Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James Wilkinson, 21 November 1799

From James Wilkinson

Baltimore Novr. 21. 1799


Your Letter respecting Hamtramck & Lt Claiborne,1 has come to Hand & is the last I have received from you.

I left Phila. the 16th. Inst, arrived here the 17th. & shall sail Tomorrow in the Vessel intended for me, requiring so much time for equipment.

From some conversation with the Secy of War, the Day before I left Phila. I fear the proposed organization of the four old Regts: will be cut up,2 on grounds too frivolous in my estimation, to be opposed to the salutary consequences, which must ensue the confirmation of it, and I fear it will be long, very long, before we shall be able to embody the Officers of the several Corps, & lay the foundations of Order & responsibility.

The transfers deemed essential to a prompt & convenient incorporation, of the Officers of the several Regiments, will in the Ministers opinion bear to hard against the pretensions of Individuals, and of this you will be able to form a clear Judgment, by a comparative view of the Organization proposed,3 & the manuscript Register of the four Old Regiments which I left in your Hands4—it will be found that the benefits & the injuries which necessarily accrue, & which were unavoidable, are partial & superficial, except in an instance or two, & I understood that you would not suffer these, to prevent a salutary measure of general influence. Mr. McHenry is afraid of Clamour & discontent, but I think his apprehensions groundless, & shall be content to take on myself the responsibility of the Act. Capt ShaumBurgh5 of the 2nd. being on the Mobile, & being the proposed officer for Brigade Qr. Master, I shall be obliged to transfer Him to the 3rd Regt., but in doing this I shall have care that no Interest is violated. I can but believe that it is erroneous in a public functionary to suffer little present difficulties, to mar arrangements of future deep importance, and I dismiss the subject with the expression of my Hopes, that my agency in the transaction, may not involve, in your Breast, any doubts of the Candor, principle, & public spirit which has directed me.

By the last advice from Norfolk, the Ordnance Brig had not arrived, to guard against unexpected embarrassments, I will thank you to drop me a line for my Government, in case of misfortune to Her on the voyage from N York—addressed to the care of Luke Wheeler Esqr. Norfolk.6

With perfect consideration, respect & attachment   I am sir   Your devoted

Ja Wilkinson

Majr Genl Hamilton

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1H to Wilkinson, November 13, 1799. See also Wilkinson to H, November 12, 1799.

4In the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, is a list of the officers of the first four regiments of Infantry arranged according to rank and the dates of their commissions. This list differs from similar lists in the Hamilton Papers in that it does not have any insertions or additions in H’s handwriting.

5Bartholomew Shaumburgh was a captain in the Second Regiment of Infantry.

6A bill from “Ebenezer Stevens, Agent for the War Department for Genl. Wilkinsons family Stores” for the trip from New York to Natchez is dated November 8, 1799, and totals £129.9.10 or $323.73 (ADS, Columbia University Libraries). A receipt dated November 27, 1799, from Thomas and Nathaniel Bloodgood, who ran a store at 29 Front Street, New York City, is attached to the bill (DS, Columbia University Libraries). On the back of the bill H wrote: “The Stores in the account annexed were procured for General Wilkinson and his family for their voyage from this city to the Natches. Under the extraordinary circumstances of the case, I had no doubt that they were properly a charge on the Government and therefore sanctionned the payment by Ebenezer Stevens Esqr. as Agent for the War Depar[t]ment. The Original Documents having been by some accident mislaid I give this Certificate to serve in lieu thereof.

A Hamilton
New York Decr. 11. 1800”

(ADS, Columbia University Libraries).

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