Washington’s First Cabinet
Imagine you were the President of the United States. As president, you have to make very important decisions that would affect many people. Because these decisions are so important, you want to make sure you make the right ones that can make people’s lives better. Knowing this, would you want to make them all by yourself? Or would you ask for advice and assistance from other people who had a lot of knowledge and experience?
The first president of the United States, George Washington, was faced with many difficult decisions about how to govern the brand new country. He created the nation’s first cabinet to help him. The cabinet is made up of the president’s most trusted advisors. These advisors provide the president with advice on laws, taxes, foreign affairs, defense, and other important issues on how to govern the United States.
The cabinet is part of the executive branch of the United States government. Members of the cabinet are appointed by the president, which means that the president chooses who serves in the cabinet. The original cabinet included only four members, a lot smaller than the 16 cabinet members today! Their positions were: Attorney General, Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and Secretary of Treasury.
The first Attorney General was Edmund Randolph. The Attorney General is the chief legal advisor to the president and handles the legal matters of the U.S. government. The first Secretary of State was Thomas Jefferson. The Secretary of State is responsible for overseeing all foreign affairs, foreign policy, and diplomacy with other countries. The first secretary of Treasury was Alexander Hamilton. The Secretary of Treasury oversees the financial and money matters that relate to the federal government. The first Secretary of War was Henry Knox. The Secretary of War oversees the war department and all military affairs.
Today the president’s cabinet looks very different. The Secretary of War cabinet position has now changed to Secretary of Defense which oversees the Navy, Secretary of the Army, and Secretary of the Air Force. As the United States grew, cabinet departments like the Interior and Agriculture were added. The vice president is now part of the cabinet along with the other 15 heads of the cabinet departments. These members are busy running their departments of over 4 million people, but they still provide advice on key issues to the president.