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Consular Service of the United States

consuls, officers, principal, duties, salaries, time, president, law and consuls-general

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CONSULAR SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES. The first consul of the United States was appointed 9 Dec. 1780, al though the commissioners of the United States in Europe had exercised consular functions in addition to their diplomatic duties prior to that time. Five years afterward Congress declared by a joint resolution that it was expedient that the United States should appoint consuls abroad, and expressly authorized American ministers in Europe to exercise the powers of consuls general in the countries to which they were accredited. The Constitution, adopted in 1787, conferred upon the President the power to nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint consuls. While President Washington in pursuance of the authority given him by the Constitution appointed a number of consuls and vice-consuls, no detailed law regarding consuls was passed until 14 April 1792. That law, which was to carry into effect our consular treaty with France, did not create or even regulate a con sular system, but merely recognized its existence by imposing upon it certain specified duties. The act of 1 May 1810 appropriated sal aries for the consuls at Algiers, Tangier, Tunis and Tripoli, which for nearly 30 years were the only consular salaries provided by law. For the most part, the United States, like most other nations, started by appointing un paid consuls from among American merchants residing abroad, or, if they were sent from America, by permitting them to enter into business as a means of ensuring support. Con suls were also allowed to retain as compensation the fees collected for official services performed.

This so-called system was found to work badly for the interests of the government as well as the individual citizen, and as early as 1816 the Secretary of State, to whose dis cretion the administration of the service was left, proposed to Congress to pay fixed salaries to the consuls at more important places, at least. Efforts in this direction were continued from time to time with the object of so provid ing for the compensation of consuls that they could devote their time to their official duties, hut nothing was accomplished until 1856, when Congress passed the law in pursuance of which the reorganization of the consular service upon substantially its present basis was effected. The aim of this act was to reduce the service to a regular system somewhat in line with the British consular service by providing for fixed salaries for the principal consuls, prohibiting those consuls from engaging in business and requiring them to remit to the Secretary of the Treasury all fees collected by them for per forming official services. The appointment of consular officers is now in the hands of the President and by executive order of 1906 under the Lodge Act passed in that year, all consular officers except clerks, consular agents and vice-consuls, must pass a qualifying examina tion. The examining board consists normally of the Secretary of State, the Director of the Consular Service, the Chief of the Consular Bureau and the Chief Examiner of the Civil Service Commission.

Consular officers of the United States are divided into two classes, principal and subordi nate. Principal officers are consuls-general and consuls. Subordinate officers are vice-consuls, consular agents, consular assistants, clerks, student interpreters and also interpreters. Con suls-general perform the same duties as consuls, and in addition have general supervision over consuls within the limits of their jurisdiction. There are five consuls-general at large, who inspect every consulate at least once in two years. Like consuls, consuls-general are ap pointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The senior vice-consular officers at a consulate fill the places and exercise the func tions of consuls-general and consuls, when those officers are temporarily absent or relieved from duty. When the principal officers are present at their posts, they are subordinate to, and exercise their powers and perform their duties under, the direction of principal officers. They may be situated in a different city from their consulate. Consular agents are subordinate to principal consular officers, exercising their powers and performing their duties at ports or places different from those at which their principals are located. Their functions are not in all respects as extensive as those of principal officers, and they are not authorized to corre spond with the Department of State. There are 40 consular assistants provided for by law. They are appointed by the President, after examination, and can only be removed for cause. They are assigned from time to time to con sulates with such duties as the Secretary of State may direct. Besides these there are clerks at a salary from $300 to $1,500 a year and a corps of student interpreters, 10 in China, 6 in Japan and 10 in Turkey. The salary of a student interpreter is $1,003, plus allowances for studying. When qualified, they may be ap pointed interpreters at varying salaries. Con sular officers qualify by taking a prescribed oath, and all except consular agents and con sular clerks are required to file a bond to the United States for the faithful performance of their duties. The salaries of consuls-general and consuls range from $2,000 to $6,000 a year. Vice-consular officers receive no fixed salaries, but when in charge of a post they receive half as much as the principal officer normally holding it. Consular agents receive as compensation one-half of the official fees collected by them up to $1,000. Consular as sistants receive salaries of $1,000 for the first three years' service, after which their salaries are gradually increased to $1,800 a year. All fees for unofficial and notarial work are re tained as personal compensation by the officers collecting them.

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