In the establishment of the Treasury Department there was a diversity of opinion as to what form it should take. Many felt that it would be unwise to in-trust the handling of the nation's finances to any particular individual, and contended that the funds should be handled by a commission. Many considered that it would be impossible to secure a man who would be honest enough to intrust with so much responsibility. After much debate the Treasury Department was established under one head, the Secretary of the Treasury. Unlike other departments, this department is independent of the control of the President, but is closely allied to Congress. To obtain information on financial matters, Congress may inquire directly of the Treasury Department, without the consent of the President.

Organization of Treasury Department. - The internal organization of the Treasury Department was carefully worked out, and was designed to be a system of checks. At times it has proved rather cumbersome. Besides the Secretary there was to be appointed an assistant Secretary, a comptroller, an auditor, a treasurer, and a register. As the business of the department expanded it became necessary to increase the number of some of these officers, and to assign particular funds to their jurisdiction. It is the duty of the comptroller to scrutinize the correctness of the accounts, and to countersign warrants drawn by the Secretary of the Treasury. The register must preserve vouchers and bills, while the treasurer sees that no funds are improperly paid. The auditor must see that the accounts are properly kept. In order to secure funds from the United States Treasury, it is first necessary that an appropriation be made by Congress, and that the warrant be signed by the Secretary, countersigned by the comptroller, and recorded by the register.

Later Modifications. - As the business of the treasury expanded, the number of auditors and comptrollers was increased, and a portion of the accounts was distributed to the different branches. To use all the checks, however, which were first intended, began to prove too complex and cumbersome. In 1894 Congress modified the system by abolishing all the comptrollers except one. Such detailed revisions of accounts as had formerly been practiced were also modified. There now are six auditors, whose duties are divided in the following manner: the first auditor takes care of the accounts of the Treasury Department; the second auditor handles the accounts of the War Department; the third auditor handles the accounts of the Department of Interior; the fourth auditor reviews the Navy Department accounts; the fifth auditor is concerned chiefly with the accounts of the State Department; while the sixth auditor looks after the accounts of the Post Office Department.

Under the present arrangement the work of the auditors is not reviewed by the comptroller, unless he has reason to question it, or unless some claimant makes an appeal which necessitates a review. The comptroller keeps a record of congressional appropriations, and on the basis of these appropriations opens a credit account with the various departments of the amount of funds at their disposal. Warrants, when properly indorsed, are debited to these accounts, and it is one of the duties of the comptroller to see that warrants are not drawn in excess of the appropriations. Claims against the government which the Treasury Department refuses to recognize may be reviewed in the Court of Claims, or carried from here to the Supreme Court. Recourse may also be had, of course, in petitioning Congress against any decision of the Treasury Department.

There has been little question as to the integrity of the Treasury Department, while the system of checks, cumbersome and time-consuming as it often is, has served the purpose for which it was intended. The funds of the government are closely guarded, and warrants are paid only to those who are expected to receive funds. It has not been deemed necessary, as in a number of countries, to have the accounts of the department audited by a legislative committee. Such an experiment was tried by the House of Representatives in the early years of the department, but was not continued. The fact that the department officials may be called upon at any time to make a report to Congress, or may be subject at any time to an investigation of their affairs, has seemed to maintain the efficiency and integrity of the department at a comparatively high level. An avenue is left open to fraud, however, which would be difficult to detect under the present arrangement.