To John Jay1
New York Aug 27. 1798
I was very sorry when at Albany not to have seen you.2 I called the day after my arrival but you were then indisposed or abroad & the rest of my stay I was very unwell.
An apprehension is excited here that in consequence of the Petitions of the Militia Officers the persons named to the new Companies will not be appointed.3 I take it for granted that this must be a groundless apprehension as far as may depend on the Executive. For certainly the ordinary Militia Officers can on no military principles have any pretensions in relation to new and extraordinary Corps which grow up—or are created. And as to expediency, nothing can be clearer. The utility of these new corps in various aspects needs no comment. Their existence depends on their being officered in the manner they themselves desire. To attempt to place them under the present Militia officers is to annihilate them.
Ten to One the Opposition on the part of these Officers originated in an Antifoederal scheme. Let them by their disappointment be disgusted & resign. What then? They will have acted presumptuously or ignorantly. Many bad men will be gotten rid of, & the best can easily be replaced with as good or better. Tis then a plain case. There is really not a difficulty worth the least attention.
Mr. Gracie4 has solicited my interposition with you for the pardon of Janus Ross lately convicted of forging a Check on the Bank. His argument is that the culprit is of respectable connections in South Carolina—quite a lad (say from 16 to 18) a very simple lad—& led to this act by the embarrassment of not being able to account for the prudent expenditure of a sum of money advanced him by a friend of his fathers for his own use. I confide in what Mr Gracie says, & really believe it is as favourable a case for a pardon as can easily occur.
I remain with respect & true attachment Dr Sir Yr Obed serv
ALS, Columbia University Libraries.
1. For background to this letter, see the introductory note to H to James McHenry, June 1, 1798.
3. This sentence and those that follow concern a dispute over who was to command the volunteer companies being raised under authority of Sections 3 and 4 of “An Act authorizing the President of the United States to raise a Provisional Army” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845). description ends 558 [May 28, 1798]). Several volunteer companies had been organized in New York City with such names as the Washington Dragoons, Federal Guard, New York Rangers, and Independent Volunteers ([New York] Argus. Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser, June 9, July 17, 28, 1798). The members of these companies then proceeded to select their own officers, and this in turn brought them into conflict with the militia brigade of the City and County of New York. The militia brigade’s orders for July 23, 1798, stated: “The Council of Appointment will meet … next month.… It is understood that a number of volunteer companies are about forming in this city, with a view to be organized at the ensuing session of the Council, and annexed to this brigade. It is, therefore proper that Brigadier Gen. [James M.] Hughes should have some information of the … names of the gentlemen who it is contemplated should respectively command them; but it must be understood, that the actual choice of officers is in the power of the Council solely …” ([New York] Argus. Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser, July 31, 1798). The attitude of militia members toward the officers selected by the volunteer companies was summarized in the following public letter from “A Subaltern” to the Council of Appointment: “The military ardor prevailing at this moment, will doubtless induce many persons to present themselves to you, as candidates for offices in the militia of this city and county.…
“In some of the late associations in this city, the men have selected their officers, not from the brigade, but out of their own members. If they should receive your sanction and take rank of any officer of the brigade, the dissatisfaction occasioned by a measure of much injustice, would doubtless occasion a very general resignation.… Regular promotion is the only means by which these gentlemen can, or ought to expect to rise into eminence.” ([New York] Argus. Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser, August 8, 1798.)
4. Archibald Gracie, a native of Scotland, immigrated to Virginia and then moved to New York City, where he was a prominent merchant and banker. He was president of the New-York Insurance Company and a director of the Bank of New York.