French Diplomatic System

Introduction

Since the medieval times, the French diplomatic system has characterized the conduction of international relations among states. Indeed, the French system is credited with the attributes of modern diplomatic relations. The French system has its roots from Italy and has over the years emerged as a best practice due to its revolutionary transformation resulting from its efforts to efficiently meet the demands and scope of its international interest.

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Throughout the European governments’ history, the European governments were characterized by conservative and anti-democratic leaders1. They were either monarchs or autocrats. These leaders did not accommodate any social or political change in their leadership and instead viewed it as a challenge to the traditional social order. The monarchs had the divine rights to rule their countries in the medieval Europe. France was ruled in this manner until the French Revolution which occurred in the 18th Century which saw the end of Louis XVI. It was the French who first created an early model of modern diplomacy2.

Nicollò Machiavelli, Italy’s most famous diplomat typifies the execution of diplomacy of the Renaissance era; Machiavelli’s had embarked on 32 missions, from his 1498 mission to the Lord of Piombino to his 1527 mission to Francesco Guicciardini 3.

Following its deployment these many times in Machiavelli’s career is a good indication of the work, the costs, and the effort that were injected into these missions; it is also a indicator of its inefficiencies. These missions were temporary, and thus were narrowly focused in their tasks; they were expensive to dispatch, and welcomed much danger while travelling; also, because of the high level officials that attended these missions, they had much bureaucracy4. This marked the beginning of the change in purpose and structure of diplomacy.

French Contributions to Professionalised Diplomacy, Common Language of Diplomacy, Structure and Protocol

The language of diplomacy in the early 18th century and the centuries that followed was Latin5. However, some time in the early 18th century, the French began advocating for the French language to be adopted as the language of diplomacy although the idea was rejected by other world powers arguing that four major treaties that had been signed in French had been interfered with and had some articles inserted in them6. The French language became the de facto language of diplomacy some time in the 18th century and as it was used at the Congress of Vienna and the Congress of Paris7. Diplomacy was recognized as a profession that could be used by countries to represent them in various countries, in early 19th century at a congress held in Vienna in 18157.

The ranks of the diplomatic services were coded to into a common hierarchy so as to eliminate the problems that had enfolded the precedence. The debate over precedence had threatened to stall negotiations since the titles and the appearance was a symbol of power and status of the states. Rulers were often willing to give up significant material advantage in order to preserve the status of their sovereignty as well as to improve their positions. The fight over precedence had occasionally resulted into fierce confrontations especially between ambassadors and their retinue8. This almost led to war between France and Spain. The Congress of Vienna reviewed the precedence that had been set by the pope in 1504.

Professionalization of diplomacy was realized through the adoption of the French system9. The rules and protocols of what had now become modern diplomacy were based on the principles that had been set by the French over the past centuries10. The titles and hierarchies of the profession adopted reflected the ideals of the French system. According to the resolutions of the Congress of Vienna the diplomatic representatives included the first category that comprised of papal nuncios, ambassadors as well as papal legates11. The second category comprised of ministers plenipotentiary as well as minister residents. This category also included the envoys extraordinary. Finally, there was the charge d’affaires.

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This system of clearly defined diplomatic hierarchy was a major step towards transforming the diplomatic profession. Seniority of diplomats was based on how long a diplomat had served. The most senior government representatives who represented them in major power countries were the ambassadors, while the lower level diplomats represented their countries in countries that were regarded as less powerful either economically or politically13. This system of diplomatic representation where junior diplomats were sent to countries considered to be less powerful while ambassadors were sent to countries considered to be the most prominent continued into the 20th century when the European states saw the disadvantage of being represented by junior diplomats14.

The transformation of diplomacy into a profession created a corporate feeling among the diplomats such that those residing in the same capital (diplomatic crops) formed their own rules and conventions with the most senior diplomat becoming their dean and spokesman on matters affecting the diplomatic community15. They agreed on standards that surpassed individual nationalist responses to issues that collectively affected them and the countries they represented 16. All these diplomatic corporate feelings developed as a result of the French diplomatic philosophies. The French diplomats saw themselves as members of a distinct, European and then finally global profession. The development of diplomatic corps greatly improved diplomacy as a profession as well as the conduct of international relations.

It made negotiations to become a little easier. The development of diplomatic corps led to the acceptance and creation of resident embassies17. This became a common practice and it led to a shift towards professionalization of diplomacy which was charecterised by frankness and sincerity. Greater honesty and integrity in diplomacy facilitated successful negotiation of treaties.

