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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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1047. CABINET, Rules of Jefferson's.—
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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1047. CABINET, Rules of Jefferson's.—

Coming all of us into executive office, new,
and unfamiliar with the course of business
previously practiced, it was not to be expected
we should in the outset, adopt in every part a
line of proceeding so perfect as to admit
no amendment. The mode and degrees of
communication, particularly between the President
and heads of departments, have not
been practiced exactly on the same scale in all
of them. Yet it would certainly be more safe
and satisfactory for ourselves as well as
the public, that not only the best, but also an
uniform course of proceeding as to manner
and degree, should be observed. Having been
a member of the first Administration under
General Washington, I can state with exactness
what our course then was. Letters of
business came addressed sometimes to the
President, but most frequently to the heads
of departments. If addressed to himself, he
referred them to the proper department to be
acted on; if to one of the Secretaries, the letter,
if it required no answer, was communicated to
the President, simply for his information. If
an answer was requisite, the Secretary of the
department communicated the letter and his
proposed answer to the President. Generally
they were simply sent back after perusal,
which signified his approbation. Sometimes
he returned them with an informal note, suggesting
an alteration or a query. If a doubt
of any importance arose, he reserved it for
conference. By this means, he was always in
accurate possession of all facts and proceedings
in every part of the Union, and to whatsoever
department they related; he formed a
central point for the different branches; preserved
an unity of object and action among
them; exercised that participation in the suggestion
of affairs which his office made incumbent
on him; and met himself the due responsibility
for whatever was done. During Mr.
Adam's Administration, his long and habitual
absences from the seat of government, rendered
this kind of communication impracticable,
removed him from any share in the
transaction of affairs, and parcelled out the
government, in fact, among four independent
heads, drawing sometimes in opposite directions.
That the former is preferable to the
latter course, cannot be doubted. It gave,
indeed, to the heads of departments the
trouble of making up, once a day, a packet of
all their communications for the perusal of
the President; it commonly also retarded
one day their despatches by mail. But in
pressing cases, this injury was prevented by


Page 119
presenting that case singly for immediate attention;
and it produced us in return the benefit
of his sanction for every act we did.
Whether any change in circumstances May
render a change in this procedure necessary,
a little experience will show us. But I cannot
withhold recommending to heads of departments,
that we should adopt this course
for the present, leaving any necessary modifications
of it to time and trial. I am sure my
conduct must have proved, better than a thousand
declarations would, that my confidence in
those whom I am so happy as to have associated
with me, is unlimited, unqualified, and
unabated. I am well satisfied that everything
goes on with a wisdom and rectitude which I
could not improve. If I had the universe to
choose from, I could not change one of my
associates to my better satisfaction. My sole
motives are those before expressed, as governing
the first Administration in chalking out
the rules of their proceeding; adding to them
only a sense of obligation imposed on me by
the public will, to meet personally the duties
to which they have appointed me.—
To the Heads of the Departments. Washington ed. iv, 415. Ford ed., viii, 99.
(W. Nov. 1801)