Chapter 5: Transition to a New Era, 1905–1920s

The period between 1905 and the mid-1920s represents a crucial transitional period in the history of FRUS because significant publication delays became a fundamental issue facing the series. Beginning with the two 1906 volumes, which were not published until 1909, Foreign Relations never again appeared within a year of the events covered. Appendices A and B illustrate the “release deficit” that arose, especially after World War I erupted in 1914. The initial reason for this delay did not stem from a desire of U.S. officials to withhold information from the public, nor because foreign governments intervened to prevent their records from being published. FRUS fell behind its original standard of near-contemporaneous release because of inadequate funding; Congress did not supply the Department with appropriations sufficient to compile, edit, and publish the volumes in a timely manner. Although many hoped FRUS would return to its former next-year timeliness after the Great War ended, the delays proved irreversible, permanently altering the character and purposes of the series.

On the Precipice, 1906–1914

In an ironic twist, beginning in 1906, changes in U.S. Government printing policy triggered the initial drift away from the next-year currency of the Contemporaneous FRUS. Other federal agencies prepared annual reports for the President and Congress, receiving in return a congressionally-prescribed number of copies without having to expend funds from their own appropriations.1 The Department of State, however, produced no annual report; FRUS constituted the closest equivalent. The Department paid for its own copies, which explains why, over time, a common cost-saving measure involved purchasing fewer Foreign Relations volumes than the number allotted by Congress. By the early 1900s, the Department ordered only 500–600 copies of each volume, as little as one-quarter of the number purchased in the post-Civil War era and less than half the number allowed by the statute of 1895 (see appendix B). Shortages of older volumes had already become problematic; by 1905 the Department could not even provide full series sets for newly-appointed Secretaries of State because “several volumes are no longer procurable anywhere.”2 Current volumes were in demand as well. The Superintendent of the Senate Document Room did not want his allotment of “only” 150 copies for 90 Senators and their committees reduced,3 and Secretary of State Elihu Root requested that Congress supply 1,000 copies for Departmental use, but to no avail.4

Those appeals appeared in the context of the latest in a long series of congressional attempts to control printing costs. In March 1905, Congress created a Printing Investigation Commission charged with reducing federal publishing to save money and reduce waste. Before the Commission had even issued its preliminary report a year later, publishing limitation had become a major issue for the executive branch. In January 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt directed agencies to reduce all unnecessary printing of government publications, including, “to prevent the printing of the maximum edition allowed by law, when a smaller edition will suffice.” Shortly thereafter Root created a Department committee that required all future requisitions for printing to be submitted to the Chief Clerk.5 Yet as late as May 1906, Department officials testified to Congress under the assumption that FRUS would remain current.6

Crucially, Congress passed an act on June 30, 1906, stipulating that all printing incurred by executive departments could only be charged against their annual publishing allotment.7 This requirement presented a particular problem for the Department of State, which remained responsible in the early 20th century for certain domestic duties, including publishing laws, joint resolutions, treaties, and certain other congressional documents. Printing obligations for Congress, not paid for by the legislative branch, cut deeply into the Departmental allotment. Moreover, the Department had often used contingency funds designated for the Diplomatic and Consular Services to defray the printing expenses of those bureaus, thereby augmenting the total printing budget. The 1906 law specifically disallowed that practice. Absent additional appropriations from Congress, the Department did not control enough money to meet all its publishing requirements. The relatively expensive FRUS took a back seat to mundane but immediate (and less costly) printing needs such as passport books, customs forms, and Departmental letterhead.8 In both 1906 and 1907, Congress refused Root’s requests to double the Department’s printing appropriation.9 He did secure urgent deficiency funding in July 1906, including $3,000 to publish the 1906 FRUS, but that allocation did not include any increase in the regular annual printing budget.10 In subsequent funding cycles, money to publish FRUS depended on year-to-year, extra-ordinary appropriations from Congress.11 Given the heavy pressure to reduce printing costs, the lack of dedicated funding for FRUS constituted the principal cause of the series’s retreat from its traditional timely publication.

At this precise juncture, FRUS production suffered another interruption that proved much more consequential than that of 1898–1901.12 Compilation of the 1906 FRUS documentation proceeded normally until March 1907, when Third Assistant Secretary Huntington Wilson reviewed the manuscript. He wrote to Secretary Root lodging complaints—heard many times before from U.S. diplomats—that FRUS shared too much information, too soon, with too many.13 His specific concern involved ongoing negotiations with the Japanese about intellectual property protection, but he also questioned more generally the value of publishing foreign policy documents so soon after events. Wilson did not oppose transparency in principle, but he wished to reduce significantly its scope and substantially delay revelations until no disadvantage could occur.14 The Third Assistant Secretary’s memorandum generated opposition from both his superiors and the compiling staff. Supporters of the Contemporaneous FRUS stressed the value of the series to the daily work of the Department and noted that other governments, especially Great Britain, also published recent foreign policy records. They rejected Wilson’s proposals to curtail dramatically the timely release of diplomatic correspondence. To meet his immediate objections, they compromised to the extent of proposing a postponement in publication of the 1906 FRUS for a few months.15 The few surviving Departmental records for this period suggest that a verbal exchange took place on April 5 or 6, 1907, perhaps involving only Adee and Root, at which time Root accepted a delay until the fall of 1907.16

A significant miscommunication then occurred. Fourteen months passed until, on June 15, 1908, Root abruptly interrogated his staff: “Why is Foreign Relations for 1906 not out yet?”17 Another personnel change, again involving the Chief Clerk’s position, had resulted in confusion about Root’s intentions. The distinctions between postponement, suspension, and discontinuation apparently became blurred; the partially compiled volume had never been completed.18 Secretary Root informed his subordinates, “I never for a moment entertained the idea of the discontinuing of the publication of the volumes of Foreign Relations. The volume for 1906 ought to have been published last fall [1907] and I never had any idea of postponing it any further than that. It should be published immediately and the volume for 1907 should be finished as soon as practicable.”19

