Presidents of Insurance Companies to Mr. Seward.
Sir: The commercial intercourse between the ports of the United States and Nassau is constant and important—much more important than would be inferred from the amount of imports and exports. The number of vessels wrecked annually within the consulate of the Bahamas is larger than in any other American consulate. The annexed table shows the amount of sales of wrecked property sold at Nassau to have been $1,500,000 in four years.
So important is this interest to marine insurance companies, that they have agents resident at Nassau to take charge of wrecked property, to whom a very much larger compensation is paid than is now paid to the consul.
Existing complications arising out of a state of rebellion render our relations with the population and British officials of Nassau delicate and embarrassed, demanding an exercise of intelligence, good temper, moderation and firmness on the part of the American consul.
During the continuance of the war, and so long as the motive to evade the blockade exists, important political services could be rendered by the consul in collecting information valuable to the government, provided the character and circumstances of the consul were such as to allow him a favorable social position among the cultivated and courteous officers of her Majesty resident at Nassau.
Possessing no political powers, the consul must rely on personal influence alone to be of service to his country beyond the mere routine of office duties. His personal influence will depend on his intelligence, character and manners, and his ability to reciprocate in a respectable manner the social courtesies common at Nassau in the society of the government officials. The consul should therefore be a man of education and polished manners, with such firm but undemonstrative temperament as to enable him to avoid absolutely all personal, violent, or indecorous controversies. His deportment should be such as to render him personally acceptable to the governor and other officers. Even with all these qualifications, he can do little for his government unless he has the pecuniary ability to maintain a creditable social position in the circle of gentlemen with whom he has business relations.
The salary is unfortunately but $2,000 per annum, without any margin of fees or perquisites, while the incumbent is restrained from being beneficially interested in any commercial business whatever.[Page 1342]
The salary paid the agent of the underwriters is no more than sufficient to support him respectably, and $2,000 is quite insufficient to enable a consul to live as he ought.
To enable the consul to serve his country more effectually in the present important crisis, it has occurred to us that he might have an increase of official powers and compensations by a special commission from the Department of State or the President, giving a higher consideration in the estimation of the officials at Nassau.
The undersigned believing that the public service, political as well as commercial, would be benefited thereby, ask, if consistent with law and public policy, that the grade and character of the consulate of the Bahamas be lifted up and made more influential by an increase of rank, powers, and compensation, to the end that a person of talent and character may be enabled to accept the position.
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States, Washington, D. C.