Another factor which reinforced the corporate feeling among the diplomats was what is termed as a lingua franca of diplomacy18 . That is; the common language of diplomacy. Although earlier on the common language of diplomacy was Latin, the French language gradually took over to become the language of diplomacy19. This was meant to harmonize the diplomatic communication between states that had different languages since it made technical diplomatic vocabulary possible.

It was also an indication of the diplomats’ distinctive political identity. Up to date, most diplomatic phrases used such as “persona non grata, status quo” among others and even the titles of the diplomatic ranks have their origins in the French language and system20. The technical French diplomatic vocabulary developed during this period to become an ordinary diplomatic language. These phrases enable those in the diplomatic careers to communicate and deliver precise information in a professional and in a standard form that is not subject to misinterpretation21.

Thus the adoption of the French system saw the end of the papal authority as well as the use of Latin language. It greatly contributed to the power swing from the monarch and the church to parliaments.

In the early periods of the French diplomatic system, diplomatic promotions were characterized by nepotism and patronage. However, in the 19th century, lower and middle ranks promotions were based on seniority of the individual’s diplomatic service22. Later on in 1856, for one to be promoted to the first level diplomatic services the individual must have worked in the diplomatic service as an attaché for a minimum of three years23. This also made the British to rethink its promotion tactics which were highly influenced by domestic politics. Beginning in 1850s appointments of the British diplomats were appointed based on their professional qualifications and not on political considerations.

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Diplomatic Representation

The French Revolution facilitated the rate of increase of representative democracy as well as political participation. Thus the French Revolution opened up diplomacy participation to the professional class to the extent that it even included commoners in both the lower levels of diplomatic services24. However, the senior level diplomatic systems were dominated by the aristocratic government elite.

In turn, in 1914, the British government reviewed its policy on diplomatic participation that was based on income qualification to allow those without income qualifications to pursue diplomatic careers25.

The domination of the French system aristocratic elites meant that the monarch no longer decided on the foreign policies of their host countries26. This created a major shift in the professionalization of diplomacy. The royal families were no longer allowed to practice their traditional authority on diplomatic issues. It also created a power shift in diplomacy from the courts to the cabinets. The monarch was only supposed to ratify the policies so as to ensure that they were government-determined foreign policies27. Thus the diplomats now represented actual sovereign authority of the countries they represented.

The Establishment and Development of the MFA

The French system is also accredited with the formulation of the ministry of foreign affairs. The ministry of foreign affairs was established as a result of the professionalised diplomatic service which developed from the French system. Cardinal Richelieu became the first ever ruler to create the ministry of foreign affairs28. As tension arose within Europe, it was imperative to maintain equilibrium among these states.

This required resident ambassadors for continued diplomacy in all major capitals29. Indeed, as war increased so was the demand for diplomacy. Diplomacy was needed in order to be strategically positioned; hence, an institution to manage the conduct of diplomacy was essential, which became MFA’s, a logical compliment for permanent missions30. Incidentally, Richelieu’s continuous negotiation envisaged permanent diplomatic representation in all states, remote as well as neighboring and hostile as well as friendly; and that negotiation should be ceaselessly pursuing achievement of agreement on all outstanding concerns31.

The ministry of foreign affairs was created in 1626 to serve the interests of the resident embassies32. The resident embassies had placed demands on the French political institutions which promoted Richelieu to create the ministry so as to ensure that his policy of continuous negotiations was not at stake33. Richelieu noted that more diplomacy would increase the possibility of inconsistency particularly in the execution of foreign policy and as such there was need to create a single institution to coordinate and manage activities, appointments and communications of the domestic institutions34. He also needed an institution that would preserve the letters of agreements with the foreign diplomats for future use.

The French development and use of the MFA’s is another major attribute of its system that defines diplomacy. The French system essentially operated from a developed MFA as early as the 17th century; they had detailed instructions regarding specific negotiations, and reports on the general state of European politics; they also developed their style for ceremonies and etiquette using French instead of Latin35. Consequently, François I in the Villers-Cotterêts Ordinance of 1539, prescribed the use of French for judicial decisions and legislative acts, plus with the creation of the French Academy (1634) and the French dictionary (1694), French maintains its position of being the official language of diplomacy to this current day36.

