Washington and his colleagues; a chronicle of the rise and fall of federalism eBook

Henry Jones Ford
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 138 pages of information about Washington and his colleagues; a chronicle of the rise and fall of federalism.

It was not until June 8 that Washington settled these delicate affairs of official etiquette sufficiently to enable him to attend to details of administration.  The government, although bankrupt, was in active operation, and the several executive departments were under secretaries appointed by the old Congress.  The distinguished New York jurist, John Jay, now forty-four years old, had been Secretary of Foreign Affairs since 1784.  He had long possessed Washington’s confidence, and now retained his Secretaryship until the government was organized, whereupon he left that post to become the first chief-justice of the United States.  Henry Knox of Massachusetts, aged thirty-nine, had been Secretary of War since 1785, a position to which Washington helped him.  They were old friends, for Knox had served through the war with Washington in special charge of artillery.  The Postmaster-General, Ebenezer Hazard, was not in Washington’s favor.  While the struggle over the adoption of the Constitution was going on Hazard put a stop to the customary practice by which newspaper publishers were allowed to exchange copies by mail.  Washington wrote an indignant letter to John Jay about this action which was doing mischief by “inducing a belief that the suppression of intelligence at that critical juncture was a wicked trick of policy contrived by an aristocratic junto.”  As soon as Washington could move in the matter, Hazard was superseded by Samuel Osgood, who as a member of the old Congress had served on a committee to examine the post-office accounts.  There was no Secretary of the Treasury at that time, but the affairs of that department were in the hands of a board of commissioners,—­this same Samuel Osgood, together with Walter Livingston and Arthur Lee.  To all these officials Washington now applied for a written account of “the real situation” of their departments.

Several months elapsed before he was in a position to make new arrangements.  The salary bill was approved September 2, 1789, and on the same day Washington commissioned Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury,—­ the first of the new appointments, although in the creative enactments the Treasury Department came last.  Next came Henry Knox, Secretary of War and of the Navy, on September 12; Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State; and Edmund Randolph, Attorney-General, on September 26, on which date Osgood was also appointed.  What may be said to be Washington’s Cabinet was thus established, but the term itself did not come into use until 1793.  At the outset no more was decided than that the new government should have executive departments, and in superficial appearance these were much like those of the old government.  The Constitution made no distinct provision for a cabinet, and the only clause referring to the subject is the provision authorizing the President to “require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to

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Washington and his colleagues; a chronicle of the rise and fall of federalism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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