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Office of the Historian

Secretaries of State

Congress created the position of Secretary of State on Jul 27, 1789 (1 Stat. 28), as the principal officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs (later renamed Department of State). The Secretary was to perform such duties as the President required, in accordance with the Constitution, relating to correspondence, commission, or instructions to U.S. ministers or consuls abroad, and to conduct negotiations with foreign representatives.

The Secretary has also served as principal adviser to the President in the determination and execution of U.S. foreign policy and in recent decades has become responsible for overall direction, coordination, and supervision of interdepartmental activities of the U.S. Government overseas, except for certain military activities.

The Act of Congress of Sep 5, 1789, that changed the name of the Department of Foreign Affairs assigned various domestic duties to the Department of State. Nearly all were later reassigned to other agencies. This list does not include individuals designated to act as Secretaries of State when the Secretaryship was vacant. These individuals are usually referred to collectively as Secretaries of State ad interim.