual, and only patricians were eligible until the Licinian laws opened the office to the plebeians.
In the history of France the title of consul appears after the fall of the Directory, when three consuls were appointed. The constitution of 13 Dec. 1799 gave to the first of these magis trates the real power, the others having only an advisory voice in the government. Napoleon Bonaparte became First Consul. In 1802 he was confirmed in the consulship for life, and in 1804 he abolished it by the establishment of the Empire. The office of consul in the present signification of the term had its origin in the extensive trade relations of the Italian cities of the 12th century.
In 1780 the first United States consul was commissioned. The consular system was estab lished by acts of Congress in 1790 and 1792. The consular posts of the United States are arranged by statute in three classes: (1) Those in which the incumbents receive a fixed salary and are not allowed to transact business; (2) those to which a fixed salary is attached and business transactions permitted; (3) those in which the incumbents are compensated by fees collected in their offices and are allowed to transact business. There were in existence,
25 Oct. 1902, 315 consular posts. Among the responsibilities devolving upon United States consuls are the regulation of shipping, the issu ing of passports and of certificates of births, deaths and marriages, the caring for disabled seamen and the ensuring. of justice to native born or naturalized American citizens. Consuls also send reports to the home government con cerning foreign trade conditions. In countries where the government is unstable or despotic Ainerican consuls are vested with exceptional powers. They may exercise judicial functions over lawbreakers of their own nationality, such as fining, committing to prison, etc. Special powers and duties of consuls are determined by treaty. Before entering upon his duties a con sul must receive an exequatur from the govern ment to which he is accredited. No radical change has been made in the consular service of the United States since its establishment. President Cleveland by executive order in 1895 applied civil service principles to consular posts of a certain class. Of late there has been con siderable agitation in favor of reorganizing the system.
Schuyler, 'American Diplo macy and the Furtherance of Commerce); Straus, 'Reform in the Consular Service'; Warden, 'Origin, Nature, and Progress of Con sular Establishments.>