Benjamin Franklin established the first overseas mission of the United States in Paris in 1779. On April 19, 1782, John Adams was received by the States-General, and the Dutch Republic became the third country, after Morocco and France, to recognize the United States as an independent government. Adams then became the first U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands and the house that he had purchased at Fluwelen Burgwal 18 in The Hague, became the first American embassy anywhere in the world.
In the period following the American Revolution, George Washington sent a number of close advisers to the courts of European potentates in order to garner recognition of U.S. independence with mixed results, including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Francis Dana, and John Jay. Much of the first fifty years of the Department of State concerned negotiating with imperial European powers over the territorial integrity of the borders of the United States as known today.
The first overseas consulate of the fledgling United States was founded in 1790 at Liverpool, England, by James Maury Jr., who was appointed by Washington. Maury held the post from 1790 to 1829. Liverpool was at the time Britain’s leading port for transatlantic commerce and therefore of great economic importance to the United States. The first overseas property owned, and the longest continuously owned, by the United States is the American Legation in Tangier, which was a gift of the Sultan of Morocco in 1821. In general during the nineteenth century, the United States’ diplomatic activities were done on a minimal budget. The US owned no property abroad and provided no official residences for its foreign envoys, paid them a minimal salary and gave them the rank of ministers rather than ambassadors who represented the great powers—a position which the US only achieved towards the end of the century.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the State Department was concerned with expanding commercial ties in Asia, establishing Liberia, foiling diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy and securing its presence in North America. The Confederacy had diplomatic missions in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Papal States, Russia, Mexico and Spain, and consular missions in Ireland, Canada, Cuba, Italy, Bermuda and Nassau and New Providence.
The United States’ global prominence became evident in the twentieth century, and the State Department was required to invest in a large network of diplomatic missions to manage its bilateral and multilateral relations. The wave of overseas construction began with the creation of the State Department’s Foreign Service Buildings Commission in 1926