U.S. Department of State
96/12/23 Publication of the Earliest Records of U.S. Diplomacy
Office of the Spokesman

For Immediate Release:
December 23, 1996

Publication of the Earliest Records of U.S. Diplomacy

This week the National Historical Publications and Records Commission is publishing the completed three-volume edition of the earliest official records of United States foreign policy and diplomacy. The three volumes entitled The Emerging Nation: A Documentary History of the Foreign Relations of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, 1780-1789 documents the efforts the founders of the new nation to conduct peace negotiations in the waning days of the American Revolution and to ensure in the international diplomatic arena the freedom gained on the battlefield. The project was begun more than 10 years ago and, in its initial phase, was under the joint sponsorship of the National Archives and Records Administration and the Department of State. The volumes are intended to foster the study and understanding of the origins of American foreign policy, its earliest achievements, and the beginnings of its traditions and practices.

The temporary political structure established in 1780 by the thirteen American colonies under the Articles of Confederation gave way to our nation's permanent union under the Constitution written in Philadelphia in 1787 and put into effect in 1789. In the meanwhile, the American Continental Congress and first Secretaries of Foreign Affairs of the United States, Robert Livingston and John Jay, working with such national leaders as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, forged the first important steps of an American diplomacy working for the advancement of freedom and democracy in the broader world scene.

The National Publications and Records Commission, a Congressionally mandated body responsible for the encouragement and support of the American historical documentary heritage, assumed support of the project in 1991. The documentary collections of the National Archives in Washington are the major source for the records published in this edition, but important documents were also drawn from official archives in the United Kingdom and France, from the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, and from other archives and depositories in the United States.

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