The New Student's Reference Work/United States, Departments of

Uni′ted States, Depart′ments of. There are ten departments of the executive branch of the government of the United States, of which the president is the head. The heads of the departments, known as secretaries, are appointed by the president, subject to confirmation by the senate. The continental congress had established a post-office department before July 4, 1776, and afterwards established departments of foreign affairs, of the treasury and of war. The secretaries have a salary of $12,000 a year each, but no seats in Congress, and form the president's cabinet or board of advisers. The heads of the departments are the secretary of state, secretary of the treasury, secretary of war, secretary of the navy, secretary of the interior, secretary of agriculture, secretary of commerce and labor, postmaster-general and attorney-general.

Department of State. The department of state, first called the department of foreign affairs, has charge of all the relations and business of the United States with foreign nations. The divisions or bureaus as they are called are the diplomatic bureau, consular bureau, bureaus of statistics, accounts, archives, library, trade, appointments and passports. There are four classes of ministers sent to foreign countries to represent the United States: ambassadors extraordinary, ministers plenipotentiary, ministers resident and chargés d'affaires (persons in charge of affairs). In the principal foreign cities are stationed consuls (q. v.) or governmental agents, who look after the interests of Americans, residents or travelers, and specially American seamen. The principal officers of the department of state, besides the secretary, are three assistant-secretaries, eight heads of bureaus, one solicitor, two assistant-solicitors and one chief clerk. (See Naturalization.)

Treasury Department. The largest and most important department is that of the treasury, which was formed in 1789. The secretary of the treasury has to superintend the collection of revenue, to grant warrants for money used in carrying out the appropriations of Congress, to oversee the public debt, national banks, coinage, internal revenue etc. There are three assistant-secretaries; eight division-chiefs; two comptrollers; a chief clerk; and six auditors. There also are a treasurer of the United States, who has charge of all public money and pays it out only on orders from the secretary of the treasury; an assistant-treasurer; a register of the treasury, who keeps the accounts; a deputy-register; a commissioner of internal revenue; a director of the mint, assisted by two deputies; a chief of the bureau of engraving; an actuary and a surgeon-general; the supervising architect; two solicitors; and a chief of secret service. The director of the mint holds his place for five years, and has charge of the mints and assay-offices. The chief of the bureau of engraving and printing has the oversight of the printing and engraving of all United States bonds, bank-notes etc. and the printing of all public documents, reports etc. The internal-revenue bureau has charge of the collecting of government taxes; the life-saving service has charge of the appliances for the saving of life and property on all our coasts; and the architect has charge of all building, repairs, construction etc. The bureaus of statistics and navigation, the coast-survey, steamboat-inspection etc, formerly belonging to the treasury department, were transferred to the department of commerce and labor when that department was established in 1903. Full reports are required of all the officers of the treasury. (See Life-Saving Service.)

The Department of War. The president is commander-in-chief of the army, but never acts in that capacity, and makes all communications to it through the secretary of war. The army is directly under the control of the secretary of war, with the aid of an assistant secretary and the chief-of-staff of the army. (See Army.) The war department, through its secretary, reports on the state of the army, the necessary expenses etc., and also has charge of the improvements of rivers and harbors. The military secretary has charge of the recruiting and mustering of soldiers and records of the army; the inspector-general examines arms and the drill and discipline of the army, the judge-advocate-general is in charge of the bureau of military justice; and the signal-officer, in charge of the signal-service, which oversees the seacoast service; the quartermaster-general, with the duty of providing the army with supplies; the commissary-general, who sees to the rations or food of the army; the paymaster, who keeps accounts; and the surgeon-general are important officers of the department. There also are an ordnance department and an engineer corps, the chief of ordnance and the chief of engineers being very prominent and important officers. This department also has a bureau of insular affairs, a custodian of public buildings and a landscape-gardener, while every division or bureau named also has a head-clerk. (See Quartermaster and Signal-Service.)

Department of the Navy. The navy has one admiral and 155 rear-admirals, 20 of whom are in service. The grade of commodore on the active list has been abolished from the navy. The navy department was not formed until 1798, and has eight bureaus of yards and docks, navigation, ordnance, construction and repairs, equipment and recruiting, provisions and clothing, steam engineering, medicine and surgery. The duties of the heads of these departments, three of whom rank as rear-admirals while in office, are similar to those of the war department, and are sufficiently indicated by the name of the bureau. (See Naval Academy, Naval Observatory, Navy and Observatory.)

The Postoffice Department. The postoffice department, permanently established in 1794, has, besides the postmaster-general, four assistant-postmasters, each with a corps of superintendents and assistants. The first assistant-postmaster has charge of the money-order system and the dead-letter office (q. v.), where all unclaimed mail is sent, the free delivery system and the location of new offices. The second assistant arranges the mail service, making contracts, furnishing bags, locks etc. The third assistant has charge of the making and distributing of stamps, postal cards, wrappers, the collection of revenue from postoffices and other financial operations. The fourth assistant has charge of post-office inspectors, receives applications for postmasters, issues their commissions, and investigates losses by mail. See Post-office.

The Department of the Interior. The department of the interior was formed in 1849, and has charge of public lands, Indians, pensions, patents, education, the census and geological survey. There are two assistant secretaries; a commissioner of public lands; a commissioner of pensions, with the oversight of 18 pension agencies; the commissioner of Indian affairs, with a board of ten commissioners and 70 agents; the commissioner of patents, of education and of the geological survey and the reclamation service. (See Census, Education, Geological Survey, Indians, Patents, Pensions, Smithsonian Institute, Surveying and Trade-Mark.)

Department of Agriculture. The agricultural department, formed in 1889, has charge of experimental stations where new plants are tested, of the distribution of rare seeds and plants, the collection of statistics, the study of animal diseases and insect pests weather observations etc. (See Forest-Service, National Parks and Signal-Service.)

The Department of Commerce has charge of the interests of commerce, trade and manufactures; also of the census, of statistics, of steamboat service and navigation. The bureaus of corporations and manufactures, the light-house board, the fish commission, the coast and geodetic survey, the bureau of standards and the reports of consular officials and of customs and revenue officials belong to this department. See {{NSRW article link|Coast-Survey, Fish-Culture and Navigation Laws.

The Department of Labor. The purpose of this department is to promote the welfare of wage earners, to improve their working conditions and advance their opportunities for employment. Among other things, it deals with naturalization and immigration and through its Children's Bureau with the welfare of children. See Immigration Bureau.

The Department of Justice. The attorney-general presides over this department and conducts suits for the United States. This department is distinct from the supreme court.