Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to James McHenry, 10 March 1799

To James McHenry


New York March 10. 1799

Dr Sir

Ought it not to be a rule to forward from your department to the Major Generals, as they are passed, copies of all laws respecting the military establishment? At any rate you will oblige me by sending those of the session just finished.

I observe in the 5 § of the Recruiting Instructions,1 filled up in Manuscript, the term of inlistment is five years. The law for augmenting the army2 § 2 directs the inlistment to be “for and during the continuance of the existing differences between the Ustates & the French Republic.” If there be any thing varying this, it has escaped me. Will you inform me? This inquiry is suggested by a new revision of the recruiting instructions.

As it may yet take time to prepare for me a complete list of the Officers of the army,3 I should be glad to have one of the field Officers only, with a note of the stations or destinations to which they have been assigned. I want much to place them over the detached posts & to concenter the direction.

I observe the XIII § of the Recruiting Instructions4 authorises the appointment of certain Courts Martial. Where is the power for this Regulation?

Sometime since I requested you to send me the organisation of the Officers as reported by the Commander in Chief.5 You replied that no such document had come to you.6 I imagine that I must not have expressed myself clearly for I well remember that the document, which I mean, was made out in Mr Lear’s hand writing7 for the purpose of being sent by you. It was an arrangement or distribution of the Officers who were nominated into Regiments batalions and Companies, assigning to each company, by their names, its proper complement of Officers.

It appears to me very important that the Regimental Pay Masters & Quarter Masters should be designated without delay. They are the proper organs through which all issues of monies & supplies ought to pass. If I remember rightly, in the late war, the Qr. Master & Adjutant were appointed by the Commander of the Regiment8— the Paymaster was designated by the Officers of each Regiment.9 What has been the practice lately? Whatever be the mode I wish very much to be instructed to have the thing done.

Will it not be adviseable speedily to direct the field Officers of each Regiment to report for the consideration of the President an arrangement of the relative rank of their Officers in the Regiment? This will not work any inconvenience as to the corps, of which the Officers have not yet been appointed. And its being done will facilitate future operations.

Yrs. very truly

A Hamilton

Js. McHenry Esq

ALS, Columbia University Libraries; ALS (photostat), James McHenry Papers, Library of Congress; copy, in the handwriting of Philip Church, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1This is a reference to the 1798 edition of a War Department pamphlet entitled Rules and Regulations Respecting the Recruiting Service. See H to Jonathan Dayton, August 6, 1798, note 6. Article V reads: “Each recruit is to be enlisted for the term of   and to receive the bounty   but no part of the bounty to which a recruit is entitled, before joining his company or corps, is to be advanced until he shall have been sworn before a magistrate according to the form herein prescribed. The recruiting officer will be cautious to regulate the proportions of such advance, agreeably to law.”

In the 1798 edition in the George Washington Papers, Library of Congress, the first blank space is filled with the words “five years.”

2This is a reference to “An Act to augment the Army of the United States, and for other purposes” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845). description ends 604–05 [July 16, 1798]).

3See McHenry to H, February 4, 1799; H to McHenry, March 5, 1799.

4See H to Dayton, August 6, 1798, note 12.

5H to McHenry, February 16, 1799 (listed in the appendix to this volume).

6McHenry to H, February 19, 1799 (listed in the appendix to this volume).

7The lists in the handwriting of Tobias Lear are in the George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

8H did not “remember rightly.” In the general reorganization of the Army which Congress enacted on May 27, 1778, it was provided: “That the adjutant and quarter master of a regiment be nominated by the field officers out of the subalterns, and presented to the Commander in Chief, or the commander in a separate department, for approbation; and that being approved of, they shall receive from him a warrant agreeable to such nomination” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XI, 542).

9On June 25, 1776, the Continental Congress resolved “That a regimental pay master, who is not to be an officer of the army, be appointed by the said colonies to each of the said batallions …” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , V, 479). On July 16, 1776, it was resolved “That a pay master be appointed to each regiment in the army of the United States …” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , V, 564). The 1778 general reorganization of the Army provided: “That the pay master of a regiment be chosen by the officers of the regiment, out of the captains or subalterns, and appointed by warrant …: the officers are to risque their pay in his hands: the pay masters to have the charge of the cloathing, and to distribute the same” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XI, 542).

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