United States Department of State

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This article refers to the United States Department of State or State Department.

The Department of State is a Cabinet-level agency of the United States government that deals with foreign affairs. The DoS falls under the Secretary of State's administration. Their headquarters is located in the Harry S Truman Building in Washington, DC.


Shortly after the Constitution was created it became clear that the President would need an executive department to support his foreign affairs.

On July 21, 1789 the House of Representatives and Senate established a Department of Foreign Affairs. On July 27 of that year, President George Washington signed the legislation into law making the Department of Foreign Affairs the first federal agency. Later that year the name was changed to the present name of Department of State.


Cordell Hull assumed the office of Secretary of State on March 4, 1933.

In 1939, Hull said: " Roosevelt …doesn't consult me or confide in me and I have to feel my way in the dark."[1]

Throughout World War II, Hull had been a very sick man and Sumner Welles had been Secretary in all but name. After Hull’s his visit to Moscow in September 1943, Hull forced President Franklin Roosevelt to dismiss Welles. Edward Stettinius then became Under-Secretary and when Hull resigned in October 1944, Stettinius moved up as Secretary of State. Joseph C. Grew, who had been ambassador in Japan for many years, was made Under-Secretary. He held that post for only nine months.

Dean Acheson had been appointed an Assistant Secretary of State in 1941. When Grew resigned in 1945, Acheson became Under-Secretary and remained in that post during the term as Secretary of James F. Byrnes and part of the term of George C. Marshall. In 1949 Acheson became Secretary of State upon Marshall's resignation.

When the Office of Special Political Affairs (OSPA) was created in 1944, Alger Hiss became the deputy director and late director. Hiss and others worked on the first drafts of the UN Charter. [2] John Carter Vincent was appointed head of the Far Eastern Division in 1945. John Carter Vincent was completely anti-Kuomintang (KMT) and pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The State Department had a Coordinating Committee of which had "responsibility for considering matters of policy or actions and questions of inter-office relations referred to it by the Secretary, Under Secretary and Secretary's Staff Committe or initiated by the members." Dean Acheson was chairman. Hiss and John Carter Vincent were also members.

In 1946 Hiss drew up a plan for reorganizing the State Department. Another official presented a protest in which he pointed out it was designed to give Hiss and his group "astounding control of the Department." A suggestion was made that the matter be brought to the attention of the FBI.

Adolph Berle, who had been an Assistant Secretary of State, testified before a Congressional investigating committee,

"in the fall of 1944, there was a difference of opinion in the State Department. I felt that the Russians were not going to be sympathetic and cooperative. Victory was then assured… and the intelligence reports which were in my charge, among other things, indicated a very aggressive policy, not at all in line with the kind of cooperation everyone was hoping for…The opposite group in the State Department was largely the men—Mr. Acheson's group, of course—with Mr. Hiss as a principal assistant in the matter.”[3]

Past Responsibilities

Current Responsibilities

The Department of State developes and implements the President's foreign policy around the world. The DoS also supports other U.S. Government agencies that are active in foreign affairs, such as the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The purpose of the Department of State includes:

  • Protecting and asisting U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad
  • Assisting U.S. business in the international marketplace
  • Coordinating and supporting U.S. agencies in the international activities and official overseas visits.
  • Keeping the public informed about U.S. foreign policy


  1. Jim Farley's Story, James A. Farley (New York, 1948), pg. 233; Memoirs of Cordell Hull, Cordell Hull (New York, 1948), pg. 1227.
  2. Ralph de Toledano and Victor Lasky, Seeds of Treason, (NY: Funk and Wagnalls, 1950), pg. 107.
  3. Testimony of Adolph Berle before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, August 30, 1948.

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