Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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TREASURY DEPARTMENT. This is the most extensive and complex of all the departments of the United States government. Established by act of Sept. 2, 1789 (1 Stat. at Large, p. 65), the department of the treasury has grown from a little office with a few clerks, to a vast establishment employing no less than 3,400 officers at Washington, with numerous bureaus, and with branches, fiscal, marine and miscellaneous, all over the country. The secretary of the treasury is head of the department, and is one of the seven cabinet officers (salary $8,000). The law requires that he shall be a person not interested in the business of trade or commerce. He is required to digest and prepare plans for the revenue and public credit; to prescribe forms of keeping public accounts; to make reports annually, and specially, when called upon, to congress, as to all matters pertaining to his office; to superintend the collection of the revenue; to grant all warrants for moneys issued from the treasury in pursuance of appropriations made by law; and to perform all such duties connected with the finances of the United States as are required by law. The multifarious business transacted under control of the treasury department has been greatly expanded within the past twenty years. It embraces the management of the national debt, the national currency and coinage, the supervision of the national banks, the internal revenue system, the customs revenue, the commercial marine of the United States, the light house system of the country, the survey of the coast and the interior triangulation of the United States, the inspection of steam vessels, the life-saving service, and the marine hospitals. There are two assistant secretaries of the treasury (salary, $4,500 each), either of whom may be designated as acting secretary in the absence or inability of their chief, and between whom is divided the responsibility for the great variety of current business and correspondence which does not by law require the signature of the secretary. The routine work of the secretary's office is distributed among eight divisions (each under a chief at $2,500 salary, and employing about 400 clerks in all). The accounts for all receipts and disbursements by the United States, or any of its officers, are by law examined in the office of some one of the six auditors of the treasury (salary $3,600 each). The first auditor (58 clerks, etc.) has charge of all accounts in the civil service, custom houses, judiciary, public debt, etc. The second auditor (157 clerks, etc.) settles all accounts connected with the army (except as follows, under the third auditor), bounties and Indian affairs. The third auditor (171 clerks, etc.) adjusts accounts of the quartermaster general, engineer corps, commissary general, unpaid pensions, war claims, etc. The fourth auditor (48 clerks, etc.) adjusts all accounts connected with the navy. The fifth auditor (30 clerks, etc.) has charge of the internal revenue accounts, diplomatic and consular, and state department accounts, the census, etc. The sixth auditor (295 clerks, etc.) settles all accounts relating to the postal service. All the above accounts, when audited, go to the first or second comptroller of the treasury (salary $5,000 each) for re-examination. The first comptroller (58 clerks, etc) must countersign all warrants issued by the secretary, revise the accounts of the first and fifth auditors, examine drafts and requisitions for salaries, etc. The second comptroller (70 clerks, etc.) examines and certifies accounts received from the second, third and fourth auditors. The commissioner of customs (salary $4,000, 31 clerks, etc.) revises and certifies the revenue accounts, and all matters connected with the marine. The register of the treasury (salary $4,000, 148 clerks, etc.) has charge of the account books of the United States, showing every receipt and disbursement: he registers all warrants drawn by the secretary upon the treasurer, signs and issues all bonds, United States notes, and other securities, and has charge of the tonnage or shipping accounts, and the entire registry of vessels in the United States. The comptroller of the currency (salary $5,000, 89 clerks, etc.) supervises the entire national bank system of the country. This important office was created in 1863. The comptroller is charged with the execution of all laws relating to the issue and regulation of national currency secured by United States bonds; he has a seal of office, commissions and employs bank examiners, assumes control of any national banks becoming insolvent, appoints receivers therefor, makes an annual report to congress upon the condition, resources and liabilities of the national banks, and compiles statistics of other banks, banking companies and savings banks. The director of the mint (or, more properly, mints) of the United States (salary $4,500, 14 clerks etc.) is the head of a treasury bureau established in 1873, and has charge of all mints and assay offices, making annual reports to congress on the coinage of the country, the yield of precious metals, and collateral subjects. The commissioner of internal revenue (salary $6,000, 293 clerks, etc.), an office established in 1862, superintends the assessment and collection of all duties and taxes imposed by the laws providing internal revenue. The states and territories were divided into numerous collection districts during the war, for assessing and gathering the excise and stamp duties upon spirits, tobacco, etc., but the collectors of internal revenue were reduced by executive order in 1883, to eighty-two. The solicitor of the treasury (salary $4,500, 15 clerks, etc.), though an officer of the department of justice, has special charge of legal measures to prevent and detect frauds upon the revenue, having charge of all suits involving money in which the United States is interested, except those arising under the internal revenue laws, which are in charge of the solicitor of internal revenue. He also has charge of the secret service employés engaged in detection of counterfeiting and other frauds on the government. The chief of the bureau of statistics (salary $3,000, 36 clerks, etc.) is charged with the annual reports on commerce and navigation, internal commerce, etc., and publishes annual, quarterly, monthly and occasional reports, embodying the latest statistical information as to imports and exports, immigration, shipping, etc. The superintendent of the coast and geodetic survey (salary $6,000, 156 clerks, etc.) has charge of the survey of the coasts and rivers of the United States, publishing annual reports, tide-tables, sailing directions, and maps and charts. The supervising surgeon general (salary $4,000, 17 clerks, etc.) is charged with the marine hospital service and the fund for the relief of sick and disabled seamen. The supervising architect of the treasury department (salary $4,500, 93 clerks, etc.) is charged with preparing designs and plans for all public buildings erected by the United States for custom houses, United States courts and postoffices, and the supervision of the same. The supervising inspector general of steam vessels (salary $3,500, 5 clerks, etc.) administers the steamboat inspection laws, with the aid of a board of inspectors. The superintendent of the life-saving service (salary $4,000, 23 clerks, etc.) supervises the organization and employés of the coast service for the protection of life and property, and prepares the statistics of marine disasters. The chief of the bureau of engraving and printing (salary $4,500) has charge of the engraving and printing of all bonds, treasury notes, national bank notes, certificates, internal revenue stamps, etc., of the United States. This great establishment occupies a separate building constructed especially for its uses, and employs about 1,200 hands. The treasurer of the United States (salary $6,000, 277 clerks, etc.) receives and keeps the moneys of the United States, and disburses them only upon warrants drawn by the secretary of the treasury, and duly recorded. He is also charged with the custody of all public moneys in the sub-treasuries at New York and eight other cities, acts as agent for redemption of national bank notes, is trustee of the bonds of the United States, and custodian of Indian trust funds, besides having entire charge of the payment of interest on the public debt. The immense vaults and strong-boxes of the treasury are all in the custody of this officer.