This 1907–1908 episode yields several interesting insights. As might be expected in an intra-bureaucratic quarrel, the disputants concentrated on how FRUS either facilitated or degraded the conduct of Departmental business. They referred only tangentially to the value of FRUS to Congress, the public, and posterity. Root’s reaction, however, indicates his awareness of those larger constituencies’ interest in transparency.20 Although none of the participants mentioned in writing the restrictive publication regime imposed by Congress in 1906, perhaps that factor weighed on their minds when contemplating the timing of FRUS printing or even the existence of the series itself. We also encounter the first record of the voice of a FRUS compiler, Margaret Hanna, who lodged the key arguments in favor of continuing the series in a timely manner. Her superiors echoed her comments, and the Secretary of State aligned himself with her position.21 As subsequent chapters will demonstrate, compilers emerged in the 20th century as a constituency in their own right, intervening at several junctures when they perceived a threat to the integrity of the series.

The Road Not Taken

Hay’s example of quick remedial action in 1900–1901 (see chapter 4) suggests that a similar application of minimal resources might have returned FRUS to currency in relatively short order. The Department produced two volumes for both 1906 and 1907, which added somewhat to the workload. Nevertheless, assigning one or two additional compilers would have accelerated the production process sufficiently to return to near-contemporaneous publication within a year or two.22 Even given the comparatively small budget of the federal government at the time, a few thousand dollars could have been spared for catching up the printing.23 There is no evidence to suggest that a policy of withholding information from Congress or the public suddenly materialized in the executive branch. However, instead of returning to its traditional publication schedule by 1910 or 1911, FRUS fell further behind.

Printing stringency remained the principal cause of publication delays. The Department received $42,000 per annum for printing from 1906 through 1909, but after appropriating $42,000 for 1910, in midyear Congress imposed a 12 percent reduction to $37,000. The printing appropriation remained at that lower level in 1911, then fell to $35,000 for 1912 and 1913.24 Congress moved in 1912–1913 to limit printing costs by reducing the number of depository libraries entitled to free distribution of government documents, and in 1914 cut off funds for annual reports not produced on time.25 In February 1910, the Government Printing Office imposed upon the Department a change in printing charges that increased costs by a crippling 30 percent.26 The Department continued to expend money on purchasing additional copies of necessary government documents to supplement the meager allocations paid for out of congressional printing funds.27 After the 1910 midyear reduction, Secretary of State Frank Knox pleaded with the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore the funding, because otherwise the Department could not afford to publish FRUS. He described Foreign Relations as “a public need” and “not only of historical interest but of incalculable convenience as a book of reference, and one much sought for by the public libraries of this country.”28 The $2,000 reduction in 1912 forced the Department to impose “the most rigid economy,” banning any printing “not absolutely necessary.”29 As a result, by 1914 the series was five years in arrears. In May, Department officials requested an additional $10,000 to catch up. Although the 1909 volume had languished for some time at the GPO with the 1910 volume soon to follow, Congress did not provide any additional printing money.30

Nevertheless, even in 1914, it is entirely conceivable that the series could have returned to its traditional next-year currency in relatively short order. Interagency and foreign government clearances presented negligible problems, all key constituencies maintained that FRUS should be published soon after events, and a very small application of federal resources for staff and printing could have resolved the time lag fairly quickly. Most importantly, transparency remained the normative expectation of all parties, as had been the case for over a century. The executive and legislative branches together exercised a responsibility to inform the public about what the government did in the name of the people, with minimal delay and allowing very few exceptions to preserve national security.31

Casualty of War

In retrospect, it is clear that the guns of August 1914 announced the death knell for the original American transparency regime exemplified by rapid release of substantial foreign policy documentation. Long before formal American entry into the Great War in April 1917, pressing issues at every turn overwhelmed an under-resourced Department of State. Protecting American citizens, property, and interests in a world aflame, representing belligerent powers’ interests in other belligerents’ capitals, maneuvering to maintain American neutrality amidst multiple violations, promoting peace initiatives in faint hope of ending the bloodshed, intervening south of the border to quell instability in Mexico, managing the increasing difficulties of global creditor-nation status, and simply responding to the vastly increased correspondence accompanying a host of problematic international issues besieged the comparatively small, under-funded diplomatic service of the United States.32

Regardless of the external circumstances, inadequate printing appropriations remained a key factor retarding the series’s progress. Department officials repeatedly appealed for more funding, specifically requesting money to publish FRUS, but they met with no success. Compilation continued amid all the war work, but when completed, manuscripts gathered dust at the press for want of allocations to print. In December 1916, the Senate Committee on Printing informed federal agencies that because the cost of paper had “enormously increased,” it had become necessary to conserve remaining printing stock by temporarily suspending or permanently abolishing any nonessential publications. Secretary of State Robert Lansing replied that FRUS was the only “publication issued regularly,” and that “Because of the greatly increased volume of the work of the Department compilation of Foreign Relations has been unavoidably delayed.”33 Lansing gave no hint that he considered FRUS nonessential, or that the series should even be suspended until conditions improved.34 Congress approved no increase in the Department’s printing budget, which held steady at $40,000 from 1914 through 1919, despite a massive surge in overall federal spending.35

Department employees nevertheless remained committed to producing the series as they scrambled to address immediate issues and struggled with funding shortages. Although no documents that shed direct light on FRUS production during this period survive, it seems evident that Department managers deemphasized somewhat the timely compilation of Foreign Relations. Why devote precious staff time to compiling, as quickly as possible, volumes likely to languish for lack of publishing funds? Nevertheless, given the circumstances, the Department maintained a respectable effort. The 1909 volume was already at the printers in 1914 and the 1910 volume went to press in 1915. The 1911 FRUS was not delivered to GPO until 1917 or 1918 and the 1912 volume went to press in 1918 or 1919. The final prewar FRUS covering 1913 was delivered to the printers in 1920.36 The very gradual increase in compilation time and even publication dates suggests a good-faith effort to honor—insofar as possible—traditional FRUS practices. Despite a world war, the Department somehow marshaled sufficient personnel and money to keep the series only 7 or 8 years from currency in 1920.

