To James McHenry
[New York, January 21, 1799]
I send you the draft of a Bill for regulating the Medical Establishment1 (I avoid purposely the term department which I would reserve for the great branches of Administration).2 You will see that nothing but an organisation with a general outline of duty is provided for. Detail-regulations will properly come from the President and the Departments, and the less these are legislated upon, in such cases, the better. When fixed by law, they cannot be varied as experience advises.
This particular establishment, however, is one to the right fashioning of which I feel myself more than ordinarily incompetent.
You mention in one of your letters that by the law of the 16 of July the appropriation for the augmented army ceases at the end of the present session.3 This is one construction of that law. A different might perhaps be maintained. But be this as it may, you find by a subsequent act of the same date intitled “An Act making certain appropriations &c”4 that 900000 Dollars are there appropriated for the same object without any qualification—and I take it for granted that whatever money should have been issued from the Treasury for the use of the War Department, previous to the end of the session, upon the first of those acts might be expended afterwards by this department without any question about its regularity.
James Mc.Henry Esq
ALS, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland; ALS (photostat), James McHenry Papers, Library of Congress; ALS (photostat), Princeton University Library; copy, in the handwriting of Philip Church, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. ADf, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress. H’s draft is similar to the first three sections of “An Act to regulate the Medical Establishment” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845). description ends 721–23 [March 2, 1799]).
2. See McHenry to H, January 5, 1799, In a report to John Adams dated December 24, 1798, McHenry mentioned the need for a medical establishment and wrote: “As military hospitals are indispensable to an army, especially in time of war, it is respectively suggested, that provisions on the subject ought to be made by law …” (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, 125).