Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Henry Knox, 29 March 1794

From Henry Knox1

W. D. March 29 1794

Sir

The estimates herein enclosed relatively to the fortifications is a Copy of the one present’d to the Committe of Congress,2 and is presumed to have been contemplated in the Law making the appropriations upon the Subject3—some places however are mentioned in the Law which are not contained in the estimate.4

It will be necessary to appoint some man of character, for integrity and intelligence in each of the places to be fortified for the purpose of obtaining the labour and materials necessary for the fortifications. I presume the appointment of such persons will belong to your department and under this impression, I have conceived it proper on my part to draft a letter according to the purport of No. 2.5

As it will be perceived that Garrisons are contemplated it will be necessary that some arrangement be also made for furnishing the rations and other necessary supplies in the Quarter Masters Department.

You will decide upon the proportions of the Sums for the fortifications to be placed in the hands of the Agent to be appointed. They ought to be sufficient to obtain every thing which shall be wanted so that the Works may not languish for want of the necessary means.

Copy, RG 233, Reports of the Secretary of War, Third Congress, National Archives.

1A copy of this letter was enclosed in a report which Knox submitted to Congress on December 19, 1794 (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Military Affairs, I, 71–107).

2Knox’s estimates are dated February 28, 1794, and are printed in ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Military Affairs, I, 62–65. They were submitted to a committee of the House of Representatives consisting of Thomas FitzSimons of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Goodhue of Massachusetts, Jeremiah Wadsworth of Connecticut, Uriah Forrest of Maryland, Francis Malbone of Rhode Island, Elias Boudinot of New Jersey, Josiah Parker of Virginia, Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, and Richard Winn of South Carolina, which on January 7, 1794, had been instructed to report on the expense of fortifying ports and harbors (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 155, 164). The committee used Knox’s estimates in recommending appropriations (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 479). Congressional plans for fortifications were given in “An Act to provide for the Defence of certain Ports and Harbors in the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 345–46 [March 20, 1794]).

3In “An Act making appropriations for the support of the Military establishment of the United States, for the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 346 [March 21, 1794]) Congress provided for appropriations for the fortifications and cannon which Knox had estimated were necessary.

4Knox based his estimates on the fortification of sixteen locations. Five locations were added by amendments in the Senate and in the House of Representatives (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 479–80, 522). “An Act making appropriations for certain purposes therein expressed” provided an additional thirty thousand dollars for fortifications (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 394 [June 9, 1794]).

5Knox enclosed a copy of this letter, dated March 29, 1794, in his report on fortifications which he submitted to Congress on December 19, 1794. The letter reads as follows: “You having been appointed for the purpose of obtaining the labour, implements & materials for the fortifications which are to be erected at   in pursuance of a law of the United States for that purpose, are to regard the following instructions as the general rule of your conduct.

“1st   Upon the Engineer’s or Superintendant’s of the works making a requisition upon you in writing for labour or workmen to erect earth works of the description which he shall give, you will consider well whether the object described could be accomplished with more œconomy, by a contract with some responsible person or persons at a certain rate per cubical yard, or by hiring individuals per day. In general, it is the most saving mode to remove earth by contract. If this upon full investigation should appear to be the case, you will of course adopt it.

“2nd   It will be expected that for any mechanical work to be performed, whether relatively to the fortifications, or the mounting of artillery, that you will obtain every article upon the best terms possible. This will be essential for the sake of your own reputation, as it is not improbable that all the accounts respecting this business may hereafter be published. Besides which, the accounting officers of the Treasury will rigidly examine every charge and if exhorbitant, or not well vouched, they will make the necessary deductions.

“3rd.   It is to be understood by you that the requisition in writing upon you by the Engineer, or by the Superintendent authorized by the Engineer for that purpose will be essential in the passing your accounts. It is possible however that some other person than the Engineer may hereafter be appointed to mount the Cannon, in that case he will exhibit his appointment to you before you furnish any supplies.

“The sum contemplated for the Port of   is not to be exceeded without some pressing reason. It will be necessary therefore at the time that the first moiety of the said sum should be expended that you should enclose me an abstract of the articles for which it has been disbursed, together with a Statement of the Engineer or Superintendent, of the proportion which the sum expended bears to the whole work, taking into consideration the purchase of any materials which are to serve for the general object.

“The amount of the expences for making new carriages for Cannon, can not now be ascertained; but the Secretary of the Treasury will place   dollars in your hands to be appropriated to that object.” (Copy, RG 107, Copies of War Department Correspondence and Reports, 1791–1796, National Archives.) This letter is printed in ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Military Affairs, 104–05.

Within the Treasury Department Tench Coxe was responsible for negotiating these contracts and for seeing that they were carried into effect.

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