Saturday, July 18, 2015

Etiquette Lurks in Closet

Etiquette lurking in the diplomatic closet!

Lack of Formal Invitations Keeps Few Consuls From Meeting Secretary Knox

Reception to Foreign Consuls by Secretary Knox Marred by Breach of Code

There is a skeleton in the closet of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition company. It made its fearsome presence known yesterday for the first time, when it stalked into the midst of the ceremonies surrounding the visit of Secretary of State Philander C. Knox. By valiant effort on the part of exposition officials and members of the California Development board it was routed yesterday, but it threatens to become a frequent visitor before the gates of the great exposition are finally closed.

The name of this skeleton is Etiquette. Its ways are dark and its habits mysterious. It has bothered around in the open to a certain extent before, but never until yesterday did it threaten to disrupt the best laid plans of the men, who, in the name of San Francisco, are to be hosts to the world in 1915. Yesterday it raised the very deuce.

As Chief of the Department of State, Secretary Knox extended the official invitation of President Taft to the nations of the world to participate in the 1915 celebration. As a matter of courtesy to Secretary Knox, it was decided by those in charge of the arrangements for the latter's visit to San Francisco to invite the foreign consuls in San Francisco to meet the Secretary formally at a reception yesterday afternoon in the rooms of the California Development Board in the Ferry building.

For several days the plans for the entertainment of the Secretary have been given publicity through the newspapers, and one of the features of the program, as published, has been the reception of yesterday afternoon at which he was to be the guest of honor and the foreign consuls were to be presented. Monday afternoon the consular corps met, and it was then that the skeleton Etiquette broke from its closet and took a seat at the consular board. A member of the corps suggested that all foreign consuls should attend the reception in a body. "But have you been formally invited?" interrupted Etiquette. There was dead silence. 

Slowly the gravity of the situation dawned upon the local repreaentativea of the foreign powers. The meeting promptly went into executive session, but Etiquette stayed within. It was a solemn conclave that was held. Would It be proper to attend a reception to the Secretary of State in an official capacity without the most formal sort of a government invitation? Would it not be the safe way for the consuls to remain absent? Would it be better, possibly, to go as individuals and not as officials?

Etiquette moved to the head of the table and sat there chuckling. It was just the forerunner of many similar occasions which are bound to arise in San Francisco before the universal exposition passes into history. Etiquette was causing all sorts of trouble and paving the way for more. The meeting broke up without any definite decision.

Yesterday morning it was learned by the official hosts of Secretary Knox that Etiquette had escaped and run amuck, and there was a scurrying and a hurrying that betokened the utmost activity. All the consuls were telephoned to, and some of them promised to attend —but not ln an official capacity, mind you. The reception was held and the consuls were there—some of them. France. Russia, China. Japan and Argentina were among the nations represented, together with a dozen others, while Great Britain. German. Italy and several others did not answer to the roll call.

One explanation given was that no invitation at all had been extended other than that given through newspaper publication. Another explanation, however, was that Etiquette was entirely responsible. According to this rumor. Etiquette was peeved because a prescribed formula had not been complied with, and this formula was as follows:

First, the consul should have received an Invitation to meet Secretary Knox, whereupon a meeting of the corps should have been held, then a telegram should have been dispatched to the State Department in Washington setting forth the desire of the local foreign representatives to call upon the Secretary; the State Department should then have wired to Secretary Knox in San Francisco asking for an appointment for the consuls; Secretary Knox should have wired back to the State Department setting a time for the reception; the State Department should then have telegraphed the local consular corps of the decision, and the invitation should then have been accepted. This procedure was not followed. 

Some of the consuls said yesterday that it wasn't necessary at all. Others declared that it was overdrawn. Still another was mean enough to intimate that his confreres were putting on the airs of Ambassadors. In any event, Etiquette sat around yesterday afternoon and grinned. The skeleton in the closet. —The San Francisco Call, May 8, 1912

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia