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Precedents Set By George Washington

a) Washington created the first Presidential Cabinet. Who was on the cabinet, and what departments did they represent? Who is on the cabinet today, and what departments do they represent?

b) Washington was the first President to leave office after two terms. Is that precedent still followed today? Why or why not?

c) Washington was the first to establish foreign policy, and issued the Proclamation of Neutrality. What situation did this proclamation address? What agency advises the President on foreign policy today? What is the role of this agency?

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a) Washington created the first Presidential Cabinet. Who was on the Cabinet, and what Departments did they represent? Who is on the Cabinet today, and what Departments do they represent?

Initially, Washington's cabinet was only four: State, War, Treasury and the President's lawyer. As the nation expanded and became more complex, more responsibilities were laid on the executive branch. Hence, more offices were added: the navy was one important one, interior (by the 1880s) and, around the same time, the postal service. As the US became a global economic power, the Secretary of Commerce was added, a Secretary of Labor and a Secretary of Agriculture. "Commerce and Labor" were added as one department in 1903.

The Interior was the direct result of the Mexican War of 1846, and the continued expansion of the US over Indian territory. Agriculture was added about 20 years later. The Justice Department grew with the size and scope of the federal government. It is no accident that it was established right after the civil war. The federal government became larger, had more power, needed to prosecute crimes against it, and, in addition, became an international power. Labor was created in 1913, right as the US became an industrial power and needed to deal with a large working class.

Commerce used to contain Transportation, but this was not raised to a separate cabinet position until the 1960s. The Cold War necessitated a fully national transportation infrastructure. The welfare state, created by Johnson in 1964, helped create the Health and Human Services department in 1979, which itself was separated from the Department of Education, established in 1953, strangely enough, as part of the National Security bureaucracy. The same movement created the Department of Housing in 1965.

Energy was created in the late 1970s to deal with several problems: first, the use of nuclear energy and second, the oil price spikes of 1973. Veterans Affairs was created under Reagan, and the EPA, in 1970, which is not formally a cabinet department, but is treated like one. Homeland Security was created after 9-11.

The point is that these agencies became cabinet positions because the country changed: it grew larger, more centralized, wealthier, more into trade and commerce, and welfare. As these developed, so did the executive branch. All the above still exist today, with the ...

Solution Summary

The precedents set by George Washington is provided. The department which this represents is determined.