George Washington


The Formation of a New Country

The Creation of the State Department

New York, August 4.1789



George Washington was a member of the First and Second Continental Congresses (1774~75), and was elected to command all Continental armies in June, 1775. Against all odds and suffering great privations, his rag-tag army slowly and surely defeated the British.

He retired in 1783 but was forced out of retirement in 1789 when he was unanimously chosen president of the United States under the new constitution. He took the oath of office in New York City on April 30,1789. As the first president of a new and unsure government, he avoided creating potentially harmful precedents. He constructed his cabinet with an eye to sectional and ideological balance, strove to maintain cordial relations with and among all his governmental officers, and conducted himself with republican decorum and restrain.

Nearly two centuries after his death, he has remained in the famous words of Henry lee's famous eulogy, "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."



"Agreeably to the Resolution of Congress of the 5th of June, I do myself the honor to transmit to your Excellency an Act for establishing an Executive Department, to be denominated the Department of Foreign Affairs."



At the first session of the first Congress under the Constitution (March 4 to September 29, 1789), three executive departments were established: Foreign Affairs, War, and Treasury.

The act of July 27, 1789, which created the Department of Foreign Affairs, is still the organic law of the Department of State. During the session of Congress it was proposed to establish a Home Department for the conduct of numerous domestic affairs. But the sentiment of Congress was against the creation of a fourth executive department, chiefly on the grounds of expense. So the act of September 15, 1789, changed the name of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of State and the title of Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is the ranking member of the President's Cabinet and is first in the presidential success after the Vice-President.