Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

however respected, or to be content with such information concerning them as he might derive from any single authority who should be the centre of their various correspondence.

With this exception then, there seems no reason why the consuls of the Levant and the conterminous districts should not be assimilated to the establishment in China. The effect of this change would be to extend the experiment of the Oriental studentships at Constantinople to all the principal Turkish ports, Greece and Northern Africa, to organise a more regular gradation of consular offices, and to give to the service something of the character of a professional career. The advantage of the close family connexion which has subsisted among the consuls of the Levant is now more than doubtful, and its continuance would only serve to encourage the sort of libellous attacks of which a gross specimen has been shown us, directed, without a shadow of truth, against our late consul at Salonica.*

A striking example of the scrupulous regard of the British Government to the letter of the capitulations has been exhibited in the establishment of the Consular Court at Constantinople, where the Judge does not act in a direct judicial capacity, but simply as a Vice-Consul. This extreme delicacy has been followed by one considerable disadvantage, viz. that the Judge is unable to make the circuit of the chief ports of the Levant, which would be a most desirable expedient to relieve the present Consuls, who have no legal education, from the responsibility of deciding the graver cases of crime, or the more complicated disputes of individuals. The expense and trouble of sending prisoners and witnesses to Constantinople, under the present system, will be very much the same as when Malta was the locality of the tribunal. Legal difficulties may also occur from the absence of the consent of the Ionian government to the authority of the judicature at Constantinople, which is, in great part, occupied with Ionian subjects.

It is contrary to the habits and character of our administration of affairs to give to any portion of the public service a more elaborate organization than is required for practical purposes; and we suspect that if any Government proposed to reform the consular system so as to make it a large, general, and lucrative profession, there would be strong suspicions of jobbery and undue official advantages. It might be said, and with justice, that the present system cannot be thought to work wholly ill, when the chance specimen of the witnesses before the committee exhibits

* Gr' Intriganti Puniti : Comedia in un Atto de rappresentarsi in Salonicco il Carnivale dell'anno 1855. Italia, 1854.

G 2

men

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

men of so much' intelligence, and so fully competent to perform their functions. A Foreign Secretary bas, no doubt, been occasionally suspected of providing for an embarrassed friend or partisan, by nominating him to a consulship; but these appointments have not been followed by any such injury to the public service, or such defalcation of duty, as would justify any sweeping accusation. The greatest practical objection to them has probably turned out to be the uncomfortable and uncongenial position of the employé himself, who, though he does what is required of him, yet does it without the taste for and interest in his work that you might expect from a man of similar faculties to whom the occupation was more agreeable and familiar. On some late discussion of the merits of the competitive system,” Mr. Chadwick took occasion to make the appointment of Mr. Brummell to the consulship at Caen a crucial instance of the abuses of patronage—unaware, perhaps, that Mr. Brummell was a man of rare talents and the quickest apprehension, who would have perfectly transacted far higher business than that of an inland consulship. It requires, indeed, much good sense in a man in such a position not to show himself above the place; but there is no other reason why the public should suffer by such appointments,

The moderate recommendations of the Committee, therefore, on this point will, we think, agree with sound public opinion. They do not desire to bind the choice of the Foreign Secretary, nor to establish any novel apparatus; but they suggest the

; nomination of a certain number of consular students, to be trained up at our principal ports, who, if their abilities and conduct are satisfactory, shall have a prior claim to promotion, even to the highest consular posts. Other recommendations tend to the same object, viz., the maintenance of the commercial character of the consular service. The obligatory examination of the newlyappointed Consul now secures his acquaintance with foreign languages and a knowledge of the routine duties of the employment. Parliament, therefore, will come to the consideration of an addition to the expenditure of the consular establishment with a good prospect of the deserts and abilities of the recipients. On the proposition itself the Committee had best speak for themselves :

• Your Committee cannot but perceive that the amount of the present salaries and emoluments received by British consuls abroad is the main practical question submitted to their judgment. It is therefore satisfactory to them to be able to report that their conviction on this point entirely agrees with the evidence which they have received, and which has been reiterated in the same words, and supported by the same facts, in the testimony of almost every witness, and confirmed by the opinion and acts of the Foreign Office under successive govern

ments.

[graphic]

a

ments. The salaries fixed many years ago, on no excessive scale, have been really diminished in value by independent circumstances to an extent which at present renders them a completely false representation of the profits of consular offices in different quarters of the globe. Mr. Hammond and Mr. Alston concur in stating that the increase of prices in all foreign countries has of late years been very great, while no equivalent relief has been given to our consuls beyond some slight assistance to meet those office expenses which previously came out of their receipts. Mr. Calvert states that the expense of living at the Dardanelles is in many articles trebled, in some quadrupled, from what it was when he entered the service. Mr. Yeames bears testimony to the total disproportion in the cost of food, fuel, and house-rent in Odessa, compared with that which existed at the time he was first sent there, and when he was in receipt of a higher stipend than when he left it thirty-five years afterwards. Mr. Holmes estimates the rise of prices in almost every part of the East at threefold in the course of the last six years. The expense of living at Rio was almost doubled during the twenty years of Mr. Hesketh's residence there. Mr. Ussher gives nearly the same evidence with regard to St. Domingo. In Germany, Mr. Ward rates the increase of the prices of all the necessaries of life as at least from 40 to 50 per cent., and regards his salary as not worth more than half what it was at the time it was fixed. At Marseilles Mr. Turnbull records the gradual augmentation of all the means of subsistence, and especially of house-rent, during his employment there, till it has become impossible for a consul to live decently on the sum allotted to him ; while, at Havre, Mr. Featherstonhaugh asserts that he has maintained the respectability of his position for several years out of his private income. There is no reason to suppose that these are especial instances of the present poverty of remuneration in the consular service. There is no doubt that several of these gentlemen have accepted such offices with a clear understanding of their existing disadvantages; but for some time past hopes have been held out by the Foreign Office that some more satisfactory arrangement would result from the nomination of this Committee. It must also be taken into account that where the profits of the consulate have mainly depended upon fees, the consequence of the late alteration in the scale has been in most cases a considerable reduction in the proceeds. Justice to an important branch of the public service, therefore, imperatively demands such a revision of the salaries and emoluments of the consular service as will place them in circumstances consistent with the importance of their duties, and at least, as a body, in no worse position than they occupied thirty years ago, and the only doubt that remains on the mind of your Committee is, by what method this object can be most easily obtained.'

