Page images

ciency by promotion from the rank of secretary to that of minister or ambassador is clearly defined, the diplomatic service, like a house of cards, has no solid structure on which to build.

What an Ambassador Must Do

Now let us see what constitute the duties of our embassies and legations. The ambassador or minister must, first of all, be sympathetic to the country to which he is accredited, and on such terms of intimacy with the members of the government near which he resides that he can champion American rights without giving offense; he must be ready at a moment's notice to speak or give information about American institutions, laws, and customs; and he must be the medium through whom Americans seeking information may come in touch with those foreigners whom they desire to meet. He is the head of the American community in a foreign country, and as such takes an active part in the social organizations and activities of his compatriots. He must not omit to further in every way the prestige of the United States, and at the same time to make the principles and ideals of this country understood and respected.

Practical questions come to him and his secretaries for decision every day, and, besides the mass of correspondence with the State Department, he has a large miscellaneous correspondence with the people among whom he is living, who are asking questions on every known subject in regard to the United States.

For example: during the six months' period between April 1 and September 30, 1916, the embassy in London sent to the Secretary of State 2,459 dispatches and telegrams, and in the same period the Department of State sent 1,599 instructions addressed to the ambassador. Of the correspondence to the Department, 411 dispatches related to the protection of American citizens, their whereabouts and welfare; 496 were in regard to the protection of American property, seizure, blockade, and blacklist matters; and 113 in regard to commercial matters. The correspondence also dealt with the immigration of Chinese to the United States, the release of prisoners of war by the British Government, and the censorship of mails and telegrams, etc. Of the 1,599 communications sent by the Secretary of State to the embassy in London, 267 related to the protection of American citizens and their welfare; 322 to the protection of American property and questions arising out of the blockade and blacklist; and 144 to the issuance of passports. All of this gigantic correspondence is carried on by open cable or secret-cipher cable messages, or by mail communications forwarded in the diplomatic pouches, which are leather bags about four feet by two and a half feet, each carefully sealed with the official seals of the United States Government.

And then there are the amusing incidents which occur almost daily, and help to lighten the work of an embassy: While I, myself, was a secretary in London, an excited elderly gentleman with gray locks called upon me one morning and showed me a letter which he had just received from an American lady in California, who wrote to say that she had had a dream which told her to proceed at once to England to

live with him. Of course, the elderly gentleman had never heard of the lady in question; but the worst part was that the lady was already on her way, and was scheduled to arrive in London the following day. It was the embassy's business, and my particular business, to capture the lady and send her home, which was done after many tears and protests on her part.

Another amusing incident, and as an illustration of the enterprise of the American business man: At the time of the death of Queen Victoria, an American undertaker from the Pacific Coast sought the assistance of the ambassador in London in order to secure the contract to build the Queen's coffin. He was quite convinced that he could secure the business provided the ambassador would introduce him to the proper authorities, and of course could not in the least understand the ambassador's hesitancy in granting his request.

The Consular Service

While our diplomatic representatives are recognized throughout the countries to which they are accredited as the representatives of the Government of the United States, a consul is recognized as the Government's representative in the district in which he resides; in other words, an American consular officer stationed in Berlin would have no jurisdiction in Hamburg or in any other city in Germany outside of his district.

Diplomatic intercourse between nations consists of communications from one government to another, sometimes formal — more often informal in character. The functions of consuls are to promote American commerce by keeping the Government, and through it the business men of the United States, informed in regard to economic and industrial conditions abroad; assisting in making connections between American and foreign commercial houses, and in marketing American merchandise in foreign countries. Our consuls are also called upon to take charge of the personal estates of American citizens who die abroad without legal or other representatives; to care for stranded American seamen; to certify to the correctness of the values of merchandise shipped from foreign countries to the United States; to aid in the enforcement of the immigration laws; and in every other way to give counsel and advice to American citizens sojourning in their respective districts.

When the consuls return to the United States on leave of absence from their posts, they bring interesting first-hand information of opportunities for trade in those countries from which they have just returned; and the Department assists them to come in touch with our chambers of commerce and other commercial organizations which may be interested in knowing more about the opportunities for the development of American trade abroad.

There are two hundred and ninety-five principal consular officers, all of whom are permanent government officials who are devoting their lives to the extension of American trade in foreign countries. There is also a large corps of vice-consuls, consular assistants, student interpreters, consular agents, and clerks, which together comprise a consular personnel of 1,672. The service is classified much as is the diplomatic service, except that there are more classes of consuls than of diplomatic

officers. Entrance to the service is by examination and by appointment to a consulship of the eighth or ninth class, a consular assistantship, or a student interpretership.

In certain countries such as Turkey and China, the consuls are clothed with judicial authority; and it has proved expedient to develop a staff of consuls especially for those countries. Accordingly we have attached schools to the embassy in Constantinople and to the legation at Peking, where young men, known as student interpreters, who have passed a prescribed examination in the Department, are sent for a two years' course of study, to learn Arabic in Constantinople and Chinese in Peking. They are then appointed vice-consuls and begin their practical experience as subordinate officers in the consulates, and after a few years they are promoted to the full rank of consul and are assigned to regular districts in that part of the world in which they have already become experts.

Politics Divorced

Until comparatively recently 1906, to be exact — the consular service, like the diplomatic service, was affected disastrously by a change of administration; but, largely because of the active interest taken by the business men of the country in creating an efficient and trained body of men for this work, the consular service has now become by executive order, although not by law, wholly free from politics and the spoils system. It has remained for the present Democratic Administration to set the seal of permanency upon the service; for with the incoming of this administration not one consul was removed through political influence. In future, no administration will dare to revert to the spoils system in the consular service, for the service now stands firmly rooted in popular approval.

