Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
CREDENTIALS, the document by which a diplomatic agent proves his commission. There is no special form prescribed for these letters, which may be either open or sealed; but, until they have been delivered, the minister or agent does not enjoy, by right at least, any of the immunities attached to his office. The powers of a diplomatic agent may be either general or special; but, in every case, the extent of his powers must be specified in the document which accredits him. Klüber (Droit de gens, § 193,) thinks that. after he has delivered his credentials, the acts of the agent bind his country. There was much more foundation for this opinion, before the invention of the electric telegraph, and the construction of railroads; in our day there is scarcely an act of any importance, whose ratification governments do not reserve to themselves. The telegraph has certainly diminished the number of diplomatic agents.
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