Most importantly, congressional parsimony and wartime exigency generated indirect but nevertheless corrosive effects on the value ascribed to FRUS timeliness. Normative expectations about the optimal distance between events and FRUS release began to extend beyond the traditional next-year target. Even before World War I started, Department officials were engaging in a discourse that subtly surrendered to deadline extensions. In May 1914, Rolls and Library Division Chief John Tonner characterized the series as “usually about two years behind.” In arguing for more printing money he stated, “at times it gets several years behind.” With proper funding the Department “can get it up nearer than two years usually.” House Appropriations Subcommittee Chair John Fitzgerald (D–NY) asked, “is it not the policy to have it a little behind?” to which Tonner replied, “yes, in order to determine what should go in and to get prints of some things we have to have.”37 In 1915, when the series had fallen five years behind the traditional release schedule, the following revealing exchange took place:

The CHAIRMAN. How soon is the publication supposed to be out?

Mr. TONNER. They are always a couple of years behind. We can not very well bring them up to date on account of collating the material. A lot of the material could be printed in two years, but probably they would not want to print it just at the present time, and therefore we are always about two years behind. We aim to catch up next year.

Mr. MONDELL. Is their value not largely decreased by the fact that they are not printed until so long after the events occur?

Mr. TONNER. No; I think not. They are a matter of permanent record. They date back from the very beginning of the government.

Mr. MONDELL. Is there some policy in the matter of delay?

Mr. TONNER. It is the difficulty of collating the material, of course and there is some material that could go in 18 months after something transpired that they possibly would not want to put in just at the time.

Mr. MONDELL. That is what I had in mind. It is a matter of policy not to publish the book too soon?

Mr. TONNER. Yes; and we have never been what you might call up to date with it.38

In 1916 Tonner retreated even further:

Mr. TONNER. . . . We are always a few years behind on Foreign Relations.

Mr. MONDEL. Is it necessary to be that far behind in printing a document of this sort?

Mr. TONNER. I do not know that it is necessary; but you see there are many papers that can not be published until after a certain time.

Mr. MONDELL. It gets to be ancient history before it is printed?

Mr. TONNER. The trouble is there is some material that we do not want printed.

Mr. MONDELL. You want it to be ancient history before it is printed?

Mr. TONNER. Yes; in some respects, I suppose. Some of it for the time being is confidential, but does not remain confidential after a period of a few years.

The CHAIRMAN. And you do not publish these volumes until sufficient time has elapsed so that the information can be published?

Mr. TONNER. Yes. Of course, everything for that year is not published, and it only includes such material as can be published. You can not always determine within the year what is to be published.

Mr. BORLAND. Then it does not matter particularly if you are another year behind.

Mr. TONNER. No; it will not make much difference except to the people interested in the publication. The department tries to keep it up and we would have printed the 1911 volume if it had not been for the war. Some years ago we were up to within two years of the time.

Mr. BORLAND. There was nothing very critical in 1911 that you could not publish now?

Mr. TONNER. No; but the war has prevented the people who are engaged on the work putting their time on it.39

Those exchanges signaled, ever so subtly, that both the Department and Congress would contemplate retreat from the traditional Contemporaneous FRUS deadline that prescribed volumes should appear the year after the events covered.

Paradigm Shift

Beginning in the 1920s, Department officials gradually conceded in open testimony that practical impossibilities precluded a return to traditional next-year FRUS timeliness. There were too many volumes to be compiled, requiring research encompassing a rapidly multiplying body of records, with increasing pressure to secure dispensation before publishing foreign government information. In 1922 Publications Chief Gaillard Hunt denounced the lag as “deplorable,” but admitted that the best he could hope for would be to reach a three-year line.40 In 1926, the first professional historian hired by the Department to direct FRUS operations, Tyler Dennett, stated that even in the unlikely event he received sufficient resources to produce all of the 17 volumes then in arrears, such an achievement would still only bring the series up to a four-year line.41 By the mid-1930s, a 15-year delay had become the normative expectation.42 By the mid-1950s, the lag had increased to almost 20 years. In 1958, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Andrew Berding testified that the series would “never get up to date.” His congressional interlocutors did not protest. By then the slow retreat of timeliness expectations, coupled with the complications of producing a credible record of U.S. foreign policy, had lodged the series firmly in the past. Yet the value of government accountability and openness nevertheless remained universally accepted; however difficult to achieve and tardy in execution, both elected and appointed officials acknowledged they had a duty to “get these volumes published.”43

Echoes of the Past

Despite the increasingly insurmountable obstacles to rapid publication that had become apparent by the 1920s, the appeal of the Contemporaneous FRUS lingered for a generation. Exchanges between Department officials and Congress throughout the 1920s acknowledged that the series ought to “catch up.”44 All recognized that the publication remained valuable for Departmental operations, and that informed public debate about world affairs required rapid dissemination of as much information as possible. Academic organizations began to lobby for faster release to facilitate teaching about important international issues. Continued delays risked the impression that the government was suppressing information, a clear threat to the credibility that underlay support for democratic institutions. Both executive branch officials and elected representatives noted that Congress would benefit from more timely volumes. As late as 1928, 20 years after FRUS fell away from currency, Representative William Oliver (D–AL) admitted his own body “may have been negligent” by allowing the series to fall so far in arrears, and that “it would be a mistake not to provide funds to correct the mistakes of the past.” He advocated allocating sufficient appropriations “to see that we will not have to correct such mistakes in the future—that is to say this information should be kept current.45

The most insistent voice advocating a return to the openness regime of the series’s first half-century was John Bassett Moore, who, appropriately, held the title of Hamilton Fish Professor of International Law and Diplomacy at Columbia University. A highly-respected figure who remained active into his mid-eighties, Moore never surrendered to the inevitability of the 15-year lag that became the commonly-accepted standard during the interwar period. Until illness forced his retirement from the national stage in 1944, Moore harangued Department officials, lobbied colleagues, published about his concerns,46 and hectored Congress at crucial junctures to arrest further publication delays. Several excerpts from his pithy missives are reproduced here because they powerfully exemplify the worldview that undergirded the original conception of the role FRUS should play in the nation’s civic affairs. Moore’s words will serve as a summary testament, illustrating the mentalite that suffused the Contemporaneous FRUS.

