1891 · [Various locations, including China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Egypt, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, New York, and
by [Keim, De Benneville Randolph]
[Various locations, including China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Egypt, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, New York, and Pennsylvania, 1891. Two bound manuscript volumes (228; 292pp.) plus approximately seventy loose manuscript letters and numerous pieces of ephemera. Quarto. Three-quarter morocco and marbled boards. Bindings scuffed and rubbed, boards and first signature of first volume detached. Manuscript materials and ephemera generally in very good to fine condition. In two cloth clamshell boxes, leather labels. A remarkable opportunity to study the state of the American consular system - and the conduct of American foreign policy generally - in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. This archive brings together the papers of De Benneville Randolph Keim who, as a special agent of the Secretary of the Treasury in the early 1870s, was charged with touring United States consular offices around the world, in order to study their accounts and assess their operations. Keim issued two scathing and influential reports on the subject in 1871 and 1872. The present volumes of Keim's retained letters from that tour, as well as his manuscripts of his 1871 and 1872 reports (included here), offer firsthand evidence of a consular service riddled with corruption, mismanagement, and graft. Historian Charles Kennedy calls Keim's published reports "the best overall view of the U.S. consular service after almost one hundred years." The present archive consists of a large portion of the original manuscript material that Keim used in order to create those reports. Through the end of the 19th century, the most visible American government representatives abroad were not ministers, ambassadors, or diplomats, but consular officers. These officers, based in cities all around the world, were charged with promoting American trade, helping American shipping, protecting seamen, and assisting American citizens in need. Lacking close supervision, and relatively well-funded, these offices were ripe for corruption. Charles Kennedy writes that "although some able men were appointed consuls, the period between the Civil War and the Spanish- American War was the nadir of the U.S. consular system." President Ulysses S. Grant used the consular system to reward friends and Union army veterans, and it became subject to all the corruption and abuses endemic in patronage politics. De Benneville Randolph Keim was born in Reading in 1841, a scion of a distinguished Pennsylvania family. He began a career in journalism in 1860, and wrote for the NEW YORK TIMES as a correspondent in St. Louis. During the Civil War he served as a war correspondent for the NEW YORK HERALD, following the armies of generals Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and others. Following the war, as a correspondent for the HERALD, he travelled through Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1868-69 he travelled as a journalist with General Sheridan in his campaign against the southwestern Indians, publishing a book on the experiences called SHERIDAN'S TROOPERS ON THE BORDERS (published in 1870). In 1869 he served as an envoy for President Grant to San Domingo, and a year later accepted Grant's charge to tour American consular offices around the world and to report on his findings. Upon his return and the issuance of his reports, he resumed his career in journalism and eventually became a part owner of the HARRISBURG TELEGRAPH. Keim published several books, including guides to Washington and to society in the nation's capitol, a volume of sketches of San Domingo, and a handbook of official and social etiquette. He died in 1914. From September 1870 to September 1871, Keim served as a U.S. agent abroad investigating and reporting on the condition of the United States consulates in Asia, Egypt, and South America. He recorded his findings in correspondence to the Treasury Department during his travels, which were officially published in 1871 as REPORTS OF DE B. RANDOLPH KEIM, AGENT OF THE UNITED STATES, ETC., TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, RELATING TO THE CONDITION OF THE CONSULATES OF THE UNITED STATES IN JAPAN, CHINA, COCHIN CHINA, MALAY PENINSULA, JAVA, BRITISH INDIA, EGYPT, AND ON THE EAST AND WEST COASTS OF SOUTH AMERICA and in 1872 as A REPORT TO THE HON. GEORGE S. BOUTWELL, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, UPON THE CONDITION OF THE CONSULAR SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The two bound volumes of Keim's retained letters in the present collection relate to this mission, the first letter book containing private correspondence, and the second comprising the dispatches and final report that would be published as the titles mentioned above. Keim's inspection, observations, and reports spearheaded a drive for reform civil service positions that led to the 1883 passage of the Civil Service Act (also known as the Pendleton Act), and to the imposition of examinations for diplomatic and consular positions by the turn of the century. Keim began his tour of American consulates in Japan in the late summer of 1870. The first volume in this collection is signed and dated by Keim in Amoy, China, January 12, 1871, China being the second nation visited on his tour. His letters begin on this date and continue through March 17, 1872, several months after returning to the U.S. Keim writes from numerous points abroad, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Java, Bombay, Alexandria, London, St. Thomas, Panama, Valparaiso, Rio de Janeiro, and Bahia, as well as from Washington, D.C. and his home town of Reading, Pennsylvania. The correspondence contains letters to Keim's family (particularly his mother), some friends, and numerous