Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
STATE, Department of. This is the oldest, and ranks by long established usage as the first, of the departments of the United States government. Founded by act of July 27, 1789 (1 Stat. at Large, p. 28), the department is presided over by a secretary of state, who is a member of the cabinet, and is sometimes (though erroneously) styled prime minister. The functions of the secretary of state embrace a great variety of responsible duties. He is the organ of the government in all communications of whatever nature with foreign government. Such communications, although in form purporting to emanate from the president whenever important diplomatic matters are concerned, are always prepared at the department of state, and signed by the secretary, although they must first have the president's approval. The secretary conducts all correspondence with the ministers and consuls of the United States residing abroad; he has exclusive charge of negotiations concerning foreign affairs; he only, according to official etiquette, can communicate with the representatives of foreign powers residing in the United States, upon public affairs. He is the official organ of correspondence between the president and the governors of the various states in the Union. He has charge of all treaties which have been made, and conducts negotiations as to new treaties or modifications of old ones. All the laws of the United States are preserved in the archives of the state department as they come enrolled on parchment from congress, after being approved by the president. The secretary publishes the United States laws, resolutions, presidential proclamations, treaties, etc., properly edited, in annual volumes. The secretary of state is custodian of the great seal of the United States, and affixes the seal with his countersign to commissions or appointments to office in the higher grades, to executive proclamations, to warrants for pardon, extradition, etc. He records and issues passports to Americans traveling abroad. He makes annual report to congress (more recently made monthly) on the commercial relations of the United States with foreign countries, based upon information gathered by our ministers and consuls abroad. A register of the department of state is issued annually, with full lists of consular and diplomatic agents, salaries, fees collected, regulations concerning precedence of diplomatic agents, etc. The department also publishes a volume of consular regulations, in frequently revised editions.
—The secretary of state is aided by a first assistant secretary, who becomes acting secretary in his absence, salary $4,500; a second and third assistant secretary, salaries $3,500 each, who are charged with correspondence with diplomatic and consular officers, and with such public business and correspondence as may be assigned to them by the secretary. The business of the department is distributed among seven bureaus: a diplomatic bureau, having charge of correspondence with American ministers residing abroad; a consular bureau, charged with the correspondence with the consulates of the United States; a bureau of indexes and archives, having charge of the mails, the registry and indexing of correspondence, and the preservation of the archives; a bureau of accounts, having the custody and disbursement of appropriations, care of funds and bonds, and of the building and property of the department; a bureau of rolls and library, having custody of the rolls, treaties and laws, with their promulgation and the care of the library and public documents, as well as of the revolutionary archives; a bureau of statistics, charged with the preparation of the reports upon commercial relations; and a law bureau, for the examination of all claims, and of questions of law submitted by the secretary or his assistants.
—This widely distributed business is performed by a force of sixty-two officers and clerks, besides fourteen messengers and laborers, drawing annual salaries to the amount of $112,350 in 1884. The contingent and miscellaneous expenses of the department of state amounted to the very moderate sum of $25,050 the same year. The department is located in the new and commodious granite building forming the south wing of the massive edifice known as the state, war and navy department building, erected in 1871-81. The department of state has had as its secretaries, from the beginning of the government, a series of statesmen distinguished in the political annals of the country. The following list exhibits the names, with the term of office occupied by each:
A. R. SPOFFORD.
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