I not only disbelieve the policy of secrecy, but I believe it to be unnecessary. This belief is based upon the fact that down to a comparative recent time we never permitted ourselves to be fettered in this respect. Prior to a recent time we published our diplomatic correspondence without asking anybody’s leave. We could do it again if we would only release ourselves from nervous apprehensions of what others might say or do, reinforced by apprehensions that we might be exposed in doing what we ought not do. Secrecy in diplomacy is an evil, and it is an unnecessary evil so far as I am concerned.47

I believe not only that peoples are entitled to know what their rulers do but also that there is no reason why they should not know.48

From the moment when a government begins to conceal what it is doing it becomes a slave to other governments and enslaves its own people.49

It is ridiculous to prate of democracy, and then to keep the people in the dark as to the things to which you are committing them.50

There may be doubts as to what a ‘world power’ is, but there can be no doubt that the capacity to make and keep secrets is a prime qualification. I have heretofore had the hardihood, which I deemed to be rather patriotic than otherwise, to maintain that we were, from the very beginning a world power. But I am obliged to confess that when I used that term, I was not thinking of the capacity to make and keep secrets as the price of qualification. I indulged in the idyllic impression that the people had the right to know what their government was doing.51

The falling behind of the publication of the Foreign Relations, whenever I think of it, always causes me to recall some of Hogarth’s drawings, such as ‘rake’s progress,’ which in turn recall the Latin proverb, Facilis descensus Averno.52

Nothing could more clearly exemplify our descent into the nether regions of dictatorial and irresponsible government than the progressive suppression in recent years of the publication of our diplomatic correspondence. . . . Evidently the task of making the world ‘safe for democracy’ entails a trust in the intelligence, good faith, and freedom from personal ambition of a nation’s rulers similar to that which exists under an avowedly totalitarian form. Shakespeare said that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ The test thus laid down evidently is applicable to things other than roses, including politics, domestic and foreign, whether bitter or sweet.”53

In the new and sublime era in which we have, since the end of the so-called World War and the Versailles Treaty, been living, there appears to have existed among the partners in the governmental Trust for Freedom and Democracy, Limited, an understanding that no partner should publish its correspondence with another without the general consent. The light having thus been put out, we are left to pray for the coming of a deliverer who will restore to the people their birthright.54

The End of the Ancien Regime

Once slippage from the near-contemporaneous publication expectations of 19th and early 20th centuries became normative, the slide into accepting ever-longer delays in timeliness proved irreversible. The “deadline creep” that became a permanent feature of the Foreign Relations series by the 1920s created legacies that reverberate into the 21st century.

To justify continued funding, the Department had to moderate claims that the volumes must be published within a fixed time frame. If the principal value of the series depended on timely transmittal of information to Congress, a five- or ten-year lag called into question whether the volumes merited publication at all. As a practical matter, little documentation concerning U.S. diplomatic activity about the war could be published during the hostilities in any case. A minority of the diplomatic corps had never much liked the series anyway, and would have been glad to see the volumes deferred or eliminated altogether. As a justification for delayed release, both security guardians and transparency advocates emphasized the value of comprehensive coverage. The advantage to less timely publication, at least in theory, resided in the inclusion of material deemed too sensitive to reveal at a remove of only six months or one year. The 19th century executive-legislative bargain that privileged near-contemporaneous release in order to facilitate accountability shifted by the 1920s in favor of more comprehensive coverage at the expense of timeliness. To some extent, this constituted an expedient maneuver; it appeared that, at least in the immediate postwar period, the volumes would continue to fall short of the traditional next-year schedule in any case. Yet accepting not only the fact of, but the value of, delayed publication presented a host of new issues.

However appealing the prospect of trading timeliness for comprehensive coverage might appear in the abstract, attempting to realize either objective presented wholly unprecedented challenges in the postwar era. First, by 1920, the series was already seven or eight years behind in production of the “regular” annual volumes. To close the gap would require a considerable infusion of human and capital resources. Moreover, the “regular” 1914–1918 volumes included little documentation about U.S. actions with regard to the war. Certain types of sensitive material had traditionally been excised from FRUS, but since the inception of the series, the only formal hostilities involving the United States had been the “splendid little war” of 1898. That contest spanned less than eight months from first shot to peace accord, but it nevertheless took the Department two extra years to digest that material and get the series back on schedule. The documentation detailing U.S. involvement in the war of 1914–1918, which had been withheld from immediate publication with no appreciable complaint from Congress or public, dwarfed by several orders of magnitude anything in the series’s previous history. Many supplemental volumes would be required to chronicle that story, as well as the sprawling and controversial postwar negotiations of 1919. Even if the government committed very significant personnel assets and printing funds to such a project, the compiling and editing alone would require many years to complete. And finally, that multitude of war-era American documents necessarily included significant exchanges with foreign governments, often about highly-sensitive topics. Desirous of international and bilateral cooperation on multiple fronts in the postwar period, U.S. officials ascribed greater importance to other nations’ reservations about what the Department of State published. The postwar production process for FRUS volumes took account of foreign equities in unprecedented measure, which both slowed the clearance process and limited the series’s capacity to offer truly comprehensive coverage.

