Mr. Blaine to Mr. Swift.

No. 61.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 80, of the 3d of January last, in which you ask instructions on the subject of receiving from the Japanese Government medals and other gifts for American citizens, commemorative of events in which they may have been participants, or of services of a humane or other character which they may have rendered.

By section 9, article i, of the Constitution of the United States it is provided that—

No person holding any office of profit or trust under them [the United States] shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any kiug, prince, or foreign state.

This provision applies to the acceptance by officials of the United States of presents, emolumeuts, offices, or titles for themselves. By section 1751 of the Revised Statutes of the United States it is provided that “no diplomatic or consular officer shall * * * ask or accept, for himself or any other person, any present, emolument, pecuniary favor, office, or title of any kind,” from any foreign government. To the constitutional prohibition against the acceptance by any officer of the United States for himself of a present from a foreign government this statute adds the inhibition that diplomatic and consular officers shall not even receive such a present for anyone else. This provision is absolute, and the words “present, emolument, pecuniary favor, office, or title of any kind” seem to comprehend everything that can be the subject of a gift.

The course generally observed in such matters is for the foreign government to trausmit the present (if it be to a person competent to receive it) through its own officials. Where the present is intended for an officer of the United States who is precluded by the Constitution from receiving it, unless authorized by Congress so to do, the course to be followed is prescribed by section 3 of the act of January 31, 1881 (Stats, at Large, vol. 21, p. 604), which provides that—

Any present, decoration, or other thing which shall he conferred or presented by any foreign government to any officer of the United States, civil, naval, or military, shall he tendered through the Department of State, and not to the individual in person; hut such present, decoration, or other thing shall not be delivered by the Department of State unless so authorized by act of Congress.

I am, etc.,

James G. Blaine.