Some Milestones in U.S. Diplomatic History

Updated September 9, 2022 | Infoplease Staff
Source: U.S. State Department

Benjamin Franklin was the first U.S. diplomat. He was appointed in 1776 to help gain French support for American independence and later became minister to France (1778). With John Jay and John Adams, he negotiated the peace treaty with Great Britain (Treaty of Paris, Sept. 3, 1783).

The rank of ambassador was first used by the United States in 1893. Thomas F. Bayard was appointed ambassador to Great Britain (March 30) and James B. Eustis became ambassador to France (April 18). Prior to this, the highest-ranking U.S. diplomats were ministers.

Six U.S. ambassadors have been killed by terrorists: John Gordon Mein, Guatemala (August 28, 1968); Cleo A. Noel, Jr., Sudan (March 1, l973); Rodger P. Davies, Cyprus (Aug. 19, 1974); Francis E. Meloy, Jr., Lebanon (June 16, 1976); Adolph Dubs, Afghanistan (Feb. 14, 1979); Christopher Stevens, Libya (Sep. 11, 2012).

A number of distinguished writers have held diplomatic or consular posts:

  • Washington Irving, Minister to Spain, 1842–46.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, Consul at Liverpool, 1853–57.
  • Bret Harte, Consul at Crefeld, 1878–1880, and at Glasgow, 1880–1885.
  • James Russell Lowell, Minister to Spain, 1877–80; to Great Britain, 1880–85.
  • James Fenimore Cooper, Consul at Lyon, 1826.
  • William Dean Howells, Consul at Venice, 1861–65.
  • Archibald MacLeish, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, 1944–45.

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