In the post-World War I era, the key dilemma facing both producers and consumers of Foreign Relations involved the very nature of the series: when is “the past” safe to reveal? That question highlighted several crucial definitional and decisional dilemmas. What criteria should be used to make release decisions? What is the appropriate amount of time that should elapse between events and the publication of documents? When can a particular issue be considered closed, and therefore suitable to divulge? Should some information never be revealed? Most importantly, who should decide these questions, and should there be any mechanism for appeal?

Ultimately, all those questions boiled down to the issue of deadlines. Although postwar complaints from many quarters decried the lateness of the series with rhetoric expressing the desire to “catch up,” or the need to “get closer to the present,” no consensus emerged about whether the appropriate time of release should be three years, or five, or ten. Soon the discussion extended normative expectations to twelve or fifteen years. Moore’s remonstrations notwithstanding, over time fewer and fewer talked about the possibility or—importantly—the desirability of returning to a six month norm, which had remained the mainstream expectation (in principle if not in recent practice) until at least 1914.

A decade of publication delays reduced the immediacy of FRUS, causing the primary audience for Foreign Relations to begin a shift away from Congress and toward professional academics. FRUS never again served as a contemporaneous aid to congressional decision making because the volumes’ publication dates quickly receded to ten, and then fifteen years behind currency. The press often paid less attention to the appearance of new volumes since they no longer produced timely revelations about foreign policy. Over time, historians, teachers of international law, political scientists, and a variety of other academic constituencies expressed increasing interest in the continued publication of Foreign Relations, and they also lobbied for as timely production as feasible. Nevertheless, the rationale for the series’s existence shifted from an immediate public accountability tool to a longer-term investment in presenting a comprehensive account of past actions.

Although a certain amount of counterfactual extrapolation is required, it is possible to envisage alternative paths that illustrate the profound repercussions of this retreat from currency. Had the series been up to date, the 1913 volume would have been released before the war started in August 1914. Owing to wartime exigencies and postwar complications, the series would likely still have retreated from the next-year standard, probably permanently. Postwar discussions about appropriate timeliness, however, might have focused on getting the series back to a reasonably contemporaneous three- or five-year line rather than the fifteen years that quickly became the norm. In succeeding decades it is likely that the series would have lagged more, but if the “baseline” for further recession had started at 5 or 10 rather than 15 years, transparency expectations today might dictate publication at a 20- or 25-year line rather than the current 30 years. Although one might assume that, regardless of other considerations, the security concerns of the Cold War era would have necessitated extension to a 30-year line, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon did not think so. Kennedy directed the series to be published at a 15-year line, and Nixon ordered a 20-year production schedule. Only in 1985, near the end of the Cold War (as it turned out) did President Reagan accede to a 30-year timetable. Moreover, the production of Foreign Relations volumes directly affected Department policy about when archival material would be made available to the public. The Department of State example affected overall expectations about when the U.S. government should open archival records. At an international level, the publication of FRUS and American archival openness practices had a significant impact on transparency norms. The U.S. retreat from near-currency enabled some governments to impose longer intervals before documents including non-U.S. equities could be printed in FRUS, which, in turn, affected policies governing when those nations should release their own foreign policy documentation. Some other democratic governments concluded, over time, that they must make their own records more available. Had FRUS been publishing on a schedule five or ten years closer to the present than was actually the case, those governments might have been inclined to implement more liberal policies as well. It is conceivable to posit that a more timely Foreign Relations series could have produced greater transparency expectations for governments and peoples outside the United States.55

Since its inception in 1861, there had never been any hard-and-fast rules about Foreign Relations. Congress did not impose a deadline for the appearance of volumes, nor did the President ever promise to deliver by a date certain. A powerful expectation arose that (absent extraordinary circumstances) the volumes should be published within six months after the year chronicled, and both branches of government adhered to that norm without recourse to law, executive order, or Departmental edict. Nor were any explicit criteria for withholding promulgated, though a general consensus maintained about what material should not be released. William Hunter and Alvey Adee provided the Department’s institutional knowledge for these norms and practices, spanning the entire era from William Seward to Calvin Coolidge. The Contemporaneous FRUS of 1861–1905 took little account of whether the volumes inconvenienced foreign governments, American diplomats, or U.S. Presidents. That original concept died at almost the same moment Alvey Adee collapsed in 1924, still on the active roster of Departmental officers. As if to symbolize the change, the position of Second Assistant Secretary of State expired with him. Within a year, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg promulgated formal principles devised by a professional historian for the editing of the Foreign Relations series. His 1925 charter for the 20th century FRUS series drew upon his forebears’ tradition to steer a new course in a much-altered world.

