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To James Madison from Albert Gallatin, [ca. 19 November] 1812

From Albert Gallatin

[ca. 19 November 1812]


Mr Armstrong’s letter1

1. Preference to be given to contracts for supplying the army with provisions. This is so indubitable that how any hesitation on the subject could take place is not easily understood. That branch of military expenditure is the only one (pay excepted) which is well administered & under a good accountability. If it was practicable to extend the same system (of contracts) to other branches, the advantages would be immediately felt. But where the practice exists & has answered it should not certainly be changed. The contracts are not yet made for any important quarter & ought without hesitation to be promptly entered into.

2. Recruiting service. Its immediate organization is absolutely necessary & there is no time to be lost. We will otherwise be without the requisite number of men in April next. To organize & to act without delay is indispensible. The encrease of pay may be relied on. An encrease of officers for that service & their distribution are the points to be attended to & decided. The encrease either by encreasing the number of regiments (diminishing the number of men in proportion in each regiment) or the addition of a recruiting company, or of some supernumerary officers to each regiment, might, whichever principle be adopted, be arranged in all its details in half a day. The selection of persons to fill the new appointments is more difficult & on that account to be attended to at once. If this subject be not immediately attended to, it will be February before the recruiting parties are properly & actively employed.

3. Local force. Unless the measure be general it may be objectionable to raise it for New York alone. The only objection which I can perceive to the general plan is that it may at this moment impede the recruiting service. Perhaps to have a law only at the end of the session & not to act on it till the other recruiting service is nearly over would be most eligible.

Next year revenue & expences.

The expences are. 1 for civil list, miscellan. diplomatic 1.600.0002
2. for public debt including all
necessary demands of which
3 million for Treasy. Notes
3. army alone, as pr. prest. est. &
indian Departmt.
4. navy as it now stands  4.926.000
add deficiency in militia appn. for this year  1.000.000
The resources are
1. Revenue estd. for the whole 12.000.000
2. Treasury notes to replace those
which will be reimbursed
3. Loan 14.000.000
But we must add to war estimate
1. encrease of pay & officers 1.500.000
2. volunteers & militia, at least  2.500.000
and to the naval estimate
building 4 74s & 6 frigates 3.000.000
which added to the above 14.000.000
would make 1813 loan 21.000.000

I think a loan to that amount to be altogether unattainable. From Banks we can expect little or nothing, as they have already lent nearly to the full extent of their faculties. All that I could obtain this year from individual subscriptions does not exceed 3.200.000 dollars. There are but two practicable ways of diminishing the expenditure. 1. by confining it to necessary objects. 2. by introducing perfect system & suppressing abuses in the necessary branches.

1. In the War department, to reduce the calls for militia and above all to keep the controul over those calls & other contingent expences: in the navy to diminish greatly the number of gun boats, and to strike off all supernumerary midshipmen, pursers, sailing masters & other unnecessary officers.

2. System requires skill in forming & decision in executing. Both the preparing & executing such plans must rest almost exclusively with the heads of the departments. I have no doubt that knowledge & talents would save several millions & the necessary business be better done.

RC (DLC). Undated; dated 1812 in the Index to the James Madison Papers; date assigned here on the basis of evidence presented in n. 1. Unsigned; docketed by JM, “Gallatin A. / 1813 / Autumn previous to meeting of Congress.”

1Gallatin referred to a 16 Nov. 1812 letter he had received from John Armstrong in New York, in which Armstrong mentioned that “it is proposed to supply the army with food, otherwise than by contract, & that the old plan of buying and issuing, is seriously spoken of.” Armstrong warned Gallatin against abandoning the contract system for fear of waste. He reminded Gallatin that the “pause between the labors of the fall & those of the winter” made for conditions “highly favorable to recruiting,” so the recruiting stations should be opened. In his closing paragraph he informed Gallatin that he would be able “to raise thirty companies here of 100 men each, to serve during the war, on condition, that their service be confined to this Post and its dependencies” (Papers of Gallatin [microfilm ed.], reel 25).

2Printed copy in Henry Adams, ed., The Writings of Albert Gallatin (3 vols.; 1879; reprint, New York, 1960), has “$1,500,000” here (1:528).

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