Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James McHenry, 16 July 1799

From James McHenry

War Department 16th. July 1799


I received this morning your letter of the 12th July instant on the subject of a modification of the invitations to supply rations for the troops of the United States on the Sea board.

You will recollect that the advertisement, calling for proposals for the year 1799, is dated the 21st March ulto., and that the time within which proposals may be received is limited to the 25th July instant.1 Altho’ I could have wished for your ideas sooner, it may not be too late to make some use of them. I shall attempt it. You will also by adverting to the copies of the Contracts with which you have been furnished2 for the supplies for the Troops, and my letter of instructions3 upon which these have or ought to have been founded, perceive, that the object you have in view for the ensuing year, has been substantially effected for the present year, in the articles which provide for a diminution of the price of the ration, as the issues at any one place shall be encreased.

There is nothing, you will also see, to prevent one or more persons from offering to supply for the whole troops within the United States, or the troops in any combination of the States.

Whatever may be the result of this measure I shall take respecting this subject, with those who have sent or may yet send in proposals before the 26th July, it need not delay any arrangements, which you contemplate, or any orders it may be necessary for me to issue relative to the Winter Quarters of the Troops especially as nothing has occured to me to induce an opinion that any change ought to be made in the places fixed on in my letter of instructions.

Should more eligible places have occured to you, I shall be obliged to you to mention them.

An answer to your letter of the 6th inst. is still delayed for want of a return which I expect from the Q M Genl.

I have the honor to be   Sir, your obedient Servant

James McHenry

Major General Alexander Hamilton

LS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1McHenry’s advertisement, which is dated March 21, 1799, reads in part: “Notice is hereby given, that separate proposals will be received at the office of the Secretary of the Department of War, until the expiration of the 25th of July next ensuing, for the supply of all rations, which may be required for the use of the United States from the first day of October, 1799, to the thirtieth day of September, 1800, both days inclusive, at the places and within the two districts herein after first mentioned; and also the separate proposals will be received at the said office upon the expiration of the 25th day of July next ensuing for the supply of all rations which may be required as aforesaid, from the first day of January in the year 1800, to the thirty-first day of December in the same year, both days inclusive, at the place and within the several states herein after mentioned, viz … The Ration to be supplied, is to consist of the following articles, viz. eighteen ounces of bread or flour, or when neither can be obtained, of one quart of rice, or one and a half pound of sifted or boulted indian meal, one pound and a quarter of fresh beef, or one pound of salted beef, or three quarters of a pound of salted pork, and when fresh meat is issued salt at the rate of two quarts for every hundred rations, soap at the rate of four pounds, and candles at the rate of a pound and a half for every hundred rations.

“It is expected the proposals will also extend to the supply of rice, whiskey, or other ardent spirits at the rate of half a gill per ration, and Vinegar at the rate of two quarts for every hundred rations. The proposals will specify the price of the several component parts of the ration, as well as those of substitutes or alternatives for parts thereof.

“The rations are to be furnished in such quantities that there shall at all times, during the term of the proposed contracts, be sufficient for the consumption of the troops at Michilimackinac, Detroit, Niagara and Oswego for six months in advances, and at each of the other posts on the western waters, for at least three months in advance of good and wholesome provisions, if the same shall be required. It is also to be permitted to all and every of the commandants of fortified places, or posts, to call for at seasons when the same can be transported or at any time in case of urgency, such supplies of like provisions in advance, as in the discretion of the commandant shall be deemed proper. It is to be understood that the contractor is to be at the expence and risk of issuing the supplies to the troops, and that all losses sustained by the depredations of an enemy, or by means of the troops of the United States, shall be paid for at the price of the article captured or destroyed, on the depositions of two or more persons of creditable character, and the certificate of a commissioned officer, ascertaining the circumstances of the loss, and the amount of the articles, for which compensation shall be claimed.

“The privilege is to be understood to be referred to the United States of requiring that none of the supplies which may be furnished under any of the proposed contracts shall be issued, until the supplies which have or may be furnished under contracts now in force have been consumed, and that a supply in advance may be always required at any of the fixed posts on the Sea board or Indian frontiers not exceeding three months.” ([Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States, March 29, 30, April 1, 1799.)

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