Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from James McHenry, 19 April 1797

From James McHenry

[Philadelphia] 19 April 1797.

My dear H.

I enclose you a further request on the subject of the paper communicated to you in my last,1 that you may have the whole before you and that you may aid me with your talents and experience.

It strikes me that, it will be proper for the Pres. to state to Congress the species of defensive force necessary for the occasion, and consider it an essential attribute of negociations I had given him in writing the kind & the quantity & expence of the force I conceived indispensably requisite2 and am very happy to find that I have met in every thing but quantity your ideas.

Would it be disadvantagious to the U.S. to propose to France a new commercial treaty considering the exist, com. treaty as null which should comprise in it every article of the B. treaty that can be made applicable to the Trade of the two countries. Would not this serve to silence Amer. clamours whether adopted or refused.

ADf, James McHenry Papers, Library of Congress.

1McHenry to H, April 14, 1797.

McHenry’s “further request” was for advice in replying to a letter which John Adams had written to him on April 15, 1797. Although Adams’s letter to McHenry of April 15 has not been found, a notation in his letter book which follows the copy of a letter sent to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., on that date states: “A Similar Letter mutatis mutandis was sent to the Secretary of State, the Secretary at War and the Attorney General on the Same day.” Adams’s letter to Wolcott reads: “The President of the United States requests the Secretary of the Treasury, to commit to writing in detail, and report to the President in Writing, as early as may be convenient Such particulars as the Secretary may think necessary or expedient to be inserted in the President’s Speech at the opening of the ensuing Congress under the heads of:

“1. Such Things as ought to be communicated to Congress concerning the State of the Union.

“2. Such Measures as ought to be recommended to Congress for their Adoption.

“And the Presidents desire is that the Secretary would not confine himself to matters merely within the Treasury Department, but give himself a liberal Latitude, both in relation to the other departments, and to the illustrations and Reasonings in Support of his opinions.

“The President also requests the Secretary to report to him his opinion of the Articles which ought to be inserted in the Instructions of an Ambassador, Envoy ordinary or Extraordinary or Minister Plenipotentiary to be sent to France upon Supposition it should be deemed consistent with the Dignity, Honour and Interest of the United States to Send another mission to that Power.” (LC, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.)

2McHenry is referring to a letter which he sent to Adams on April 8, 1797. The letter was a report on the “quantum and kind of defensive force necessary at this juncture, and which it appears to the Secy. of War, Congress ought to make immediate provision for.…” McHenry proposed: “the following actual and contingent force. Of actual force, which ought to be raised as soon as possible vz. One Regiment or corps of Artillerists and Engineers; One Regt. of Infantry; two companies of Dragoons; three Frigates of 32 guns and six sloops of war of 16 guns. Of contingent force vz. 10,000 regulars to be raised only as wanted at the discretion of the President …” (AL, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston).

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