225th Anniversary - Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury
September 11, 2014
On September 11, 1789, 225 years ago today, George Washington nominated Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. The US Senate unanimously confirmed Hamilton on the same day. This was the first cabinet position to be filled, likely owing to the critical need for action for the nation's finances.
Secretary Hamilton went to work right away on establishing the nation's economic and fiscal infrastructure. During his tenure (through January 31, 1795), Hamilton created or oversaw the development of a National Bank, the US Mint, US Customs and a tarriff system (that would provide 90-95% of the nation's revenue over the next century), the forerunner to the US Coast Guard, US manufacturing, the US Lighthouse Establishment, and more.
Today we celebrate Alexander Hamilton's legacy in creating the foundations that allowed the United States to grow into an economic powerhouse over the last 225 years. This important anniversary is being recognized around the United States, including New York City (where Hamilton began his time as Treasury Secretary) and Washington, D.C., the home of the US Treasury today.
225th Celebration in Washington, D.C.
On September 4th, The Treasury Historical Association held an event inside the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 225th anniversaries of the creation of the Treasury Department (September 2, 1789) and the confirmation of Alexander Hamilton as its first Secretary (September 11, 1789).
The event, which was hosted inside the Cash Room, was attended by Treasury employees and invited guests, including the AHA Society President and Vice-President.
Following opening remarks by Dr. Franklin Noll, President of the Treasury Historical Association, Secretary Treasury Jack Lew spoke on Alexander Hamilton's legacy as the first Secretary of the Treasury:
Hamilton once said: "The first duty of society is justice." He brought this ideal to bear in his role at the Treasury. In creating a strong economy, he also sought to create a just economy. That is why he called for the federal government to assume and repay the nation's war debt on a dollar for dollar basis. This, he said, was "the price of liberty." Today, we continue his commitment to fostering a just, fair, and equitable economy, an economy where anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules can get ahead. You can see it in the dedication of the men and women at Treasury. You can see it in the work we do every day. You can even see it in the seal of this institution. The scales of justice are a steadfast reminder of our duty of fairness to the American people.
Click for Secretary Lew's complete remarks]In its earliest days, Treasury was staffed by fewer than 50 clerks and accountants in a small office in Philadelphia. Today, our Department employs more than 100,000 women and men across the country and around the world. This tremendous growth has been anything but linear, as the Department has evolved to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex, global economy. Innovation has been a key ingredient in our success. In remarks during the 200th anniversary of Treasury, President George H.W. Bush favorably observed that this Department - the second oldest in our government - has been "in some ways the birthplace" of a modern federal government. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service, the Coast Guard, the Departments of Labor and Commerce, the General Services Administration, and the Office of Management and Budget, which I have had the honor to lead under two different administrations, have all emerged from Treasury. [
Douglas Hamilton, a fifth great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton, was another honored guest who spoke. After joking about a myth that all Hamilton descendants receive a lifetime supply of $10 bills since Alexander Hamilton is featured on them, Doug Hamilton went on to list many of Hamilton's achievements both before becoming Treasury Secretary and while he was in office. "I think, and I think Hamilton would agree, that his service to the country here at the Treasury was the pinnacle of his career, probably because of the problems he faced," Doug Hamilton commented.
He went on to specify some of these problems his great-grandfather faced, including rationalizing and funding the debt from the Revolutionary War, establishing public credit, creating a monetary system, organizing a customs service, and creating a revenue system. "225 years ago, this Department faced many challenges. These challenges were met head on and overcome. Since then, there have been many more challenges which have been resolved with the same founding spirit and energy...thank you for the leadership you provide, thank you for the work that you do, and congratulations on this 225th anniversary."
The keynote talk of the event was given by Bill White, former mayor of Houston and former Deputy Secretary in the Department of Energy. The title of his talk was "America's Fiscal Constitution," which focused on the founding principles of the early government in relation to debt and spending.
More on the 225th Treasury Anniversary Event
Watch the full video podcast of the event online from the Department of Treasury [Note: You may need to download Silverlight from Microsoft to view the footage].
See photos from the 225th Treasury Anniversary Event in the AHA Society's Facebook album.
- First Cabinet Confirmation - United States Sentate History
- Video podcast of Washington, D.C. celebration
- Alexander Hamilton Exhibit at the Pequot Library
- History of the Treasury- Department of the Treasury
- Alexander Hamilton - Department of the Treasury
- Photo Album - 225th Treasury Anniversary Event
- The Importance of September 11th