The Secretary of the Interior is charged with supervision of public business relating to the patents for inventions, pensions, and bounty lands, the public lands and surveys, the Indians, education, railroads, the geological survey, the census, the Hot Springs Reservation, Arkansas, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and the Yosemite, Sequoia, and General Grant Parks, California; distribution of appropriations for agricultural and mechanical colleges in the states and territories; the custody and distribution of certain public documents; and certain hospitals and eleemosynary institutions in the District of Columbia. He also exercises certain powers and duties in relation to the territories of the United States.


The First Assistant Secretary of the Interior considers appeals from the Commissioners of the General Land Office and Indian Affairs; examines charges against officials and employees; instructs Indian inspectors, commissioners, school superintendents, and mine inspectors, and supervises matter pertaining to the Indians generally; supervises business relating to distribution of certain public documents and from the office of education and matters relating to the Government Hospital for the Insane, Columbia Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, education of the blind and of feebleminded children of the District of Columbia, the national parks named in the preceding paragraph, the Hot Springs in Arkansas, and supervises the disbursing of the fund for more complete endowment of agricultural and mechanical colleges in the states and territories; and acts as secretary in the absence of that officer.


The Assistant Secretary of the Interior considers appeals from the Commissioner of Pensions and questions relating to violations of pension laws and from the administrative action of the Commissioner of Patents; has general supervision of the business of the Boards of Pension Appeals; countersigns letters patent; examines official bonds and contracts as to their correctness; has the admission and disbarment from practice of attorneys and agents, and acts as secretary in the absence of both that officer and the First Assistant Secretary.


The Assistant Attorney-General is the chief law officer of this department. When requested he advises the Secretary and Assistant Secretaries upon questions of law arising in the administration of the department. All appeals from the General Land Office are sent to his office for consideration. Oral arguments are heard by him in the more important cases, or by brief; and decisions are prepared under his supervision for the signature of the Secretary or First Assistant Secretary, as the case may be. The Assistant Attorney-General is aided in this and his other work by sixteen assistant attorneys. There is also a reporter of land decisions, one stenographer, two clerks, and four typewriters.


The Chief Clerk has the general supervision of the clerks and employees; of the order of business, records, and correspondence of the Secretary’s office; of all expenditures from appropriations for contingent expenses, stationery, and printing for the department and bureaus; enforcement of the general regulations of the department; also the superintendence of buildings occupied by the Interior Department.


The Commissioner of Patents is charged with the administration of the patent laws, and supervises all matters relating to the issue of letters patent for new and useful discoveries, inventions, and improvements, and the registration of trade marks and labels. He is aided by an assistant commissioner, chief clerk, three examiners-in-chief, and examiner of interferences, and thirty-two principal examiners.


The Commissioner of Pensions supervises the examination and adjudication of all claims arising under laws passed by congress granting bounty land or pensions on account of service in the army or navy during the Revolutionary war and all subsequent wars in which the United States has been engaged. He is aided by two deputy commissioners and the chief clerk of the bureau, each of whom has supervision over business arising in divisions of the bureau assigned, under order of the Commissioner, to his immediate charge.


The Commissioner of the General Land Office is charged with the survey, management, and sale of the public domain, and the issuing of titles therefor, whether derived from confirmations of grants made by former governments, by sales, donations, or grants for schools, railroads, military bounties, or public improvements. He is aided by an assistant commissioner and chief clerk.


The Commissioner of Indian Affairs has charge of the several tribes of Indians in the state and territories. He issues instructions to and receives reports from agents, special agents, and school superintendents; superintends the purchase, transportation,, and distribution of presents and annuities; and reports annually the relations of the government with each tribe. He is aided by an assistant commissioner, who under the law also performs the duties of chief clerk.


The duties of the Commissioner of Education are to collect such statistics and facts as shall show the condition and progress of education in the several states and territories, and to diffuse such information respecting the organization and management of schools and school systems and methods of teaching as shall aid the people of the United States in the establishment and maintenance of efficient school systems, and otherwise promote the cause of education throughout the country.


The Commissioner of Railroads is charged with the duty of prescribing a system of reports to be rendered to him by the railroad companies whose roads are in whole or in part west, north, or south of the Missouri river, and to which the United States have granted any loan of credit or subsidy in bonds or lands; to examine the books and accounts of each of said railroad companies once in each fiscal year, and at such other times as may be deemed by him necessary to determine the correctness of any report received from them; to assist the government directors of any of said railway companies in all matters which come under their cognizance, whenever they may officially request such assistance; to see that the laws relating to said companies are enforced; to furnish such information to the several departments of the government in regard to tariffs for freight and passengers and in regard to the accounts of said railroad companies as may be by them required, or, in the absence of any request therefor, as he may deem expedient for the interest of the government; and to make an annual report to the Secretary of the Interior, on the 1st day of November, on the condition of each of said railroad companies, their road, accounts, and affairs, for the fiscal year ending June 30 immediately preceding.


The Director of the Geological Survey has charge of the classification of the public lands and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.


The Superintendent of the Census supervises the taking of the census of the United States every tenth year, and the subsequent arrangement, compilation, and publication of the statistics collected.

In accordance with an act of Congress approved March 1, 1889, entitled "An act to provide for taking the Eleventh and subsequent Censuses," the Superintendent of the Census, under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, shall cause to be taken as of the date of June 1, 1890, a census of the population, wealth, and industry of each state and territory, and of the District of Columbia. He shall also at the time of the general enumeration herein provided for, or prior thereto, as the Secretary of the Interior may determine, collect the statistics of, and relating to, the recorded indebtedness of private corporations and individuals, and make report thereon to Congress; and he shall collect, from official sources, information relating to the animals not on farms. The Superintendent shall, under the authority of the Secretary of the Interior, cause to be taken on a special schedule of inquiry the names, organizations, and length of service of those who have served in the army, navy, or marine corps of the United States in the war of the rebellion, and who are survivors at the time of said inquiry, and the widows of soldiers, sailors, or marines. The population schedule shall include an inquiry as to the number of negroes, mulattoes, quadroons, and octoroons. The Superintendent shall also collect and publish the statistics of the population, industries, and resources of the District of Alaska, with such fullness as he may deem expedient or practicable under the appropriations made, or to be made, for the expenses of the eleventh census. He may employ special agents, or other means, to make an enumeration of all Indians living within the jurisdiction of the United States, with such information as to their condition as may be obtainable, classifying them as to Indians taxed and Indians not taxed. He may also employ experts and special agents to investigate and ascertain the statistics of the manufacturing, railroad, fishing, mining, cattle, and other industries of the country, and of telegraph, express, transportation and insurance companies as he may designate and require.

The only volumes that shall be prepared and published in connection with the said census shall relate to population and social statistics relating thereto, the products of manufactories, mining, and agriculture, mortality and vital statistics, valuation and public indebtedness, recorded indebtedness, and to statistics relating to railroad corporations, incorporated express, telegraph, and insurance companies, a list of the names, organizations, and length of service of surviving soldiers, sailors, and marines, and the widows of soldiers, sailors, and marines.

The Supreme Court
Department of the Navy
© 2002 by Lynn Waterman