  1. “The usual number” varied depending on the type of publication, and that number might change over time, but Congress usually provided agencies between 1,000 and 2,000 copies of their own annual reports. See also Tyler Dennett, “Office of the Historical Adviser,” p. 295.
  2. “Government Publications at the Disposal of the DEPARTMENT OF STATE, in limited numbers,” Bureau of Rolls and Library, October 23, 1905, NARA, RG 59, Reports of Clerks and Bureau Officers of the Department of State, 1790–1911, M800, Roll 8, pp. 713–714.
  3. Report of Congressional Printing Investigation Commission (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906) 1, October 26, 1905, p. 103.
  4. Report of Congressional Printing Investigation Commission (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906) 2, Appendix and Preliminary Report, January 1, 1906, pp. 1–4.
  5. These orders are all included in Rules and Regulations Governing the Department of State, 59th Cong., 2nd Sess., S. Doc. 359 (Serial 5073), pp. 11–14.
  6. Bureau of Archives and Indexes Acting Chief T. J. Newton, May 5, 1906, House Committee on Appropriations, House Sundry Civil Appropriation Bill for 1907, April 10, 1906, p. 1240.
  7. 34 Stat. 697, June 30, 1906, 59th Cong., 1st Sess., Ch. 3914, p. 762. See also records concerning printing and payment issues for the 1906–1910 period in NARA, RG 59, Numerical and Minor Files of the Department of State, 1906–1910, M862, Roll 211, Case 2000, Files 2000/1 through 2000/23.
  8. In the first decade of the 20th century, printing and binding costs for 750–1,000 copies of a FRUS volume totaled $3,500–4,000, which represented roughly 10 percent of the annual Departmental printing appropriation. See the Government Printing Office Ledger Books cited in appendix B.
  9. The Departmental printing budget had recently totaled $40,000. Root asked for $100,000, but received $42,000. Hearings, Sundry Civil Appropriation Bill for 1908, 59th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Committee on Appropriations, January 05, 1907, pp. 839–845.
  10. Rules and Regulations Governing the Department of State, 59th Cong., 2nd Sess., S. Doc. 359 (Serial 5073), p. 18.
  11. In a cost-control measure, Congress did not actually disburse printing funds to the Department, but instead deposited an “allotment” into an account at the Government Printing Office. In essence, the Department received an annual “line of credit” for publishing that could be neither exceeded nor augmented. Moreover, any unexpended credits remaining at the end of the fiscal year did not carry over; those funds automatically reverted to the treasury.
  12. Unless otherwise noted, for all documents cited between March 1907 and May 1909 see NARA, RG 59, Numerical and Minor Files of the Department of State, 1906–1910, M862, Roll 466, Case 5690.
  13. Wilson to Root, March, 11, 1907.
  14. In 1907 Wilson still represented a minority view about longstanding traditions of government openness. Nevertheless, when he ascended to Assistant Secretary between 1909 and 1913, his philosophy may have resulted in less emphasis on FRUS production in general and the series’s timeliness in particular. There is no record between 1909 and 1913 of Wilson specifically requesting congressional appropriations to catch up on FRUS publishing.
  15. Hanna memorandum of April 3, 1907 and covering note to Adee, April 4, 1907; Adee to Bacon, April 4, 1907; Bacon to Adee, April 5, 1907.
  16. Carr to Root, June 15, 1908.
  17. Root to Buck, June 15, 1908.
  18. Carr to Root, June 15, 1908.
  19. Root to Carr, June 15, 1908.
  20. Root felt at least some pressure from legislators; he received a request for the 1906 volume from Congressman Herbert Parsons (R–NY) the same week Root became aware of its delay, and in October 1908, Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Henry Cabot Lodge (R–MA) queried the status of the 1907 volume on behalf of a constituent. Sayer (for Parsons) to Department, Hanna to Carr, and Carr to Parsons, all on June 18, 1908, all in NARA, RG 59, Numerical and Minor Files of the Department of State, 1906–1910, M862, Reel 883, File 14272; Lodge to Bacon, October 13, 1908, Diplomatic Bureau to Adee, October 15, 1908, and Root to Lodge, October 16, 1908, all in NARA, RG 59, Numerical and Minor files of the Department of State, 1906–1910, M862, Reel 953, File 16134.
  21. For hints of Hanna’s competence greater than that of an ordinary secretary or Clerk with regard to the technical aspects of documentary editing, see Hanna to Day, May 7, 1901, LCM, Day Papers, Box 15, General Correspondence 1901, M–O. Hanna’s areas of competency included facility in several languages, expertise in international law, deep knowledge of Departmental history and past policies, and administrative-managerial talent. See “Woman Diplomat Holds Esteem Of State Department Officials,” Washington Post, February 5, 1923, p. 10.
  22. Knox’s testimony suggests that additional personnel may have been assigned, at least part time, to augment the FRUS compiling staff as part of the 1909 Departmental reorganization that shifted FRUS production to the Division of Information. See Hearings on expenditures in the State Department, 61st Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Committee on Expenditures in the State Department, February 09, 1910, p. 2.
  23. By way of comparison, Congress routinely appropriated $7,000 to publish the report of the American Historical Association, twice the amount necessary to produce a minimal FRUS volume print run. At a time when the Department of State publishing allotment never exceeded $42,000, the annual printing allowances for other federal agencies such as Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, War, and even the Smithsonian Institution ranged from $100,000 to as much as a half-million dollars. The total federal budget in the decade before the United States entered the Great War rose from $570 million to in $713 million. Fiscal Year 2015 Historical Tables: Budget of the U.S. Government, Table 1.1–Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits (-): 1789–2019, p. 23, Government Printing Office website,
  24. 34 Stat. 697, Public Law 59–383, Ch. 3914, 59th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 760; 34 Stat. 1295, Public Law 59–253, Ch. 2918, 59th Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 1366; 35 Stat. 317, Public Law 60–141, Ch. 200, 60th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 383; 35 Stat. 945, Public Law 60–328, Ch. 299, 60th Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 1022; 36 Stat. 703, Public Law, 61–266 , Ch. 384, 61st Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 768; 36 Stat. 1446, Public Law 61–525, Ch. 285, 61st Cong., 3rd Sess., 1446; 37 Stat. 417, Public Law 62–302, Ch. 355, 62nd Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 481; 38 Stat. 4, Public Law 63–3, Ch. 3, 63rd Cong., 1st Sess., p. 68.