officials, including the Baron de MÃ©ritens, Commissioner of Chinese Imperial Customs at Foo Chow; General Charles Le Gendre, U.S. Consul in Amoy; Mr. Wingate, Consul in Swatow, China; George H. Butler, Consul in Alexandria, Egypt; C. Sheppard, Consul in Yokohama; M.P. Pels, Consul in Batavia, Java; C. Bancroft Davis, Assistant Secretary of State; H.J. Sprague, Consul in Gibraltar; William Thompson, Consul in Southampton, England; N.P. Jacobs, Consul in Calcutta; Captain M.D. Hammill of the S.S. Magellan; Richard A. Edes, Consul in Bahia, Brazil; Horace Porter, personal secretary to President Ulysses S. Grant; and President Grant, himself. One of the most notable figures to whom Keim writes is George F. Seward, U.S. Consul General in Shanghai, and nephew of William H. Seward, President Lincoln's Secretary of State. Several years after Keim's investigation, Congress brought impeachment charges against Seward for irregularities in his accounts as Consul and for fraud in his dealings with the Chinese in the short-lived Woosung railroad. Keim, who was highly critical of the consular system as he found it during his travels, may have furnished evidence in these matters; the case, however, eventually was dropped and never went to trial. On June 18, 1871, Keim writes to President Grant from Panama, requesting that his appointment of consular investigator be extended so that he may complete his planned tour of South America. On the same day, he writes to James Gordon Bennett, the influential publisher of the NEW YORK HERALD (for whom Keim had previously worked), describing a translation of a secret Chinese document he had enclosed, relating to the Tientsin (Tianjin) massacre of French nuns, the French consul, and local Chinese converts (the document is not present here) in 1870. A public decree, Keim writes, was circulated in the wake of the massacre to mollify the French, but "the enclosed secret decree was privately circulated amongst the local authorities at the same time with threats of summary punishment should a copy fall into the hands of the foreigners." Keim writes that the copy of the translation he had acquired was only one of three extant. He continues on to describe the mounting tensions with foreigners and the impending crisis for the Manchu rulers. "I think the solution in part will be the ejection of the Manchus and very likely collision with foreign powers on the establishment of a new government. In this latter portion of the contest America would have an opportunity to make herself the leading power morally and commercially by adopting a wise and liberal policy. It would have to be quite different from the provincial or elementary diplomacy which has so far characterised our intercourse with the Chinese Empire since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1844." On January 15, 1872, Keim writes again to Bennett, informing him that he has secured interviews with the heads of different government departments on the subject of foreign relations, in addition to an interview with President Grant. On February 8 of the same year, Keim writes to President Grant, inviting him attend a press dinner in Washington as his guest. In a later letter to a Mr. Anderson of the HERALD, Keim writes that Grant accepted the invitation: "I rather astonished the natives by bringing the President." The second letter book is entitled in manuscript, "Despatch Book Number II. From June 18 1871 to [blank] Official Communications with the Treasury Department...Relating to tour of Inspection of the Consular Offices of the United States at the ports of Asia, Africa and South America. 1870 and 1871 Book II." This volume contains the retained manuscript copies of Keim's official correspondence to Secretary of the Treasury George S. Boutwell from his visit to Panama in June 1871 through his South American travels and return to the U.S. in September; these entries constitute a large portion of the 1871 "REPORTS" publication. The remainder of the volume primarily consists of what appears to be the original manuscript draft, with numerous corrections, of Keim's large final report on the consular service, published the following year. In the published 1871 reports, Keim introduces his findings with an exasperated call for reform: "As will be seen by the communications inclosed, the consular service of the United States is not only exceedingly irresponsible in its practical operations, but, in the main, very discreditable to the nation. Briefly, this is the result of three important defects: insufficiency of compensation, the appointment of unsuitable persons in many cases, and, lastly the astonishing crudeness and imperfections in our consular laws" (REPORTS..., p.). Keim's dispatches from Central and South America provide detailed information about the states of the consulates he inspects in Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil, recording names of present and former consuls, detailed financial records, and his suspicions of corruption or incompetence. From Panama, he writes, "I have given sufficient to show that the history of the consulate of Panama presents no exceptions to the general rule with respect to similar offices under the United States at many other sea ports. And I may reiterate that I can see no prospects of a permanent change for the better except in an established consular service and the appointment of capable and deserving men to the office" (p.7). Keim's long report on Panama that begins this volume also contains descriptions the mismanagement of the estates of deceased Americans and the poor local living conditions and medical facilities for American sailors. From the consulate in Chile, Keim writes of local complaints by American whalers of excessively high fees charged by the American consul, and alludes to the fact that the consul may be committing fraud in submitting charges for the relief of sick and destitute Americans. In a later letter he writes "this special investigation recalls