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Rogers Act

The U.S. Constitution envisioned the existence of a foreign service, but provided little in the way of particulars. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that funding, meager as it was, allowed the development of a recognizable department. So little money was appropriated that overseas service became and long remained the province of the wealthy, who could afford to support themselves in foreign capitals. A developing international trade war in the 1920s spurred Congress into action, an effort led by Representative John Jacob Rogers of Massachusetts. The Foreign Service Act of 1924, as the law also is known, merged the existing consular service with the diplomatic corps, forming the Foreign Service of the Department of State. Access for job-seekers was increased and democratized through the creation of an examination screening process and the implementation of promotion through merit. The law also established a more reasonable pay schedule and provided for retirement at age 65. Long-term postings to a single location were ended with the institution of a regular system of rotation of assignments. The Foreign Service Act of 1946 would later continue the trend toward merit advancement of career employees. The nature, and perhaps the importance, of international diplomacy changed dramatically in the modern era. Advances in transportation and communication have placed political leaders in the spotlight through easily accessible summit meetings and hotline telephone conversations — events that have often relegated the professional diplomats to less conspicuous roles.

See other foreign affairs activities during the Coolidge administration.