Mr. Sherman to Mr. Terres.
Washington, May 6, 1897.
Sir: Your No. 247, of April 2, 1897, has been received. You inquire whether our consul general at Port-de Paix has the right to administer oaths and take certain depositions requested in a letter addressed to him by Mr. James L. Kelly, attorney for Mr. Lechner, without special authorization from this Department. It appears from the inclosure that Mr. Kelly, attorney for Mr. Lechner, desires to obtain sworn testimony to be used in making a claim against the Government of Haiti. The testimony, as the Department understands it, is not to be used in the Haitian courts. If it were to be so used, it would be necessary that it be taken in accordance with the requirements of the Haitian law. You are referred to section 1750 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, which you will find quoted in paragraph 845 of the Consular Regulations, for the authority given every consular officer of the United States to administer oaths and take depositions and to perform any notarial act which a notary public is authorized to do in the United States. By referring to section 1674 of the Revised Statutes, quoted in paragraph 783 of the Consular Regulations, you will see that the term “consular officer” includes consular agents. The consular agent, therefore, has all the power to administer oaths which is given by section 1750 to any consular officer of the United States. This Department can give him no additional or special authority in such matter. While the consular agent at Port de-Paix has the authority within his territorial jurisdiction to take depositions in a matter of this kind, which depositions would be unhesitatingly accepted by this Department, it does not follow that he is obliged to abandon his public duties and go about the country obtaining this evidence. This is a matter which Mr. Kelly will have to settle with the agent; he has no right to demand this service.