What executive departments were set up by Congress in 1789?


Quick Answer

In 1789, the three executive departments set up by Congress were the Foreign Affairs, Treasury and War departments. The Foreign Affairs department was later renamed the State Department.

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Full Answer

When the State Department was first formed, Thomas Jefferson was appointed as the first Secretary of State. The State Department at that time also handled domestic issues. During the early years of the State Department, treaties such as the Jay Treaty and the Pickney Treaty helped to normalize relations with England and Spain. Consuls were also created in countries around the world, but foreign diplomats were not paid a regular sufficient salary until the early 1800s. The Department of Treasury was created to be a permanent institution that managed government finances. Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of Treasury and was known for his financial acumen. Early acts of the Treasury department included pledging to repay the country's war debts and basing government revenues on customs duties. The Treasury Building is the oldest departmental building in Washington, D.C. The Department of War was an early version of the Department of Defense and was responsible for the operation of the U.S. Army. It existed until 1947, when it was divided into the Department of the Army, the Department of the Air Force, and the Department of the Navy, all sub-departments of the Department of Defense.

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