Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James McHenry, 22 January 1799

From James McHenry

War Department 22 Jany 1799

Dear Sir

I omitted to inclose to you yesterday the annexed schedule1 upon which my letter was a commentary.

The General in Chief has mentioned to me in explicit terms that it is a part of his plan to decline the occupations of the office unless, and until his presence in the field should be required for actual operations or other imperious circumstances should require his assistance. That persevering in this plan he cannot undertake to assume a direct agency incompatible therewith and that a half way acting might be more inconvenient than totally declining it.2 He then advises, in conformity with my opinion given to him in Philadelphia, a division of the military command between the existing general officers.3 I mention this that you may experience no embarrassment in giving me your ideas upon the distribution most proper to be adopted.

I have this moment received your note of the 21. and the sketch of the Hospital Bill, and am ever you affectionate friend

James McHenry

You will see Francis4 in New York who will inform you what progress he has made in preparing cloathing for the army &c.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; ADf, James McHenry Papers, Library of Congress.

2The preceding two sentences are a paraphrase of a portion of a letter which George Washington wrote to McHenry on December 16, 1798 (copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

3In his letter to McHenry on December 16, 1798, Washington wrote in part: “Let the charge and direction of our military affairs in the three most Southern States, be entrusted to General Pinckney. If, indeed, it will not derange him too much, to take immediately, a more northerly position—and more convenient for the purpose, let Virginia be added, and his position be in it; leaving South Carolina and Georgia to the care of Brigadier General Washington, subject to the orders of the former, through whom all the military concerns of those States should pass to the War Office. General Hamilton may be charged with superintending, under your direction, all the Troops and Posts which shall not be confided to General Pinckney; including the Army under General Wilkinson. His proximity to the Seat of Government will render this not inconvenient. The Official Letters of the Commander of the Western Army may pass open through your hands, to enable you to give immediately Orders in cases which may be too urgent to wait for the Agency of General Hamilton. The Companies to be recruited, according to the plan laid before me, in the States of Kentuckey and Tennessee, should be subjected to the direction of Major General Pinckney; because they compose a part of the Regiments which are to be raised in the three Southern States; but the present force in Tennessee must be excluded therefrom, otherwise an interference with the Command of Brigadier General Wilkinson, and the mode of his communication with the department of War, would follow, and confusion result from it.

“It will be useful that the whole of the recruiting service should be under one direction, and this properly appertains to the Office of Inspector General. He will, of course, be authorized to call to his aid the other General Officers.”

4Tench Francis was purveyor of public supplies.

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