The First Federal Congress Project
Documentary History of the First Federal Congress

The Daily Advertiser

 20 May 1789 
[Text omitted. -Ed.]*
The house then resolved itself into a committee of the whole on the order of the day.
Mr. Boudinot brought forward a plan for the arrangement of the executive departments. He introduced it by some general observations on the state of the several great officers under the confederation— He observed that a new arrangement was now necessary, as those officers were not properly any longer in existence, and if they were, they could not in the present structure be taken as models for a new establishment— He then moved as the first clause in the resolution, that a Secretary of Finance be appointed for the purposes, and with the powers therein described.
Mr. Benson seconded the general propositions, but did not agree in the propriety of entering into the particulars of the arrangement, till the house had determined the general question, how many departments should be established. He therefore moved as an amendment that there should be three great departments established for the aid of the executive magistrate— to wit, the department of the foreign affairs, the department of the treasury, and the department of war.
This motion was after some debate withdrawn in favor of one made by Mr. Madison , to this effect, Resolved, that it is the opinion of this committee there should be established for the aid of the chief magistrate in executing the duties of his station, the following departments, to wit: a department for foreign affairs, at the head of which shall be an officer called the Secretary of the United States for foreign affairs; that there should be a department of the treasury, at the head of which shall be, & c. and a department of war, at the head of which & c. To be nominated by the President, and appointed by him, with the advice and consent of the senate— and removable by the President.
It was moved as an amendment to this resolution to annex another clause, providing a department for domestic affairs, and several reasons were suggested to prove the present and the encreasing necessity of such an establishment. But this motion was afterwards for the present withdrawn.
It was moved to make a division of the question, and that separate questions should be taken on the subject of each department. The question on the first being put, was carried.
On the clause rendering the heads of departments removable by the President, a considerable debate arose.
The objections were that giving the power of removal to the President, would render vain and useless the constitutional provision for impeachment, and that it would convey a dangerous authority to the first magistrate. It was also observed, that if the President had this power, it ought at least to be tempered and qualified by the advice and consent of the Senate; for it was proper that the same power which created, should remove officers.
In answer to these objections it was said, that the mode of impeachments provided by the constitution, respected only officers of a particular nature, and did not extend to the executive departments in general: that the ideas of bringing all the inferior officers employed in the administration of government before the Senate, by impeachments, was too absurd to be admitted: that it was necessary, to the responsibility of the President, that he should have the controul over the officers of his own appointment.
It was also observed, as to the last objection, that if the consent of the Senate in every removal and change of officers was made necessary, it would render it expedient for the Senate to be constantly assembled.
A question was then taken, whether the President should have the sole power of removal, and it was carried in the affirmative by a large majority.
The question was then put, whether there should be a treasury department, and was carried in the affirmative.

Recommended citation: Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, ed. Charlene Bickford, et al. (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2002). XML version based on the Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, ed. Charlene Bickford, et al. (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1992) Vol. 10, pp. 718-759. http://adh.sc.edu [Accessed (supply date here)]

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