The idea of establishing a foreign affairs ministry was later on emulated by the British and the US in 1782 and 1789 respectively3. The British created the British Foreign Office while the US created the US State Department. This was a step towards harmonizing the administration of diplomatic services under one single institution. The European nations had recognized diplomatic services as part of the public service by early 19th century. The foreign affairs ministry had features of professional diplomacy incorporated in their structures. The early foreign affairs ministries were characterized by departments or units and performed specific diplomatic function such as negotiating treaties37.

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Civil servants were assigned specialized responsibilities and rules of diplomacy related to the features of the diplomatic profession38. The MFA was responsible for recruiting and developing potential diplomats.

The Development and Training of Diplomats

The French emphasized that the character and the intelligence of a diplomat, particularly that of an ambassador is of great significance as they are expected to represent the state singly for a number of years39. According to the French system, an ambassador should be capable of carrying out his or her assignments by virtue of his or her training. Thus they formulated the training and the features of an ideal ambassador. They also developed diplomatic manuals in the 17th and 18th centuries outlining the agreed upon qualifications required for one to become an ambassador40. For example, clergymen, jurists and military officers were deemed unfit to carry out diplomatic duties. They also expected to be good listeners and creative enough to improvise situations.

During the early periods of the European diplomacy, their standards of operation were still low, however the European countries made great improvements in 19th and the 20th centuries. They adopted selection of diplomat trainees and training of the diplomats in accordance with the French ideals in order to achieve better professional standards. Such levels of professionalism facilitated the dialogue between countries41.

European countries were now able to project their powers outside their territories. This French evolution of diplomatic entry requirements changed the British mode of selection and training of its diplomats. They now had to undergo some months of probation in the British Foreign Office. The British introduced an examination in which those undergoing the training had to pass and it tested the trainees’ handwriting as well as their grasp in foreign languages42. Later on in 1905, the British government required that the trainees take a Civil Service examination and examinations on French and German languages43.

The French system was also the first one to introduce diplomacy as an independent career44. This was established to facilitate the integration of the diplomatic service with the country’s professionalised domestic administration. They developed formal methods of training diplomats in the early periods of modern diplomacy at around the 19th century45 (Langhorne 1995). They introduced the on-job training where those aspiring to join the diplomatic careers had to undergo unpaid attachment in the offices of the ambassadors.

According to the French system, the attaché had to visit the resident mission of the foreign countries and serve in the junior positions voluntarily without expecting any salary46. As a result of the French evolution of the diplomatic training strategy, European countries universally adopted the travel and experience mode of training their potential diplomats in foreign countries47. Revolution in Europe later led to development of systematic training of diplomats in mid 19th century as governments reviewed their constitutions so as to look into the efficiency of the diplomatic service48. In Britain for example, they realised the essence of reviewing the attaché training system to include the study of international law.

Diplomatic Immunity

Additionally, the French is credited with the development and wide use of diplomatic immunity through its establishment of resident diplomats. The French expansion and development of the French system under Louis XVI (1642-1659), saw it as an art to adopt; in fact, the French monarch had 20 resident ambassadors established in 168549. From the above, the French system undoubtedly had major influence regarding the Vienna Convention (1815). This international convention standardized, inter alia, the code of customary international law for diplomatic immunity50.

Controversy of the French System

Moreover, the French system can be credited with, though controversial, This feature of the French system drew some controversy: concerns about gathering and protecting information in combination with conducting negotiation in secrecy was excessive, and was attacks for failure to prevent wars51.

Contrarily, the controversy maybe due to misuse of the word diplomacy giving its dual meaning: foreign policy and negotiation; truly, foreign policy should never be confidential, because citizens must have knowledge of their obligations; conversely, negotiation should be covert due to damages caused by leakages (Nicolson 1961, 40).

Inefficiencies of the French System

The French system was also characterised by some inefficiencies. Adoption of the French diplomatic system also had its negative consequence on the professionalization of diplomacy. It slowed down democratisation of foreign services. During the early periods of the French system, their diplomatic expenses were managed poorly such that their salaries depended on their success and the ability of their supporters to lobby their cause back at home. This occurred up to late 18th century. However, this did not just occur in the French system alone but all over Europe.

Conclusion

The diplomatic community and its different systems have had major influences from the thinkers of the past; however, the French influences predominantly define today’s diplomacy. The French system influenced the establishment and the development of professionalised diplomacy, the ministry of foreign affairs as well as political institutions. The domestic public services developed as a result of the diplomatic services that were initiated by the emergence of professionalization of diplomacy.

