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

Gazette of the United States

Mr. GOODHUE gave notice, that on Friday next he should move for a committee of the whole House to determine the respective allowances for their public services, to be made The President, Vice President, Senators and Representatives of the United States.
In committee of the whole, Mr. TRUMBULL in the chair, on the subject of the three great departments.
The question on the second article of Mr. MADISON's resolution respecting a "Secretary of the United States for treasury department" occasioned an interesting debate: In opposition to the idea of giving an individual the absolute direction of the finances, it was observed, that the powers and duties proposed to be annexed to this appointment, were so numerous and complicated, that there was not a man to be found in the United States competent to their discharge: That the danger from corruption and undue influence was greater from one man in so important an office, than if the power was divided equally between a number, who would be mutual checks to each other; that it would be unconstitutional, as it would supercede in a great measure the interference of the Senate, who were appointed a council to advise The President in the execution of the government— for the creation of a financier, with all the pomp and powers of office, would be the establishment of what might be called a ministry; that experience had taught us, that the appointment of such an officer would not meet the ideas of the people, and no such officer had been created in the individual governments.
These observations were followed by a motion, for an amendment, by striking out "Secretary for the treasury department," and substituting a clause, providing for the appointing a board of commissioners.
On the other side of the subject, it was said, that the superiority of an individual, possessing competent abilities to conduct this department, over a number of commissioners was demonstrated, by the experience of the public; that there was a radical deficiency in the very nature of boards and commissioners productive of perpetual obstructions in their transactions, destructive of harmony, and that decision and dispatch, which are the soul of public business; that this was confirmed by a retrospect of the late Financier's energy and spirit, contrasted with the operation of boards and committees: Under the direction of that man, public business had been conducted upon enlarged principles, and with a simplicity and promptitude, that had saved our finances from destruction, and given a new face to our affairs: Immense savings were made in every department, and order restored where before confusion and distraction prevailed: Under Commissioners, the finances had been in a state of darkness; uncertainty and indecision marked their transactions: We have realized perplexity and delays necessarily attendant on these inefficient systems; the idea of responsibility is weakened by them, till it loses its influence intirely. The question on the amendment was negatived by a large majority.
It was then moved, that a clause should be added, instituting a board of treasury under the superintendence of the financier.
This motion was put and lost.
The question, whether this officer should be removable by The President, passed in the affirmative.
The third article, providing for the establishment of a Secretary of the United States for the war department, removeable by The President, was also voted in the affirmative.
Mr. VINING then proposed the addition of a fourth department: The secretary of the United States for the domestic department: He enforced the proposition by a number of observations, upon the expediency, importance and absolute necessity of such an establishment.
The creation of this department was objected to for the present; as the various objects which it was designed to take up, might come with propriety within the departments already voted; but if another should be found necessary, it could be established at any time.
The committee rose without coming to a vote upon the proposition— when the House adjourned.