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intelligence branch of the Board of Trade sider her facilities deficient by comparison (a government bureau) was established, and with the American in the matter of procurthe organ of the board, the Board of Trade ing and promptly distributing commercial Journal, was converted from a monthly into imformation, and has recently begun the a weekly periodical, in order that consular publication, declaredly “after the mode of and other commercial reports of current the United States Department of State," of interest might be given more promptly to the special consular reports upon trade matters, public.
products, economic questions, etc., prepared This new departure is the more interesting by German consuls in reply to interrogatories because, for many years, the British system or specific instructions from the government. of consular reporting was regarded as a model, Dr. Vosberg-Rekow, the head of the Cenand even yet some of our reformers continue tral Bureau for preparing commercial treaties, to assert that the British consuls are greatly in a recent book upon commercial treaties, in superior to our own in their general efficiency which he expresses the opinion that the United in promoting trade. It is not intended here States is likely to be Germany's strongest to institute comparisons, but simply to point rival in industrial competition, speaks of our out the fact that the British public does not consular officers in Europe as “inspectors of share the view of our home critics, and is our exports and vigilant sentinels who spy still inclined to take pattern by us.
out every trade opening or advantage and
promptly report it." In another place he GERMANY COPYING OUR METHODS
says: Germany, with her splendidly equipped “The Americans have acted judiciously in escommercial schools and admirable machinery tablishing a system which is of the greatest advanfor extending foreign trade, seems also to con tage to themselves, but costly and inconvenient
the convenience of the newspaper press, trade bodies, exporting firms, etc., in order that the information might be supplied to the public with the least delay.
The requisite authority was granted, and in January, 1898, the publication of daily consular reports was begun.
The experiment proved successful from the start. The newspapers were the first to appreciate the change. The news agencies and special correspondents in Washington had previously been compelled to extract what they could from the reports in manuscript as they were received at the Department. Not infrequently, correspondents were forced to wait until one of their number had finished with a particular report. At present, every correspondent receives a copy of the daily consular reports early on the day of issue. One can now scarcely ever pick up a newspaper without seeing quotations from these reports, or perhaps one or more reports in full.
BUSINESS INTERESTS AROUSED
The widespread publication of consular WHERE THE STARS AND STRIPES WAVE OFFICIALLY matter in the newspapers soon attracted the AT CALCUTTA, INDIA.
attention of business interests, and applica
tions for the State Department “daily” beto their competitors. In all countries with which
gan to pour in. A manufacturer or it has trade relations, the United States has stationed consuls and consular agents. Every ship- been received which affected his business,
exporter would note that intelligence had ment of goods to a United States port must pass
and would write to the Department at once through the hands of these officials, and the amount,
for particulars. Correspondence with imporvalue, place of origin, market price ruling in the
tant firms all over the United States was thus country of production, method of production, etc., are noted. The consuls thus dive deeply into the opened up, and the business community gradueconomic condition of their districts and obtain ally learned that the consular service could information the result of which is discernible in be relied upon to furnish information about the steadily increasing exportations of their home country.”
every detail of foreign trade. Naturally, inquiries soon began to multiply for data as to this or that industry or process of manufacture unknown in this country; the demand for certain lines of goods; the kind of competition to be met, and the obstacles to be overcome. When these inquiries promise to elicit information of general value, the consuls are instructed to forward reports for publication. When, on the other hand, the inquiries relate only to minutiæ, the inquirer is referred to the consular officers, who obtain the desired information if they can, and forward it in duplicate to the Department. The Bureau of Foreign Commerce retains one of the copies for purposes of reference or use in the Consular Reports if the matter should develop points of practical value; the other copy is promptly transmitted to the inquirer. This feature of the commercial work of the consuls has already grown to large proportions; but it is little known outside the comparatively narrow range of the particular business concerns which have benefited
SOME EXAMPLES OF BENEFIT TO TRADE
ENTRANCE TO THE CONSULATE AT ZANZIBAR.
It is not to be expected that any consular officer can report exhaustively or with technical accuracy on the wide range of questions which are often submitted, involving details “We take this opportunity of expressing to you of scientific discoveries and processes which our gratitude for the Consular Reports. We attribonly an expert could properly handle, but it ute our having nearly doubled our foreign trade duris surprising how successful the average con ing the last three years in great degree to the light sul has proved himself to be in obtaining sub
we obtain from careful perusal of these reports.” stantially what is desired. A New York firm
The president of a company manufacturof exporters recently wrote the Department ing hardware and tools at New Haven, Conn., of State: -
“Three years ago and over I took occasion to write to the different United States consuls in England and on the Continent of Europe, requesting the names of prominent hardware dealers and manufacturers. The replies were voluminous; we, therefore, sent to the addresses given, circulars, samples, etc., and the result is to-day from 30 per cent to 35 per cent of our entire product in certain lines of hardware we export.”
