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relating to the department. The business of the office was conducted by the secretary's deputy and two clerks who gave such time as they could to the recording of previous correspondence. They had already recorded one volume of Dana's letters during his mission to Russia, beginning February 18, 1780, and ending December 17, 1783; of H. Laurens beginning January 24, 1780, and ending April 30, 1784; of J. Laurens during his special mission at Versailles from January 3, and ending September 6, 1781. There were five volumes of Adams' letters from December 23, 1777, to April 10, 1787, and work was in progress on the sixth volume. Two volumes contained Jay's letters from December 20, 1779, to July 25, 1784. Deane's letters from September 17,1776, to March 17, 1782, were recorded, and those from Arthur Lee from February 13, 1776, to February 13, 1778, were in hand. The letters from Franklin, Jefferson, the first joint commissioners and the joint commissioners for negotiating a treaty of peace, and those for negotiating treaties of commerce, William Lee, Dumas and others were numerous, and were not yet recorded. "The letter book of the late committee for foreign affairs composed of sheets stitched together and much worn" had been copied in a bound book and indexed. There was an index to the paper cases and to the boxes in each case, and to the papers in each box, the original letters and papers being in the cases and boxes. The office was constantly open from nine o'clock in the morning till six in the evening, and one clerk remained in the office while the others went to dinner. The report concluded: "And upon the whole they find neatness, method and perspicacity throughout the department"

This was the last report made upon the condition of the department of foreign affairs. The last act relative to foreign affairs was taken by the expiring Congress, September 16, 1788, when, on a report from a committee composed of Hamilton, Madison, Dane and Edwards it was:

Resolved, That no further progress be made in the negotiations with Spain, by the secretary for foreign affairs, but that the subject to which they relate be referred to the federal government, which is to assemble in March next.50


Reports of Committees relating to Department of Foreign Affairs, Library of Congress MSS.

50 Secret Journals, iv. 452.

One month later the Congress of the confederation was dead, not a sufficient number of members attending to form a quorum.

The only two secretaries of foreign affairs before the Constitution went into effect were Livingston and Jay. Both showed conspicuous ability, and it is doubtful if men better equipped for the office they held could have been found in America. The diplomacy of the Revolution was, on the whole, splendidly successful, but this was due chiefly to the energy and genius of the American diplomatists, for the machinery which they were obliged to use was weak and inadequate for its purpose. In no branch of governmental affairs was the necessity for a stronger government and closer union of the states more crying than in our foreign relations, and this was more evident after the peace than it was while the states clung together in the common danger of war.

"When our ministers and agents in Europe," says John Fiske, "raised the question as to making commercial treaties, they were disdainfully asked whether European powers were expected to deal with thirteen governments or with one. If it was answered that the United States constituted a single government so far as their relations with foreign powers were concerned, then we were forthwith twitted with our failure to keep our engagements with England with regard to the loyalists and the collection of private debts. 'Yes, we see,' said the European diplomats; 'the United States are one nation to-day and thirteen to-morrow, according as may seem to subserve their selfish interests.' Jefferson, at Paris, was told again and again that it was useless for the French government to enter into any agreement with the United States, as there was no certainty that it would be fulfilled on our part, and the same things were said all over Europe."


51 The Critical Period of American History, p. 160 (3d edition).



The consular service of the United States has been for a long time the object of a great deal of criticism, some of which unfortunately has been well founded but much has been due to imperfect acquaintance with the legitimate functions of consuls and, therefore, to lack of ability to judge accurately of their shortcomings. It is of interest to note that of recent years the criticism has been for the most part confined to our own country, while from the people of other nations our consuls have received unstinted praise for their activity and efficiency, and our system has been frequently held up abroad as a model after which to reorganize some of the older European systems the virtues of which it has been the custom of our people to extol. But while it is true that in many respects our consuls have shown themselves the equals if not the superiors of the consuls of other nations, the fact remains that our service has been uneven in point of efficiency; there has been no satisfactory organization; little care has been exercised in the selection of persons for appointment; and the salaries and equipment have been far from adequate. Repeated attempts to correct these defects have been made during a period dating almost from the beginning of the government, but, with the exception of the improvements made in 1856, all these attempts have failed largely because they lacked the support of any considerable public sentiment.

