File No. 8473/25.

The Secretary of State to Minister Ide.

No. 53.]

Sir: In reply to your No. 138, of the 2d instant,1 the department desires to advise you that consular and diplomatic officers are forbidden by the regulations to perform marriage ceremonies. Paragraph 177 of the diplomatic regulations states that the laws of the United States do not confer on diplomatic of cers any power to celebrate marriage, to act as official witnesses of the ceremony of marriage, or to grant certificates of marriage. The statutory provisions relating to the celebration abroad of marriages of citizens of the United States refer only to consuls.

Paragraph 417 of the consular regulations states that a consular officer has no power to celebrate marriages in a Christian country between citizens of the United States unless specifically authorized by the laws of the country to so do. In non-Christian countries his authority to perform this rite is not sufficiently well established and defined in the jurisprudence of the United States to justify action upon it. “It is deemed safer to forbid consular officers, and they are hereby forbidden to solemnize marriages in any case,” are the exact words.

Consular officers are, however, permitted to act as witnesses, and the United States statutes provide that a marriage in the presence of a consular officer “between persons who would be authorized to marry if residing in the District of Columbia, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, and shall have the same effect as if solemnized within the United States.” In view, however, of the exclusive authority of the States in such matters it is thought that this statute prescribing the legal effect of such marriages would probably be operative only in the District of Columbia and the Territories.

In answering inquiries from persons in this country desirous of contracting marriage abroad, the department usually informs such [Page 856] inquirers that the question of the form of marriages and the validity in any particular country is one on which neither the department nor its diplomatic and consular representatives are legally competent to give authoritative advice.

A copy of a pamphlet which has been issued by the department upon the subject is inclosed.

I am, etc.,

Mr. Knox.
Huntington Wilson.
  1. Not printed.