Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from George Washington, 12 November 1798

From George Washington1

Philadelphia, Novr. 12th. 1798


Herewith you will be furnished with the Copy of a letter from the Secretary of War to me, suggesting many very important matters for consideration, and to be reported on.

It is my desire, that you will bestow serious and close attention on them, and be prepared to offer your opinion on each head, when called upon.

I also propose, for your consideration and opinion, a number of queries which had been noted by me, previous to the receipt of the Secretary’s letter (now enclosed). In stating these, I had endeavoured to avoid, and make them additional to, the objects which the Secretary of War, in a letter to me, dated the 16th ultimo, informed me would be subjects for my consideration.2 I find, however, that several of them, in substance, are contained in his last letter. But as they were digested previous thereto, and written, I shall, to save copying, lay them before you as they are, without expunging those parts which now appear in the Secretary’s Statement.

With very great esteem & regard,   I am, Sir,   Your most Obedt. Servt.

Go: Washington

Major General Hamilton.

LS, in the handwriting of Tobias Lear, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; ADfS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

1Although this letter is addressed to H, the draft is endorsed in Tobias Lear’s handwriting: “Major Generals Hamilton and Pinckney Nov. 12, 1798.”

2On October 16, 1798, McHenry wrote to Washington: “The President of the United States on the 30th of Sept. ulto inclosed to me commissions for the three Major Generals of the Army, signed and dated on the same day.

“When I considered the communications which may be expected from this department, at the time of presenting his commission to each of the generals, I found myself embarrassed respecting the course which he meant I should pursue on the occasion. It was my earnest wish to avoid the renewal of a subject, that had already been attended with too many unpleasant circumstances by returning the question upon him for more precise instructions. After therefore considerable deliberation, and as the most respectful course to him, I at last was induced to transmit the commissions to Generals Hamilton & Knox, and to inform them that I considered the order of nomination and approval by the Senate as determining their relative rank.

“I have also, my dear Sir, written to Generals Hamilton & Knox, calling them into service, and soliciting their presence, as soon as possible, and in all events by the 10th of November proximo. I suggested also to the President that it would be desireable I should be authorised to require your attendance, and that his own presence would be important and give facility to all measures relative to this meeting.

“My object in convening these officers is to derive from the knowledge they may have of the several characters, who have applied for military appointments, and others disposed to enter into the army, effectual and necessary aid in the selection and application of the most suitable to the different grades, and to prepare in conjunction with them, a list for the Presidents final approbation—relative—1st. To the measures necessary to be pursued to give efficacy and ensure success to the recruiting service. 2 To the distribution of the military force of the United States. 3d To the most certain, regular and œconomical mode of provisioning and recruiting and the troops in the field. 4 Use quantity and kind of artillery, military stores and other articles necessary to be procured, in addition to what we already have in our magazines and arsenals, and the proper places for occasional or permanent deposits of the same.” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)

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