Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James McHenry, 16 June 1799

To James McHenry


New York June 16. 1799

Dr. Sir

Seeing the terrible delays which take place is it not adviseable immediately to authorise your Agents at New York & Boston to take prompt measures for increasing your supply of Cloathing tents and such other articles as are in Arrear? Considering past experience can you possibly depend on the present plan for the future supply? If blue Cloath cannot be found for the whole, better to take some other Colour by intire regiments for those which have not yet begun to recruit?

The brest fleet is out. Its destination is in all probability Ireland,1 but ought we so intirely to rely upon this as to omit to take the precaution of having some fast sailing vessels on the look out before our principal ports—Charles Town, the entrances of the Chesapaek the Delaware New York, New Port Boston, with perhaps the establishment of signals?

It would be awkward to be intirely surprised & to have some of our banks fall into the hands of the Philistines. When we think of Egypt2 we ought not to consider the attempt as impracticable. Announcing that it is a mere act of caution without intelligence no inconvenient alarm will be created. It may even be useful to bring home to the minds of our Citizens that our Government does not deem an invasion impossible.

Col Stevens3 informs me that sometime since the UStates lent to New York a thousand stand of arms which are disposed in a situation to be lost and are not wanted by the State. There is no reason why their return should not be asked.

Adieu Yrs. Affecy

A Hamilton4

The Secy of War

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, in the handwriting of Ethan Brown, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1H is incorrect. On April 25, 1799, Admiral Eustache Bruix, French Minister of Marine, sailed from Brest with twenty-five ships of line and ten smaller vessels. Avoiding the British blockading squadron under Alexander Hood, baron Bridport, Bruix sailed southward and passed the Strait of Gibraltar on May 5, 1799. He reached Toulon on May 14 and left on May 26 with twenty-two ships of line. From June 4 to June 8 he anchored in Vado Bay while part of the fleet reinforced the besieged garrison at Genoa. On June 22 he anchored at Cartagena, leaving there on June 29 with sixteen Spanish ships of line. On August 13 Bruix returned to Cadiz with the allied fleet.

2This is a reference to Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt on July 1, 1798, and his subsequent conquest of that country.

3Ebenezer Stevens.

4On the envelope McHenry wrote: “What clothing has Mr [Jonathan] Jackson been ordered to procure? Has [Timothy] Phelps & [Peleg] Sanford been engaged to furnish? [Caleb] Swan. has that order been enlarged?”

Jackson was the Army contractor in Massachusetts. Phelps and Sanford were New Haven, Connecticut, merchants and the Army contractors for that state. Swan was paymaster general of the Army.

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