Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James McHenry, 16 January 1799

To James McHenry

New York Jany 16. 1799

Dr. Sir,

You will receive herewith the Draft of a Bill for a provisional army.1 It includes only those things of the former Bill2 which are appropriate to this object—the other parts of that Bill being now in full force. The operation of the Bill which has been already sent3 you renders the repetition of several clauses in the present un [ne]cessary. The aim indeed ought to be to have a fundamental arrangement which will attack of course upon all subsequent provisions of force so that the law for every augmentation need only define the number to be raised and the duration of service and the mode of raising.

An eye has been had to this in the draught of the first Bill and of the two additional clauses now sent for the same Bill has the same view. This will be more deliberately & correctly attended to in the plan of a Bill which I shall begin to work upon from this time but which cannot be ready for a considerable time. A Bill for the Hospital establishment will follow in two or three days.

Yrs. truly


PS. The considerable mutilation of the nominations proposed by the Commander in Chief as it appears in the result naturally excites curiosity. It ought to be presumed, and yet the mind involuntarily disputes the presumption, that there are good reasons for it and that the service will be finally benefitted. But I confess it would be a relief to me to know a little in detail what has influenced the departure—how the unfitness of those who have been declined has appeared and what means are in train to do better.4 Pray be particular and confidential. You will not consider any letter of mine beginning with “Dear Sir” as Official.

ALS, Montague Collection, MS Division, New York Public Library; ALS (photostat), James McHenry Papers, Library of Congress; copy, in the handwriting of Philip Church, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1H’s draft has not been found, but see “An Act giving eventual authority to the President of the United States to augment the Army” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845). description ends 725–27 [March 2, 1799]). See also the introductory note to H to James Gunn, December 22, 1798. This draft was requested in McHenry to H, January 10, 11, 1799.

2See “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 558–61 [May 28, 1798]). Although President Adams’s authority to raise a Provisional Army had lapsed on December 2, Sections 3, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, and 14 of the 1798 act were still in effect.

4This is a reference to Adams’s Army nominations of December 31, 1798 (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 298–305). The Senate confirmed the appointments on January 8, 1799, and the list appeared on January 10, 1799, in the Gazette of the United States, and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser.

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