« PrejšnjaNaprej »
THE DEPARTMENTS ORGANIZED.
height of his power and reputation. Eminently practical, she had thwarted his military aspirings when he was about to seek honor in the British navy. During his early and disastrous campaigns on the frontier, she would often shake her head and exclaim, " Ah, George had better have staid at home and cultivated his farm." Even his ultimate success and renown had never dazzled, however much they may have gratified her. When others congratulated her, and were enthusiastic in his praise, she listened in silence, and would temperately reply that he had been a good son, and she believed he had done his duty as a man.
Hitherto the new government had not been properly organized, but its several duties had been performed by the officers who had them in charge at the time of Washington's inauguration. It was not until the 10th of September that laws were passed instituting a department of Foreign Affairs (afterwards termed Department of State), a Treasury department, and a department of War, and fixing their respective salaries. On the following day, Washington nominated General Knox to the department of War, the duties of which that officer had hitherto discharged.
The post of Secretary of the Treasury was one of far greater importance at the present moment. It was a time of financial exigency. As yet no statistical account of the country had been attempted; its fiscal resources were wholly unknown; its credit was almost annihilated, for it was obliged to borrow money even to pay the interest of its debts.
We have already quoted the language held by Washington in regard to this state of things before he had assumed the direction of affairs. “My endeavors shall be unremittingly exerted, even at the hazard of former fame, or present popularity, to extricate my country from the embarrassments in which it is entangled through want of credit."
Under all these circumstances, and to carry out these views, he needed an able and zealous coadjutor in the Treasury department; one equally solicitous with himself on the points in question, and more prepared upon them by financial studies and investigations than he could pretend to be. Such a person he considered Alexander Hamilton, whom he nominated as Secretary of the Treasury, and whose qualifications for the office were so well understood by the Senate that his nomination was confirmed on the same day on which it was made.
Within a few days after Hamilton's appointment, the House of Representatives (Sept. 21), acting upon the policy so ardently desired by Washington, passed a resolution, declaring their opinion of the high importance to the honor and prosperity of the United States, that an adequate prorision should be made for the support of public credit ; and instructing the Secretary of the Treasury to prepare a plan for the purpose, and report it at their next session.
The arrangement of the Judicial department was one of Washington's earliest cares. On the 27th of September, he wrote unofficially to Edmund Randolph, of Virginia, informing him that he had nominated him Attorney-General of the United States, and would be highly gratified with his acceptance of that office. Some old recollections of the camp and of the early
days of the revolution, may have been at the bottom of this good-will
, for Randolph had joined the army at Cambridge in 1775, and acted for a time as aide-decamp to Washington in place of Mifflin. He had since gained experience in legislative business as member of Congress, from 1779 to 1782, Governor of Virginia in 1786, and delegate to the convention in 1787. In the discussions of that celebrated body, he had been opposed to a single executive, professing to discern in the unity of that power the “ fætus of monarchy ; and preferring an executive consisting of three; whereas, in the opinion of others, this plural executive would be "a kind of Cerberus with three heads." Like Madison, he had disapproved of the equality of suffrage in the Senate, and been, moreover, of opinion, that the President should be ineligible to office after a given number of years.
Dissatisfied with some of the provisions of the constitution as adopted, he had refused to sign it ; but had afterwards supported it in the State convention of Virginia. As we recollect him many years afterwards, his appearance and address were dignified and prepossessing; he had an expressive countenance, a beaming eye, and somewhat of the ore rotundo in speaking. Randolph promptly accepted the nomination, but did not take his seat in the cabinet until some months after Knox and Hamilton.
By the judicial system established for the Federal Government, the Supreme Court of the United States was to be composed of a chief justice and five associate judges. There were to be district courts with a judge in each State, and circuit courts held by an associate judge and a district judge. John Jay, of New York, received the appointment of Chief Justice, and in a letter enclosing his commission, Washington expressed the singular pleasure he felt in addressing him “as the head of that department which must be considered as the keystone of our political fabric."
Jay's associate judges were, John Rutledge of South Carolina, James Wilson of Pennsylvania, William Cushing of Massachusetts, John Blair of Virginia, and James Iredell of North Carolina. Washington had originally nominated to one of the judgeships his former military secretary, Robert Ilarrison, familiarly known as the old Secretary ; but he preferred the office of Chancellor of Maryland, recently conferred upon him.
On the 29th of September, Congress adjourned to the first Monday in January, after an arduous session, in which many important questions had been discussed, and powers organized and distributed. The actual Congress was inferior in eloquence and shining talent to the first Congress of the revolution ; but it possessed men well fitted for the momentous work before them sober, solid, upright, and well informed. An admirable harmony had prevailed between the legislature and the executive, and the utmost decorum had reigned over the public deliberations.
Fisher Ames, then a young man, who had acquired a brilliant reputation in Massachusetts by the eloquence with which he had championed the new constitution in the convention of that important State, and who had recently been elected to Congress, speaks of it in the following terms: “I have never seen an assembly
THE FIRST CONGRESS CHARACTERIZED.
where so little art was used. If they wish to carry a point, it is directly declared and justified. Its merits and defects are plainly stated, not without sophistry and prejudice, but without management. There is no intrigue, no caucusing, little of clanning together, little asperity in debate, or personal bitterness out of the House."