  25. Revision of Printing Laws, 64th Cong., 1st Sess., S. Rpt. 183 (Serial 6897), pp. 83–84, 126–128ff.
  26. Public Printer to Secretary of State, February 18, 1910, NARA, RG 59, Department of State Central Decimal File (henceforth CDF followed by the appropriate chronological range) 1910–1929, 119.4 (Case 2000/24).
  27. Huntington Wilson to Smoot, March 8, 1910, NARA, RG 59, CDF 1910–1929, 119.4 (Case 2000/25).
  28. Knox to Eugene Hale, February 28, 1911, NARA, RG 59, CDF 1910–1929, 119.4/33A.
  29. William McNeir to all Bureau and Division heads, January 23, 1913, NARA, RG 59, CDF 1910–1929, 119.4/38.
  30. Hearings, Sundry Civil Bill, 1915, 63rd Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, February 28, 1914, pp. 1608–1609.
  31. After decades of careful attention to the timely transmittal of foreign policy documents, it is not clear why Congress appeared less interested in continuing that practice after the turn of the 20th century. Representatives in the House and Senators may have felt sufficiently informed by other means such as executive branch officials appearing more frequently before the increasing number of committees created by Congress, journalistic coverage of very recent events transmitted quickly via telegraphy and newspapers, and new inter-governmental efforts to disseminate information. For example, beginning in 1891, the International Union of American Republics created a Bureau of American Republics (a predecessor to the Organization of American States) that began publishing a variety of reports and bulletins on commercial affairs, social conditions, and legal matters throughout the western hemisphere. The Department of State played a major role in launching and supporting this initiative (See International Union of American Republics [Washington: Bureau of American Republics, 1901]). It may also be the case that the Congress acquiesced in early 20th century presidents’ accretion of more power to the executive branch, including message control.
  32. In 1910, even when including a one-time supplemental appropriation of $100,000, the Department of State budget totaled $377,000. That same year Great Britain spent $424,000 and Germany $607,000 on their respective foreign ministries. Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Appropriation Bill for 1911, 61st Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Appropriations, January 17, 1910, pp. 65–82 (statistics from pp. 75–76). See also the 1906 comparisons of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and the United States in the table entitled “Comparative Statement of Cost of Foreign Offices” in the draft document “The Organization and Work of the Department of State: Origin and Evolution Down to 1909,” NARA, RG 59, Reports of Clerks and Bureau Officers of the Department of State, 1790–1911, M800, Roll 8, Vol. 2, pp. 31ff. With the onset of war, Department officers stated that the workload increased 400 percent, and the staff increased by at least 150 new employees within a few weeks. For the increase in Departmental workload beginning in August 1914, see Elmer Plischke, U.S. Department of State: A Reference History (Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1991), pp. 287–290. See also “The State Department in War Time,” address by Breckinridge Long to the Maryland Bar Association, June 28, 1918, NARA, RG 59, Records of the Foreign Permits Office, File XV–A: Addresses.
  33. Senate Committee on Printing Chair William E. Chilton to Lansing, December 22, 1916, and Lansing to Chilton, January 5, 1917, both in NARA, RG 59, CDF 1910–1929, 119.4/62. This problem did not abate at war’s end, to the extent of attempts to impose limits on the use of footnotes in government publications. See Joint Committee on Printing Chair Senator Reed Smoot to Polk, February 16, 1920 and Polk to Smoot, March 3, 1920, both in NARA, RG 59, CDF 1910–1929, 119.4/82; Public Printer to Polk, March 8, 1920, Polk to Public Printer, March 15, 1920, both in NARA, RG 59, CDF 1910–1929, 119.4/76; Smoot to Polk, June 15, 1920 and Acting Secretary Norman Davis to Smoot, June 25, 1920, both in NARA, RG 59, CDF 1910–1929, 119.4/80; Carr to Treasury Department Budget Bureau Director Charles Dawes, September 30, 1920, NARA, RG 59, CDF 1910–1929, 119.4/91.
  34. The Secretary appreciated the value of Foreign Relations from his substantial previous experience as an arbitrator of international disputes; he procured a full set of the series for the U.S. Government’s specialized arbitration law library, even though some volumes were “hard to get.” See statement of Marshall Morgan, Diplomatic and Consular Appropriation Bill (Part 3), 65th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Committee on Foreign Affairs, January 21, 1918, p. 94 and Department of State, Office of the Historian website,
  35. 38 Stat. 609, Public Law 63–161, Ch. 223, 63rd Cong. 2nd Sess., p. 672; 38 Stat. 822, Public Law 63–263, Ch. 75, 63rd Cong., 3rd Sess., p. 880; 39 Stat. 262, Public Law 64–132, Ch. 209, 64th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 330; 40 Stat. 105, Public Law 65–21, Ch. 27, 65th Cong., 1st Sess. p. 174; 40 Stat. 634, Public Law 65–181, Ch. 113, 65th Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 700; 41 Stat. 163, Public Law 66–21, Ch. 24, 66th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 228. Total federal outlays rose from $725 million in 1914 to a peak of in $6.65 billion in 1920. Fiscal Year 2015 Historical Tables: Budget of the U.S. Government, Table 1.1–Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits (-): 1789–2019, p. 23, Government Printing Office website,
  36. Sundry Civil Bill, 1915, 63rd Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Sundry Civil Appropriations (February 28, 1914), Tonner statement of May 6, 1914, pp. 1608–1609; Sundry Civil Bill, 1916, 63rd Cong., 3rd Sess., House, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Sundry Civil Appropriations (December 16, 1914), Tonner statement of January 26, 1915, pp. 897–898; Sundry Civil Bill, 1917, 64th Cong., 1st Sess., House, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Sundry Civil Appropriations (February 2, 1916), Tonner statement of April 7, 1916, pp. 1311–1312; Sundry Civil Bill, 1918, 64th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Sundry Civil Appropriations (January 5, 1917), Tonner statement of February 17, 1917, p. 1285. Apparently the press of events after U.S. entry into the war precluded any further FRUS appropriations requests until some time after the hostilities ceased. The next funding request specifically mentioning FRUS appears to be: Sundry Civil Bill, 1921, 66th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Sundry Civil Appropriations (January 7, 1920), Tonner statement of March 30, 1920, p. 2258.