The French system of diplomacy was more effective and stable since it was clearly separated from its domestic politics. It had its own distinct rules and regulations governing its international relations. Besides, the French recognised it as an occupation that required unique training so as to achieve the knowledge and skills necessary for diplomats to effectively perform their functions. The ministry of foreign affairs was charged with the responsibility of professionally conducting its diplomatic services on foreign policy. They also managed finances and the careers of the diplomats.

Bibliography

Adam, Watson. Diplomacy: The Dialogue Between States. New York: New Press/McGraw Hill, 1983.

Anderson, Michael. The Rise of Modern Diplomacy: 1450-1919. Harlow: Longman, 1993.

Berridge, Gabriel. Diplomacy: Theory and Practice (3rd ed), (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Berridge, Gordon. Diplomacy: theory and practice. Palgrave: Macmillan, 2002.

Berridge, Gordon, Keen-sooper, Henry and Otte, Timothy. Diplomatic Theory from Machiavelli to Kissinger. Palgrave: Macmillan, 2001.

Cunningham, George. Journey to Become a Diplomat: With a Guide to Careers in World Affairs. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.

Dieckhoff, Anthony. Nation and Nationalism in France: Between Idealism and Reality. London: University of Oxford, 2005.

de Callières, François, On the Manner of Negotiating with Princes. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963.

Hamilton, Kelvin and Langhorne, Robert. The Practice of Diplomacy. London: Routledge, 1995.

Hanrahan, Nathan. A History of Diplomatic Immunity and the Development of International Organisation Immunity”, (2005). Web.

Jones, Robert. The British Diplomatic Service, 1814-1915. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1983.

Jönsson, Charles, and Hall, Martin. Essence of Diplomacy. Palgrave: Macmillan, 2005.

Keens-Soper, Henry and Schweizer, Kelvin. François de Callières: The Art of Diplomacy. Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1983.

Langhorne, Robert. Europe and the development of diplomacy, 1938-1961,in M.

Dockrill et al. (eds), Europe within the global system,1938-1960. Bochum: Universitätsverlag Dr N. Brockmeyer,1995.

Lewis, Oliver. To what extent was diplomacy professionalised in the French system? Leicester: Leicester University Press, 2008.

Mallett, Michael. Italian renaissance diplomacy: Diplomacy & Statecraft. London: Routledge, 2001.

Nicolson, Harold, The Evolution of the Diplomatic Method. New York: Macmillan 1983.

Nicolson, Harold. Diplomacy: then and now. Foreign Affairs’ (1961). Web.

Nigel, Bland. Satow’s Guide to Diplomatic Practice. London: Longman, Green 1958.

Nigro, Lawrence. Theory and Practice of Modern Diplomacy: Origins and Development to 1914′. Web.

Peacock, Harold. A History of Modern Europe, 1789-1978.

London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, 1980.

Ross, Michael. “Rethinking Diplomatic Immunity: A Preview of Remedial Approaches to Address the Abuse of Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges. Kansas: University of Arizona Press, 1989.

Serres, John and Wood, Joseph. Diplomatic Ceremonial and Protocol: Principles, Procedures and Practices. New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

Szykman, Simon, Diplomacy: An Historical Perspective. Old Town: Spring Publishers, 1995.

Wieithoff, Wilson. Machiavellen Paradigm for Diplomatic Communication. New York: Kennikat Press, 1981.

