Online Encyclopedia

TREASURY

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 229 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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TREASURY, a place for the storage of treasure (Fr. tresor, Lat. thesaurus, Gr. thcraup6s, store, hoard); also that department of a government which manages the public revenue. The head of the department was an important official in the early history of English institutions. He managed the king's hoard or treasury, and under the Med. Latin name of thesaurarius, i.e. treasurer, grew into increased importance in times when the main object of government seemed to be to fill the king's purse. He received the title of lord high treasurer (q.v.) and ranked as the third great officer of state. In course of time the English treasury grew into two departments of state (see EXCHEQUER). Since 1714 the office of lord high treasurer has been in commission, and his duties have been administered by a board, consisting of a first lord, a chancellor and four or more junior lords. The board itself never meets, except on extraordinary occasions, although until the commencement of the loth century it was its practice to meet almost daily to discuss matters of financial detail. There were originally separate treasury boards for England, Scotland and Ireland, but the English and Scottish were united by the act of union, and that of Ireland was joined with the English in 1816. The first lord of the treasury (see MINISTRY) takes practically no part in the duties of the board, the office being to all intents and purposes a sinecure; it is usually held by the prime minister of the day. Indeed from 1783 to 1885 it was invariably so held, but in the latter year there was a departure from the practice, and again in 1887, 1891 and 1895. The junior lords of the treasury are also political rather than financial officers, acting as assistant whips in the House of Commons. There are two joint secretaries to the treasury, one of whom, the patronage secretary, is merely a political officer, acting as chief whip; the other is termed financial secretary and is the chancellor of the exchequer's chief assistant. All the above officers are members of the House of Commons and of the government. The salaries of the first lord of the treasury and of the chancellor of the exchequer are £5000 per annum; of the joint secretaries £2000 per annum each; of three of the junior lords £r000 per annum each, the other junior lords being unpaid. The vast bulk of the work of the treasury department is per-formed by the permanent staff, at whose head is the permanent secretary and auditor of the civil list, with a salary of £2500 per annum. The chancellor of the exchequer (see MINISTRY), as finance minister of the Crown, is the officer who is responsible to parliament for the carrying out of the business of the treasury. He performs practically the ancient duties of under-treasurer and presents the annual budget of revenue and expenditure. The treasury department of the United States is responsible for the finances of the government and the control of the currency. Its genesis was a treasury office of accounts established in 1776 for the purpose of examining and auditing accounts. In 1779 it was reorganized, but was abolished in 1781, on the election of Robert Morris as superintendent of finances, and in 1789 the present executive department of the treasury was established by act of Congress. Its scope is more varied and complex than that of any other United States government department. It is presided over by a secretary, who is a member of the cabinet and has a salary of $12,000 per annum. He is assisted by three assistant secretaries, two of them having salaries of $5000 and the third a salary of $45oo. The treasury department looks after the revenue administration of the United States, and has for this purpose a customs service division and an internal revenue division. There is also the division of the treasury, in the strictest sense of the word; bureaus of auditing and accounting, of currency and of banking and certain miscellaneous bureaus, as the life-saving service, the public health and marine hospital service, the supervising architect and the bureau of engraving and printing.
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