George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 3 May 1799

From Alexander Hamilton

New York May 3d 1799

Dr Sir

At length the recruiting for the additional regiments has begun in Connecticut New York New Jersey Pensylvania and Delaware. The enclosed return of cloathing will sufficiently explain to you that it has commenced at least as soon as the preparations by the Department of War would permit—It might now also proceed in Maryland and Massachusettes, and the next post will I trust enable me to add Virginia—but that I do not think it expedient to outgo our supply of Cloathing. It will have the worst possible effect—if the recruits are to wait a length of time for their cloathing.1

I anticipate your mortification at such a state of things—various causes are supposed to contribute to it.

It is said that the President has heretofore not thought it of importance to accelerate the raising of the army—and it is well understood that the Secretary of the Treasury is not convinced of its utility—Yet he affirms that for a long time past he has been ready & willing to give every aid depending on his department.2

The Secretary of War imputes the deficiency in the article of Cloathing to a failure of a contract which he had made and to the difficulty of suddenly finding a substitute by purchases in the market. It is however obvious that the means which have been since pursued have not been the best calculated for dispatch. The materials procured at distant places have been brought to Philadelphia to be made up—They are stated to be adequate in quantity.

You will observe that 6[00 suits]3 are numbered 1—This applies to a Regiment in the Western Country. I proposed to the Secretary to change the buttons. It has not been done.

Yet if the Secretary’s energies for execution were equal to his good dispositions, the public service under his care would prosper as much as could be desired. It is only to be regretted that good dispositions will not alone suffice, and that in the nature of things there can be no reliance that the future progress will be more satisfactory than the past.

Means, I trust sufficient, have been taken to procure from Europe a supply of Cloathing for the next year—And the Secy has assured me that he would immediately take measures for procuring a supply for the succeeding year.

As to other supplies I believe things are in tolerable train—and that there is a certainty of the most essential articles in due abundance.

The officers for North Carolina have been appointed4—No nomination has yet come forward from South Carolina.

Not a single field Officer has yet been appointed for the Regiment to be raised in New Hampshire Vermont & Rhode Island—It seems the members of Congress dissuaded from the nomination of those who were proposed by the General Officers and promised to recommend preferable characters—but this promise has not yet been performed. This want of organisation is an obstacle to the progress of the affairs of this Regiment.

It is understood that the President has resolved to appoint the Officers to the provisional army and that the Secretary has thought fit to charge the Senators of each State with the designation of characters.5 With the truest respect & attachment I have the honor to be Dr Sir Your Obed. ser.

A. Hamilton

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, DLC: Hamilton Papers; copy, DLC: Hamilton Papers.

1For reference to the return of clothing for the army in Philadelphia, dated 1 May 1799, see Hamilton to James McHenry, 2 May (second letter), n.6, 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 23:91–92.

2See the comments of John Adams and Oliver Wolcott, Jr., regarding recruiting soldiers for the New Army quoted in notes 2 and 3 to this letter of 3 May from Hamilton to GW, ibid., 98–101.

3In the ALS there is a blank space following “6”; the material in brackets is taken from one of the DLC copies 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 (ibid., 101).

4James McHenry sent Hamilton the approved list of North Carolina officers on 10 April (DLC: Hamilton Papers).

5See McHenry to GW, 2 May, n.1. GW did not respond to Hamilton until 6 June, at which time he wrote a letter marked “Private”: “Dear Sir, I have duly received your letter of the 3d of May, and am glad to find that the recruiting service is likely to progress without further delay. To facilitate this, nothing will contribute more than Cl[o]athing.

“It is certainly necessary to push on this business with proper energy, and to be provided with an ample and timely supply of every article wanted, if it is expected that such Troops as we have, should be, in any degree, respectable. This, I trust, will be done. And I should hope, ’ere this, that the field Officers for the Regiment to be raised in New Hampshire &c. have been appointed.

“It is very desireable that the selection of Characters to officer the Regiments, eventually to be raised, should be such as will do credit to the service, if they should be called into the field. The Secretary of War has requested me to furnish him with a list of names for the quota from Virginia, which I am taking measures to do; but, owing to my long absence from this State, I have so little personal knowledge of Characters, that I must rely very much on the information of others in whom I can confide. With very sincere regard I am, Dear Sir, Your Affecte Hbe Servt Go: Washington” (LS, DLC: Hamilton Papers; Df DLC:GW).

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