Belgian-American Diplomacy - Convention Concerning the Rights, Privileges, and Immunities of Consuls: December 5, 1868
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Protocol additional to the Convention signed December 5, 1868

Concluded December 5, 1868;
Ratification advised by the Senate April 12, 1869;
Ratified by the President April 18, 1869;
Ratifications ex-changed July 8, 1869;
Proclaimed March 7, 1870.

The President of the United States of America and His Majesty the King of the Belgians, recognizing the utility of defining the rights, privileges and immunities of consular officers in the two countries, deem it expedient to conclude a consular convention for that purpose; accordingly, they have named:

The President of the United States of America, Henry Shelton Sanford, a citizen of the United States, their Minister Resident near His Majesty the King of the Belgians; and His Majesty the King of the Belgians, the Sieur Jules Vander Stichelen, Grand Cross of the Order of the Dutch Lion, &c., &c., &c., his Minister of Foreign Affairs;

Who, after having communicated to each other their full powers, found to be in good and proper form, have agreed upon the following articles:


Each of the high contracting parties agrees to receive from the other, Consuls-General, Consuls, Vice-Consuls and Consular Agents, in all its ports, cities and places, except those where it may not be convenient to recognize such officers. This reservation, however, shall not apply to one of the high contracting parties without also applying to every other power.


Consular officers, on the presentation of their commissions in the forms established in their respective countries, shall be furnished with the necessary exequatur free of charge, and on the exhibition of this instrument they shall be permitted to enjoy the rights, prerogatives and immunities granted by this convention.


Consular officers, citizens of the State by which they are appointed, shall be exempt from arrest, except in the case of offences which the local legislation qualifies as crimes, and punishes it as such; from military billetings, from service in the militia or in the national guard, or in the regular army, and from all taxation, federal, state or municipal. If, however, they are citizens of the State where they reside, or own property, or engage in business there, they shall be liable to the same charges of all kinds as other citizens of the country, who are merchants or owners of property.


No consular officer who is a citizen of the State by which he was appointed, and who is not engaged in business, shall be compelled to appear as a witness before the courts of the country where he may reside. When the testimony of such a consular officer is needed, he shall be invited in writing to appear in court, and if unable to do so, his testimony shall be requested in writing, or be taken orally, at his dwelling or office.

It shall be the duty of said consular officer to comply with this request without any delay which can be avoided.

In all criminal cases, contemplated by the sixth article of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States, whereby the right is secured to persons charged with crimes to obtain witnesses in their favor, the appearance in court of said consular officer shall be demanded, with all possible regard to the consular dignity and to the duties of his office. A similar treatment shall also be extended to United States Consuls in Belgium, in the like cases.


Consuls-General, Consuls, Vice-Consuls and Consular Agents may place over the outer door of their offices, or their dwelling-houses, the arms of their nation, with this inscription, " Consulate, or Vice-Consulate, or Consular Agency " of the United States, or of Belgium, &c., &c. And they may also raise the flag of their country on their offices or dwelling-houses, except in the capital of the country, when there is a legation there.


The consular offices and dwellings shall be at all times inviolable. The local authorities shall not, under any pretext, invade them. In no case shall they examine or seize the papers there deposited. In no case shall those offices or dwellings be used as places of asylum. When, however, a consular officer is engaged in other business, the papers relating to the consulate shall be kept separate.


In the event of the death, incapacity or absence of Consuls-General, Consuls, Vice-Consuls and Consular Agents, their chancellors or secretaries, whose official character may have previously been made known to the Department of State at Washington, or to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Belgium, may temporarily exercise their functions, and while thus acting they shall enjoy all the rights, prerogatives and immunities granted to the incumbents.


Consuls-General and Consuls may, with the approbation of their respective Governments, appoint Vice-Consuls and Consular Agents in the cities, ports and places within their consular jurisdiction. These officers may be citizens of the United States, of Belgium, or other foreigners. They shall be furnished with a commission by the Consul who appoints them, and under whose orders they are to act. They shall enjoy the privileges stipulated for consular officers in this convention, subject, to the exceptions specified in Articles III. and IV.


Consuls-General, Consuls, Vice-Consuls and Consular Agents may complain to the authorities of the respective countries, whether federal or local, judicial or local, judicial or executive, within their consular district, of any infraction of the treaties and conventions between the United States and Belgium, or for the purpose of protecting the rights and interests of their countrymen. If the complaint should not be satisfactorily redressed, the consular officers aforesaid, in the absence of a diplomatic agent of their country, may apply directly to the Government of the country where they reside.


Consuls-General, Consuls, Vice-Consuls and Consular Agents may take at their offices, at the residence of the parties, at their private residence, or on board ship, the depositions of the captains and crews of vessels of their own country, of passengers on board of them, and of any other citizen of their nation. They may also receive at their offices, conformably to the laws and regulations of their country, all contracts between the citizens of their country and the citizens or other inhabitants of the country where they reside, and even all contracts between the latter, provided they relate to property situated or to business to be transacted in the territory of the nation to which said consular officer may belong. Copies of such papers and official documents of every kind, whether in the original, copies or translation duly authenticated and legalized by the Consuls-General, Consuls, Vice-Consuls and Consular Agents, and sealed with their official seal, shall be received as legal documents in courts of justice throughout the United States and Belgium.


