The Foreign Service of the United States

By Tracy Hollingsworth Lay; Charles Evans Hughes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Historical sketch. --The executive department of the government which deals with foreign affairs had its origin in the "Committee of Secret Correspondence," selected by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, November 29, 1775. It was composed of the following members: Benjamin Franklin, Chairman, Benjamin Harrison of Virginia, John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, Thomas Johnson of Maryland, and John Jay of New York.

On April 17, 1777, the name of the Committee was changed to the "Committee for Foreign Affairs," and in January, 1781, there was laid before Congress "a plan for the Department of Foreign Affairs," the opening paragraph of which stated:

"That the extent and rising power of these United States entitles them to a place among the great potentates of Europe, while our political and commercial interests point out the propriety of cultivating with them a friendly correspondence and connection."1

The department was organized in August of the same year, and according to the report of a congressional committee on August 14, 1888, it then occupied two rooms; one for the Secretary, and one for his deputy and clerks.2

The first Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the

____________________
1
Hunt, "The Department of State of the U. S." ( 1898), p. 9.
2
Ibid., p. 11.

-70-

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