Consul (representative)

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For the uses of Consul as Chief Magistrate of a (city) state, see Consul.

The title Consul is conferred upon official representatives of a state, working outside its (metropolitan) territory, and looking after its interests (a task normally largely transferred to the formal diplomacy) and, especially, those of its subjects, individuals as well as enterprises. The office of a Consul is termed a Consulate, and is usually subordinate to the state's main representation in that foreign country, nowadays usually an Embassy or High Commission, or in the capital even a section within the diplomatic post.


[edit] Early history

A precursor in classical Antiquity was the Greek proxenos, an individual who represented a bond of friendship between two Greek cities.

The title was awarded to one who rendered services to a city; for example, king Alexander of Macedonia was the Macedonian proxenos to Athens because his realm supplied the Athenians with timber.

The title was also sometimes used to describe agents or spies who provided information to the enemies of their home city-state.

[edit] United States of America

James Maury, Jr. (1746–1840) was schoolmate of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson asked U.S.A. President George Washington for an appointment for James Maury to England. Jefferson and James Maury (known as "Counsul Maury" had both attended Rev. James Maury's classical school for boys for two years. And so it was done, as President Washington appointed Maury as America's first consul to Liverpool, England -- a position that Reverend James Maury's oldest son held from 1790 to 1829, (40 years) quitting only due Jacksonian politics. He and his family then settled in New York. James Maury Jr. is used for understanding as he had no legal "Jr' attached to his name. His name was identical to his father's name and because this the father is known as Rev. James Maury while the son is known as "counsul" James Maury. He and his family remained in the Union during the Civil War. "Counsul" James Maury was Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury's g-uncle who also had several children, thus they were some of Matthew's Northern "cousins"

[edit] Confederate States of America

The Confederate States of America (1861-65) had trouble with European consuls and in late 1863 expelled them all. The British consuls especially were trying to help British immigrants avoid the Confederate draft. In addition they were taking orders from the minister in Washington-- an enemy country. There were no official diplomats in Richmond because no nation officially recognized the Confederacy. CSA Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin on October 8, 1863 explained the status of consuls under international law:

When the Confederacy was first formed, there were in our ports a number of British Consuls and Consular Agents, who had been recognized as such, not only by the Government of the United States, which was then the authorized agent of the several States for that purpose, but by the State authorities themselves. Under the law of nations, these officials are not entitled to exercise political or diplomatic functions, nor are they ever accredited to the sovereigns within whose dominions they reside. Their only warrant of authority is the commission of their own government; but usage requires that those who have the full grade of Consul should not exercise their functions within the territory of any sovereign before receiving his permission in the form of an exequatur; while consular agents of inferior grade simply notify the local authorities of their intention to act in that capacity. It has not been customary upon any change of government, to interfere with these commercial officials, already established in the discharge of their duties, and it is their recognized obligation to treat all governments which may be established, de facto, over the ports where they reside, as governments de jure. [1] <ref>Eugene H. Berwanger, The British Foreign Service and the American Civil War (1994) </ref>

[edit] Present consular system

In modern usage, a consul is a representative of a sovereign state, posted to a foreign territory, in charge of matters related to individuals and businesses (in other words issues outside inter-governmental diplomacy), or to an officer performing mainstream (political) diplomatic functions within a subordinate post. The office of a Consul is known as a consulate, whether it is a section of the diplomatic post or a separate office, as in all other cities (generally only the capital hosts the diplomatic posts); it may be qualified more precisely after the consular chiefs rank, e.g. consulate-general.

Consuls of various rank may have specific legal authority for certain activities, such as notarizing documents. As such, diplomatic personnel with other responsibilities may receive consular commmissions. Aside from those outlined in the Vienna conventions, there are few formal requirements outlining what a consular official must do. For example, for some countries, consular officials may be responsible for the issuance of visas; other countries may limit "consular services" to providing assistance to compatriots, legalization of documents, etc. Nonetheless, consulates proper - representations outside of the national capitals - will be headed by consuls of various rank, even if such officials have little or no connection with the more limited sense of consular service.

