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THE DEPARTMENT IN GENERAL 1. Mission
The Department of the Treasury has the management of the national finances; control over the construction and maintenance of public buildings, and the coinage and printing of money; the administration of the Coast Guard and Public Health Service; and the enforcement of the National Prohibition Act, 2. History
The forerunners of the Treasury Department as it now exists were a Superintendent of Finance, created during the Revolutionary War, and a subsequent Board of the Treasury.
Robert Morris was the first and only Superintendent of Finance, serving from 1781 to 1784. Upon his resignation, a Board of the Treasury consisting of three members was appointed. This Board handled the finances of the government until Alexander Hamilton assumed the newly created office of Secretary of the Treasury in 1789.
The act creating the Treasury Department in 17891 made it the duty of the Secretary to prepare a report and estimates of public revenue and public expenditures and make a report and give information to Congress or either branch thereof in person or in writing, as required, respecting all matters referred to him by the Senate or House, which appertain to his office.
Alexander Hamilton made no annual report, but submitted papers on the Public Unit, National Bank, Manufactures, and the Establishments of a Mint. However, Wolcott, who succeeded Hamilton, made two reports on the receipts and expenditures of the government, one to the Committee on Ways and Means, April 27, 1798, and the other to the House of Representatives, February 21, 1800.
By the Act of May 10, 1800,” it was made the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to prepare and lay before Congress at the commencement of every session a report on the subject of finance, to contain estimates of public revenue and public expenditures. The first regular annual report is that of Secretary Gallatin in 1801.
When the Treasury Department was established, the duties of the Auditor were laid down in the first section of the act. When the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Auditors in the Treasury Department were created, the Auditor for the Treasury was given the title of First Auditor, and was made subject to the First Comptroller.3 The First Auditor became Auditor for the Treasury Department by the Act of July 31, 1894,4 and his duties were restricted to the settlement of accounts pertaining to the Treasury Department; the Second Auditor by the Act of March 3, 1817,3 was the Auditor for the War Department; the Third Auditor, for the Interior Department; the Fourth Auditor, for the Navy Department, the Fifth Auditor, for the State and other departments.
1 Act Sept, 2, 1789 (1 Stat 65). 2 2 Stat. 79 (Comp. St. 88 386, 6732). 83 Stat. 366. 428 Stat. 170.
The adjustment of Post Office accounts was performed at the Treasury Department from the earliest period of its establishment, but the office of Auditor of the Treasury for the Post Office Department was not established until July 2, 1836; it was called the office of the Sixth Auditor until October 1, 1894.
The Bookkeeping and Warrants Division, created in 1894,5 was earlier known as the Warrants Division, which, about 1879, became the Division of Warrants, Estimates and Appropriations.
In 1807, Congress initiated the Survey of Coasts of the United States, which work was intrusted to the Treasury Department, but transferred to the War Department in 1818. The survey was again placed under the Treasury Department in 1832,8 where it remained until March 11, 1834, when it was transferred to the Navy Department. It was returned to the Treasury Department on March 26, 1836, by order of President Jackson, and continued under the Treasury until July 1, 1903. The Coast Survey, under the Treasury Department, was under Professor Hassler, who at the time of his appointment was engaged in the Treasury Department “in comparing the weights and measures used at the custom houses of the United States and ascertaining by experiment by proper hydrometer proofs of liquor," and this work was continued in his charge as part of the work of Coast Survey.
The Organic Act of 17891 authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to appoint a Comptroller, whose duties were prescribed by that act. The office became known as that of First Comptroller in 1817,9 when the office of Second Comptroller was established. In 1894, the offices of Second Comptroller and Commissioner of Customs were abolished, and the work which had been carried on by them was combined with that of the First Comptroller, whose designation then became Comptroller of the Treasury.10
The office of Comptroller of Currency was organized in accordance with the provisions of the Acts of February 25, 1863, and June 3, 1864.11 The office of Commissioner of Customs had been created in 1849.12 Its functions were always those of a comptroller, while the administrative duties pertaining to customs were performed by the Division of Customs, which was organized about 1870, although the Act of March 3, 1875,13 was the first to carry appropriations therefor.
Engraving and printing for the Treasury Department was done for many years by contractors, but at the time of the Civil War it was found necessary to organize a bureau to attend to the final work on the great number of notes issued. By Act approved July 11, 1862,14 the Secretary of the Treasury was empowered by Congress to purchase machinery and employ persons to do the work. In 1863 the bureau was called the National Currency Bureau, and a few years afterward it became known as Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Reorganized in 1877, the Act approved June 4, 1897,15 provided that all business of the Engraving and Printing Bureau shall be under immediate control of the Director, subject to order of the Secretary of the Treasury.
1 Act Sept. 2, 1789 01 Stat. 65). 5 Act July 31, 1894 (28 Stat. 171). 6 Act Feb. 10, 1807 (2 Stat. 413). 7 Act April 14, 1818 (3 Stat. 425). 8 Act July 10, 1832 (4 Stat. 570). 9 Act March 3, 1817 (3 Stat. 366). 10 Act July 31, 1894 (28 Stat. 205, 208), effective October 1, 1894. 11 12 Stat. 665; 13 Stat. 99. 12 Act March 3, 1849 (9 Stat. 396). 13 18 Stat. 396.
A board of examiners was first organized under Act of March 3, 1853,16 since which time there have been various boards of examiners appointed by different Secretaries of the Treasury. Examinations were conducted for many years according to varying systems and rules.17 The work of the Board of Examiners was for a time included in that of the Committee on Personnel, which was abolished February 10, 1909, by order of the Secretary of the Treasury.
In 1823 the President was authorized to appoint two appraisers in each of the seven principal ports of entry.18 The Life-Saving Service was formally established in 1878.19 The work of life saving on the coast was carried on for a long time in connection with the Revenue Cutter Service 20
Although the Light-House Board was organized under provisions of Act approved August 31, 1852,21 lighthouses, beacons, buoys, etc., have been established and maintained by the United States government since August 15, 1789.22 Previous to that time the work had been carried on by the several states. Various later acts than that of 1789 indicate that the work was under the supervision of the Secretary of the Treasury. The Secretary detailed at various times different officers to superintend this work; for much of the time prior to 1852 the Fifth Auditor directed the work, and was sometimes spoken of as the “general superintendent of the Light-House Establishment.”
In accordance with the Act approved March 3, 1851,23 a temporary LightHouse Board was organized to inquire into the condition of the Light-House Establishment. The members of this board, with two additional members formed, October 9, 1852, the permanent board appointed under provisions of the act of 1852.21
A Division of Loans and a Division of Currency were authorized in 1875,24 which were consolidated the following year.25
14 12 Stat. 532. 15 30 Stat. 18. 16 10 Stat. 211. 17 See Annual Report, Treasury Dept. 1889, p. 944. · 18 Act March 1, 1823 (3 Stat. 729). 19 Act June 18, 1878 (20 Stat. 164). 20 For early history, see Annual Report of Operations of Life-Saving Service, 1876,
21 10 Stat. 119.