George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James McHenry, 29 April 1799

From James McHenry

Philad[elphia] 29th April 1799.

My dear Sir.

I received, this morning, your letter of the 23d inst. for which I am much obliged to you. I did not in my own mind consider you dilatory in your answer, aware of the nature of your employments, and the incessant interruptions, by company to which you are subject.

There are one or two points you mention which I shall say a few words to.

The officers of the additional Regiments were put upon pay from the date of their acceptances, because such has been the uniform practice of this office; because the obligation of the U.S. to pay is complete from the date of the acceptance; and because the law has left no discretion with the President to withhold their pay. It is true there are instances, where the President has said to certain General Officers, that it was expected they would not consider themselves intitled to pay till called into actual service: But even in such cases the consent of the officer was deemed necessary to give to the United States any right to withhold it.1

Some of these officers are now, and all will be speedily employed. Major General Hamilton has completed his arrangements for the recruiting districts in New York Connecticut, New Jersey Pennsylvania and Delaware, and nearly for Maryland and Virginia; and I have taken all the measures dependent upon me, to give immediate activity to the commencement and vigorous prosecution of the recruiting service. If it should languish at any time it will be on account of some deficiency of cloathing. Mr Francis is exerting himself in this branch of supply.2

The President desired me to send him a plan for settling the rank of the field officers of the additional regiments. Inclosed is the plan that appeared to me the best, and which I flatter myself he will approve.3

Mr Mercer has declined his second appointment. But altho’ the office is once more vacant I apprehend great endeavours will be used to have it filled either from this State or Massachusetts.

Inclosed is the arrangement for the distribution of the artillery, made in conformity with the ideas contained in your letter of Decmbr ulto and my instructions to the Major Generals. I add also a copy of my letter to General Pinckney respecting it.4

If I can procure one of Arrowsmith’s maps of the U.S. I shall send it to you. I am my dear Sir Yours truely & always

James McHenry

The dollar came safe.5


1For GW’s comments on this and McHenry’s explanation, see GW to McHenry, 5 May (second letter), and note 1 of that document.

2In February 1795 the U.S. Senate confirmed GW’s nomination of the Philadelphia merchant Tench Francis as purveyor of public supplies.

3McHenry enclosed a copy of his letter to John Adams of this date (DLC:GW), in which he proposed that, all else being equal, previous military service would determine seniority among the field officers of the New Army. He also proposed that promotion in the army would follow the rule suggested by GW in his second report to McHenry of 13 Dec. 1798, printed as a note to GW’s first letter to McHenry of 13 Dec. 1798. See also GW to McHenry, 5 May (second letter), and note 1 of that document.

4The enclosed “Arrangement of the Artillery,” which is printed in Syrett, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 23:74–77, is composed of seven separate lists, including those for the western army; for Georgia and South Carolina; for New England; for Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York; for North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland; and two “For the Field.” McHenry’s enclosed letter to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of 29 April provides this explanation: “The inclosed arrangement and distribution of the Artillery and association of its Company Officers has been prepared by Major General [Alexander] Hamilton and is approved of by this department. . . . I have directed Major General Hamilton to cause this arrangement and distribution, so far as relates to his command, to be carried into immediate effect. You will also be pleased to take prompt order to give efficacy to the same so far as it relates to your command. You will perceive that the right on the sea board, is given to the first Regiment, and the left to the second: that a battalion of the first Regiment is left to the Western Army, that another battalion of the same Regiment is assigned to the posts in Georgia and South Carolina, and a third to the posts in North Carolina Virginia and Maryland As for the fourth it will remain for the troops in the field and may be annexed to the part of the army under your command” (DLC:GW).

5On 30 June GW wrote McHenry that he “preferred sending a Columbia Bank note for a dollar, to one of Silver (in a letter).” It has not been determined when or for what reason GW sent the “dollar” to which McHenry refers here.

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