what I had occasion to say very early in my investigations in Japan and China when I alluded to the laxity of the law and the numerous opportunities for irregularity under the present consular system. I am convinced more than ever in my own mind that the relief and the shipping and discharge of seamen's extra wages and charge of fees have been fruitful fields of abuse." Not surprisingly, many of Keim's letters have detailed reports of the accounts of the consulates. In a particularly interesting letter written from Tumbez, Peru, Keim reports that he arrived in the city to find the consul dead drunk in the street and making a fool of himself. When he proceeded to the consulate building, Keim discovered a mountain of empty vermouth bottles and another man, unknown to him, who had just been "appointed" to the post by the inebriate in the street. Upon review of the records, he found that in a year of service the previous consul had not made a single entry in any of the books. Keim did find several consulates in good order, however, such as the one in Callao, Peru, which receives a very favorable report and a clean bill of financial health. The first 156 pages of this volume consist of reports that Keim wrote from various Latin American cities with consulates in them. Together with these two important letter books, the present collection of DeB. Randolph Keim papers includes the following unbound items: Twenty-six autograph letters, signed, by Keim to his mother from New York, London, Paris, Egypt, India, Ceylon, Australia, and additional points abroad from June 5, 1865, to February 22, 1866. The letters, written when Keim was 24 and 25 years old, provide interesting accounts of his travels. Keim was evidently part of the vanguard of American tourists abroad, a group that grew steadily in the years following the Civil War. Mostly quarto, some octavo, leaves. Approximately pp. Very good. Facsimile copy of President Grant's 1870 letter of introduction for Keim during his visits to consulates in Asia (undated, probably contemporary). Broadside, 10 1/4 x 17 3/4 inches. Very good. A.l.s. to Keim from the Comptroller's Office of the United State Treasury Department (signed name illegible), dated October 23, 1871. This letter, sent one month after Keim's return to the U.S. from his consular investigations, notes a revision in compensation due by the federal government to Keim, adding $238.35 for a total of $681.98 due at that time. Quarto. pp. Minor soiling, else fine. Printed summons, completed in manuscript, for Keim to appear before the Select Committee of Power, Privileges and Duties of the House of Representatives, signed January 12, 1877, by Speaker Samuel J. Randall and Clerk George M. Adams. Keim inscribes the following in a blank section in the center of the document: "This was on account of an Interview I had with Pres. Grant about power of[?] executive in the District of Columbia...Dems plotting to seize the Presidency. I declined to give any private information on subject." Broadside, 10 1/4 x 8 inches. Printed and manuscript docketing on verso. Very good. A.l.s. from Secretary of State William M. Evarts to Thomas A. Scott, dated July 5, 1877, mostly likely a manuscript copy sent to Randolph Keim. Evarts writes to Scott, the powerful head of the Pennsylvania Railroad, to request rail accommodations for an upcoming trip to Eastern Pennsylvania, as per a suggestion by Keim. pp. Evidently removed from a scrapbook, with construction paper mount (which is also mounted with newspaper clippings) still attached to right margin of blank verso of second leaf. Very good. A.l.s. from Durham White Stevens to Keim, dated December 26, 1891. D.W. Stevens was an American diplomat and, from 1883 through the turn of the 20th century, advisor to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and lobbyist for Japan in Washington. He was assassinated in San Francisco by Korean activists in 1908. In the present letter, Stevens introduces several members of the Japanese legation in Washington to Keim: Madame Fateno (wife of Goso Fateno), Mr. Shiro Akabane, Naval Lieutenant Nakamura, Mr. Hioki, and Mr. Nakayama, mentioning biographical details about each. Bifolium, pp. Printed letterhead of "Legation at Japan, Washington." Very good. Disbound scrapbook, containing carbon copies of twenty-four a.l.s. by Randolph Keim, more than twenty signed letters to and retained copies of a.l.s. by Randolph and Mrs. Keim, and numerous newspaper clippings and other ephemera, dated 1865 to 1891. The carbon- copy letters by Keim are dated January 1 to March 11, 1865, and primarily concern the writing of a book to be published by George W. Childs on the lives of the Union generals, apparently never published. Keim, a prospective contributor to the work, solicits information from several generals here, including Manning Force, William T. Clark, George W. Morgan, Alvan Gillem, Alexander Asboth, and Theophilus Garrard. He also writes to the editors of the ATLANTIC MONTHLY, to the brother of General James Birdseye McPherson, on whom Keim published an article in the UNITED STATES SERVICE MAGAZINE, and to Henry Coppee, editor of that journal. The later letters, addressed to both Mr. and Mrs. Keim, and all dated 1891, are written mostly in reference to preservation efforts for the site of the Valley Forge encampment in eastern Pennsylvania. The movement to preserve, maintain, and improve the site was successful, leading to Pennsylvania making the site its first state park in 1893. The Valley Forge encampment cite became a national historical park in 1976. These letters are inscribed on leaves of various sizes and are in very good condition. A major manuscript archive from an important moment in United States diplomatic history, with many interesting additional materials. Charles Stuart Kennedy, THE AMERICAN CONSUL: A HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES CONSULAR SERVICE, 1776-1914 (Westport. 1990), pp.178-88.
(Inventory #: WRCAM56392)