By the side of this it may not be uninstructive to place an extract from the French 'Budget' for 1859:

• Experience shows us every day more and more the insufficiency of the salaries of the greater part of our diplomatic and consular agents.

These

6

These officials are placed in very different circumstances from the greater part of the high functionaries of our civil administration; they have no choice as to the expenses which they must incur. They have no power of resisting the course of events; and, as representatives of the government of the Emperor, they cannot, without compromising their dignity, refuse to submit to obligations however burthensome. The same causes which in France have produced a considerable increase in the prices of all articles have had similar effects in foreign countries. It has resulted that the actual salaries of our foreign agents scarcely represent in relative value two-thirds of what they were before 1848, and that the greater part of our chefs de mission cannot any longer satisfy the demands of their position, surrounded as they are by highly paid colleagues.'

After proposing certain augmentations of diplomatic salaries, the budget proceeds:

• The demands for the incr ase in the consular estimates have been made with the same attention to economy. The supplementary grant, though distributed amongst eighteen posts, will not exceed 49,000 francs. At the same time, it is no exaggeration to affirm that the greater part of our consular agents are reduced to painful extremities, and that their means of action, in the capacity of protectors of our fellow-countrymen and mercantile marine, are diminished. The consequences which result in this grievous situation are deplorable; both as regards our national dignity and our commercial interests.'

The following augmentations of consular salary are then proposed, and have been agreed to by the Corps Législatif :

New York, Consul-General, from 35,000 fr. to 40,000 fr. Galatz, from 12,000 fr. to 15,000 fr. Shanghai, from 28,000 fr. to 38,000 fr. Tiflis, from 15,000. fr. to 18,000 fr. Ancona, Bilbao, Benin, La Canée, Carthagena, Larnaca, Leipzig, Ostend, Porto, Santander, St. Sebastian, and Stettin, are raised from 10,000 fr. to 12,000 fr.'

Now the question of the emoluments which the diplomatic servants of the Crown ought justly to receive, frequently comes before the House of Commons in a desultory manner in the discussions on the estimates, and has formed part of the systematic enquiry entered into some years ago on the general subject of official salaries. But, unlike the proceedings of this Committee, the chief topic and object of every debate or investigation on the subject have always been the possibility of reducing, and not the advantage of raising, the pay of the parties concerned. All the argument depending on the rise of prices or on a higher rate of general expense must apply to the diplomatic equally with the other body: but we should not be surprised if Parliament showed itself as willing to be generous and liberal in the one case, as it has shown itself close-fisted and suspicious in the

other.

a

other. The truth is, that the Corps Diplomatique' is not a popular institution. People are always expecting from it something which they do not get. For one traveller that returns contented with, or flattered by the attentions he has received, a hundred come back disgusted with some real or imaginary neglect. There is no fixed standard of duty on the one side or of expectations on the other. The Englishman abroad will not be satisfied with the place he occupies at home. He has never made himself unhappy because he was not invited to Buckingham Palace, but he takes it as an indignity if his ambassador does not procure him admission to the Tuileries or the Schloss at Berlin. The minister, on his part, too often gives up in despair all hope of pleasing his fellow-countrymen, and his conduct in this respect is imitated or exaggerated by his subordinates, who, in their exclusive and retiring habits, do not always exhibit the most amiable side of the English character. The consular body, on the contrary, is generally popular. Residing mostly in the bye-ways of the world and in less familiar localities, the services which a consul is enabled to render are often of an essential and sometimes of a Samaritan nature. The ordinary tourist takes a card for a ball, or a ticket for a show, as only due to him in his capacity as a British tax-payer; but the stranger to whom the consul's house has made all the difference between a pleasant home and a wretched caravanserai-to whom the consul's table has been the substitute of the best food procurable for nothing to eat-who may have owed his relief from some temporary embarrassment to the consul's liberal confidence, or even his life to the consul's care when illness has attacked or accidents befallen him---will naturally retain a more lively gratitude, and forms a corresponding estimate of the value of an office which he has found so useful. We have indeed occasionally heard an angry member of Parliament, who had happened not to be included in some circle of diplomatic hospitality, somewhat illogically resolve to do his best to restrict instead of enlarging the minister's means of entertainment; but the consul's opportunities are not so frequent as to render him liable to offend in this direction. The fellow-countryman, whom the minister regards as a bore and the attaché as an intruder, is eagerly welcomed by the consul as the messenger of fresh news and the medium of agreeable associations from a home often distant or rarely visited ; and thus, if the official is not profuse of his attentions, it is tolerably certain that his poverty and not his will is the cause of the disregard. But though the House of Commons is likely, for these and other reasons, to be benevolently inclined, who is to determine what is the adequate payment to be rendered for services of this nature ? On this point the

French

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »