Today, the Congress Commemorative Gold $5 Coin provides the information of how “foreign affairs” became “state” 226 years ago and the initial description of the Secretary of State’s duties.
From the United States Statutes at Large, Volume 1, 1789-99:
CHAP. XIV—An Act to provide for the safe-keeping of the Acts, Records and Seal of the United States, and for other purposes.
SECTION. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Executive department, denominated the Department of Foreign Affairs, shall hereafter be denominated the Department of State, and the principal officer therein shall hereafter be called the Secretary of State.
SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That whenever a bill, order, resolution, or vote of the Senate and House of Representatives, having been approved and signed by the President of the United States, or not having been returned by him with his objections, shall become a law, or take effect, it shall forthwith thereafter be received by the said Secretary from the President; and whenever a bill, order, resolution, or vote, shall be returned by the President with his objections, and shall, on being reconsidered, be agreed to be passed, and be approved by two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, and thereby become a law or take effect, it shall, in such case, be received by the said Secretary from the President of the Senate, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, in whichsoever House it shall last have been so approved; and the said Secretary shall, as soon as conveniently may be, after he shall receive the same, cause every such law, order, resolution, and vote, tobe published in at least three of the public newspapers printed within the United States, and shall also cause one printed copy to be delivered to each Senator and Representative of the United States, and two printed copies duly authenticated to be sent to the Executive authority of each State; and he shall carefully preserve the originals, and shall cause the same to be recorded in books to be provided for the purpose,
SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That the seal heretofore used by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be, and hereby is declared to be, the seal of the United States.
SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That the said Secretary shall keep the said seal, and shall make out and record, and shall affix the said seal to all civil commissions, to officers of the United States, to be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, or by the President alone. Provided, That the said seal shall not be affixed to any commission, before the same shall have been signed by the President of the United States, nor to any other instrument or act, without the special warrant of the President therefor.
SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That the said Secretary shall cause a seal of office to be made for the said department of such device as the President of the United States shall approve, and all copies of records and papers in the said office, authenticated under the said seal, shall be evidence equally as the original record or paper.
SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That there shall be paid to the Secretary, for the use of the United States, the following fees of office, by the persons requiring the services to be performed, except when they are performed for any officer of the United States, in a matter relating to the duties of his office, to wit: For making out and authenticating copies of records, ten cents for each sheet, containing one hundred words; for authenticating a copy of a record or paper under the seal of office, twenty-five cents.
SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That the said Secretary shall forthwith after his appointment be entitled to have the custody and charge of the said seal of the United States, and also of all books, records and papers, remaining in the office of the late Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled; and such of the said books, records and papers, as may appertain to the Treasury department, or War department, shall be delivered over to the principal officers in the said departments respectively, as the President of the United States shall direct.
APPROVED, September 15, 1789.
The Congress Commemorative Gold $5 Coin shows against a view of the Department of State building, circa 1831.