The Office of the Solicitor of the Treasury was created in the Treasury Department by an act of Congress approved May 29, 1830 (4 Stat. 414). The functions assigned to the Solicitor had been vested, successively, in the Comptroller of the Treasury, 1789-1817; in the First Comptroller of the Treasury, 1817-20; and in the Agent of the Treasury, 1820-30. The act of September 2, 1789 (1 Stat. 66), establishing the Treasury Department, provided "that it shall be the duty of the Comptroller to superintend the adjustment and preservation of the public accounts;... He shall moreover provide for the regular and punctual payment of all monies which may be collected, and shall direct prosecutions for all delinquencies of officers of the revenue, and for debts that are, or shall be due to the United States." This function was transferred to the First Comptroller by an act of March 3, 1817 (3 Stat. 367), and then to the Agent of the Treasury was changed to Solicitor of the Treasury (see appendix I for a list of Solicitors, 1831-1932). By this and subsequent acts the powers and duties of the Solicitor were enlarged from time to time. The Solicitor was the principal legal officer of the Treasury Department as well as one of the chief legal officers of the Federal Government.
As originally contemplated, the principal function of the Solicitor of the Treasury concerned the collection of debts owed to the United States by individuals and requiring legal proceedings for enforcing payment. To perform this function effectively the Solicitor had the authority to direct and instruct U.S. district attorneys, clerks of court, and marshals in the various judicial districts in all matters relating to the prosecution of such suits. A great many additional duties were performed by the Solicitor of the Treasury.
The Solicitor had charge of all lands acquired by the United States in payments of debts. He was authorized, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, to rent or to sell at public sale any unproductive land or other property of the United States when this seemed to be in the public interest.
It was the duty of the Solicitor to establish regulations for the guidance of collectors of customs. He was authorized to request that collectors of customs, district attorneys, marshals, and clerks of U.S courts report to him any information he might require regarding suits in which the United States was a party.
The Solicitor was to examine and to be convinced as to the surety of certain official bonds such as those of Assistant Treasurers of the United States, disbursing clerks, and collectors of internal revenue. He was required to issue distress warrants directing the marshal of the proper judicial district to proceed against any delinquent collector of the revenue, receiver of public money, or other official who had failed either to collect or to pay over such money within the time provided by law. It was customary for the Solicitor to examine all official bonds of Treasury officers, as well as the various contrats, contractors' bonds, and other legal instruments. The Solicitor also prepared written legal opinions on any questions submitted by the departments except for questions involving the Constitution of the United States. The Solicitor was available to render other services which would assist the President and heads of departments, heads of bureaus, and other officers of the departments in the discharge of their respective duties.
Another important duty of the Solicitor concerned the compromise of claims of the United states. In such cases an offer of compromise was generally made to the U.S. district attorney in charge of the claim, to the Solicitor of the Treasury, and to the Secretary of the Treasury. By law, the concurrence of all these officials was required before a claim could be compromised.
The status of the Office of the Solicitor underwent many changes from the time it was created until it was finally abolished. By the act of June 22, 1870 (16 Stat. 162), which created the Department of Justice, the Office of the Solicitor was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Justice, although the Office retained most of its functions. These functions were gradually absorbed by other offices in the Department of Justice.
Executive Order No. 6166, dated June 10, 1933, divested the Solicitor of the Treasury of functions relative to the conduct of litigation and the supervision of district attorneys, marshals, and clerks of court. This order also transferred the Office of the Solicitor back to the Treasury Department where it remained until it was abolished by an act of May 10, 1934 (48 Stat. 759). This act provided that any remaining functions, which had formerly been assigned to the Solicitor, be transferred to the newly created Office of General Counsel for the Department of the Treasury.
The Office of the Solicitor, from the time of its inception until its closing, was never a large office. in 1927, for example, there were only 17 employees including the Solicitor.
This inventory describes the 770 cubic feet of records of the Solicitor of the Treasury that were in the National Archives on Sept. 30, 1969. They are designated as Record Group 206. The records transferred to the National Archives from the Justice and Treasury Departments.
Most of the records consist of distinct record types such as registers and indexes to correspondence, legal opinions, case files, registers to suits, and litigation reports. Consequently, this inventory has been organized into various subdivisions according to types of records. Each subdivision has a brief introduction statement intended to assist the user of the inventory in getting a better understanding of that particular record type.
Related records are in Record Group 21, Records of the District Courts of the United States; Record Group 56, General Records of the Department of the Treasury; Record Group 60, General Records of the Department of Justice; Record Group 118, Records of United States Attorneys and Marshals; and Record Group 121, Records of the Public Buildings Service.