Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James McHenry, 12 February 179[8]

From James McHenry

Philad. 12 Feby 179[8]1

My dear Sir

I have recd. the result of my request to you2 and cannot be otherwise than pleased with it and thankful to you for it.

The inclosed is my first conceptions on certain past transactions3 in which you were a participator and perhaps adviser.4 I believe every thing was then conducted as it has been since, after due deliberation and for the best. It is however no easy matter to account for the great expenditures that have taken place beyond what had been expected, and not involve predecessors in some censure, and at the same time insinuate a belief or expectation that similar expences may in future be avoided, thereby to encourage to the prosecution of the same object. Will you run over the pages and make such notes or alterations as may appear to you proper. I have no copy of what I send. It is the first draught. I pray you therefore not to lose any of the sheets and to return it as soon as may be with your commentary.

Will it not be proper to subjoin to my letter certain propositions for consideration. Such as

The expediency of using the timber that has been procured for the purposes for which it was obtained or

2. The propriety of making a provision for a permanent navy yard and gradual or prompt purchase of timber &c proper for building and equipping ships of different rates &c.

Give me some reflexions on this point.

Yours affectionately

J McHenry

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1McHenry mistakenly dated this letter “1797

2See McHenry to H, January 20, 1798; H to McHenry, January 27–February 11, 1798.

3The enclosure was a draft of McHenry’s report on “Naval Expenditures, and the Disposition of Materials.” This report is dated March 22, 1798, and it was communicated to the House of Representatives on May 1, 1798 (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Naval Affairs, I, 37–56).

4On March 27, 1794, Congress passed “An Act to provide a Naval Armament” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 350–51) authorizing the President to provide four ships of forty-four guns each and two ships of thirty-six guns each. Although the War Department was responsible for the construction of the ships, the Treasury Department had been charged with responsibility for procuring the supplies for them. See Henry Knox to H, April 21, 1794.

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