File No. 704.00/4a
Instructions to diplomatic and consular officers of the United States of America entrusted with the interests of foreign governments at war
Washington, August 17, 1914.
To the American diplomatic and consular officers:
Gentlemen: You are instructed, in assuming charge of the subjects or citizens and the interests of a foreign power at war with the country to which you are accredited, to bear in mind the general usages of nations in relation to the functions exercised by you upon such occasions.
In the first place it is important to recall that the care and protection of foreign interests in both peace and war is based upon the consent of both foreign governments concerned. The consent, having been freely given, may as freely be withdrawn by either, and as a consequence you must exercise the extra duties imposed upon you with candid impartiality.
In the second place, the arrangement contemplates the exercise of no official function on your part, but only the use of unofficial good offices. You are not officers of the unrepresented government. A diplomatic or consular representative of the United States can not act officially as a diplomatic or consular representative of another power, such an official relation being prohibited by the Constitution [Page 741] of the United States. But apart from the fact of legal disability the relations of the foreign governments concerned necessarily imply personal and Unofficial action. The state of war existing between the country to which you are accredited and the country for which you are acting, is inconsistent with the continuance of diplomatic intercourse between them. Any suggestions on the part of either country for such intercourse should be referred to the Department for its consideration. It is expected that overtures looking to the resumption of diplomatic intercourse will, if made through the medium of the United States, be addressed to this Government for transmission to the belligerent concerned.
Your position, therefore, is that of the representatives of a neutral power whose attitude toward the parties to the conflict is one of impartial amity. In your interposition in behalf of the subjects or citizens of one of the belligerents you should use every care so that it will be regarded, not as an act of partisanship, but as a friendly office performed in accordance with the wishes of both parties. You should especially avoid any action which might compromise the United States as a neutral or affect the amicable relations between it and the country to which you are accredited. While you are thus exercising these unofficial functions with impartiality and discretion, you will, nevertheless, examine all complaints, which may be laid in behalf of foreign subjects or citizens under your protection, and give to them such assistance and make such representations to the authorities of the country to which you are accredited as may seem to be appropriate in accordance with these special instructions and the standing instructions of the Department.
In conclusion the Department anticipates that in some cases questions may arise regarding your authority over the buildings and other property of the foreign mission or consulate in your charge. You are advised, therefore, that your function in this respect is merely that of a custodian of the property and archives of the unrepresented government. Any interference on the part of private persons or officials with such property should be the subject of an unofficial representation or protest to the authorities of the government which is, by the rules of international law, charged with the security of diplomatic and consular premises and archives of foreign governments. If in connection with these duties you are requested or it appears desirable as a means of protection to raise the flag of the United States over the building of a foreign mission or consulate, you will bear in mind that this should not be done except with the consent of the authorities of the government to which you are accredited, and in strict compliance with the laws of the land.
As it may be desirable to hold a foreign government, of whose interests you may be in charge, responsible for the reimbursement of expenditures, which you may make as a result of such service, you will keep accurate account of all additional expense incurred in behalf of such government, its subjects or citizens, and their interests, rendering the same to this Department, when required, with such vouchers therefor as you may be able to obtain.
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