Our Wonderland of Bureaucracy: A Study of the Growth of Bureaucracy in the Federal Government, and Its Destructive Effect upon the Constitution

By James M. Beck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
BUREAUCRACY IN THE COLONIAL DAYS

The Red Queen shook her head. "You may call it 'nonsense' if you like," she said, "but I've heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary." --ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

To understand the conflicting views of the Master Builders of the Republic upon this question of bureaucracy, a brief review of bureaucracy in colonial days seems necessary. It reveals a story of astonishing ineptitude. The second Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia in May, 1775, was immediately confronted with the responsibility of either exercising or delegating executive or administrative power. Its members were cognizant of the fact that the oppression, which finally led to the Declaration of Independence, was the result of bureaucratic acts of royal officials of the Mother Country, chiefly the Lords of Trade representing the Crown, which acts could not be controlled by the legislatures of the various colonies. This fact created in members of Congress, particularly Samuel Adams, serious distrust of executive power exercised by other than its own members. So strong was this distrust that, notwithstanding the protests of Washington, who believed that "influence was not government," long delay and much suffering was inflicted upon the army and navy before there was established any effective administrative branches of the Government to conduct the executive business of the new Nation.

As a part of its executive duties, the Continental Congress was charged with responsibility of raising funds for the conduct of the war with England; with securing arms, ammunition, clothing, food and other supplies for the army; and with the outfitting and maintenance of vessels of war capable of challenging the ruler of the seas. These duties it could exercise directly through its own members or by agencies established for such purposes.

Characteristically of legislative assemblies attempting to overcome executive power believed to be excessive, Con-

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