Contrary to popular belief, although many of the staff of consulates may be career diplomats they do not generally have diplomatic immunity (unless they are also accredited as such). Immunities and privileges for consuls and accredited staff of consulates under the relevant international conventions are generally limited to actions undertaken in their official capacity and, with respect to the consulate itself, to those required for official duties. In practice, the extension and application of consular privileges and immunities can be subject to wide discrepancies from country to country.

Consulates are more numerous than diplomatic missions (e.g. embassies), since the latter are posted only in a foreign nation's capital (exceptionally even outside the country, in case of a multiple mandate, e.g. a minor power may well accredit a single Ambassador with several neighbouring states of modest relative importance that are not considered important allies), while consular ones are also posted in various cities throughout the country, especially centres of economic activity, or wherever there is a significant population of its citizens (expatriates) in residence.

In large foreign cities a sovereign state may be represented by a senior consul known as a Consul-General, who typically has several Consuls and Vice-Consuls working under him/her. The office of a Consul-General is known as a consulate-general. Consulates-general need not be in the capital city, but instead in the most appropriate cities. In the United States, for example, many countries base their consulate-general in New York City.

Consulates are subordinate posts of their home country's diplomatic mission (usually an embassy), which is located in the capital city of the host country. Diplomatic missions are established in international law under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, while consulates-general and consulates are established in international law under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (see external link below). Formally, at least within the US system, the consular career (ranking in descending order: Consul-General, Consul, Vice-Consul, Honorary Consul) forms a different hierarchy from the diplomats stricto sensu. However, it is common for individuals to be transferred from one hierarchy to the other, and for consular officials to serve in a capital carrying out strictly consular duties within the 'consular section' of a diplomatic post, e.g. within an embassy.

Activities of a consulate include protecting the interests of their citizens temporarily or permanently resident in the host country, issuing passports; issuing visas to foreigners and public diplomacy. However, the principal role of a consulate lies traditionally in promoting trade - assisting companies to invest and to import and export goods and services both inwardly to their home country and outward to their host country. And although it is never admitted publicly, consulates, like embassies, may also gather intelligence information from the assigned country. This is especially important if the consulate is located in a port city.

Between Commonwealth countries, both diplomatic and consular activities may be undertaken by a High Commission, although larger Commonwealth nations generally also have consulates and consulates-general in major cities. For example, Toronto in Canada, Sydney in Australia and Auckland, New Zealand, are of greater economic importance than their respective national capitals, hence the need for consulates. In British colonies, most notably Hong Kong before its transfer to China in 1997, senior envoys in these missions were usually known as Commissioners, but are now known as Consuls-General, subordinate to an Embassy in Beijng.

Some consuls are not career diplomats; some are locally-engaged staff with the nationality of the sending country; (see Chapter 1,Section 1,Article 22 of convention), and in smaller cities, or in cities that are very distant from full-time diplomatic missions, a foreign government may decide that some form of representation is nevertheless desirable, and may appoint a person who has not hitherto been part of their diplomatic service to fulfill this role. In some instances, the honorary consul may not be a citizen of the sending country, and may well combine the job with their own (often commercial) private activities, in which case they are usually given the title of honorary consul. Many members of the public are not aware that honorary consuls are not full-time diplomats. Graham Greene used this position as the title of his 1973 novel The Honorary Consul.

[edit] Colonial and similar roles

Under certain historical circumstances, a major power's consular representation would take on various degrees of administrative roles, not unlike a colonial Resident Minister. This would often occur in territories without a formal state government (thus warranting a full diplomatic mission, such as an embassy) or in relatively insignificant "backwaters."

The following case lists are probably not exhaustive

[edit] Protectorates

When a state falls under the "amical" protection of a stronger (often colonial) power, the latter is usually represented by a high ranking diplomatic and/or gubernatorial officer, such as a Resident general, Resident Minister or High Commissioner. However, if there is no such representation (in modern terms often at ambassadorial level), the task may fall to the only available 'diplomatic' alternative: consular representation.