Undoubtedly the activity of the consuls has been greatly stimulated by the pro ter publication and wider distribution of their reports. Encouragement is also given by
the frequent recognition of the value of their UNITED STATES CONSULATE GENERAL, YOKOHAMA. services by the business world, and by the
BLIND TEACHERS OF REFORM The secretary of one of our leading boards of trade during the sessions of the International Commercial Congress at Philadel. phia, about a year ago, gravely made the point that our consular service lacked education and was therefore inferior to the services of other countries in procuring commercial information. He was greatly surprised on being told that whether our consuls lacked education or not, they were admitted by foreign governments to be without peers in this branch of their work. A professional reformer who is very much in evidence has
asserted on two occasions (and was promptly UNITED STATES CONSULATE AT ALEXANDRETTA,
brought to book for it) that we are at a great
disadvantage in competing for trade because estimation in which their commercial work is of the inefficiency of our consuls, and has held by competing nations.
descanted glowingly on the superiority of their It is but due to the consular service to say foreign colleagues in the very line of work that, generally speaking, it shows itself not
in which the Americans, as has been shown, only responsive to the instructions of the are held by the best opinion abroad to excel. Department of State and the demands of
The same authority (he has been widely business interests at home, but often volun- quoted) declares that “the grade of our comteers information and advice which open up mercial representation in foreign countries is new fields of effort for our industries and below that of any civilized country," and that trade. It is animated by an esprit de corps " there is no comparison between England's which springs not from a carefully elaborated foreign commercial service and ours.” Consystem, but from the play of conditions, trast with these sweeping assertions the appealing to the individual judgment and criticisms by Englishmen of their consular patriotism of its members. Among the spon system in its relation to trade and the testitaneous efforts of consuls on behalf of our
mony of practical business men in this councommerce may be mentioned the forward
try. ing of samples of new products or of lines of merchandise especially suited to
THE WEAK SPOT IN OUR CONSULAR SYSTEM particular markets; the establishment of Among the practical business men who sample rooms at the consulates to exhibit appeared before the Committee on Foreign American goods or of agencies for the sale Relations at the hearing in May last, there of them; the promotion of better facilities was one who put his finger on a weak spot of transportation, including direct steamship which seems fully to justify the demand for service.
legislative reform. “I have come to believe,” These facts show that while reformers he said, “ that the lack in our consular service have been busy devising means of improving is owing more to the short tenure of office the consular service, the service has auto than to the quality of the material that is matically improved itself. Undoubtedly, the originally appointed, and any bill that will agitation for consular reform fulfils a useful give opportunity for our consuls to perfect purpose in arousing public interest in the themselves in the requirements which all improvement of the service and in provoking must gain when they take the field, will add discussion of alleged defects. It is more than to the efficiency of the service.” Perhaps likely that this particular reform has made so there would not be so much opposition to little progress, for the very reason that many consular reform if it concentrated itself upon of its advocates have shown themselves to be the effort to obtain greater stability of tenure strangely misinformed.
and an equitable system of rewards for
meritorious service and to secure a much thing besides a mere party worker. needed elasticity in permitting the transfer, rule, he is a newspaper man, a merchant, a at the option of the Department of State, of manufacturer (even if it be only in a small any consular officer from one post to another, way), who is more or less in touch with busias occasion required. It is but natural that ness affairs, and there are but few who rely the present incumbents and their friends upon politics exclusively as a means of supshould antagonize a movement which pro- port. And it must be admitted that even poses to make their continuance in office with the handicap of the “spoils " instinct, he depend upon a drastic scheme of examina sometimes does better work for our business tions. No doubt, they would be much more men than would a carefully trained neophyte placable, if assured that they were not to be who has never rubbed about in practical rudely jostled or perhaps thrown out by the life. reform, so long as they continued to do satis Undoubtedly, the movement which is rapfactory work.
idly gaining headway in our colleges for How best to reconcile the views of those special courses to train young men for the who regard competitive examinations as the diplomatic and consular services is a wholeonly practicable means of eliminating objec some feature of the general tendency toward tionable elements with the undoubtedly valid the adoption of more intelligent, more scienrequirement of personal fitness, especially in tific, methods in our government service, and business training and experience, would seem also in the development of our export trade. to be a question to be settled only by some Training of this kind is an excellent specific form of compromise. Might not the solution for the evils complained of, but the experibe found by attaching to the scheme of selec ence of other countries proves that it is easy tion primarily by examination, the condition to take an overdose. By all means give us that only that candidate shall be chosen who educated consuls; but may it not be found is able to satisfy the Department of State wiser to insist that they shall first have that he possesses the requisite qualities? served an apprenticeship (such as most of
the present consuls have served) in a news
paper office, a counting-house, a workshop, or It is very doubtful whether the consular a bank? service would have accomplished the commer The same considerations do not apply to cial work of the past few years which it has the diplomatic service, which is essentially a accomplished, had it been composed of mere polite profession in which the greater the literati. A large percentage of such a force degree of intellectual and social training, the might have consumed valuable time that has better the results. In this field, the special been expended in practical work for the courses of colleges and the test of academic everyday use of our manufacturers and ex attainments can work no serious harm, but, porters, in studying subjects of real utility on the contrary, should prove most helpful. and interest only to themselves or to a com The burden of all the demands of reform in paratively narrow circle of congenial spirits, the consular service is greater efficiency in or in perfecting themselves in social accom trade, and how is this to be secured if not by plishments. As cases in point, the fact may making it a primary qualification of consular be mentioned, in no spirit of harshness, that officers that they shall have a practical knowltwo of our most accomplished literary men edge of and adaptability for the most imporwho held important consular posts some years tant of the duties they are to discharge ? ago were among the most difficult to extract Upon the whole, may we not conclude that commercial information from, and yet they in so far as foreign commerce is concerned, have figured in the magazines as authorita we have in our consular service a relatively tive purveyors of advice as to how the con good thing, and that in seeking to make it sular service should be reformed in order to better, we should be careful not to paralyze make it a satisfactory instrument of trade! the individuality, the special energies, ad
The truth is that the politician who is ap mired of other nations, which it has develpointed to a consular post is usually some-oped largely of and by itself?
THE LITERARY CONSUL