The two highest grade consular officers are the consuls-general in London and Paris, each with a salary of $12,000 per annum, both of whom are in charge of active business offices. To illustrate the amount of business between the Department of State and the consulate-general in London, I need only mention that in the six months' period between April 1 and September 30, 1916, the Department addressed 1,084 communications to the consul-general, Mr. Skinner, and received from him 1,670 dispatches; and, among those received, 305 relate to citizenship and the issuance of passports; 520 to the protection of American property, seizure of goods and blockade matters; 367 are in regard to American citizens who have enlisted in the British army and who are desirous of being discharged; and III relate to purely commercial matters.

Work Created by European War

When the war broke out and diplomatic relations between the belligerent countries were severed, this Government was called upon by many of the warring nations to handle their interests in enemy countries, and thus new and vast responsibilities were thrown upon our officers. Germany and Austria requested us to act for them in certain of the countries with which they were at war, as did also England, France, Japan, Russia,

Belgium, and Servia; and later similar requests came from Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, and last of all Roumania.

During the first few months of the war, our diplomatic and consular officers were working night and day to assist American citizens stranded in Europe, who required immediate relief and protection and means with which to return to the United States. Their relatives in this country were naturally anxious for their safety, and clamored at the doors of the State Department for information as to their whereabouts. The cables were kept busy, and during the month of August, 1914, sixty thousand inquiries were cabled abroad, each one of which had to be investigated and reported upon by our diplomatic and consular officers. Our records show that in this way some thirty thousand American citizens were located, money advanced to them, and information of their whereabouts communicated to their families over here.

During those first terrible days, special permission had to be procured for special trains to carry our fellow-countrymen out of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and other European countries, for the railroads. and all rolling stock had at that time been commandeered by the military authorities. It seemed at that time as though all the Americans in southern Europe were endeavoring to escape by way of Italy through the port of Genoa, and strenuous efforts had to be made to divert the stream of panic-stricken people northward by way of Paris, in order to relieve the terrible congestion then existing at Genoa. Eventually, however, they were all brought safely back to this country.

Following the first important battles, German and Austrian prisoners began arriving in England and France in great numbers, as well as British and French prisoners in Germany; and enemy civilians in all warring countries were arrested. These prisoners were confined in huge concentration camps which were hastily constructed and naturally lacked many of the comforts and ordinary conveniences to which the men had been accustomed.

The foreign governments have placed about $2,000,000, up to the present time, to the credit of our embassies, to be distributed wherever relief is needed. For instance, the British Government has provided our embassies in Berlin, Vienna, and Constantinople with hundreds of thousands of dollars for the relief of the British prisoners of war in those countries, and the German and Austrian governments have made large deposits with our embassies in London, Paris, and Petrograd, for the care of their imprisoned nationals - Germany sends over $100,000 a month to our embassy in London for this purpose. Our diplomatic and consular officers are called upon to lend their good offices to distribute these relief funds, and to better, wherever they can, the conditions of the prison camps. We have, of course, enormously increased our staffs in the embassies handling foreign interests.

Inspection of Prison Camps

I shall take as an example the work of our embassy in London, and explain briefly how our officers are conducting their humanitarian work in England - it should be remembered, however, that our officers are doing similar work in the other countries at war, frequently under con

ditions which are more difficult and trying than those in the camps in England. The officers who are charged especially with the duty of inspecting prison camps present themselves at a given camp and, after showing their credentials to the officer in charge, are conducted through the various parts of the camp and permitted to ask as many questions as they please of the inmates. They take notes of the living conditions, of the sleeping conditions, of the health and sanitary conditions, of the kitchen, of the quality of food and amount given to each man, of the hospital quarters, and of the amount of exercise permitted. A room is then set apart for them where they may receive the individual complaints of the interned soldiers; and there they are permitted to hold a reception which lasts sometimes for hours. The name of each complainant is taken down and his complaint noted. The visit terminates with another call on the officer in charge, to discuss and give consideration to the complaints of the prisoners. Our officer then returns to London and prepares a full report of the conditions in the camp as he found them. A copy of this report is then submitted to the British Foreign Office, and other copies are forwarded to the American embassies in Berlin and Vienna for the information of the German and Austrian governments.

Our officers are always endeavoring to improve the conditions in the prison camps in all the warring nations. They do not make their inspections merely to criticize, but rather to coöperate with the local authorities; and by suggestion and tact to secure results. Frequently camps have become overcrowded and unsanitary, but in many cases by repeated visits our inspectors have succeeded in persuading the authorities to improve the conditions; and so have been the means of relieving great distress and suffering.

According to the records of the Department, American diplomatic and consular officers in Great Britain and her dominions are visiting one hundred and five different camps where German and Austrian prisoners are confined, and have already submitted three hundred and forty-nine reports on these camps, copies of all of which have been forwarded to the German and Austrian governments. In Germany our officers are visiting one hundred and forty-eight camps where British subjects are detained; in France there are one hundred and sixty camps which, from time to time, are being visited, and already our embassy in Paris has submitted to the German and Austrian governments four hundred and thirty-two reports covering their camps. In this way each of the warring nations is being kept truthfully informed of the treatment accorded to its nationals by the enemy.

The difficulties of giving aid are sometimes very great. For example, in one of the many provinces of Russia there are some 28,000 civilian prisoners of war interned in, perhaps, 100 different villages. The railway communication is limited, and to reach the prisoners the embassy's delegate must travel for weeks in his tour of inspection: in summer, by carriage or by using small steamers plying the rivers; in winter, by sledge in all kinds of weather.

It is not only material aid that is given them. Our officers endeavor to adjust differences and misunderstandings between the prison

« PreviousContinue »