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History of the Treasury Department Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 14th, 2021

Introduction

The United States did not have a treasury department when the country was first founded. After the turmoil and destructions brought about by the American Revolution, the country was left in confusion as to how to handle its day to day financial affairs, as well as how to go about collecting taxes and other revenue that would help rebuild the nation and help those in need. During a session of the Second Continental Congress, the seeds that would lead to the formation of the treasury department were planted. The Joint Continental Treasurers were created to handle the then revolutionary government finances on July 29, 1775. It was headed by George Clymer and Michale Hillegas, whose responsibility it was to insure that all the colonies would contribute to the government coffers in order to insure a smoothly operating government. This was the first of the many incarnations that led to the eventual establishment of the United States National Treasury.

The history of the foundation of Treasury Department

The U.S. Treasury Department was founded by an act of Congress as enacted in September 2, 1789. This department is part of the official cabinet and as such, is responsible for advising the president regarding the disbursement and collecting of public revenue or expenses. Originally established in order to account for government revenue, the first secretary of the treasury department was Alexander Hamilton, an appointee of then president George Washington. The position was first offered to Robert Morris who declined it. Under the leadership of Hamilton, the department began to work out the financial system of the nation. The current organizational structure has the department being overseen by the United States Secretary of Treasury and the Treasurer of the United States.

The tasks of the department includes minting and printing all paper and coin currency for public circulation through the cooperation of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, as well as the United States Mint. Its tax revenue collecting arm is the Internal Revenue Service. A portion of the act creating the treasury department as published on Wikipedia further states the responsibilities of the department in part as:

And be it…enacted, That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to digest and prepare plans for the improvement and management of the revenue, and for the support of public credit; to prepare and report estimates of the public revenue, and the public expenditures; to superintend the collection of revenue; to decide on the forms of keeping and stating accounts and making returns, and to grant under the limitations herein established, or to be hereafter provided, all warrants for monies to be issued from the Treasury, in pursuance of appropriations by law; to execute such services relative to the sale of the lands belonging to the United States, as may be by law required of him; to make report, and give information to either branch of the legislature, in person or in writing (as he may be required), respecting all matters referred to him by the Senate or House of Representatives, or which shall appertain to his office; and generally to perform all such services relative to the finances, as he shall be directed to perform.

The treasury department has seen an evolution of its responsibilities since the first day it was established. This is because, at the time, the country was recovering from the effects of war and spending and finances remained largely unsupervised due to the reconstruction needs. These responsibilities have been expanded upon over the decades depending upon the need and necessities of the federal government when it comes to revenue collection and investments. However, the basic functions of the Department of treasury were established early on to include the following:

  • Managing Federal finances;
  • Collecting taxes, duties and monies paid to and due to the U.S. and paying all bills of the U.S.;
  • Producing all postage stamps, currency and coinage;
  • Managing Government accounts and the U.S. public debt;
  • Supervising national banks and thrift institutions;

Advising on domestic and international financial, monetary, economic, trade and tax policy – fiscal policy being the sum of these, and the ultimate responsibility of Congress. Enforcing Federal finance and tax laws; investigating and prosecuting tax evaders, counterfeiters, forgers, smugglers, illicit spirits distillers, and gun law violators.

Over the years, more and more divisions were added to the original Treasury Department. The U.S. Mint was added in 1792, as well as the U.S. Secret Service in 1865 (the department was recently transferred to and under the direct supervision of Homeland Security after the events of 9/11), Internal Revenue Service joined the fold in 1862. Eventually, the Bureau of Engraving and printing was merged with the department in 1877. The other departments under the supervision of the treasury department and their years of inclusion (as per the listing of the United States Department of Treasury) are as follows:

  • Bureau of Public Debt – 1940
  • The U.S. Savings Bonds Division – 1945 but transferred to the Bureau of Public Debt in 1994
  • The Financial Management Service (a.k.a. the Bureau of Government Financial Operations) – 1974
  • Office of Thrift Supervision – 1989
  • The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network – 1990
  • Community Financial Institutions Fund – 1994.

Due to the events that occurred on 9/11, most of the law enforcement functions and divisions of the department were transferred to Homeland Security and therefore the above list has been revised to reflect only the divisions still under the direct supervision of the Treasury Department.

The actual organization of the United States Treasury Department can be seen as following the particular structure indicated below:

United States Secretary of the Treasury

  1. United States Deputy Secretary of the Treasury
  2. Treasurer of the United States
  3. United States Mint
  4. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
  5. Under Secretary for Domestic Finance
  6. Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions
  7. Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets
  8. Assistant Secretary for of Fiscal Service
  9. Financial Management Service
  10. Bureau of Public Debt
  11. Under Secretary for International Affairs
  12. Assistant Secretary for International Affairs
  13. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
  14. Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing
  15. Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis
  16. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
  17. Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy
  18. Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs
  19. Assistant Secretary for Management/Chief Financial Officer
  20. Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs/Director of Policy Planning
  21. Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy
  22. Internal Revenue Service
  23. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
  24. Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)
  25. General Counsel
  26. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
  27. Office of Thrift Supervision

Conclusion

The role of the Department of Treasury is one that remains constant with time, with additional responsibilities from time to time as events and the needs of the nation come to the surface. Even though the department has its hands full with its mandated duties to account for all revenue collected in the form of taxes, producing of the monies used by everyone on a daily basis, and advising the president regarding economic policies, such duties may be revised, expanded, or reduced depending of the needs of the times.

Work Cited

. Infoplease. 2005. Web.

“History of the Department of Treasury”. United States Department of Treasury. 2007. Web.

. Wikipedia. 2008. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "History of the Treasury Department." September 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-of-the-treasury-department/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'History of the Treasury Department'. 14 September.

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