Thomas Jefferson Papers
Note: this document has content that may require expanded/print view for best results (icons above right)

VI. Salary Account of the Department of State, [1 April 1791]

VI. Salary Account of the Department of State

[1 Apr. 1791]

Account of Salary due to the Secretary of State, his Chief and other Clerks, and the Office-keeper and Messenger, and of Rent of the House lately occupied by the Office in New York, and of the one now occupied by the Office in Philadelphia.

Names Station Commencement Ending Salary
of State
1st Jany:
31st Mar:
3,500   875
  Remsen Junr.
Chief Clerck ditto ditto   800   200
  Taylor Junr.
Clerk ditto ditto   500   125
ditto ditto ditto   500   125
ditto ditto ditto   500   125
ditto ditto   200    50
Office Rent in New York ditto ditto   200    50 Cents
    ditto in Philadelphia ditto ditto   186.66 ⅔    46 66 ⅔
Dollars 1,596 66 ⅔

MS (DNA: RG 217, MTA); in Remsen’s hand, with notations by others showing settlement with Auditor and examination by Comptroller on 1 Apr. 1791, and registry the next day by Register of the Treasury under account No. 1128.

This document is the earliest statement of account showing departmental personnel and salaries during TJ’s tenure that has been found. It may be taken as the standard for estimating the size and status of the staff from 1790 through 1793. In his estimated departmental needs of 17 June 1790, TJ listed two clerks at $800, three additional clerks at $500, and one messenger at $200. When Alden resigned at the end of July, 1790, the clerical staff remained as in the above statement. Other statements of account for salary lists are to be found in DNA: RG 217, MTA. These are incomplete but suffice to show the small and stable force that prevailed throughout TJ’s incumbency. These are as follows: (1) Account number 1372 for the quarter ending 30 June 1791, showing the same personnel as above and totalling $1,563.42 (office rent included in this and following figures). (2) Account number 1609 for the quarter ending 30 Sep. 1791, showing the same personnel as above and totalling $1,546.67. (3) Account number 3011 for the quarter ending 30 Sep. 1792, totalling $1,621.67 and showing that George Taylor, Jr. had succeeded Remsen as chief clerk, that George Pfeiffer had been added as the third clerk, and that Philip Freneau had become “clerk for foreign languages” at $250 per annum. (4) Account number 4229 for the quarter ending 30 June 1793, totalling $1,465.11 and showing that William Lambert was no longer employed and that John Carey’s brief stint as clerk concluded on 11 Apr. (5) Account number 4572 for the quarter ending 30 Sep. 1793, totalling $1,575 and showing that Benjamin Bankson had been hired as clerk at the beginning of the quarter. (6) Account number 4757 for the quarter ending 31 Dec. 1793, totalling $1,512.50 and with the same personnel as in preceding statement.

The last was TJ’s final report of his salary list, but Edmund Randolph submitted for the next quarter a statement showing that between 19 Nov. and 31 Dec. 1793 eleven extra clerks were employed in the office of the Secretary of State preparing documents for Congress. This was in the last few weeks of TJ’s incumbency when the report on commerce, the report on relations with the Barbary powers, and the copying of the extensive correspondence with the British and French ministers needed to be completed in addition to the normal work of the department. Other periods in these four years had brought intensive spells of work for the staff and especially for the Secretary of State, as was true in the summer of 1790. But this was the only period when the sustained pressure of performance against a time limit was such that it was necessary for the clerical staff to be expanded. No comparable spate of activity in any other period or in any other department during Washington’s two administrations can be said to equal this final burst coming at the end of a disillusioning and frustrating experience in office. In all the eleven clerks put in a total of 291⅓ days plus 100½ days in extra time in the last six weeks of 1793. Bernard Webb spent thirty-three hours copying correspondence with the British and French ministers. James Young wrote from nine in the morning to ten each night between the 28th of Nov. and the 7th of Dec., including Sundays. Richard Johnson put in 50½ days between 29 Nov. and 31 Dec. plus 17 ½ days extra. Edward Robinson, in a period only four days longer, worked 100 days exactly, an incredible performance of more than two regular clerk’s days (six hours constituted a day) for each calendar day of the period, Sundays and holidays included. George Taylor, Jr. certified that all of this was done “by desire of Mr. Jefferson, late Secretary of State … and that the duty was performed by each under the usual oath of office faithfully to execute the trust reposed” (Account number 5245, DNA: RG 217, MTA, 2 Apr. 1794).

