Fifty Years of Founding - Joseph Nourse's Six Presidents

Fifty Years of Founding - Joseph Nourse's Six Presidents

I stumbled upon the name Joseph Nourse while writing a recent article about Lewis Nicola and the Invalid Corps.

Joseph Nourse is the only Founder to serve through the entirety of the first six presidential administrations.

Shocked by this discovery, I wrote today’s article around the research I did into Nourse’s life.

Joseph Nourse

At the age of 15, Joseph Nourse immigrated with his family from England to the United States.

His family must have been of some means as within two years he was dining with the likes of George Washington.

Another four years would pass before the colonies descended into a Revolutionary War against the Mother Country.

Joseph was forced to choose between the nation of his birth and his adopted country.

He chose America.

Civil Servant

By 1776 Nourse was acting as an aide-de-camp and military secretary to General Charles Lee, again indicating his family’s wealth.

The following year, Joseph left active military duty and took up a position as Clerk of the Board of War. In this Office he corresponded directly with the leaders of the Continental Army for administrative and financial reasons.

By the time the Battle of Yorktown took place, Nourse had held many important clerical roles in for the Continental Congress and had made his way up to Assistant Auditor General.


In 1781, Joseph was appointed as Register to the Department of the Treasury.

As Register, Nourse was responsible for keeping the books of the United States under the Articles of Confederation. Though it may be thought this job simple, as many of the States were not making their proper contributions to the Union, it seems to have been quite difficult for just that reason.

Despite the challenges, Joseph did his duty fully.

Holding the Office

When George Washington was elected President he made recommendations to Congress for each Executive position.

Although most men were new to the United States Government, Washington chose Nourse to continue in the same Office.

This he did.

Through the Washington Administration.

Through the Adams Administration.

Through sixteen years of Jefferson and Madison.

Through James Monroe and the Era of Good Feelings.

Even through the Presidency of John Quincy Adams.

Joseph Nourse kept the books of the United States for the first five decades of United States history. He was only removed, at age 75, by incumbent Andrew Jackson.

Here are some other Founders who served in Washington’s Cabinet:

Edmund Randolph Disappoints Washington

Samuel Osgood is Appointed First Postmaster General

Timothy Pickering Serves at the Pleasure of the President

In the mid-1990’s there was a lot of research done regarding Nourse’s life.

‘America’s First Civil Servant’ is the result and, though it is hard to find, it speaks a great deal toward the medial office work which built the United States.

If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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