Passport, a document given by the author- . ized officer of a state, which permits a person or persons therein named to pass or travel either generally, or through a country named, or on certain routes, by land or water. Passports must have been used by all civilized governments to some extent and in some form; but in England and in the United States they have not been used within those countries, though their governments give them to those of their citizens who purpose to travel abroad. The United States secretary of state is charged with the duty of issuing passports, and authorizing and regulating their issue by diplomatic or consular agents. Any one who issues a passport without authority, or who has authority and issues a passport to one not a citizen, is liable to punishment by fine and imprisonment. Passports are also given by collectors of ports to all vessels of the United States, and if any such vessel sails without a passport the master is liable to a fine of $200. Every passport gives the name, age, residence, and occupation of the holder, with a description of his person and appearance, which is intended to afford the means of identifying him.
It is supposed to assure the holder of the support of his own government, and asks for him and entitles him to the protection of all governments or nations at peace with his own. - In many of the European states the passport system has until recently been kept up, to afford the authorities means of surveillance over suspicious characters, and thereby to prevent conspiracies against the government, or provide the means of detecting them. The belief that passports have little efficacy for this purpose has been confirmed by recent experience; and the growing conviction that they- are not so useful as they are inconvenient and oppressive has generally led to a practical abandonment of their use. One may now travel over Europe, with the exception of Russia, without once exhibiting his passport, unless circumstances direct suspicion toward him.