Quasi-Monopoly On the Legation Brand

Google the word "legation" and you'll come up with close to a million results.  That crucial first page will include our own legation.org website as well as what you're reading – TALIMblog.

But there is another legation museum – one that also comes up on Page 1 of the Google search – and it's located in the United States: The French Legation Museum in Austin, Texas.


With its setting in the heart of Texas, Austin's oldest building is a "historic house museum" in the former French diplomatic representation to the Republic of Texas (1836 – 1846).  The charming building, pictured above, was originally the home of the French chargé d'affaires of the Legation, and today is owned by the state of Texas, and administered by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

I remember "the Texas Embassy" in our neighborhood of Algiers in the early '90s, but that was a temporary phenomenon, basically the work of a proud Texas oilman – his excuse to throw a costume party with the Lone Star flag flying over his villa.  But I digress.

We understand that the Austin French Legation Museum is "covetous" of our website's URL, but hey, we registered "legation.org" first!  Seriously, we encourage readers who might have the opportunity to travel to Austin to visit the French Legation Museum.

TALIM Vignette LegationThe only other legation still in the register of historic US diplomatic properties is a lovely building, the old Legation in Seoul, Korea, now used as a guest house on the property of the US Ambassador's residence.  In Beijing, you can visit the Legation Quarter, the former home of the American Legation, converted by the Chinese into a home for upscale restaurants.

Since the term "legation" is new to most of our visitors to our museum, this is what we provide in answer to the inevitable question, "What is a legation?"

Originally, an embassy
was often a temporary mission, a diplomatic delegation under an ambassador on a trip to a foreign
country.  Countries would establish legations as permanent diplomatic
missions, under the leadership of a minister,
a diplomatic rank.  Legations largely
disappeared after World War II, with most countries establishing permanent embassies,
headed by ambassadors.

And here, a definition from a dictionary published when legations were still in vogue.

I remember reading somewhere that the US and other countries used to prefer legations because they could pay ministers less than ambassadors.  In these days of austerity and the sequester, maybe it is time to bring back this budget way of diplomacy.  May be a way of clawing back posts for professional diplomats.  After all, what political campaign donor would go to the trouble of bundling millions of dollars for the title of "minister" at a "legation?"

Gerald Loftus

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