  37. Sundry Civil Bill, 1915, 63rd Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Sundry Civil Appropriations (February 28, 1914), Tonner statement of May 6, 1914, pp. 1609–1610.
  38. Sundry Civil Bill, 1916, 63rd Cong., 3rd Sess., House, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Sundry Civil Appropriations (December 16, 1914), Tonner statement of January 26, 1915, p. 898. Frank Wheeler Mondell (R–WY) was a member of the committee.
  39. Sundry Civil Bill, 1917, 64th Cong., 1st Sess., House, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Sundry Civil Appropriations (February 2, 1916), Tonner statement of April 7, 1916, p. 1312. William Patterson Borland (D–MO) was a member of the committee.
  40. Hearings, Departments of State and Justice Appropriations Bill for 1923, 67th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, February 25, 1922, pp. 94–104 (quote from p. 94).
  41. Hearings, Appropriations for Department of State for 1927, 69th Cong., 1st Sess., House, Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, January 12, 1926, pp. 38–40.
  42. Hearings, Departments of State, Justice, Commerce, and Labor Appropriations Bill for 1937, 74th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, February 4, 1936, pp. 60–61.
  43. Hearings, Departments of State and Justice, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies, Appropriations Bill for 1959, 85th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, February 6, 1958, pp. 411–412. In 1959, even the Historical Advisory Committee (see chapter 7) admitted privately that it had become impossible to achieve a 15-year line, and many within the Department expressed doubt about the feasibility of a 20-year deadline. Nevertheless, all remained committed to publication as rapidly as possible. See transcript of 1959 HAC meeting (November 7), pp. C6–C8, Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Historian, Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation Files, 1957–1990 (Lot File 96D292) (henceforth HAC Lot File 96D292), Box 1, 1959–Min. of Meeting 11/6–7/59.
  44. See, inter alia, Hearings, Sundry Civil Appropriation Bill, 1921, 66th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, March 30, 1920, pp. 2257–2259; Hearings, Sundry Civil Appropriation Bill, 1922, 66th Cong., 3rd Sess., House, Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, December 18, 1920, pp. 1864–1866; Hearings, State Department Appropriation Bill, 1928, 69th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, December 13, 1926, pp. 16–25; Second Deficiency Appropriation Bill, 1928, 70th Cong., 1st Sess., Senate, Subcommittee of Senate Committee on Appropriations, May 21, 1928, pp. 53–54; Hearings, State Department Appropriation Bill: 1930, 70th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, November 20–21, 1928, pp. 9–12, 58–67, 84, 203–221.
  45. Hearings, State Department Appropriation Bill: 1930, 70th Cong., 2nd Sess., House, Subcommittee of House Committee on Appropriations, November 20–21, 1928, p. 11.
  46. “The Dictatorial Drift,” Virginia Law Review 23, no. 8 (June 1937), pp. 863–879.
  47. Moore to Wynne, October 6, 1933, LCM, Moore Papers, Box 66, Wynne, Edward C, 1933.
  48. Moore to Wynne, October 10, 1933, LCM, Moore Papers, Box 66, Wynne, Edward C., 1933.
  49. Moore to Wynne, December 26, 1936, LCM, Moore Papers, Box 71, Wynne, Edward C., 1936.
  50. Moore to Wynne, January 15, 1937, LCM, Moore Papers, Box 74, Wynne, Cyril E., 1937.
  51. Moore to Spaulding, August 7, 1941, LCM, Moore Papers, Box 81, Spaulding Wilder E., 1941.
  52. Moore to Spaulding, April 10, 1942, LCM, Moore Papers, Box 164, State Department, General, 1896–1942.
  53. Moore to Senator John Danaher, May 19, 1942, LCM, Moore Papers, Box 164, State Department, General, 1896–1942.
  54. Draft document entitled “Publication of Diplomatic Correspondence By The United States,” undated (written between 1940 and 1945), LCM, Moore Papers, Box 216, Autobiography, 1937–1945.
  55. Greg Donaghy, “Documenting the Diplomats: The Origins and Evolution of ‘Documents on Canadian External Relations,’” The Public Historian 25, no. 1 (Winter 2003), pp. 9–29; Dale to Gleason, December 22, 1965 and Franklin to Dale, January 6, 1966, both in NARA, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File 1964–1966 (henceforth CFPF followed by the appropriate chronological range), POL 15–4 ISR; U.S. Embassy Mexico to Department of State, June 13, 1966 and Franklin to U.S. Embassy Mexico, June 22, 1966, both in NARA, RG 59, CFPF 1964–1966, PR 10 Foreign Relations of the U.S; C. P. Stacey, “Some Pros and Cons of the Access Problem,” International Journal, Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter, 1964/1965, pp. 45–53; D.C. Watt, “Restrictions on Research: The Fifty-Year Rule and British Foreign Policy,” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs), Vol. 41, No. 1, January 1965, pp. 89–95; Herbert G. Nicholas, “The Public Records: The Historian, the National Interest and Official Policy,” Journal of the Society of Archivists, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1965, pp. 1–6; “First World War British Archives Still Not Open,” The Times (London), September 18, 1965; File L S 17/12 concerning complaints to the Prime Minister about the 50-year rule, May-September 1963, UKNA, FO 370/2724; Butler to The Librarian (of the Foreign Office) November 21, 1963, UKNA, FO 370/2725; Trend to Hardman, May 28, 1964; Hardman to Trend, June 4, 1964; Trend to Coldstream and accompanying documents, June 5, 1964; Garner to Trend, August 5, 1964; Heaton to Establishment Officer, October 19, 1964, all in UKNA, FO 370/2771; Butler, “Progress Report of the Historical Adviser,” May 10, 1965 and accompanying minutes, UKNA, FCO 12/56; “The Timing and Method of Release of the Records of the 1939–1945 War,” Cabinet Paper C(69) 102, July 25, 1969, UKNA, FCO 12/65; Child to Cheeseman, October 13, 1970; Harcombe minute of September 30, 1969; Palliser to Brimelow, December 23, 1969; Butler minutes of January 1 and 8, 1970; Wiggin minute of January 12, 1970, all in UKNA, FCO 12/78; Mellor to Dixon, September 18, 1971 and Butler minute October 20, 1971, both in UKNA, FCO 12/105; Cheeseman to Rose, October 13, 1971; Rose to Chief Clerk and enclosure, June 22, 1971; “Future Publication of Documents on British Foreign Policy,” April 6, 1971, all in UKNA, FCO 12/115; “Publication of Official Documents on British Policy Overseas,” Cabinet, Defence and Overseas Policy Committee, DOP (72) 17, April 17, 1972, UKNA, FCO 12/140.