The Foreign Relations volumes have been compiled on an annual basis since the publication of diplomatic correspondence which accompanied President Lincoln’s first annual message to Congress (December 3, 1861). Originally entitled Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs Accompanying the Annual Message of the President, the name of this series was changed in 1870 to Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, and in 1947 to the present title.
Publication of these volumes, except for the year 1869, has been continuous. In addition to the annual volumes, supplements have also been published, among them the World War Supplements, the Lansing Papers, the special 1918–1919 Russia volumes, the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, series, and Japan, 1931–1941.
The principles which guide the compilation and editing of Foreign Relations have recently been restated in the Department of State Regulation 297.1 of October 27, 1947. The text of this regulation is printed below:
297.1 Editing of the Documentary Record of the Foreign Relations of the United States: (Effective 10–27–47)
- Scope of Documentation. The publications entitled Foreign Relations of the United States constitute the official published record of United States foreign policy. These volumes include all papers relating to major policies and decisions of the Department in the matter of foreign relations, together with appropriate materials concerning the events and facts which contributed to the formulation of such decisions or policies.
- Responsibility of the Division of Historical Policy Research (RE). The responsibility for editing the basic documentary record of American foreign policy in Foreign Relations of the United States is vested in RE.
- Completeness of Record.
- It is assumed that the documentation will be substantially
complete as regards the files of the Department. Within
these limits, certain omissions of documents or parts of
documents are permissible:
- To avoid publication of matters which would tend to impede current diplomatic negotiations or other business.
- To condense the record and avoid repetition of needless details.
- To preserve the confidence reposed in the Department by other governments and by individuals.
- To avoid needless offense to other nationalities or individuals.
- To eliminate personal opinions presented in despatches and not acted upon by the Department. To this there is one qualification—in connection with major decisions it is desirable, where possible, to show the alternatives presented to the Department when the decision was made.
- No deletions shall be made without clearly indicating the place in the text where the deletion occurs.
- Clearance To Be Obtained by EE. In discharging its responsibility
for selecting materials for publication in Foreign
Relations of the United States, RE shall:
- Refer to the appropriate policy offices such papers as would appear to require policy clearance.
- Refer to the appropriate foreign governments requests for permission to print certain documents originating with them which it is desired to publish as part of the diplomatic correspondence of the United States. Without such permission the documents in question will not be used.
- Responsibility of the Division of Publications (PB). The Division
of Publications (PB) shall:
- Proofread and edit the copy.
- Prepare lists of papers and indexes.
- Arrange for distribution of printed copies.
The increase of correspondence in the Department’s files has been reflected in an increase in the number of annual volumes, five being required for 1932 as compared with two or three for previous years. As a consequence, it has been found advisable to rearrange the contents under certain new groupings. For 1932 the grouping of volumes is as follows: Volume I, General; Volume II, British Commonwealth, Europe, the Near East and Africa; Volumes III and IV, the Far East; Volume V, American Republics.
In the selection of papers the editors have attempted, in keeping with their directive, to give a substantially complete record of American foreign policy as contained in the files of the Department of State, together with as much background material as possible, while keeping the volumes within reasonable limits with respect to size and number. In the preparation of Foreign Relations for the decade preceding World War II special attention is given to the inclusion of documents of significance with respect to the origins of that conflict.
The research staff is guided in compiling the record by the principle of historical objectivity. It is the rule that there shall be no alteration of the text, no deletions without indicating the place in the text where the deletion is made, no omission of facts which [Page V] were of major importance in reaching a decision, and that nothing should be omitted with a view to concealing or glossing over what might be regarded by some as a defect of policy.
Mr. G. Bernard Noble, Chief of the Division of Historical Policy Research, and Mr. E. Wilder Spaulding, Chief of the Division of Publications, have contributed greatly in the forwarding of the Foreign Relations program. The basic research and selection of papers for the 1932 volumes was done by Mr. Gustave A. Nuermberger, Mr. Victor J. Farrar, Mr. John G. Reid, and Mr. William R. Willoughby. Miss Elizabeth A. Vary and the staff of the Foreign Relations Editing Branch of the Division of Publications have done painstaking work in editing of copy and in preparing the lists of papers and indexes.
Editor of Foreign Relations