Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James McHenry, 19 August 1798

To James McHenry1


New York August 19. 1798

My Dear Sir

I write you herewith an official letter. Your private one of the 13th is before me. I regret that you have been unwell and rejoice that you are better.

The affair of General Knox perplexes me. I wish him to serve. I am pained to occasion to him pain, for I have truly a warm side for him, and a high value for his merits. But my judgment tells me, and all I consult confirm it, that I cannot reasonably postpone myself in a case in which a preference so important to the public in its present and future consequences has been given me. In denominating the preference important, I do not intend to judge whether it be well or ill founded. In either case its tendency is important. I am willing to confer—to adjust amicably with the advice of mutual friends, but how can I abandon my pretension?

At foot, My Dear Sir, I transmit you the draft of such a reply as it seems to me proper for you to make to General Knox. It may also be well for you in a private letter to advise him to accept with a reservation of his claim ad referendum upon the ground of the rule he quotes2 and with the understanding that it will not be understood to engage him to continue if the matter be not finally settled according to his claim.3

Adieu, My Dear Sir,   Yours very truly,

A Hamilton

ADfS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1For an explanation of the contents of this letter, see the introductory note to George Washington to H, July 14, 1798.

2See Henry Knox to McHenry, August 5, 1798, printed as an enclosure to McHenry to H, August 11, 1798.

For the “rule” to which H is referring, see Oliver Wolcott, Jr., to John Adams, September 17, 1798, which is printed in the introductory note to Washington to H, July 14, 1798.

3This paragraph is missing in the draft and has been taken from the copy in the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

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