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 October 31, 1955, 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 American Diplomacy
045.1 Scope of Documentation
The publication Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, constitutes the official record of the Foreign policy of the United States. These volumes include, subject to necessary security considerations, all documents needed to give a comprehensive record of the major foreign policy decisions within the range of the Department of State’s responsibilities, together with appropriate materials concerning the facts which contributed to the formulation of policies. When further material is needed to supplement the documentation in the Department’s files for a proper understanding of the relevant policies of the United States, such papers should be obtained from other Government agencies.
045.2 Editorial Preparation
The basic documentary diplomatic record to be printed in Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, shall be edited by the Historical Division of the Department of State. The editing of the record shall be guided by the principles of historical objectivity. There shall be no alteration of the text, no deletions without indicating where in the text the deletion is made, and no omission of facts which were of major importance in reaching a decision. Nothing shall be omitted for the purpose of concealing or glossing over what might be [Page IV] regarded by some as a defect of policy. However, certain omissions of documents or parts of documents are permissible for the following reasons:
- 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 individuals and by foreign governments.
- To avoid giving needless offense to other nationalities or individuals.
- To eliminate personal opinions presented in despatches and not acted upon by the Department. To this consideration there is one qualification—in connection with major decisions it is desirable, where possible, to show the alternatives presented to the Department before the decision was made.
To obtain appropriate clearances of material to be published in Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, the Historical Division (HD) shall:
- Refer to the appropriate policy offices of the Department and of other agencies of the Government such papers as appear to require policy clearance.
- Refer to the appropriate foreign governments requests for permission to print as part of the diplomatic correspondence of the United States those previously unpublished documents which were originated by the foreign governments.
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. 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.
The responsibilities of the Historical Division 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, under the direction of the Chief of that Branch (Editor of Foreign Relations), E. R. Perkins, and 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. [Page V] The compilers of the 1939 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, Henry P. Beers, and the late Morrison B. Giffen, former staff members.
The Division of Publishing Services 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 1939, the arrangement of volumes is as follows: Volume I, General; Volume II, General, The British Commonwealth, and Europe; Volume III, The Far East; Volume IV, The Far East, the Near East and Africa; Volume V, The American Republics.
Editor of Foreign Relations