Consuls-General, Consuls, Vice-Consuls and Consular Agents shall have exclusive charge of the internal order of the merchant vessels of their nation, and shall alone take cognizance of differences which may arise, either at sea or in port, between the captains, officers and crews, without exception, particularly in reference to the adjustment of wages and the execution of contracts. Neither the federal, state or municipal authorities or courts in the United States, nor any court or authority in Belgium shall, on any pretext, interfere in these differences.


The respective Consuls-General, Consuls, Vice-Consuls and Consular Agents may arrest the officers, sailors and all other persons making part of the crew of ships of war or merchant vessels of their nation who may be guilty, or be accused of having deserted said ships and vessels, for the purpose of sending them on board or back to their country. To that end the consuls of the United States in Belgium may apply to any of the competent authorities; and the consuls of, Belgium in the United States may apply in writing to either the federal, state or municipal courts or authorities, and make a request in writing for the deserters, supporting it by the exhibition of the register of the vessel and list of the crew, or by other official documents, to show that the persons claimed belong to the said crew.

Upon such request alone, thus supported, and without the exaction of any oath from the consular officers, the deserters, not being citizens of the country where the demand is made at the time of their shipping, shall be given up. All the necessary aid and protection shall be furnished for the search, pursuit, seizure, and arrest of the deserters, who shall even be put and kept in the prisons of the country, at the request and expense of the consular officers, until there may be an opportunity for sending them away. If, however, such an opportunity should not present itself within the space of three months, counting from the day of the arrest, the deserter shall be set at liberty, nor shall he be again arrested for the same cause.


In the absence of an agreement to the contrary between the owners, freighters and insurers, all damages suffered at sea by the vessels of the two countries, whether they enter port voluntarily or are forced by stress of weather, shall be settled by the Consuls General, Consuls, Vice-Consuls and Consular Agents of the respective countries where they reside. If, however, any inhabitant of the country or citizen or subject of a third power shall be interested in the matter, and the parties cannot agree, the competent local authorities shall decide.


All proceedings relative to the salvage of American vessels wrecked upon the coasts of Belgium, and of Belgian vessels wrecked upon the coasts of the United States, shall be directed by Consuls-General, Consuls, and Vice-Consuls of the two countries, respectively, and, until their arrival, by the respective Consular Agents, wherever an agency exists. In the places and ports where an agency does not exist, the local authorities, until the arrival of the Consul in whose district the wreck may have occurred, and who shall immediately be informed of the occurrence, shall take all necessary measures for the protection of persons and the preservation of property. The local authorities shall not otherwise interfere than for the maintenance of order, the protection of the interests of the salvors, if they do not belong to the crews that have been wrecked, and to card into effect the arrangements made for the entry and exportation of the merchandise saved. It is understood that such merchandise is not to be subjected to any custom-house charges, unless it be intended for consumption in the country where the wreck may have taken place.


In case of the death of any citizen of the United States in Belgium, or of a citizen of Belgium in the United States without having any known heirs or testamentary executor by him appointed, the competent local authorities shall inform the Consuls or Consular Agents, Of the nation to which the deceased belongs of the circumstance, in order that the necessary information may be immediately forwarded to parties interested.


The present convention shall remain in force for the space of ten years, counting from the day of the exchange of the ratifications, which shall be made in conformity with the respective constitutions of the two countries. and exchanged at Brussels within the period of six months, or sooner if possible. In case neither party gives notice, twelve months after the expiration of the said period of ten years, of its intention not to renew this convention, it shall remain in force one year longer, and so on from year to year, until the expiration of a year from the day on which one of the parties shall have given such notice.

In faith whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed this convention, and have hereunto affixed their seals.

Done at Brussels, in duplicate, the fifth day of December, eighteen hundred and sixty-eight.


Protocol additional to the Convention signed December 5, 1868.(2)

The Plenipotentiaries of the President of the United States and of His Majesty the King of the Belgians, foreseeing that the exchange of ratifications cannot be made within the delay prescribed, by reason of circumstances independent of the will of the high contracting parties, have met this day, and have agreed to prolong the delay for two months.

Done at Brussels, the 1st. of June, 1869.


(1) This treaty was terminated January 1, 1880, on notice given by the Belgian Government. Ex Parte van Hoven (4 Dill. 411) ; In re stupp (12 Blatch. 501); in re Wildenhus (28 Fed. Rep. 924).Back

(2) The Senate of the United States, by its resolution of March 2, 1870, advised and consented to the exchanges of ratifications which had previously been made.Back

Treaties, Conventions, International Acts and Agreements Between the United States of America and Other Powers 1776-1909.
Compiled by William M. Malloy
Under Resolution of the Senate of January 18, 1909
Washington : Government Printing Office, 1910.
127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.