The Enumerators

The new nation itself was growing rapidly, in terms of trade and people, but the national debt was still a looming challenge.  Congress soon recognized tariffs on imports were no longer able to cover the expenses of running a government, and so new taxes as an additional source of revenue were being considered: but how to fairly apportion the tax burden? In just seven short years, the country had changed dramatically. By May 1798, Congress was considering taking a census before 1800 to make sure the new tax assessments based on state populations would be distributed fairly. The argument of those favoring the earlier census was based on the position that the language in the Constitution did not proscribe an earlier enumeration, but only required a limit of no more than ten years between each enumeration.

In February 1800, an act for the taking of the second census was introduced. This time, the U. S. marshals would be carrying out their work under the direction of the Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. In 1790, the procedure required the U. S. marshals (and any assistants they hired) to go to each household in their district to obtain household data, and then post the results in at least two public places for inspection before submitting the information to the president.  For the 1800 enumeration, marshals were directed to submit their reports to the Secretary of State and not directly to the President of the United States. From 1790 until 1870, the marshals of U.S. judicial districts were responsible for the physical work of the taking of the census.  Before 1840, the U.S. marshals collected household data without any kind of formal, printed schedule. Beginning with the 1880 census, trained census takers or enumerators replaced the U. S. marshals.

Commercial advertiser. (New-York [N.Y.]) 1797-1804, May 26, 1798, Page 2, Image 2. Image provided by Syracuse University on New York State Historic Newspapers.

The northern budget, (Lansingburgh [N.Y.]) 1797-182?, May 21, 1800, Page 3, Image 3. Image provided by New York State Library on New York State Historic Newspapers.