hamilton and jefferson staff the government -- 4/5/21

Today's selection -- from The Founders and Finance by Thomas K. McCraw. In its earliest days, the U.S. government had a relatively minuscule number of employees, and most of those worked for Alexander Hamilton:

"He had enough people in the Treasury to help him accom­plish these goals, but only barely. His immediate staff numbered thirty-nine, including his assistant and five clerks. The Trea­sury's auditor, who worked directly under him, had twelve clerks of his own. Outside the national capital, Hamilton had charge of customs revenue collectors at port cities -- very im­portant officials -- and also of the 297 inspectors and others who worked for the collectors. He oversaw fifteen additional general supervisors and twenty inspectors, thirteen keepers of federal lighthouses, and assorted others. To guard against smug­gling, Hamilton organized the Revenue Cutter Service, which later became the United States Coast Guard. The total number of federal employees working under him reached 570, and they made up the great majority of the U.S. civil government.

"Jefferson at the State Department oversaw a tiny office with four or five clerks, plus a small corps of ministers assigned abroad, in foreign capitals. He returned from France in Septem­ber 1789 and did not take up his official duties until March 1790, by which time Hamilton had been at work for six crucial months. He was quick to notice Hamilton's far larger staff and was much rankled by his greater influence. Jefferson barely knew Hamilton, and regarded the younger man (Jefferson was forty-seven; Hamilton, thirty-three) as an upstart from a remote Caribbean island. Knox at the War Department had only four civilian employees and one active army regiment, but he re­mained on good terms with Hamilton. The federal establish­ment as a whole grew about four-fold from 1790 to 1800, but even then it remained minuscule compared to the civil services of European powers."

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Thomas K. McCraw


The Founders and Finance


Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press


Copyright 2012 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College


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