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Friday, February 12, 2016

Miscellaneous Americana (Part III): Washington's Cabinet—their vitae—and who was well paid in the early Republic

Between President George Washington and his nine cabinet members (over the course of two terms), half of the group were either Framers or ratifiers or both. See Cabinet Members, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016) (listing Jefferson, Randolph, and Pickering as President Washington’s Secretaries of the State; listing Hamilton and Wolcott as Washington’s Secretaries of the Treasury; listing Knox, Pickering, and McHenry as Washington’s Secretaries of War; and listing Randolph, Bradford, and Charles Lee as Washington’s Attorneys General). Thus, Washington’s nine cabinet members included: (i) Jefferson, (ii) Randolph, (iii) Pickering, (iv) Hamilton, (v) Wolcott, (vi) Knox, (vii) McHenry, (viii) Bradford, and (ix) Charles Lee.  Washington was a Framer (from Virginia), and four of his nine cabinet members were Framers or ratifiers or both, including: (i) Hamilton—Framer and ratifier (from New York); (ii) Randolph—Framer and ratifier (from Virginia); (iii) McHenry—Framer (from Maryland); and (iv) Pickering—ratifier (from Pennsylvania).

See generally Major William Jackson, secretary, Journal of the Conventionin The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (Max Farrand ed., 1911); The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787 (Jonathan Elliot ed., Washington, n.p. 2d ed. 1836) (4 volumes from 1836, and a fifth supplementary volume from 1845). [Both sources and much more are available here

Thus, between Washington and his nine cabinet members, five of ten were either Framers or ratifiers or both. (Interestingly, four of these five Framer/ratifiers came from the three most populous states: Virginia (Washington & Randolph), Pennsylvania (Pickering), and New York (Hamilton). See 1790 census figures. Maybe small-state fear of big-state domination had an element of truth.)

Many good historical sources list the President and Vice President as the two highest paid officials of the early government, at $25,000 and $5,000 per year respectively. But that is not correct. President Washington appointed Ministers Plenipotentiary for the United States at London (Pinckney) and at Paris (Morris)—each made $9,000 per year, and each was also granted $9,000 for “outfit”! 

See Alexander Hamilton, List of Civil Officers of the United States, Except Judges, with their Emoluments, for the Year Ending October 1, 1792 (Feb. 26, 1793), in 1 American State Papers: Miscellaneous 57, 57–68 (Walter Lowrie & Walter S. Franklin eds., Washington, Gales and Seaton 1834)see also Report on the Salaries, Fees, and Emoluments of Persons Holding Civil Office Under the United States (Feb. 26, 1793), in 14 The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 157, 157–59 (Harold C. Syrett & Jacob E. Cooke eds., 1969). [The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has possession of the original document. I discuss this document in detail in Seth Barrett Tillman, Originalism & The Scope of the Constitution’s Disqualification Clause, 33 Quinnipiac L. Rev. 59, 81–82 (2014).]


PS: I am not counting John Jay, who was Acting Secretary of State under the Constitution, as holdover Secretary of Foreign Affairs from the outgoing Confederation government. Likewise, I am not counting Oliver Wolcott. Oliver Wolcott attended the Connecticut state ratifying convention, and Oliver Wolcott was Hamilton’s successor at Treasury. However, the two Wolcotts were father and son respectively. Finally, I am not counting Joseph Habersham. Joseph Habersham was a ratifier: he attended Georgia’s state convention which ratified the Constitution. Habersham succeeded Pickering; thus Habersham became President Washington’s third Postmaster General. See Noble E. Cunningham, The Process of Government under Jefferson 18 (1978) (noting that “Habersham had been appointed Postmaster General by Washington in 1795”). During Washington’s administration and the early Federalist Era, Postmaster General was a senior post, but it was not part of the President’s cabinet. Cf. id. at 87 (indicating that as late as Jefferson’s administration, the Postmaster General was not part of the cabinet).

PPSThere is an online version of all 4 volumes of the first edition of Elliots Debates on the Hathi Trust website. [Available hereSadly, I know of no freely accessible equivalent American website. The second edition, published in 1836, can be found here.

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