It’s a safe bet that not many people recall a consular board from the McCarthy hearings in the 50s. But when William Shirer mentions this in one of his memoirs I got curious. What could this possibly have had to do with the foreign consuls among us?
The search took me to many different countries. It turned out that a consular board is an age-old concept used by governments in a variety of contexts.
The obvious one is the “virtual board” for consular postings, such as what some of the individual Italian consulates use on a website to announce job openings. Those are “consular boards” allright. Other countries also go on-line for similar purposes, publicizing all kinds of consular matters.
The memoir by Mr. Shirer, which I read, did not describe or explain the mysterious consular board. But I was even more befuddled when I read about a Mr. Cohn as a “consul” for the consular board. Logically he was – and other sources confirm this – counsel (as in attorney) for the consular board.
So, there we go again with the continuing misunderstanding of terms and titles relating to consuls. When we add a ” consular board” to the stew things become quite confusing unless we know our titles.
Is it any wonder, then, that I dedicate a whole chapter in my book to consular titles? One thing my readers will always remember is not to confuse counsel with consul. And if we want to be strong citizen diplomats on a vastly-expanded global stage we must know what distinguishes a consul from legal counsel.