Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James McHenry, [15 July 1796]

To James McHenry1

[New York, July 15, 1796]

My Dear Sir

I have considered the articles of War & rather think the case is not provided for by them. I incline to the opinion that The President ex officio as Commander in Chief has power to order a General Court Martial. But the exercise of this power would be liable to too much question & Criticism to be expedient.

What then is to be done? The President has a right to dis⟨miss⟩ Military Officers as holding their Comm⟨issions⟩ during pleasure—but the delicacy of the military character requires that ⟨– –⟩ should be exercised with Great Cauti⟨on⟩ & not till after very full investigation.

What then? When the Charges come forward let them be communicated to the Commanding General & he called upon to reply particularly to them. If there are facts to be proved & by persons with the army let three or five judicious Officers with the aid of the Judge Advocate & a Magistrate if to be had to administer oaths, be charged to collect testimony for the information of the Department of War to be laid before the President. Let the accuser & the accused be notified to attend the examination of the Witnesses to cross examine &c & let their testimony reduced to Writing by the Referrees or Commissioners with the Judge Advocate & certified by them with the observations of the Accuser & accused be transmitted to the War office & laid before the President who can afterwards act according to circumstances.

This is the best I can think of.

But you must by all means avoid the imputation of evading the inquiry & protecting a favourite.

Adieu   Yrs tr

A Hamilton

Have you devised any mean of ensuring an ex[p]lanation to the French Government?2 If it be not done & any thing amiss happens, I dont know what will befall you all.

Js Mc.Henry Esq

ALS, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

1This letter was written in reply to McHenry to H, July 4, 1796.

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