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Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Department By Any Other Name

On this date in 1789, John Kerry's Department of State got its name.

Back in July the very first Executive department was established, denominated (in the parlance of the times) as the Department of Foreign Affairs.  But a month later the House, followed by the Senate several days after that, another bit of legislation dealing with how exactly to transmit and publish new laws was passed.  Not sure if there was any controversy surrounding the bill, but it was apparently referred to an ad hoc committee for a few days in the Senate, then Washington signed.

So I'm sitting here thinking, why the hell did they need to change the name?  I guess it makes sense since what was originally supposed to deal with foreign relations had some new internal responsibilities (later assigned elsewhere) added to its workload, the first name wouldn't really be fitting.  

The department still handles domestic things like certifying amendments to the Constitution and such, so it isn't just dealing with issues between sovereign states but within the United States.  Thus, it's a good name.

I just find it interesting how much the First Congress had to feel its way through all the bootstrapping.  They realized there was more stuff to be done, so quickly made adjustments to an existing department to take on the tasks.  All while organizing other Executive departments, debating the Bill of Rights, figuring out relations with Native Americans, arguing about compensation for elected officials, and tackling mundane things like establishing the post office and oversight of lighthouses.  It was a brave new world...


September 15, 2013 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink


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