Philip De Peyster, an Aspirant US Consul in the Age of Revolution

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 11:10 AM
Room 501 (Colorado Convention Center)
Olga Gonzalez-Silen, California State University, San Marcos
This paper examines the strategies Philip DePeyster, a New York merchant, employed to become a U.S. consul in the Caribbean. His diary and family correspondence offer valuable sources to begin sketching the diplomats that soon wielded great influence in the Latin American republics. The U.S. Congress outlined the consul’s prerogatives only in 1792. This Act responded to the president’s growing number of appointments to protect the merchants and seamen who navigated under the flag of neutrality the continuous imperial wars. Other than establishing fees for services, the United States did not compensate its consuls. The appointment was its own reward, with consuls expected to further personal and national interests. In the case of the Spanish empire, the United States had been less than successful in establishing consulates, having only gained a hesitant entrance in Havana. The wars of Spanish American independence, thus, seemed to promise a wealth of appointments. At this crossroads, the efforts of DePeyster illuminate the complexities of becoming a consul as he pursued this position in the Dutch island of Curaçao, the Venezuelan Republic, and the French island of Guadeloupe.
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