Expressed in other terms, the departmental salaries for 1790 were at the rate of $6,800 per year, in 1791 at $6,000, in 1792 at $6,500, and in 1793 at $6,000. Actual expenditures for salaries from 4 Mch. 1789 to 31 Dec. 1791 (the figure is not broken down by years) were $10,855.37, for 1792 were $6,502, and for 1793 were $6,078.45 (DNA: RG 39, Register of Civil List Accounts, 1789–1808). This becomes all the more impressive by contrast with what preceded and followed. During the last year of government under the Articles of Confederation—surely a quiescent period for the Office of Foreign Affairs and the Office of Secretary to Congress—these two bureaus had salary lists of $5,600 and $4,700 respectively, or a total of $10,300, almost the equal of that required in the two years 1792 and 1793 when the functions of these offices were combined under the Department of State (DLC: Force Collection, Treasury Accounts, 1784–1790, p. 257, 262). During the first year after TJ left office there were added to the four clerks held over from his administration—Taylor as chief clerk at $1,000, and Blackwell, Pfeiffer, and Bankson—four other clerks. Thus while the number of persons regularly employed and the amount of salaries were actually less at the end of 1793 than they had been in 1790, both increased sharply in 1794, the total number of the clerical staff being raised to eight and the salary account to $8,250 (Accounts number 5258, 5968, and 6289 for the quarters ending 31 Mch., 30 Sep., and 31 Dec. 1794, DNA: RG 217, MTA; this was in addition to the sums for extra clerks at the end of 1793 and also to the $250 paid Blackwell and Bankson for extra services in “Recording American Ministers Letters &c. out of office hours by direction of the Secretary of State” from 1 Feb. to 30 Sep. 1794 [same]). There is no evidence to suggest that the work of the department in 1794 had undergone a commensurate increase. Indeed, it is quite doubtful whether any single year of the decade equalled in complexity and extent the burdens that fell upon the departmental staff in the critical year 1793 when TJ, until the last few weeks in office as he faced an extraordinary series of tasks to be discharged before departing, managed with a smaller staff than he had had four years earlier. Even in 1792 TJ described the work of a clerk in the department—indeed, that of the chief clerk—as being “one continued scene of drudgery in copying papers and close attendance from morning till night” (TJ to Barton, 1 Apr. 1792). But both the size of the staff and the total of salaries continued to mount during the decade. By 1800 the civil list of the Department of State called for an appropriation of $24,911.99, more than four times the total expenditure in the last year TJ was in office (DNA: RG 39, Register of Civil List Accounts, 1789–1808).

The staff during the years 1790–1793 included the following: Roger Alden: In office at beginning of TJ’s tenure, and resigned as of 25 July 1790. Henry Remsen, Jr. In office at beginning of TJ’s tenure, resigned as of 1 Apr. 1792 (TJ to Taylor, 1 Apr. 1792; TJ to Remsen, 14 Apr. 1792). George Taylor, Jr.: In office at the beginning of TJ’s tenure, having served as clerk in the Office of Foreign Affairs since 1785; became chief clerk on 1 Apr. 1792 and served throughout TJ’s term (Taylor to TJ, 17 Mch. 1792). Jacob Blackwell: In office at the beginning of TJ’s tenure and at its close (TJ to Blackwell, 1 Apr. 1792). John Pintard: Clerk for foreign languages in office at the beginning of TJ’s tenure, resigned 26 Aug. 1790 (see notes, Document ii; see also TJ to Washington, 9 Sep. 1792; TJ to Speaker of the House, 2 Jan. 1793). William Lambert: Employed as clerk late in 1790, resigned at the end of September 1792 (Lambert to TJ, 8 June 1793, and note). Sampson Crosby: Served as messenger throughout TJ’s term of office, also occasionally furnished firewood (see Document vii). Philip Freneau: Appointed “clerk for foreign languages” in Aug. 1791, though his salary only began 1 Oct. 1791 (see Document x, also TJ to Washington, 9 Sep. 1792). George Pfeiffer: Appointed clerk Apr. 1792 and served remainder of TJ’s tenure of office (Pfeiffer to TJ, 2 Apr. 1792). Benjamin Bankson: Employed for a few days in Sep. 1790 as “additional clerk” (Document vii); appointed full time beginning 1793. Isaac Pinto: Temporary translator of Spanish documents in 1790 (see Document v). One James P. Puglia apparently served as an occasional interpreter in 1792–1793 (Puglia to TJ, 21 June 1808). John Carey began as a clerk on 25 Jan. 1793 but was only temporarily employed (Account number 3834, DNA: RG 217, MTA).

