Diplomatic and General History
One of the lesser-known poems of Rudyard Kipling, entitled "The Pro-Consuls", declares:
"They that dig foundations deep,
Fit for realms to rise upon,
Little honour do they reap
Of their generation,
Any more than mountains gain
Stature till we reach the plain."
Which sentiment, broadly applied, covers much of the duty carried out by H. M's Consular services all the world over. More kicks than ha'pence fall to their lot, yet let there but come a time of uncertainty and danger, international or individual; rumours of wars or arbitrary detention of a British subject in a South American calabozo; and a hundred to one it is to the consular office that both the victim and the pseudo-oppressor will apply, the first to get out and the second to justify action which, in the cool light of morning, may seem to have been a trifle high-handed.
Yet among the galaxy of names preserved on History's scroll you will look in vain for those of most consuls; Lisbon, curiously enough, provides one of the rare exceptions, thanks in part to the close diplomatic and commercial relations which have existed between Portugal and England for centuries and, in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries, to the unique connection that linked the consular office with "the British Factors and Merchants", that active yet somewhat amorphous body known locally as the "British Factory."
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