The First American Diplomatic Representative
29 January 2019
John Godfrey Boker (1794-1860) was the first American Consul-General in Switzerland. He assumed his post in Basel in 1830. The Swiss government had already sent honorary consuls to Washington and New York in 1822.
The first American Ambassador presented his credentials in 1853 (seat in Bern). John Boker established his residence in the building known as Zum Goldenen Loewen in Basel.
A plaque on the building commemorates this event. The old Swiss Confederation was a relevant European player long before the Congress of Vienna, but the independent cantons had their own foreign policy and representations.
British, Dutch, Papal, or French diplomats were present in the cantons long before 1815. The Embassy of France was in Solothurn.
The American consulate in Basel was closed in 1963 for austerity reasons. Basel remains a city of foreign consulates, however.
There were about 20 consulates in Basel in 1920. Basel counted 25 consulates in 1993 (Geneva 63, Zurich 54, Lausanne 17, Bern 10 (the small number is due to the presence of embassies), Lugano 19, Chur and St. Gallen both 2, Locarno and Bellinzona both 1.
Austerity measures and modern means of communication caused the closure of several consulates in Basel.