Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James McHenry, 6 February 1799

To James McHenry

New York Feby. 6. 1799

Dr. Sir

In one of your letters you desire me to think of the Distribution of the States into recruiting districts.1 I have accordingly turned my attention to the subject. But the result is that it will be best to assign to each Regiment its district and to charge its commanding Officer with the arrangement into subdivisions. If you approve this idea you had better write me an official letter, briefly telling me that the Recruiting service is to be put under my direction & desiring me to make a preliminary arrangement for the distribution of the States into Recruiting Districts and rendezvouses; upon which I will send the proper instructions to the several Commanders of Regiments.

I have not yet observed that the places of the Officers omitted in the arrangement reported by the General Officers has been supplied.2 I hope the Recruiting service will begin with complete not with mutilated or defective corps.

I regretted that Gibbs was not appointed.3 There is good reason to believe that he would command a Regiment well, probably better than the person whom the Objectors to him would approve. Their rule of judging of military qualification is most likely no very accurate one.

I regret also that the objection against Antifœderalism has been carried so far as to exclude several of the characters proposed by us.4 We were very attentive to the importance of appointing friends of the Governt. to Military stations—but we thought it well to relax the rule in favour of particular merit in a few instances and especially in reference to the inferior grades. It does not seem adviseable to exclude all hope & to give to appointments too absolute a party feature. Military situations, on young minds particularly, are of all others best calculated to inspire a zeal for the service and the cause in which the Incumbants are employed. When the President thinks of his son in law5 he should be moderate in this respect.

The inclosed letter from Col Fairlie6 relates to the second son of our late Chief Justice.7 His father you know was Antifœderal. This young man has as yet no fixed political creed. They tell me there is nothing personally to his disadvantage. I am clear therefore that it will be expedient to give him an appointment.

Adieu My Dr friend   Yrs. truly


J McHenry Esq

ALS, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; copy, in the handwriting of Philip Church, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1McHenry to H, January 9, February 4, 1799.

3See McHenry to H, second letter of January 21, 1799. On January 21, 1799, Caleb Gibbs wrote to H asking for his assistance in securing a commission in the Army (listed in the appendix to this volume).

5William S. Smith was John Adams’s son-in-law. On July 19, 1798, the Senate rejected his nomination as adjutant general with the rank of brigadier general (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 292, 293; Timothy Pickering to H, July 18, 1798).

On January 8, 1799, he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Twelfth Regiment of Infantry (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 299, 303).

6A resident of Albany, James Fairlie served as a major and aide-de-camp to Baron von Steuben during the American Revolution. After the war he became a clerk in the Circuit Court of Oyer and Terminer, and in the seventeen-nineties he was clerk of the New York Supreme Court.

Fairlie’s letter has not been found.

7William Yates was the son of Robert Yates, chief justice of the New York Supreme Court from 1790 to 1798. Robert Yates was Fairlie’s brother-in-law. On February 22, 1799, William Yates was appointed lieutenant in the First Regiment of Artillerists and Engineers (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 313, 317).

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