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

Gazette of the United States

[Text omitted. -Ed.]***
The order of the day being called for, the bill for establishing the department of foreign affairs, as reported from the committee of the whole, with the several amendments, were read, and the amendments agreed to by the House.
Mr. CARROLL proposed a clause to limit the duration of the bill: Among other reasons for the motion, Mr. Carroll observed, that he conceived the necessity of such an officer would cease in a short time, by reason of the gradual withdrawing of our intercourse with European countries; and in the course of a very few years all political connexion with those powers will be at an end, which would render the establishment a superfluous expence.
Mr. PAGE seconded the motion— and added, That he could not conceive the propriety of gentlemen, who were elected only for two years, wishing to extend the laws of their enacting to a period beyond the time, when the use and design of such laws should exist, and thus perpetuate the power and influence of the House.
Mr. AMES opposed the addition of the clause as it would be unfavorable to the stability of government; and was little better than infusing a premature principle of mortality into the executive department.
Mr. GERRY was in favor of a limitation: He supposed, that if the expiration of the bill was not provided for, at the present time, it would be extremely difficult to effect its reduction, when the officers of this department shall have formed connexions with foreign courts; and by means of those connexions, an extensive sphere of business uninteresting to the United States, shall be created.[1]
The vote being taken, it passed in the negative.
Mr. BENSON proposed an amendment, which he conceived would more fully express the sense of the committee, as it respected the constitutionality of the decision which had taken place: The amendment was, to strike out in the second clause of the bill, these words, "In case of vacancy in the said office of Secretary of the United States, for the department of foreign affairs;" and to insert in lieu thereof the following, "Whenever the said principal officer, shall be removed by the President, or a vacancy in any other way shall happen."[2]
This produced some debate, and the ayes and nays being called for, it was determined in the affirmative, as follow, viz.
[Text omitted. -Ed.]***
It was then moved to strike out these words in the first clause, "removable by the President of the United States."
The principal reason assigned for striking out these words was, that as the bill now stands, it appears to be a grant of power; whereas it was presumed to be the sense of the committee, that the power was vested in the President by the Constitution. A recapitulation of arguments upon this point ensued, and the question was finally determined by ayes and nays. Some gentlemen voted in the negative, supposing that retaining the words, would be an additional evidence of the sense of the House that the power was vested in the President.[3]
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    [1.] Gazette of the United States, 27 June, informed readers that it had been in error in asserting that Gerry was in favor of Carroll's motion. “Mr. Gerry had no objection to the object of Mr. Carroll's motion, which he thought might be better attained by a clause providing, "that the secretary of foreign affairs shall be appointed for a term not exceding years," but he was against the motion itself, because it would put the legislature under the necessity of making a new law for the restoration of the department, whereas the act might continue and the officer be dismissed, when he was no longer useful. Mr. G. also thought the motion had a tendency to invade the rights of the executive; for at the expiration of the act, however necessary it might be to renew it, a party in the house may defeat it, from a dislike to the officer who had been appointed, and may thus controul the constitutional authority of the executive.”
    [2.] The New York Daily Gazette, 23 June, noted that "this amendment was intended as a substitute for the expression used in the first clause, that the President shall have the power of removal."
    [3.] The New York Daily Gazette, 23 June, noted that "many gentlemen offered their reasons for voting in the manner they intended to do, with a view of obviating any charge of inconsistency."