—As will be seen from the above outline, the multifarious business of the fiscal system of the United States is widely and carefully distributed through a series of responsible officers, appointed by the president and senate, who give bonds for the faithful discharge of their duties. The system of keeping and adjusting accounts is very thorough and systematic, and the checks and safeguards for the protection of the public money so thoroughly organized by distribution among many responsible heads, as to render any wrongful disbursement very difficult, if not impossible.


—The treasury department occupies a very large freestone and granite edifice, containing 195 rooms, constructed after the Ionic style of architecture, the cost of construction having been $6,000,000. It was in this department that the employment of women as government clerks was first introduced in the year 1863, and several hundred of that sex are now employed in the various departments at Washington.


—The following is the complete list of secretaries of the treasury from the beginning of the government, with their terms of office:

1. Alexander Hamilton... Sept. 11, 1789
2. Oliver Wolcott... Feb. 2, 1795
3. Samuel Dexter... Jan. 1, 1801
4. Albert Gallatin... May 14, 1801
5. George W. Campbell... Feb. 9, 1814
6. Alexander J. Dallas... Oct. 6, 1814
7. William H. Crawford... Oct. 22, 1816
8. Richard Rush... March 7, 1825
9. Samuel D. Ingham... March 6, 1829
10. Louis McLane... Aug. 2, 1831
11. William J. Duane... May 29, 1833
12. Roger B. Taney... Sept. 23, 1833
13. Levi Woodbury... June 27, 1834
14. Thomas Ewing... March 5, 1841
15. Walter Forward... Sept. 13, 1841
16. John C. Spencer... March 3, 1843
17. George M. Bibb... June 15, 1844
18. Robert J. Walker... March 6, 1845
19. William M. Meredith... March 8, 1849
20. Thomas Corwin... July 23, 1850
21. James Guthrie... March 7, 1853
22. Howell Cobb... March 6, 1857
23. Philip F. Thomas... Dec. 12, 1860
24. John A. Dix... Jan. 11, 1861
25. Salmon P. Chase... March 7, 1861
26. William Pitt Fessenden... July 1, 1864
27. Hugh McCulloch... March 7, 1865
28. George S. Bontwell... March 11, 1869
29. William A. Richardson... March 17, 1873
30. Benjamin H. Bristow... June 4, 1874
31. Lot M. Morrill... July 7, 1876
32. John Sherman... March 8, 1877
33. William Windom... March 5, 1881
34. Charles J. Folger... Oct. 27, 1881


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