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

Gazette of the United States

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On motion of Mr. VINING the house went into a committee of the whole—
Mr. BOUDINOT in the chair.
Mr. VINING then introduced the subject of the domestic department, by proposing a resolution in substance as follows:
Resolved, as the sense of this committee, That an executive department ought to be established, to be denominated the Home Department— the head of which to be called the Secretary of the United States for the Home Department— whose duties shall be, to correspond with the several States, and see to the execution of the laws of the Union— to keep the great seal, and affix the same to all public papers when necessary— to keep the lesser seal, and to affix it to commissions, & c. to make out commissions and enregister the same; to keep authentic copies of all public acts, and transmit the same to the several States— to procure the acts of the several States, and report on the same, when contrary to the laws of the United States— to take into his custody the archives of the late Congress— to report to THE PRESIDENT of the United States, plans to promote manufactures, agriculture, and commerce— to keep a geographical account of the several States, their rivers, towns, roads, and to report what post roads shall be established, & c.— to receive and record the census— to receive reports respecting the western territory— to receive the models and specimens presented by inventors and authors— to enter all books for which patents are granted— to issue patents, & c.— and in general to do, and attend to, all such matters and things, as he may be directed to by THE PRESIDENT.
This resolution was warmly opposed by Messrs. WHITE, BENSON, SEDGWICK, GERRY, HUNTINGTON, SHERMAN, and others.
The several duties specified, were particularly refered to, and it was observed, that they would very properly come within the limits of the great branches of the legislature, or of those executive departments already established— that some of the objects were not essential— It was urged, that there are offices enough already established— that the people are viewing the proceedings of Congress with attentive solicitude— that if they observe offices created, for which there is no immediate necessity, and for the support of which, the money must be extracted from their hard earnings, they will be apt to withdraw their respect and affection from this legislature— that in the expenditures of the public money, the greatest economy ought to be observed— that the burdens of the people will be sufficiently great, to provide the absolutely necessary supplies, many of the duties it was observed might be performed by the Secretary of the Senate— that encreasing offices, and providing for the minutiae of administration in this way, would supercede the necessity of a legislative body— whose expence on this plan is needless, & c. It was therefore moved that the first clause of the resolution should be struck out.
To these and many more observations, Mr. VINING replied, in defence of his proposition— that he had waited till the bills for establishing the executive departments were compleated— he found that those bills did not embrace the objects of the resolutions— that these objects are of importance and ought to be noticed will be granted— this department is as necessary as any established, except that of the treasury— The President should be relieved from the burden of these inferior duties as much as possible— government is a complicated machine— The President should be at the head, to superintend the whole— he should have his mind free and unembarrassed, that he may more effectually observe the movements of the various parts. As to the expence, he observed, that this would be a plan of economy: information on these points is necessary to be had— and the question is, whether a confidential officer is not a better medium, than vague information, by letters from persons, perhaps interested to deceive. He then adverted to the several duties to shew their importance, that they are not comprized in any office already constituted, and could not with any propriety come under the cognizance of those departments. Mr. VINING pointedly disclaimed all personal motives, in bringing forward this business— he came forth, he observed, upon the broad basis of the public good.
The motion for striking out the clause, being put, passed in the affirmative. The committee then rose, and the Speaker resumed the chair.
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