“A Short History of the Department of State” has been retired and is no longer maintained. For more information, please see the full notice.
Departmental Organization—and Reorganization
The limited importance assigned to foreign relations after the Civil War was reflected in the modest growth of the Department of State and the foreign services. In 1880, the Department had only 80 employees compared with 42 in 1860, and the total actually dropped to 76 in 1890. In the period 1860-1890, the number of diplomatic missions increased by only eight to 41, while the number of consulates grew from 282 to 323. Diplomats numbered 45 in 1860 and 63 in 1890. The Consular Service expanded much more rapidly, employing 1,042 people in 1890 compared with 236 in 1860. Expenditures on domestic and foreign operations rose from $1.3 million in 1860 to only $1.8 million in 1890.
In the early 1870s, Secretary of State Hamilton Fish reorganized the Department, expanding the existing “bureau” system, in place since the 1830s. To cope with the growth in overseas missions and consulates, Fish established two diplomatic bureaus and two consular bureaus with geographic responsibilities. The First Diplomatic Bureau and the First Consular Bureau, dealt with the major European nations, China, and Japan. The second pair of bureaus managed communications with the rest of the world—Latin America, the Mediterranean region, Russia, Hawaii, Japan, and Liberia. Several other bureaus were created or underwent name changes—the Law Bureau, Bureaus of Accounts, Bureau of Indexes and Archives, the Statistical Bureau, Bureau of Pardons and Commissions, the Passport Bureau, and the Domestic Records Bureau. Congress also passed legislation in 1874 that authorized a Third Assistant Secretary as well as a private secretary to the Secretary of State. There would be no further reorganization until 1909.
In 1875 the Department of State moved into an imposing new home—the State, War, and Navy Building located at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., adjacent to the White House.