Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Consul Definition:

A representative of a foreign government assigned to another country to promote and protect the commercial interests of the subjects of his government.

Related Terms: Diplomatic Immunity, Ambassador

Under Ambassadors & Consuls, 3A CJS §2:

"A consul is the commercial agent of his country, and ordinarily lacks diplomatic powers and functions...."

 

In an 1890 case of the United States Supreme Court, In re Baiz, these words were used by Chief Justice Fuller:

"(A)mbassadors, other public ministers and consuls ... these words are descriptive of a class existing by the law of nations, and apply to diplomatic agents whether accredited by the United States to a foreign power or by a foreign power to the United States.... These agents may be called ambassadors, envoys, ministers, commissioners, chargés d'affaires, agents, or otherwise, but they possess in substance the same functions, rights and privileges as agents of their respective governments for the transaction of its diplomatic business abroad. Their designations are chiefly significant in the relation of rank, precedence or dignity."

In Klekunas, Justice Demsey of the Illinois Appellate Court noted that:

"A consul is a representative of a foreign government assigned to another country to promote and protect the commercial interests of the subjects of his government. He is empowered to safeguard their rights, to make certain that the laws of the country in which he serves are administered fairly as to them, and to represent them if need be in the courts to insure these ends. He can assert rights even if the claimants are unknown.

"The powers and duties of consuls rest upon international law, but the usual powers may be increased by treaty stipulations or by the laws of their own homelands. However, a consul is not, in the absence of some such additional grant of authority, the personal agent of his national."

West's Encyclopedia of American Law offers this definition:

"A consul is the commercial agent of a nation, who is empowered only to engage in business transactions, and not political matters in the country where he or she is stationed....

"In general, a consul is authorized to safeguard the legal rights and property interests of the citizens of his or her country and to appear in court to ascertain that the laws of the nation where he or she is assigned are administered impartially to all of the ambassadors compatriots....

"Consuls are also empowered and obligated to protect the estate of their countrymen and women who die within their consular districts.

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