  • In parts of present Nigeria, British Consuls were in charge of the following WestAfrican protectorates:
  • From 7 November 1889, Samoa, previously a Polynesian kingdom, was governed by the joint German-British-U.S. Samoa Tripartite Convention, which made Samoa a protectorate of those three powers. On 10 June 1899, a provisional (colonial) government sui generis was formed, consisting of the consuls of the three protecting powers:
    • Friedrich Rose (German Consul) (b. 1855 - d. 1922)
    • Ernest George Berkeley Maxse (British Consul) (b. 1863 - d. 1943) - to 23 June 1899, succeeded by a mister Nair (acting British consul)
    • Luther Wood Osborn (U.S. Consul) (b. 1843 - d. 1901).

This arrangement lasted until 1 March 1900, when the archipelago was annexed by Germany, with the exception of the eastern islands, which remained under U.S. control and became the territory of American Samoa).

[edit] Concessions and Extraterritoriality

Even within another state, a foreign power often has extraterrorial rights over its official representation (such as a consulate). If such concessions are obtained, they are often justified as protection of the foreign religion (especially in the case of Christians in a Muslim state, such as in the so-called capitulations by the Ottoman Sultan to -Christian- European powers) and extend to the foreign power's expatriate citizens. In some cases, the foreign power actually took control of certain aspects of the local administration in order to see to the rights of expatriate citizens.

A few examples:

  • In 1261, the Genoese, having assisted Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palæologus in reconquering Constantinople, were rewarded with Smyrna and Pera as well as a Black Sea trade monopoly. They rapidly developed markets along the Black Sea's shores, the principal one being Caffa, and carried on a brisk trade, exporting mainly wine, oil, woollens and silks, and importing skins, furs, corn and Persian goods. A consulate general of the empire of Gazaria was established as the local government of these colonies.
  • In 1855, Sir John Bowring signed a new treaty whereby Siam agreed to the appointment of a British consul in Bangkok and to that official exercising full extraterritorial powers. British subjects were permitted to own land in certain defined districts, customs and port dues and land revenues were fixed, and many new trade facilities were granted. This important arrangement was followed at intervals by similar treaties with the other powers, the last two being those with Japan in 1898 and Russia in 1899. A later convention established a second British consular district in northern Siam, while Britain and France both appointed vice-consuls in different parts of the country. Thus Westerners in Siam (the Chinese had no consul) could only be tried for criminal offences, or sued in civil cases, in their own consular courts. A large portion of the work of the foreign Consuls, especially the British, was consequently judicial and in 1901 the British government appointed a special judge and an assistant judge to this post. Meanwhile, trade steadily increased, especially with Great Britain and the British neighbouring colonies of Hong Kong and Singapore.

In other cases a part of a weaker state is complete handed over (without the formal surrender of 'naked' sovereignty) to be administered as a concession, including the indigenous local population:

  • In the small Italian concession territory in Tientsin (a treaty port, now Tianjin), the Consul was in charge of the entire local administration.
  • A long list of French consuls-general in Shanghai served as both overseers of the French concession in this Chinese port as well as presidents of the metropolis's Municipal Council. This arrangement lasted from January 1848 until 15 May 1946 (shortly after the 28 February formal restoration of power from France to China).

[edit] Occupied territories under similar control

  • In the Suez Canal Zone, even before it was officially established under that name in 1936 (from then on with a formal Governor in charge), the British were represented since 1922 by Vice Consuls in Port Suez, the last of which stayed on in 1941 as first of several Consuls till the 1956 Egyptian nationalisation.
  • From December 1941 to August 1945, Japanese troops invaded the Portuguese colony of Macau several times, giving the Japanese control over the access of people and goods. This made it by 1943 a virtual protectorate, with Japanese consul Fukui Yasumitsu controlling all contact until 1945 with the Portuguese governor, Gabriel Maurício Teixeira.

Similar functions have been performed elswhere by consular officers of other ranks: Consular Agent, Honorary Consul and Consul general.

[edit] Sources and references

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


[edit] External link

[edit] See also

da:Konsulat de:Konsul es:Cónsul (servicio exterior) fr:Consul (diplomatie) hr:Konzul (predstavnik) ja:領事 ko:영사관 lt:Konsulatas nl:Consulaat (diplomatie) nn:Konsulat no:Konsulat pl:Urząd konsularny pt:Cônsul (serviço exterior) ru:Консул (дипломатический термин) sv:Konsulat (diplomati) zh:领事

Consul (representative)

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