The great majority of our people have been so busily engaged in the development of the immense resources of the country that until recently they have had little occasion to interest themselves in the character or usefulness of our representatives abroad. But the growth of our foreign commerce and the closer relations which our people enjoy with the peoples of other nations have given rise to a demand for a better consular service in response to which a law was passed last year making possible for the first time the organization of the consular system in a manner calculated to develop its efficiency and usefulness. The importance of that law can be more fully appreciated after a brief account of the condition of the consular service in the past and of the efforts made to improve it.

By the treaty of amity and commerce concluded with France on the sixth of February, 1778, the United States first formally recognized the right of consular representation. That treaty granted. mutually the right of each nation to appoint in the ports of the other consuls, vice consuls, agents and commissaries and stipulated that their functions should be regulated by a particular agreement to be negotiated later. Unlike France, the United States did not at once take advantage of the rights conceded by the treaty, and continued to rely upon its political and commercial agents abroad for the performance of consular functions in case of need. The necessity for some officer to perform these functions had become apparent as early as 1776 when Silas Deane and Thomas Morris, who had been sent to France to represent the colonies as political and commercial agents, found that they were not infrequently called upon to care for American seamen and vessels. After the arrival in Paris of Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee, who undertook with Deane, the negotiation of the treaty of commerce, the purely consular duties, in addition to the purchase of supplies and the promotion of commerce, became so burdensome that they interfered seriously with the satisfactory discharge of the more important diplomatic work with which the commissioners were charged. Early in 1778 complaints from the commissioners began to reach congress, and in May of that year John Adams, who had been elected a commissioner in place of Deane and had arrived in France in April, criticised severely the system of combining the business of a public minister with that of a commercial agent. In July the commissioners unanimously recommended to congress the appointment of consuls, and the following year Franklin wrote:

We have long since written to congress advising and requesting that consuls might be appointed, and we have expected every day for some months intelligence of such appointments. (3 Wharton: Diplomatic Correspondence, p. 35.)

and again:

Commercial agents . . and the captains are continually writing for my opinion or orders or leave to do this or that, by which much time is lost to them and much of mine taken up to little purpose from my ignorance. (3 Wharton: Diplomatic Correspondence, p. 191.)

Other agents wrote to like effect, but congress does not appear to have made any effort to relieve the commissioners of their commercial func

tions until November 4, 1780, when it elected Colonel William Palfrey, paymaster general of the continental armies, the first consul of the United States. Colonel Palfrey was to reside in France and was to receive a salary of $1500 a year in lieu of the usual commissions for business done on account of the United States. His functions were to be similar to those of a consul general and he was to have supervision of all fiscal matters of the United States in France. Unfortunately his ship was lost in a storm, and uncertain of what may have been his fate, congress resolved January 21, 1781, that Thomas Barclay be appointed a vice consul to exercise "all the powers and perform the services required of William Palfrey." The vice consul was to be allowed a salary of $1000 a year in lieu of all commissions.

While by the treaty with France it had been agreed to receive and send consuls, there was nothing in any treaty or act of congress outlining their rights and duties, and inasmuch as France had promptly sent consuls to American ports, the extent of consular authority had become an important question. On February 23, 1779, the council of Massachusetts Bay asked congress to define the powers which might be exercised by foreign consuls in American ports, and a special committee was appointed to confer with M. Gérard, the French minister. That officer took advantage of the opportunity to present to congress an outline of a convention based upon the section in relation to consuls in the treaty of 1778. In an accompanying memorial he set forth the difficulties experienced by foreign consuls in exercising their functions under the state governments which still retained within their control the legislative and administrative regulation, of foreign commerce, and many of the judicial powers which were later vested in the federal government. He also made clear the desire of France to secure a larger share of the trade of America than it then possessed.

Little progress was made, however, until July, 1781, when Luzerne, who had succeeded Gérard as minister, again brought the subject to the attention of congress. (4 Wharton: Diplomatic Correspondence, p. 604.) In January of the following year a plan for a consular convention was adopted and forwarded to Franklin in Paris, with instructions granting him much discretion as to the form in which it might be agreed upon, but directing him especially to insist upon the substance of it. Franklin clearly disregarded the wishes of congress

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