A Brief History of U.S. Diplomacy

The pages that follow trace the history of U.S. diplomacy from the first defensive steps of a fledgling nation to the global reach of a superpower. Benjamin Franklin is regarded as America’s first diplomat, and the four men pictured below were its first “ministers of foreign affairs.”


Robert R. Livingston, 1781-1783

Robert R. Livingston
Secretary for Foreign Affairs

John Jay, 1784-1790

John Jay
Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Thomas Jefferson, 1790-1793

Thomas Jefferson
Secretary of State

Edmund Randolph, 1794-1795

Edmund Randolph
Secretary of State


This section is based on the exhibit, “A Brief History of American Diplomacy,” at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center, which was originally made possible by a grant from Mrs. Jefferson Patterson. It was written by Henry Butterfield Ryan and ADST staff.

A bound print version of the exhibit can be obtained from the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.