Wilbur John Carr, head of the United States Consular Service at Washington, has been in the service of the Department of State since 1892, and was appointed to his present position when the Consular Service was placed on a merit basis in 1909. He has been engaged in developing the Service under the present system since that time, and has made special appeal to the students in the colleges and universities of the country.
It gives me much pleasure to furnish the CRIMSON with a brief outline of the opportunities offered by the American Consular Service to young men who desire to serve their country.
By Executive Order of June 27, 1906, and by Acts of Congress approved April 5, 1905, and February 5, 1915, the consular system of the United States was reorganized in a manner which provides that all appointments to career positions in the Service are subject to examination. These appointments are to the lower classes in the Service, the higher grades being filled by promotion, which is based upon the efficiency of the officer as shown by the work which he has accomplished and the ability, promptness and diligence displayed by him in the performance of his duties, his conduct and his fitness for the Consular Service. Consular Officers are appointed to different grades and may be detailed or assigned to such posts as the President may deem advisable in order best to meet the needs of the Service. Consequently, no specific salary is attached to any particular post in the Consular Service. The appointments are for no definite period, the officer continuing in the Service subject to the proper and efficient performance of his duties and satisfactory personal conduct.
Watched Closely by Government
Though the scene of his activities may be far removed from the United States, a consular officer's work is nevertheless closely watched by the Department of State, and he is given every opportunity to show what he can do and credit for all that he accomplishes. A detailed efficiency record is kept in Washington, based upon his reports, the manner in which he handles business entrusted to him, and his knowledge of the technique of consular administration. Any special commendation which may come to the Department is entered upon this record.
In order that these records may be as exact and complete as possible, provision has been made for the appointment of seven Inspectors of Consuls who are designated and commissioned as Consuls General at Large and who are expected to inspect each consular office once in every two years. The inspectors examine the condition and administration of each office, report the facts to the Department and give the officer counsel and advice. Promotions in the Service are, consequently, now entirely on a merit basis.
Examinations for Aspirants
Out of a total of four hundred and seventy six career officers now in the Service, three hundred and sixty-nine of them entered under the examination regulations established at the time of the reorganization of the Service in 1906. There were examinations previous to that date so that the number of men who have entered the Service without examination prior to June 27, 1906, is only thirty-eight.
The three hundred and sixty-nine men who have entered under the present examination regulations were appointed originally to the following grades in the Service: Consuls, 193 Economic Consuls, 4 Vice Consuls de carriere, 71 Consular Assistants, 57 Student Interpreters, 44
These men now hold the following grades in the Service: Consuls General, 7 Consuls General at Large, 3 Consuls, 242 Interpreters, 10 Student Interpreters, 11 Consular Assistants, 13 Vice Consuls de carriere, 83 Total, 369
It will thus be seen that promotions have come regularly and rapidly for those who have demonstrated their ability and fitness for the Foreign Service.
As regards the examinations for entrance to the Service, only citizens of the United States are designated for the examinations and men under twenty-one or over fifty are not examined for appointment as Consuls or Vice Consuls de carriere and are not eligible for appointment therefor. It is the policy to designate unmarried men between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-eight the examination to determine their eligibility for appointment to the corps of Consular Assistants. Only unmarried men between the ages of nineteen and twenty-six are examined for appointment as Student Interpreters.
The regulations also make provision for the appointment of not more than twenty-five Consuls in Classes Three, Four and Five (salary compensation of these grades being $5,000, $4,500 and $4,000 respectively) to serve as assistants to Consuls General in economic investigational work. Persons not in the Service, to become eligible, must be graduates of a college or university of recognized standing and have had at least two years in economic and statistical investigation. A special examination including a thesis and research and investigation methods for the promotion of commerce is given for this grade.
Particular attention is directed to the corps of Vice Consuls de carriere, vacancies in which are filled by promotion from the grades of Consular Assistant and Student Interpreter or by the appointment of candidates who have satisfactorily passed the examination for Consul or Vice Consul. These officers are eligible to promotion on the basis of efficiency without further examination from Class Three (salary $2,500) to Class Two (salary $2,750), hence to Class One (salary $3,000), after which they are eligible for promotion to Consul of Class Six (salary $3,500).
Corps for Young Officers
The purpose for the establishment of this corps was to give the younger officers thorough grounding in all phases of consular work and by assignment to the larger and more important offices and contact with the broader problems which confront the Service. In this way they are exceptionally well trained for the grades which they are later to receive. The examinations for Consular Assistants and Student Interpreters, however, are less exacting.
Provision is made for forty Consular Assistants who are appointed by the President and hold office during good behavior. Their duties are similar to those of Vice Consul de carriere and they are eligible for promotion based upon the efficiency which they show in consular work to the grade of Consul or Vice Consul de carriere without further examination.
I wish in particular to place stress upon the system now in force of training language students at Government expense for service in the Diplomatic and Consular branches of the Foreign Service in China and Japan. About fifteen years ago, the Government provided for the establishment of an interpreter corps in China, Japan and Turkey in order that it might have available for its own service men trained in the knowledge of the languages, institutions and conditions of these countries.
An effort has been made to obtain for this branch of the Service young men, preferably university graduates who desire to specialize and make a career for themselves in the Oriental branches of the Consular Service. The Department is unable to allow candidates a choice as between service in China and Japan but in practice allows each successful candidate to state his preference and, as far as the exigencies of the Service permit, gives these preferences due consideration.
The candidates, after qualifying by the prescribed examination, are assigned theoretically for a period of two years either to the American Legation at Peking or the American Embassy at Tokyo, as the case may be. During their assignment it is their primary duty to learn thoroughly the language of the country, its government, history and institutions as well as the general practice of international law and consular practice. An effort is also made to give them such actual experience in, office routine as is compatible with their studies and, upon the completion of their two-year course, they are promoted after examination to the grade of Interpreter and assigned for duty as Vice Consuls in one or another of the Consulates in the respective countries in which they are serving.
As Interpreters they are still expected for a number of years to continue with their language studies in preparation for a final language examination which qualifies them for appointment as principal officers in the Japanese or Chinese services. Those who prove most proficient are usually selected for service either in the Embassy at Tokyo or the Legation at Peking as Japanese or Chinese Secretaries.
It is the aim of the Department to reserve as far as possible the posts in these countries for the language trained officers of each service so that those who enter a particular field enjoy the prospect of a definitely assured consular career in the country to which they are assigned as soon as they have qualified by study and experience.
Besides the opportunity to advance to the highest consular position maintained by the Government, the language trained officer is brought in contact with work of absorbing interest and can be a real influence in the tremendous new problems of contact between the civilizations of the East and West.
As regards China it is believed that when the possibilities are more widely known by the student of Harvard University of entering this field in a government capacity a considerable number will desire to prepare themselves especially to enter that field of endeavor and to strengthen the bond of expanding sympathy and hopefulness which is being created between the East and the West.
Opportunity to Serve Country
Although the compensation for the various grades of consular officers is not lucrative, it is hoped that this may be shortly remedied by Congressional action. It is essential, therefore, that those entering the Service must realize that the greatest satisfaction is to be gained through service and that their aim should be to serve their country because of the opportunities offered for individual initiative and responsibility and the advantages of education and travel in foreign countries. There is, perhaps, no other government career which offers more possibilities for responsible activities and real achievement in matters affecting the welfare of our country than the Foreign Service to young men who desire to give their best moral and mental efforts for this high purpose.
Should anyone desire more definite, concrete information, a letter of inquiry addressed to the Department of State will not only be welcomed but will receive the Department's attentive consideration. If I can in any way be of assistance it will afford me the greatest pleasure to be called upon.