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The Special Envoy

The State Department Building, January 26, 2017. Joshua Roberts / Reuters

AMONG all the instruments available to the President in his conduct of foreign relations, none is more flexible than the use of personal representatives. He is free to employ officials of the government or private citizens. He may give them such rank and title as seem appropriate to the tasks; these designations may be ambassador, commissioner, agent, delegate; or he may assign no title at all. He may send his agents to any place on earth that he thinks desirable and give them instructions either by word of mouth, or in writing, or through the Department of State, or in any other manner that seems to him fitted to the occasion. Some have been exceedingly formal; others completely informal. Many agents have borne commissions like those of Government officers, ensuring them diplomatic rights, dignities and immunities. Because of these circumstances many have mistakenly considered themselves officers. Others have had mere letters of introduction and have enjoyed no diplomatic privileges. Some have gone with no written credentials whatsoever, their errand described only verbally. Their functions have varied in importance from the trivial to the vital.

Their missions may be secret, no one whatever being informed of them. They may be open and accompanied by a blare of publicity. Neither their private character nor public attention affects the position of the representative. The President may meet their expenses and pay them such sums as he regards as reasonable. In this matter there is no check upon him except the availability of funds which has never proved an insoluble problem. In short, he is as nearly completely untrammelled as in any phase of his executive authority.

The special envoy is not an American institution but a universal practice. Particular interest in the employment of this type of agent by the United States arises from the constitutional provision that the President "shall nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls." Yet in a

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