Superintendent of Finance of the United States

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Superintendent of Finance of United States
Appointer Congress of the Confederation
Inaugural holder Robert Morris
Formation 1781
Final holder Robert Morris
Abolished 1785
Deputy Gouverneur Morris

Superintendent of Finance of the United States was a executive office under the Articles of Confederation have the power similar to a Finance minister. The only person to hold the office was Robert Morris, who served from 1781 to 1784,[1] with the assistance of Gouverneur Morris.[2]

Background[edit]

Various board and committees were formed since June 3, 1775 to handle financial matters for the provisional government of the United States, Continental Congress. As early as 1776 dissatisfaction with board and committee system as indicated by Robert Morris in a message to a Committee of Secret Correspondence urging the use of executives.[3]

Congress was open to other methods of finance administration.[3] In late 1778 after the Franco-American alliance formed, a congressional appeal to Welsh finance writer Dr. Richard Price was made for him to come and reorganize their finances which he declined.[3][4] In early 1779, Congress request that their European agents to look into methods of administration for war, treasury and naval departments and other offices. Nothing came from that request[3]

History[edit]

Robert Morris

Three executive departments were formed in early 1781, finance, foreign affairs and military affairs under the Articles of Confederation.[5] The Congress of Confederation on Wednesday, February 7, 1781, formed a department of finance with its chief officer titled superintendent of finance. Robert Morris was nominated on February 20 accepted on May 14 and took the oath of office in June.[3] Given the nation's terrible state of its financial, Congress gave him a huge grant of powers and agreed to Morris's demand to allow him to continue his private business activities.[1] The superintendent and his assistant served as part of an informal cabinet during this end phase of the war.[2]

Also the office of Secretary of Marine, basically a Secretary of the Navy predecessor, was formed in 1781 with Major General Alexander McDougall initially holding the position. This position was soon replaced by the office of Agent of the Marine, was also created was not directly filled, but taken on voluntarily by the Superintendent.[6]

Morris reduced all governmental expenditures including the military. He purchased military supplies from his own money including at time by borrowing from friends or issuing notes. Accounting procedures were tightened by his direction. The States were pressed by Morris come up with the money and supplies per their quotas. [1]

The superintendent took out various personal loans and pushing states for funding for 1781 Yorktown campaign of General George Washington. Additional funds were needed for the campaign for which a large loan was obtained from France.[1]

The Bank of North America was chartered in December 1781, by the Congress of the Confederation and opened on January 7, 1782, at the prodding of Robert Morris. Morris funded the bank with the French loan and his own fortune. The bank was used as a financier of the war.[1] This was thus the nation's first de facto central bank being int the US the first Government-incorporated bank,[1] following in the footsteps of the Bank of England until 1785, when the Bank’s charter within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was revoked.[citation needed]

In 1782, Gouverneur Morris initiated decimal coinage idea while coining the word "cent" that later became standard for the country's currency.[2]

After Morris left the superintendency on November 1, 1784, the post was superseded by a board.[3]

Powers[edit]

Its powers were analogous to that of Secretary of the Treasury[2] or the Prime Minister of many British Commonwealth countries. Unlike the office of Prime Minister, the office of Superintendent was not held by an individual who was at the time a member of the government. In this way, it was more like the prototype for the soon to be devised office of the Presidency.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ferguson, E. James. The power of the purse: A history of American public finance, 1776-1790 (1961)
  • Rappleye, Charles. Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution (2010)
  • Ver Steeg, Clarence L. Robert Morris, Revolutionary Financier. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1954 (ISBN 0-374-98078-0).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Robert Morris". Signers of the Declaration Biographically Sketches. National Park Services. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d Wright, Jr., Robert K.; MacGregor, Jr., Morris J. (1987). "Gouverneur Morris". Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History. pp. 112–114. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Learned, Henry Barrett (January 1, 1905). "Origin of the Title Superintendent of Finance". The American Historical Review. 10 (3): 565–573. doi:10.2307/1832280. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  4. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Mitchell, John Malcolm (1911). "Price, Richard". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  5. ^ Wright, Jr., Robert K.; MacGregor, Jr., Morris J. (1987). "The Articles of Confederation". Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History. p. 27. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  6. ^ Lossing, Benson J. (1877). "Continental Navy". Household History for All Readers (Our Country vol. 2 ed.). Retrieved January 7, 2017.