As Secretary of State TJ was obviously a rigorous taskmaster who administered an office characterized as much by its discipline and systematic methods as by the tone of republicanism that he gave to it. It is equally evident that he stood on terms of agreeable, friendly, and mutually respectful relations with his subordinates. His leave-taking letters to Alden and Remsen are expressed in terms of genuine respect and even affection. With the latter he maintained a life-long friendship: the close of a moving letter that he wrote Remsen in the last months of his life reads: “I retain for you a sincere and affectionate friendship and respect” (TJ to Remsen, 25 Mch. 1826). No hint of scandal or charge of betrayal of secrets was ever levelled at the clerks of the Department of State during TJ’s tenure of office and none was ever discharged for such reasons as was the case in the Department of the Treasury (see Appendix, Vol. 18). No open hostility ever developed between the Secretary of State and a subordinate as there did between the Secretary of the Treasury and Andrew G. Fraunces. It is true that Taylor and Blackwell, after many years of service to the government, were summarily dismissed in 1798 for allegedly accepting passport gratuities (White, The Federalists, p. 286–7). But even in doing so the Secretary of State, Timothy Pickering, declared that Taylor and Blackwell “sustained fair characters, had been long in the office, would have been recommended for their fidelity to any employment, were careful, steady, industrious, and the chief clerk, from his long and accurate acquaintance with the books, papers, and business of the office was eminently useful” (Pickering to the Rev. John Clarke, 26 Jan. 1798, same, p. 287). But the discharge of two such men cannot be dissociated from the fact that Pickering himself had been publicly accused of the misconduct and that he attributed this to the work of the “Jacobinic scoundrels” (Aurora, 24 Jan. 1798). Further, the side of the case that is known is that of the accusing official.

This episode, imperfectly known as it is, does indeed tell “a good deal of the temper of the times” about the conduct of government employees (White, The Federalists, p. 286). But this leaves much unsaid. The fact that clerks of acknowledged rectitude at the end of the decade should have come to consider the taking of gratuities for public service as a matter of accepted conduct requires that some note be taken of an important distinction. This is that two opposing philosophies of administration—two opposite ways of looking at government and its ends—inevitably produced differing concepts of ethical conduct in office at every level. Under an administrative theory aimed at gaining support for government by appealing to ligaments of interest-of considering that “every man ought to be supposed ‥ to have no other end, in all his actions, but private interests”—it was quite natural that underpaid clerks should have imitated the modes of conduct they observed in their superior officers. Incidents such as those involving the arrearages of pay for Revolutionary soldiers and the purchase of Baron Glaubeck’s claim, to say nothing of the revelation of state secrets such as those discussed in the group of documents pertaining to the war crisis, could not help but affect the general tone of the offices. A theory that, by contrast, called at every point for subordinating private interest to that of the public and for avoiding all conflict between the two could not help but produce a contrary effect at all levels. This distinction stands confirmed by the record. During his incumbency as Secretary of State, TJ presided over a staff that, so far as the evidence reveals, was above suspicion of improper conduct. This cannot be said of the clerks in the offices of the Secretary of the Treasury. In his own department in the turbulent climate of the early 1790’s TJ set the standard in every aspect of departmental affairs by his profound loyalty to principles of equality, justice, and disinterested conduct. His own view of man and society diffused its humane influence over the small, close-knit group of subordinates. Their response reflected the same steady, industrious, reliable, and smooth-functioning performance that characterized the administration in his presidential years. A philosophy of administration could not do everything, but it could elevate.

Index Entries