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were made, with additional officials, comptroller, auditor, treasurer, and chamber of accounts, all of course under the congressional board. On July 30, 1779, the board was changed to two members of Congress and three outside men.
On February 7, 1781, the same day that the departments of war and marine were authorized, the treasury board gave way to a superintendent of finance, to which position Robert Morris was unanimously appointed thirteen days later. Morris was given great power, though he worked under responsibility to the Congress, and performed various financial miracles; but, disgusted by the lack of state support through the payment of requisitions, the failure to obtain authority to levy indirect taxes, and the attitude of Congress itself, he retired toward the end of 1784, and was succeeded by a reversion to a Treasury Board of three commissioners, who continued the fight against financial collapse until displaced by the new Treasury Department.
EARLIER WAR DEPARTMENT
THE ATTITUDE of Congress toward the war power was indicated as late as June 3, 1776, in a letter which its president, John Hancock, wrote to General Washington thanking him "for the Assistance they have derived from your military Knowledge and Experience, in adopting the best Plans for the Defence of the United Colonies." 3 The interference of Congress and its impracticable orders were a thorn in Washington's side, but later in the purely military matters the statesmen had the good grace to defer to the wisdom of the General, so far as means permitted; being, in return, always treated by Washington with the deference due to the sovereign civil power. Various committees were sent by Congress to the camp, and Washington on several occasions went to Philadelphia for direct consultation. In June 1776 Congress established a Board of War of five members. In 1777 an outside board of three and then of five to conduct business under the existing inside board was created; Gates and Mifflin, the two chief members of this at first, were involved in the Conway Cabal against Washington. A year later the boards became a single one of three outside members and two delegates; and with numerous changes of personnel continued thus until superseded by the secretary at war. This position, as one of the necessary elements of the general executive reform which the Congress instituted in 1781 of abolishing the clumsy boards and substituting one-man control, was authorized on February 7, 1781, and General Benjamin Lincoln became the first secretary, being elected on October 30. He resigned in 1783 at
the end of the war, and General Henry Knox was finally appointed to succeed him on March 8, 1785, holding the office until he became the secretary of war under the Constitution. At the same time in 1781 a Marine Department was authorized and even an appointment made, but the appointee, Alexander McDougall, declined and no one was substituted for him, naval affairs being placed under the superintendent of finance. There had been an earlier committee which passed through much the same changes as those for the management of war affairs.
ANOTHER of the present great departments originated in these early times. This was the Postoffice. It was already a general institution before the American Revolution began. Congress took it over and authorized a postmaster general on July 26, 1775, Franklin being the first occupant of the office. The Articles of Confederation continued in the Congress the "sole and exclusive right and power of... establishing or regulating post-offices from one state to another, throughout all the united states, and exacting such postage on the papers passing thro' the same as may be requisite to defray the expences of the said office." Its management was the subject of frequent complaint, but it continued more or less uninterruptedly throughout the earlier period. An elaborate ordinance of regulation of it had its first reading on February 14, 1787, but never reached enactment, and the report of another ordinance was evidently committed on March 25, 1788. Apparently the Postoffice was at the beginning of the new government functioning under an ordinance passed on October 22, 1782, though later amended in some particulars.
CONVENTION OF 1787 AND EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS THE CONVENTION of 1787 considered a provision for an executive council and also for executive departments, there being some idea that these might form part of a council of revision on the bills of Congress. This resolved itself finally into the veto power of the President and his right to "require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officers in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices." This statement and the power given Congress to vest the appointment of inferior officers in the "Heads of Departments" are the only direct recognitions in that document of the right of such executive departments to exist, although it has never been questioned that their creation was a proper exercise of the power of Congress to "make all
Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution. Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."
Gouverneur Morris in the convention said: "There must be certain great officers of State; . . . of finance, of war, of foreign affairs &c." 6a The Committee of Detail had before it a plan, undoubtedly connected with the Pinckney one, which directed Congress to "institute Offices and appoint Officers for the Departments of for. Affairs, War, Treasury and Admiralty," which the President should inspect; but the committee did not utilize the idea in its report. Later, Charles Pinckney renewed the matter, including the secretaries of domestic affairs, commerce and finance, foreign affairs, war, and marine in a council, and also specifying their duties; but although a committee on August 22 reported in favor of such a privy council, consisting of the above five secretaries, it did not define their duties other than to advise the President "in matters respecting the execution of his Office, which he shall think proper to lay before them: But their advice shall not conclude him, nor affect his responsibility for the measures which he shall adopt." This, shorn of the mention of the offices, was finally boiled down to the "opinion" phrase in the Constitution. Here, as elsewhere in the Constitution, the Framers showed the wisdom of adhering to main ideas, to a scheme of government, not a code of laws, leaving to Congress to fill in the details.
PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATION IN THE HOUSE THE MATTER of executive departments came up in the House of Representatives on May 19, 1789, the bill to lay import duties having been sent up to the Senate on the 16th. In a committee of the whole on the state of the Union, Jonathan Trumbull in the chair, Elias Boudinot of New Jersey, who had moved for the committee, and had indeed tried to get consideration earlier, called attention to the fact that the "great executive departments which were in existence under the late confederation, are now at an end, at least so far as not to be able to conduct the business of the United States. If we take up the present constitution, we shall find it contemplates departments of an executive nature in aid of the President: He suggested that the proper thing to do was to settle principles for organizing them and then to appoint a committee to bring in a bill accordingly. Because of the danger of confusion and ruin due to the lack of proper regulations concerning the care and payment of the pressing debts which the new government had inherited, he moved for an officer "for the management of the finances," and since there was now a separa
tion of powers the old departments could not be considered as models for the new ones. He advised that the secretary and all under him should be restrained from being concerned in commerce, and the chief should inspect the collections and the expenditures of the revenue and examine the debts and engagements. Debate ensued respecting the number and character of departments; and Madison moved for the establishment of three, Foreign Affairs, Treasury, and War, each to have a secretary "who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate; and be removable by the President." 10 Vining added a Domestic Department to the list; but on it being argued that the duties of this could be blended with the others, he withdrew the motion, and it was not until 1849 that such a separate Department of the Interior came into existence. The committee agreed to the establishment of the Department of Foreign Affairs, with a secretary of foreign affairs at its head, but got involved in a debate over the appointment and removal, which will be considered in a later chapter.
Discussion then took place over the Treasury Department, with emphasis on a single head or a board to control. This continued into the next day. Gerry feared the one-man power, human nature being weak, and admitting the "innumerable opportunities for defrauding the revenue, without check or control," it was "next to impossible he should remain unsullied in his reputation, or innoxious with respect to misapplying his trust." He thought there was only one man in the country fit for such a position and he (Robert Morris) was now employed in another branch of the government, and could not be called to this trust. Gerry added:
I am desirous of supporting the President; but the Senate requires to be supported also in their constitutional rights. To this body belongs the confidence of the States; while the President rests his support upon them he will be secure. They, with this House, can give him proper information of what is for the public interest, and, by pursuing their advice, he will continue to himself that good opinion which is justly entertained of him. If we are to establish a number of such grand officers as these, the consequences appear to me pretty plain. These officers, bearing the titles of minister at war, minister of state, minister for the finances, minister of foreign affairs, and how many more ministers I cannot say, will be made necessary to the President. If by this establishment we make them more respectable than the other branches. of the Government, the President will be induced to place more confidence in them than in the Senate; the people will also be led to consider them as more consequential persons. But all high officers of this kind must have confidence placed in them; they will in fact be the chancellors, the ministers of the nation. It will lead to the establishment of a system of favoritism, and the principal magistrate will be governed by these men. An oligarchy will
HOUSE DISCUSSION OF EXECUTIVE OFFICES
be confirmed upon the ruin of the democracy; a Government most hateful will descend to our posterity, and all our exertions in the glorious cause of freedom will be frustrated: we shall go on till we reduce the powers of the President and Senate to nothing but a name."1
This direful prophecy did not impress the committee however, even though the alternative looked to an executive subordinate to the legislative power of the government. Jeremiah Wadsworth, whose wide financial experience with the national government both during and after the Revolution gave him a right to speak, pronounced the conduct of the Treasury while under its board as far beneath the efficiency shown by Morris as superintendent of finance. This difference Boudinot emphasized as an "intolerable comparison." Baldwin and Madison agreed with Wadsworth as to the need of a single head who, the former pointed out, would have proper checks upon him through the duties of the subordinate comptroller, auditor, register, and treasurer. The War Department of Madison's resolution was also voted.
FOREIGN DEPARTMENT BILL
ON MAY 21 the House approved of the resolution of the committee of the whole and appointed a committee of eleven, one from each state, to bring in a bill or bills thereon. Baldwin, Vining, Madison, Benson, FitzSimons, Wadsworth, and Gerry were members of this. On June 2 the special committee made two reports, one of a bill for the Department of Foreign Affairs and the other a bill for the Department of War. These were committed the next day. The bill for the Treasury Department was reported on June 4. On June 16 the House went into committee of the whole on the first of these bills, that on foreign affairs, and the debate was immediately resumed on the power to remove, continuing for four days, when by a vote of 34 to 20 the right of the President to remove was retained.
Carroll of Maryland then proposed to limit the duration of the office, expressing the hope that we should be able to retire into our own shell: "He viewed the national situation of this country as some security against our being drawn into the vortex of European politics; but the present bill afforded a means of attraction which it was prudent to guard against." 12 Several members supported him, including Gerry. Stone desired it "in order that the house might preserve their due share of the Government. If the officer became expensive, and was so much under the control of the President, he would never consent to the repeal of a law which thus extended his influence." 13 Maclay's later support of the idea is worth recording: "Neutrality, the point of profit, the grand desideratum of a wise