« AnteriorContinuar »
THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT.
WITH PORTRAIT OF SECRETARY MCCULLOCH.
So long as the country struggles under a vast National Debt, a depreciated Currency, and the Taxation which these involve, the department of government which has charge of its loans, currency, and revenues, and whose duty it is to adjust all these to the industry, commerce, and genius of our people, must be of chief importance. We had been accustomed before the rebellion to style the Secretary of State, Premier. Questions of international policy then chiefly engaged the attention of statesmen and the sympathies of the people. With the progress of the war the country leaned alternately on the Secretaries of War and of the Treasury. But with the return of peace, the disbandment of our armies, the adjustment of all foreign complications, and the accession of all the disaffected and rebellious portion of our people to such a share of political power as may enable them to affect and embarrass the levy of taxes, the payment of the debt, and the restoration of our currency to par, the questions growing out of our financial condition supersede all others, and make the Secretary of the Treasury, next to the President, the most responsible officer of the government. In England the First Lord of the Treasury is Premier. In France, Prussia, and the other European Governments, the duties of Minister of Finance, of Revenue, and of Commerce, which we concentrate upon our Head of the Treasury, are divided among various ministers, who in the aggregate exercise a commanding influence in their several cabinets. Yet nowhere have financial questions such urgency, and even danger, as in the United States. Whether compared, therefore, with other officers of our own government, or with any member of foreign administrations, the post of Secretary of the Treasury of the United
States involves the most important,
The affairs of which the Secretary has charge employ the constant services of 15,993 officers, clerks, and employés, of whom 3,520 are in the Bureaus at Washington, 5,151 are in the Custom-Houses and Sub-Treasuries, and 7,322 are in the Internal Revenue service, including inspectors, collectors, assessors, etc., throughout the United States. Of the 41,000 officers of the government, about two fifths act under the orders of the Secretary of the Treasury. To give an outline of the organization of this vast force, through whose hands every dollar of the funds of the government has been collected and disbursed, would be more laborious than interesting. The inquiring mind learns, with a misty sense of undefined acquisition, that the Treasury Department is divided into eighteen Bu
reaus, viz.: the Secretary's, First Comptroller's, Second Comptroller's, Commissioner of Customs, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Auditor's, Treasurer's, Register's, Solicitor's, Comptrollers of the Currency and of Internal Revenue, Statistics, Court Survey, and Light-Houses. Of these the Auditors and Comptrollers are engaged in examining accounts of receipts and expenditures, the investigation and decision by the Auditor being preliminary, and by the Comptroller final. Three Auditors and one Comptroller are occupied with military and naval accounts, and the like force with the civil. Every payment is authorized by the Secretary only after its propriety has been certified by an Auditor and Comptroller. Accounts of all receipts and expenditures are kept by the Treasurer, the Comptroller, the Register, and the Secretary, but most fully by the Register. Collectors and Receivers account weekly, monthly, and quarterly, according to the amounts of their collections. They are brought to account in cases of delay by the Comptroller and Solicitor of the Treasury. The functions of the other Bureaus are suggested by their titles. Each of these Bureaus is further divided into divisions, of which the Secretary's comprises the following: "Of Warrants," "Appointments," "Currency," "Redemption," "Loans," "Captured and Abandoned Property," "Revenue-Tariff," "Revenue-Marine," "Remission of Forfeitures," "Fines and Penalties," "Internal Revenue Law," "Internal Revenue Finance," "Customs, "Administration, and Warehousing," Steamboat-Inspection,” “Shipping and Consular Correspondence," "Supervising Architect," "Recording and Library Documents and Files," and "Printing."
In effecting loans, the money loaned is deposited to the credit of the Treasury. Upon the certificates of deposit the Register fills out the bonds, which since 1863 are printed in the Printing Division of the Secretary's Bureau, and sends them to the Loan Branch of the Secretary's office, where they are recorded, countersigned, and compared
with the certificates of deposit and the books. Thereupon the certificates of deposit are cancelled to prevent their use again, and the cancelled certificates and bonds are returned to the Register, who issues the latter to the public creditor. The legal-tender notes, commonly called "greenbacks," are engraved and printed in New York by the American and National Bank-Note Companies.* The notes are forwarded by express to the Secretary, delivered to the Chief of the Currency Bureau, there counted, separated, trimmed, examined, and delivered to the Treasurer, who credits them in his accounts, and he becomes debited on the books of the Register. They are paid to the public by the Treasurer. No money is received into or paid from the Treasury except on the signature of a Comptroller, the Register, and finally of the Secretary himself. All moneys are received and certificates of deposit are issued by the receiver as deposited to the credit of the Treasurer, and paid by checks on the depositaries. In conducting the Treasury, there is no alternative but to exempt the Secretary from responsibility for the countless millions which go through his hands, or to pass every dollar under his eye. The latter course, the only one involving actual safety to either the Secretary or the people, involves a great deal of drudgery in the mere reading and signing of papers, in which a single erroneous signature might cost the country thousands of dollars, and the Secretary his honor and position. By no amount of organization, therefore, can the Secretary avoid the vast drudgery essential to the merely HONEST performance of his duties. Only after this labor has been performed can he give attention to the appointment and removals of his 16,000 subordinates, and to the myriad questions of law, expediency, method, and detail, which come up to him from every city
In the printing of notes by these Companies, whether for our own Government or for the various European and American nations which they have furnished with a paper currency, no instance of loss has ever occurred.