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, Japan, 1931–1941, and The Soviet Union, 1933–1939.
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 officers 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.
In keeping with the spirit of the above quoted Department regulation, 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. In the selection of papers the editors have attempted 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 has been given to the inclusion of documents of significance with respect to the origins of that conflict.
Considerable concern has been expressed because the publication of the Foreign Relations annual volumes has fallen so far behind the time of the documents included. In an effort to reduce this time lag a program of accelerated publication has been undertaken. As part of this effort the lists of papers are being omitted for the time being at least, beginning with the 1937 volumes, and indexes beginning with the 1936 volumes have been drafted by a private company under contract.
The responsibilities of the Historical Division (formerly 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 Chief of the Foreign Relations Branch (Editor of Foreign Relations), E. R. Perkins, and [Page V] the Assistant Chief of the Branch, Gustave A. Nuermberger. The research staff of this Branch is organized with a Special Problems Section and area sections for the British Commonwealth and Europe, the Soviet Union, the Near East and Africa, the Far East, and the American Republics. The compilers of the 1937 volumes were Matilda F. Axton, Rogers P. Churchill, Francis C. Prescott, John G. Reid, N. O. Sappington, Louis E. Gates, and Shirley L. Phillips of the present staff and George Verne Blue, Victor J. Farrar, Morrison B. Giffen, and Henry P. Beers, former staff members.
The Division of Publications is responsible with respect to Foreign Relations for the proofreading and editing of copy, the preparation of 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.
For 1937 arrangement of volumes is as follows: Volume I, General; Volume II, The British Commonwealth, Europe, the Near East and Africa; Volumes III and IV, The Far East; Volume V, The American Republics.
Editor of Foreign Relations
- Division of Historical Policy Research (now the Historical Division).↩