Foonotes

  1. Mallett, Michael, Italian renaissance diplomacy: Diplomacy & Statecraft, volume12, No.1, 2001. P. 62-63.
  2. Szykman, Simon, Diplomacy: An Historical Perspective, 1995.
  3. Wieithoff, W., ‘Machiavellen Paradigm for Diplomatic Communication’ The Journal of Politics, 1981, Vol. 43, Issue 4, p 53.
  4. Berridge, G., ‘Diplomacy: theory and practice’, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, p 106.
  5. Nicolson, Harold, The Evolution of the Diplomatic Method, 1983.
  6. Keens-Soper, H M A & Schweizer, K W (eds), François de Callières: The Art of Diplomacy., 1983.
  7. Anderson, M S, The Rise of Modern Diplomacy: 1450-1919, 1993, p 18.
  8. Anderson, M S, The Rise of Modern Diplomacy: 1450-1919, 1993, p 18.
  9. Nicolson, H., ‘Diplomacy: then and now’, Foreign Affairs’ Web.
  10. Keens-Soper, H M A & Schweizer, K W (eds), François de Callières: The Art of Diplomacy., 1983, p 110.
  11. Anderson, M S, The Rise of Modern Diplomacy: 1450-1919, 1993, p 19.
  12. Peacock, H.L,.A History of Modern Europe, 1789-1978. 6th Ed.,1980, p 76.
  13. Peacock, H.L 1980 (as a bove).
  14. Jönsson, C., and Hall, M., ‘Essence of Diplomacy’, Palgrave Macmillan, (2005). Web.
  15. Peacock, H.L,.A History of Modern Europe, 1789-1978. 6th Ed.,1980, p 82.
  16. Peacock, H.L,.A History of Modern Europe, 1789-1978. 6th Ed.,1980, p 79.
  17. Keens-Soper, H M A & Schweizer, K W (eds), François de Callières: The Art of Diplomacy., 1983, p 110.
  18. Keens-Soper, H M A & Schweizer, K W (eds), 1983 (as above).
  19. Lewis, Oliver, To what extent was diplomacy professionalised in the French system? 2008. Web.
  20. Serres, J. and Wood, J. R, Diplomatic Ceremonial and Protocol: Principles, Procedures and Practices, 1970.
  21. Nigro, L., ‘Theory and Practice of Modern Diplomacy: Origins and Development to 1914’ . Web.
  22. Lewis, Oliver, To what extent was diplomacy professionalised in the French system? 2008. Web.
  23. Nigro, L, 2010 (as in 22 above).
  24. Lewis, Oliver, 2008, (as in 23 above).
  25. Serres, J. and Wood, J. R, Diplomatic Ceremonial and Protocol: Principles, Procedures and Practices, 1970, p 7.
  26. Serres, J. and Wood, J. R, 1970, (as in 23 above).
  27. Nicolson, H., ‘Diplomacy: then and now’, Foreign Affairs’. Web.
  28. Berridge, G R, Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 2005, (3rd ed), p 111.
  29. Berridge, G R, 2005, (as in 29 above).
  30. Berridge, G., Keen-sooper, H., and Otte, T., Diplomatic Theory from Machiavelli to Kissinger, (2001), p 74. Web.
  31. Jönsson, C., and Hall, M., (as in 15 above).
  32. Jönsson, C., and Hall, M., (as in 15 above).
  33. Adam, Watson, Diplomacy: The Dialogue Between States, 1983, p 83.
  34. Jones, R., The British Diplomatic Service, 1814-1915, 1983, p 6-7. Web.
  35. Dieckhoff, A., Nation and Nationalism in France: Between Idealism and Reality, 2005, p 3.
  36. Hamilton, K and Langhorne, R, The Practice of Diplomacy,1995, p 77.
  37. Lewis, Oliver, 2008( as in 15 above).
  38. Nigel, Bland, ed, Satow’s Guide to Diplomatic Practice, 1958, p 1.
  39. Serres, J. and Wood, J. R, Diplomatic Ceremonial and Protocol: Principles, Procedures and Practices, 1970, P 4.
  40. de Callières, François, On the Manner of Negotiating with Princes, 1963, p, 113.
  41. de Callières, François, 1963 ( as in 40 above).
  42. Cunningham, George. Journey to Become a Diplomat: With a Guide to Careers in World Affairs FPA Global Vision Books, 2005, p 122.
  43. Langhorne, R, Europe and the development of diplomacy, 1938-1961,in M. Dockrill et al. (eds), Europe within the global system,1938-1960 ,1995, 43.
  44. Hamilton, K and Langhorne, R, The Practice of Diplomac, 1995,p, 79.
  45. Langhorne, R, 1995, (as in 43 above).
  46. Langhorne, R, 1995, (as in 43 above).
  47. Langhorne, R, 1995, (as in 43 above).
  48. Langhorne, R, 1995, (as in 43 above).
  49. Hanrahan, N., A History of Diplomatic Immunity and the Development of International Organisation Immunity”, (2005), p 5. Web.
  50. Ross, M., “Rethinking Diplomatic Immunity: A Preview of RemedialApproaches to Address the Abuse of Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges” The American University Journal of International Law & Policy, 1989, Vol.4 No. 173, p. 180.
  51. Jönsson, C., and Hall, M., ‘Essence of Diplomacy’, Palgrave Macmillan, (2005), p. 11. Web.
  52. Nicolson, H., ‘Diplomacy: then and now’, Foreign Affairs’. Web.
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