American History Moment
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The U.S. Constitution makes no mention of a presidential cabinet, instead saying that the president shall have the power to appoint executive heads, with Senate approval, and that the president “may inquire the opinion in writing” of those officials. When the framers of the Constitution were debating details in the spring and summer of 1787, they considered proposals for a presidential council, but were unable to agree on any of the plans. As a result, the question was left to be worked out later. President George Washington was not required to select a cabinet, but he found the idea of soliciting advice from others to be useful and desirable. Just a few months after taking office, Washington nominated Alexander Hamilton to be Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton’s nomination was quickly and unanimously approved by the Senate. The confirmations of Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, Henry Knox as Secretary of War, and Edmund Randolph as Attorney General soon followed. In the beginning, Washington consulted his cabinet members individually, but by autumn 1791 the president and members had begun to meet as a group. James Madison is credited with describing these meetings as “the president’s cabinet.” Washington often invited Jefferson, Hamilton and others to breakfast, to discuss papers he had sent to them the previous day. Jefferson and Hamilton clashed frequently over policy matters. Today the President’s Cabinet consists of the vice-president, plus the heads of 15 executive departments and a number of other officials who hold cabinet rank.
From Jauflione Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution