The Department of Foreign Affairs

By | Jul 27, 2010

It wasn’t very long before George Washington and the 1st Congress saw that even though the President was granted the power to conduct the nation’s foreign relations under the Constitution, he needed assistance. Congress approved legislation to establish a Department of Foreign Affairs on July 21, 1789, and President Washington signed it into law on July 27. In September before the first head of the Department took office the name was changed to Department of State.

Thomas Jefferson was acting as Minister to France when he was named the first Secretary of State on September 29, 1789. He took office on March 22, 1790. John Jay who was acting in a similar post prior to the adoption of the Constitution continued as Acting-Secretary until Jefferson was able to take office. Jefferson was Secretary of State until December 31, 1793.

Including Jefferson the country has had 67 Secretary of States with Hilary Rodham Clinton currently holding the position. Clinton is the third woman to hold the post following Madeleine Albright (64th) and Condoleezza Rice (66th).

Until the middle of the 19th Century, the Secretary of State was a stepping stone to the Presidency. Along with Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, and James Buchanan were Secretary of State before they became President. Since Buchanan none of the Secretary of States became President, although a few have tried.

The Secretary of State, as long as they have the qualification of the office of President of the United States, is the 4th in the presidential line of succession as specified by the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.

As stated by the Department of State, its purpose includes:
* Protecting and assisting U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad;
* Assisting U.S. businesses in the international marketplace;
* Coordinating and providing support for international activities of other U.S. agencies (local, state, or federal government), official visits overseas and at home, and other diplomatic efforts.
* Keeping the public informed about U.S. foreign policy and relations with other countries and providing feedback from the public to administration officials.
* Providing automobile registration for non-diplomatic staff vehicles and the vehicles of diplomats of foreign countries having diplomatic immunity in the United States.


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