Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Jonathan Dayton, 6 August 1798

To Jonathan Dayton

New York August 6th. 1798

My dear Sir.

I received at Philadelphia your letter of the 27th of July1 the answer to which has been delayed by excessive occupation. You know, I trust, sufficiently my sentiments of you, not to need being told how much pleasure your appointment2 gave me, and how highly I value the confidence you express in me.

It will probably be unexpected to you to be told that I am not yet in the exercise of the functions of my Military office3 and that my participation in the preliminary arrangements is only occasional and very limited. Such however is the course of the Plan which has been adopted by the Executive.

But I have notwithstanding had conversations with the Secretary at War on the points you mention, and to the extent of my opportunity have endeavored to promote a right direction. You no doubt have before this received a letter from the Secretary on the Subject of proper Characters for Officers.4 It seemed to be determined in his mind to appoint Coll. Aaron Ogden to the command of a Regiment.5 Every body must consider him as a great acquisition in this Station. The part of your letter which respects him, announcing the certainty of his acceptance, was particularly grateful to me. Inclosed you will receive the Instructions for the Recruiting Service6 which were previously prepared by the Secretary at War. I made such remarks upon them as hastily occurred. Examine them carefully and Suggest to me whatever amendments or additions may present themselves to you. You will oblige me by free communication at all times.

Yours truly I remain   Your friend & obedt Servant

A Hamilton

Brigadier General Dayton
E Town

Copy, in the handwriting of Philip Church, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Letter not found.

5Ogden, a native of New Jersey, served throughout the American Revolution, and at the close of the war he held the rank of captain. He studied law after the war and became a prominent attorney in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. On January 8, 1799, Ogden was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Eleventh Regiment of Infantry (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 299, 303).

6Although this enclosure has not been found, it was a copy of the War Department pamphlet entitled Rules and Regulations Respecting the Recruiting Service. Originally prepared by James McHenry for use in recruiting for the Regular Army (see McHenry to H, March 13, 1799), which had been authorized by “An Act to ascertain and fix the Military Establishment of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845). description ends 483–86 [March 30, 1796]), the pamphlet had been printed sometime before July 28, 1798, the date on which H prepared his enclosure to the letter printed above. On February 4, 1799, McHenry ordered H to submit any revisions or additions to this pamphlet which H believed were necessary. On March 10 and 15, 1799, H sent his criticisms to McHenry, and on March 18, 1799, McHenry informed H that, where possible, his revisions had been incorporated in the new edition then being printed. On March 21, 1799, McHenry wrote to H that he was sending him ninety copies of the new edition.

Five copies of the printed Rules and Regulations Respecting the Recruiting Service have been found. Four of these copies (in the Boston Athenæum; New York Public Library; Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; and the Philip Lightfoot Papers, Swem Library, College of William and Mary) each contain thirty-seven articles and are identical in their printed texts, differing only in how the blanks in Articles II, V, and XXVIII are, or are not, filled in. These four copies are all signed “James McHenry Secy. of War.” The fifth copy is in the George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. This copy contains only thirty-five articles, and its printed text is markedly different from that of the other four copies. In addition, it is not signed by McHenry. In the letter printed above H is referring to the copy in the George Washington Papers.

Although none of the five copies indicates when each was printed, there is ample evidence that the copy in the George Washington Papers was issued in 1798 and that the other four copies were issued in March, 1799. On September 12, 1798, McHenry ordered Major Daniel Jackson to take charge of the recruiting parties in Massachusetts. He enclosed a copy of the Rules and Regulations Respecting the Recruiting Service and stated: “As the fifteenth and sixteenth articles of the regulations are intended to have application only upon an extensive scale of recruiting—they are to be considered in the present state of things as inapplicable and not intitling the Commandant &c to any extra allowance other than the actual expence they are at for stationery and postage of letters to be certified as required” (copy, enclosed in McHenry to John Adams September 15, 1798 [ALS, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston]). McHenry’s statement obviously refers to a version of the Rules and Regulations Respecting the Recruiting Service in which neither Article 15 nor Article 16 deals solely with stationery and postage. This applies only to the copy in the George Washington Papers. In a letter to H on May 9, 1799, McHenry described the physical appearance of the two editions: “The old [1798] are printed in a large type, and without my signature.” A comparison of the size of the type in the various copies and the fact that only the copy in the George Washington Papers lacks McHenry’s signature reinforces the conclusion that the copy in the George Washington Papers is the 1798 edition and that the other copies are the March, 1799, edition. Finally, H’s “Remarks” enclosed in the letter printed above make it clear that he was referring to the copy in the George Washington Papers.

In addition to the printed versions of this document, there is a manuscript in the National Archives which is a partial revision of the 1798 edition. This document, which is dated August 27, 1798, differs from the 1798 edition in the George Washington Papers in that it contains some minor changes in wording and provides for an inspector general who would be in charge of the recruiting service (D, enclosed in McHenry to William Simmons, September 19, 1798 [LS, RG 94, Adjutant General’s Office, Miscellaneous Letters Received and Sent by the Secretary of War, 1798–1799, National Archives]).

Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications in the United States From the Genesis of Printing in 1739 Down to and Including the Year 1820 (Chicago, 1931), XII, 224, mistakenly lists two different 1798 editions of the printed pamphlet as being located in the Boston Athenæum. Actually only one copy of Rules and Regulations Respecting the Recruiting Service is in the Boston Athenaeum (Evans No. 34894), and it is a copy of the March, 1799, edition. In addition, Appleton P. C. Griffin, A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenaeum (Boston: The Boston Athenæum, 1897), 211, incorrectly lists the 1799 edition as being the 1798 edition.

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