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 are stated in Department of State Regulation 045 of May 27, 1949, a revision of the order approved on March 26, 1925, by Mr. Frank B. Kellogg, then Secretary of State. The text of the current regulation is printed below:
045 Documentary Record of United States Foreign Relations
045.1 Scope of Documentation
The publication, Foreign Relations of the United States constitutes the official public 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 and policies.
045.2 Editorial Preparation
The basic documentary record of American foreign policy in Foreign Relations of the United States shall be edited by RE.1 Documentation shall be substantially complete as regards the files of the Department. However, 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.
RE shall obtain the following clearances of material for publication in Foreign Relations of the United States:
- 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.
The responsibilities of the Division of Historical Policy Research for the preparation of the Foreign Relations volumes are entrusted, under the general supervision of the Chief of the Division, G. Bernard Noble, to the Foreign Relations Branch of that Division. The research staff of that Branch is at present organized as follows: Assistant Chief of Division, in charge of Foreign Relations Branch (Editor of Foreign Relations), E. R. Perkins; Assistant Chief of Branch, Gustave A. Nuermberger; Specialist on the Soviet Union, Rogers P. Churchill; General Section, Matilda F. Axton, Shirley L. Landau; British Commonwealth and Europe Section, Newton O. Sappington, Kieran J. Carroll; Near East and Africa Section, Francis C. Prescott; Far East Section, John G. Reid, Louis E. Gates, Edwin S. Costrell; American Republics Section, Victor J. Farrar, Richard P. McCornack.
The Division of Publications is responsible with respect to Foreign Relations for the proofreading and editing of copy, the preparation of lists of papers and indexes, and the distribution of printed copies. Under the general direction of the Chief of the Division, Robert L. Thompson, the editorial functions mentioned above are performed by the Foreign Relations Editing Branch in charge of Elizabeth A. Vary.
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 [Page V] 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 principles 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 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.
The increased correspondence in the Department files was reflected in an increase in the number of annual volumes from three to five beginning with those for the year 1932. At the same time the arrangement of country sections was changed from an alphabetical order to area groupings. For 1934 the arrangement of volumes is as follows: Volume I, General, British Commonwealth; Volume II, Europe, the Near East and Africa; Volume III, The Far East; Volumes IV and V, The American Republics.
The basic research and selection of papers for the 1934 volumes was done, under the direction of the Editor of Foreign Relations, by Miss Axton, Messrs. Churchill, Farrar, Nuermberger, Reid, and Sappington of the present staff and Henry P. Beers, George V. Blue, Howard L. Briggs, Oscar S. Dooley, Morrison B. Giffen, W. Grafton Nealley, Lena C. Regan, and the late Karl R. Samras, former staff members.
Editor of Foreign Relations
- Division of Historical Policy Research.↩