The engraving, printing, and preparing the notes involved great responsibilities and still larger expense, and I must again urge upon Congress the expediency of creating for this branch a separate bureau. The necessities of the times compel the transfer of the printing establishments to Columbia. It seemed a better policy to encourage private competition and enterprise rather than undertake to carry on mechanical work by the Government. The engraving and printing, together with the manufacture of paper, have all been done by contract; but the handling of the notes after they are printed, and the trimming, numbering, and signing them, require a large number of clerks. I have been obliged greatly to increase the number under the authority of the act of March 7, 1861, and the whole number is now 262, of whom 139 are ladies. I ventured upon the employment of the latter under the belief that they would be found diligent and efficient, and that Congress would approve the relief which was thereby extended to a large portion of the most loyal suffering and deserving of our country-women. In arranging their duties I reduced the time and work required below the rate required of men and made a proportionate reduction of salary. The plan has been found to work well.
When it is considered that this very large branch of the business of the Treasury is without an appropriate head and must be superintended in all its details, as matters now stand, before the Secretary himself, it will, I trust, be deemed reasonable to establish a separate bureau for its administration. I am bound by a sense of public duty again to say that it would conduce more to the public interest to dispense with most of this agency and have the signatures to the notes engraved and printed. Experience proves that any signature is readily imitated; that the signatures of the same writers vary so much as to afford no adequate guide, and that where so many signers are employed it is impossible to inform the community either as to their names or signatures. The written signatures, therefore, furnish no better security than the engraved. The issue and deposit of Treasury notes and the very large disbursements now made for the war have changed the entire character of the treasuries and depositories. Those at Richmond, Charleston, Montgomery, and Jackson have become large banks, and the number of clerks and the salaries of both officers and clerks are wholly inadequate. The assistant treasurer at Charleston has a salary of $2,500, and the clerks at each office are limited to $1,200. The teller in a bank receives as much for his salary as is now paid to the assistant treasurer at Charleston. That officer has for some time desired to resign, and for two months I have been seeking without success a proper successor. I have also been unable to procure competent clerks at the salaries prescribed and have been obliged to add to the sum. Congress may judge of the importance of these officers when they are informed that $5,000,000 or $6,000,000 are frequently in their hands on deposit. These officers, moreover responsible for the acts of the clerks under them, a liability which under present circumstances no responsible party is willing to take. Unless these difficulties are corrected it will be difficult to retain the present incumbents and almost impossible to procure proper successors.
The collection of the produce loan, together with the purchase of produce under the act of 21st of April, 1862, has been prosecuted with vigor. The total amount of subscriptions to the loan valued in money is about $25,000,000, of which $7,631,044 have been collected at an expense of one-third of 1 per cent.