U.S. Department of State: A Reference History

By Elmer Plischke | Go to book overview

Preface

As with the Foreign Offices of other countries, the Department of State of the United States has inevitably been fashioned by slow and incremental growth and mutation. Those who direct and participate in it during each successive epoch are inclined to be influenced by pre-established practices, principles of law and policy, pragmatic institutions, administrative techniques, reservoirs of potential and experienced practitioners, and related factors. Issues and problems are often inherited from earlier times, others arise from changing circumstances, and some, after thoughtful scrutiny, may be deferred for later resolution. Occasionally there are those that are sublimated into nobler causes which generate determinations that both reflect the past and portend the future. Such developments have applied to the establishment and struggle to perfect the Department of State, the Foreign Service, American diplomatic and consular practice, and other features of the progression of American foreign relations.

A definitive history of the organization and functioning of the Department of State would require several volumes. This is a single-volume, comprehensive reference history covering more than two centuries, from the commencement of American diplomatic relations antedating the Constitution to the present. It is neither a traditional American diplomatic history nor an analysis of American foreign policy. Rather, constituting the primary American agency responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, as the Department evolved to become one of the world's great foreign offices, this volume focusses on its origin, organization, reform, maturation, and functions, including its leadership, structure, machinery, principal officers, management, and staffing; its personnel system; its diplomatic and consular missions and representation abroad; its treaty making; its participation in international conferences and organizations; and its relations with other government agencies that possess foreign relations responsibilities.

-xv-

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