Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James McHenry, 5 April 1793

To James McHenry1

April 5. 1793

It is a good while My Dear Mac since I have either written to or received a line from you. I embrace the first moment I have been really able to spare to say some things to you which have for some time “lain heavy on my mind.”

I have been conscious that I owed you an explanation concerning the issue of a certain Inspectorship2 and I have meditated it ever since that issue took place.

In giving it now, I must rely on your discretion and delicacy; for you know I have no occasion to make enemies—and I must confide to you what in truth are in the nature of official secrets.

The Supervisor3 named Perry Richardson and Chamberlain;4 laying most stress on Perry. I had a conversation with Mr. Coxe (a matter of course in reference to his office) and it was agreed to recommend Perry. The three names were given in to the President (he always chooses to have more than one) with a decided recommendation of Perry. I thought his appointment certain.

Coxe spoke to Murray5 or Murray to Coxe about this appointment. Murray recommended Richardson and Eccleston6 preferring rather the latter. I believe, but I do not know it, that he rather spoke lightly of Perry. A Gentleman from Maryland (I think of the name of Hammersly) said to Coxe several things very disadvantageous of Perry. It seems he had opposed Mr. Tilghmans election7 & through different channels Tilghmans Friends had approached Coxe—who from his connection with the family8 was not difficult to be impressed against him.

Coxe came to me with his tone entirely altered on the subject of Perry. He was9 a man not respected by respectable men—an intriguing and rather crooked character &c. &c. I perceived the influence of the election story & no impression was made. My byass towards Perry continued & Coxe perceived it.

The next morning I received a letter from him of which the inclosed is a copy.10 This after the full conversations we had had was rather an officious proceeding. The design of it was not difficult to be understood.

The same morning I had occasion to call on the President. He had received a letter from Murray recommending strongly Richardson and Eccleston and I found he had through some Channel been approached disadvantageously to Mr. Perry.

He expressed a wish that I should make further Inquiry & particularly of Mr. Henry.11

I called on Mr. Henry. He was strong in favour of Richardson & Eccleston and unusually decided against Mr. Perry.

Having then no clue to it and having been led from former communications to entertain a favourable opinion of Henry’s Candor I was much struck with his decision against Perry & I own a good deal shaken.

It was my duty to state facts to the President.

The Argument with him stood thus “Perry is strongly objected to by some; Richardson is recommended by every body—Ergo Richardson is the safest appointment.”

Much could not be said by way of direct opposition. My own mind had been put in doubt. I took the course of recommending delay for further Inquiry & I understood that this idea would be pursued. I therefore wrote to you & I believe to Mr. Gale.12 I received letters from both13 which threw light upon the subject—but to my surprise the nomination was sent in before either Letter came to hand.

I flatter myself this detail will give you a correct idea of the business and that you will be satisfied that I have neither been wanting to you nor to Mr. Perry.

But this explanation is sacredly for your own breast. Mr. Henry’s communications in particular were made under the most precise sanction of Confidence.

Nothing but a desire to vindicate the propriety of my conduct towards a friend could induce me to disclose it at any rate.

Affecty & truly Yrs

A Hamilton

What say your folks as to Peace or War in reference to the UStates?

J Mc.Henry Esqr

ALS, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

1McHenry, like H, had been an aide-de-camp to George Washington during the American Revolution. He had served as a delegate from Maryland to the Constitutional Convention, as a member of the Maryland Ratifying Convention, and from 1783 to 1786 as a member of the Continental Congress. Before his election to the Maryland Senate in the fall of 1791, he had been in the state Assembly. At the time this letter was written McHenry was living in Baltimore.

2The inspectorship was for Survey No. 3 in Maryland. See Tench Coxe to H, December 14, 1792. William Richardson had been appointed to this position on December 19, 1792.

3George Gale.

4William Perry, William Richardson, and Samuel Chamberlaine, Jr. For information on these men, see Coxe to H, December 14, 1792, and McHenry to H, November 18, 1792.

5William Vans Murray was a member of the House of Representatives from Maryland.

6John Eccleston. See Coxe to H, December 14, 1792.

7In the Maryland elections in the fall of 1792 James Tilghman and William Hindman were the candidates for Congress from the upper district of the Easttern Shore of Maryland. Hindman was elected.

9In MS this word reads “has.”

11John Henry was a United States Senator from Maryland.

12Letters not found.

13See Gale to H, December 20, 1792. McHenry’s letter to H has not been found.

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