The Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, 1789-1791

War Department Act [HR-7] [Legislative History]


War Department Act [HR-7]

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH AN EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, TO BE DENOMINATED THE DEPARTMENT OF WAR

[I] BE IT ENACTED BY THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED, that there shall be an executive department, to be denominated, The department of War, and that there shall be a principal Officer therein, to be called the Secretary for the department of War, who shall perform and execute such duties as shall from time to time be enjoined in, or intrusted to him, by the President of the United States, agreeably to the Constitution, relative to Military Commissions, or to the land or naval forces, ship, or warlike stores of the United States, or to such other matters respecting Military or Naval Affairs, as the President of the United States shall assign to the said department, or relative to the granting of lands to persons entitled thereto, for Military Services rendered to the United States, or relative to Indian Affairs: And furthermore, that the said principal Officer, shall conduct the business of the said department, in such matter as the President of the United States shall from time to time, order or instruct.
[2] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED that there shall be in the said department, an inferior officer, to be appointed by the said principal Officer, to be employed therein as he shall deem proper, and to be called the Chief Clerk in the department of War, and who, whenever the said principal Officer shall be removed from Office by the President of the United States, or in any other case of vacancy, shall during such vacancy, have the charge and custody of all records, books, and papers, appertaining to the said department.
[3] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that the said principal Officer, and every other person to be appointed or employed in the said department, shall before he enters on the execution of his Office or employment, take an oath or afffirmation, well and faithfully to execute the trust committed to him.
[4] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, that the Secretary for the department of War to be appointed in consequence of this Act, shall forthwith after his appointment, be entitled to have the custody and charge of all records, books and papers, in the Office of Secretary for the department of War, heretofore established by the United States in Congress assembled.
FREDERICK AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG
Speaker of the House of Representatives
JOHN ADAMS
Vice President of the United States, and
President of the Senate
Approved August the Seventh 1789
GO. WASHINGTON
President of the United States
I certify that this Act did originate in the House of Representatives.
JOHN BECKLEY— Clerk
Signed enrolled acts, RG11, National Archives.

Calendar

June 2, 1789

House: Baldwin, from the committee appointed May 21 (Baldwin, Vining, Livermore, Madison, Benson, Burke, Fitzsimons, Boudinot, Wadsworth, Gerry, Cadwalader),[1] presented a bill to establish an executive department, to be denominated the department of war, which was read; 100 copies ordered printed.[2]
Senate:

June 3, 1789

House: Read; ordered committed to COWH.
Senate:

June 9, 1789

House: Postponed as order of the day.
Senate:

June 10, 1789

House: On motion by Smith (S. C.),[3] postponed until June 16.
Senate:

June 16-23, 1789

House: Postponed as order of the day.
Senate:

June 24, 1789

House: Debated and amended in COWH; on motion of Benson, COWH agreed by a vote of 24-22 to add the wording concerning the secretary's removability by the president, which had been added to the Foreign Affairs Bill [HR-8] on June 22;[4] amendments reported to House.
Senate:

June 25, 1789

House: COWH amendments agreed to.
Senate:

June 27, 1789

House: Read; agreed to as An act to establish an executive department, to be denominated the department of war.
Senate:

July 6, 1789

House:
Senate: Read; second reading scheduled for July 10.

July 10-20, 1789

House:
Senate: Consideration postponed.

July 21, 1789

House:
Senate: Read; debate postponed.[5]

July 21-Aug. 2, 1789

House:
Senate: Consideration postponed.

Aug. 3, 1789

House:
Senate: Debated.

Aug. 4, 1789

House:
Senate: Read; two proposed amendments disagreed to; agreed to with amendments.

Aug. 5, 1789

House: Senate amendments agreed to.
Senate:

Aug. 6, 1789

House: Signed by speaker.
Senate: Signed by vice president.

Aug. 7, 1789

House: Signed by president.
Senate:

War Department Bill [HR-7]

AN ACT to establish an EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT to be denominated the Department of War

[1] BE IT ENACTED BY THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES,[6] That there shall be an Executive Department, to be denominated, "The Department of War," and that there shall be a principal officer therein, to be called the Secretary for the Department of War, and[7] who shall perform and execute such duties as shall, from time to time, be enjoined on, or intrusted to him, by the President of the United States, agreeably to the Constitution, relative to military commissions, or to the land and naval forces, ships, or warlike stores of the United States, or to such other matters respecting military or naval affairs,[8] as the President of the United States shall assign to the said department, or relative to the granting of lands to persons entitled thereto, by reason of[9] military services rendered to the United States, or relative to Indian affairs: And furthermore, That the said principal officer shall conduct the business of the said department, in such manner as the President of the United States shall, from time to time, order or instruct.
[2] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That there shall be in the said department, an inferior officer, to be appointed by the said principal officer, to be employed therein as he shall deem proper, and to be called the Chief Clerk in the Department of War, and who, whenever the said principal officer shall be removed from office, by the President of the United States,[10] or in any other case of vacancy, shall during such vacancy, have the charge and custody of all records, books and papers, appertaining to the said department. PROVIDED NEVERTHELESS, that no appointment of such Chief Clerk shall be valid until the same shall have been approved by the President of the United States.[11]
[3] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That the said principal officer, and every other person to be appointed or employed in the said department, shall before he enters on the execution of his office or employment, take an oath or affirmation, well and faithfully to execute the trust committed to him.
[4] AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That the Secretary for the Department of War, to be appointed in consequence of this act, shall forthwith after his appointment be entitled to have the custody and charge of all records, books and papers in the Office of Secretary for the Department of War, heretofore established by the United States in Congress assembled. 1789, June 27.
Read the third time and passed the House of Representatives.

[NEW-YORK, PRINTED BY THOMAS GREENLEAF.]

House Bills, Senate Records, National Archives. Otis noted the Senate amendments on the printed bill.
    [1.] Debate on the question of establishing executive departments and the resolution appointing the committee to prepare the bills establishing the executive departments are calendared under the Foreign Affairs Act [HR 8].
    [2.] Gazette of the United States, June 3.
    [3.] The [New York] Daily Advertiser, June 11.
    [5.] According to Thomas Greenleaf's account in the Records of the Secretary of the Senate: Concerning printing, SR, DNA, 50 copies of this bill were printed on July 21.
    [6.] The Senate struck out "CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES" and inserted "Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled."
    [7.] The Senate struck out "and."
    [8.] The Senate disagreed to a motion to strike out "and naval," "ships," and "or naval affairs." (Senate Legislative Journal, p. 104)
    [9.] The Senate struck out "by reason of" and inserted "for."
    [10.] By a recorded vote of 10-9, the Senate refused to strike out "and who, whenever" through "United States." (Senate Legislative Journal, pp. 104-5) [On MOTION to strike out the words — line 14th, "And who, whenever the said principal officer shall be removed from office by the President of the United States" —
And the Yeas and Nays being required by one FIFTH of the Senators present, the determination was as follows: —

Yea

Mr. Butler
Mr. Few
Mr. Gunn
Mr. Grayson
Mr. Johnson
Mr. Izard
Mr. Langdon
Mr. Lee
Mr. Wingate

Nay

Mr. Carroll
Mr. Dalton
Mr. Elmer
Mr. Henry
Mr. King
Mr. Morris
Mr. Read
Mr. Schuyler
Mr. Strong

Yeas 9
Nays 10
So the question was lost, and the words proposed to be struck out, were retained. (DHFFC, 1:104-105.)]
    [11.] The Senate struck out this proviso.