Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
AMBASSADOR. The article "Diplomatic Agent" in this work may be supplemented by a few striking passages which we here quote, from a speech of Prince Bismarck at Berlin Nov. 16, 1871, in the German reichstag.—"An ambassador does not deserve a higher salary by reason of his title, for ambassador is only a title. If you put a colonel or a general at the head of a brigade, he becomes a brigadier and must always be ready to do a brigadier's duty. If you maintain your ambassador at a great court in a shabby manner, his expenses will not, perhaps, necessarily exceed those of a minister plenipotentiary by more than from one thousand to three thousand thalers. This sum will suffice to cover the outlay imposed on him by the custom prevalent in most countries in accordance with which sovereigns accept, on certain occasions, the invitations of ambassadors; and it is this custom of giving great entertainments that causes the increased outlay of which I have spoken. The honor which the visit of the sovereign confers on the house he enters has this effect: it makes the position of the representative in the eyes of the sovereign's subjects correspond with the dignity of the state he represents. But there is no question of that in the increase of salary which you have proposed.
—Why then, we may be asked, confer the title of ambassador at all? I answer, because of the hierarchy of political agents. A difference is made between the members of the diplomatic corps, an unjust one, no doubt, but one which is nevertheless generally admitted. Thus if a minister of foreign affairs be in conference with a minister plenipotentiary, at the moment that an ambassador is announced, he thinks it his duty to break off the conference at once and receive the ambassador. A minister plenipotentiary may have waited an hour perhaps in the antechamber of the minister of foreign affairs. At the moment he is about to enter an ambassador arrives, and the usage of most courts, so far as I know, is to receive the latter; the minister will have to wait a long time more, and perchance he may not be received at all that day. The result is mortification and collisions which may be avoided by a mere change of title. A minister plenipotentiary conscious of his own dignity will not endure such treatment, and, for my part, I found myself in a situation to resent it successfully but not without bringing on a coolness out of all proportion with the importance of the matter. Moreover, such resistance can not be made without placing persons in a position which almost touches the limits of what is allowed to the representative official of a great nation. The object can be obtained by conferring on the agent the title of ambassador, which thus becomes, through the marks of honor which it brings him, a bit of economy rather than a cause of expense. The prerogatives belonging to the title of ambassador may be considered as a full equivalent for a few thousand thalers.
—I have read occasionally in the public papers (and the preceding speaker has alluded to the point) that some persons recognize the danger of the privilege belonging to ambassadors of conferring directly with the sovereign. This is founded on error. An ambassador has no more access to a sovereign than any other minister plenipotentiary, and he can in no way pretend to have the right to treat with a monarch directly and without the intervention of the monarch's ministers."
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