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[Text omitted. -Ed.]*
The house, agreeably to the order of the day, went into a committee of the whole on the state of the union.
Mr. Speaker left the chair, and nominated Mr. Trumbull chairman of the committee, as Mr. Page, the former chairman, was absent. Mr. Trumbull was seated in the chair, and
Mr. Boudinot, with diffidence, called the attention of the committee to the formation of the great executive department of the government; he wished gentlemen of superior abilities had come forward on the occasion, as he sensibly felt the burthen of what he had undertaken to submit to the consideration of the committee. He offered some general observations on the subject, and stated the necessity of organizing immediately the department of finance. If the committee agreed in this particular, he should detail what he considered the duties of that office.
thought the committee had better determine what departments were proper and necessary, before they proceeded any further; he submitted, therefore, as a question, whether there ought not to be a department for foreign affairs, a treasury department, and the war department. He thought all these were necessary, and if the house agreed with him, the gentleman from Jersey's motion would then properly come before them.
wished to add a fourth department, viz. a department for domestic affairs; he thought this the most important of them all.
But, after some conversation, the whole of these motions were withdrawn, in order to make way for one drawn up by Mr. Madison, dividing the question formally into the heads, viz.
That a department of foreign affairs be established, and an officer appointed to perform the duties thereof, to be appointed in the manner prescribed in the constitution; but removeable by the President.
That a department of finance be established, and an officer appointed as in the former case.
That a war department be established, and an officer appointed as before mentioned.
A debate ensued upon the propriety of giving power to the President to remove officers at pleasure; which, after a long and interesting discussion, was agreed to by a vote on the first proposition.
The department of finance came next under consideration but as it was growing late, the committee rose and reported the first resolution.
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Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America,
ed. Charlene Bickford, et al.
(Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 1999).
Electronic version based on the
Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America
(Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1992) Vol. 10, pp. 718-759. On the Web at http://mep.blackmesatech.com/mep/ [Accessed 30 October 2017]