To James McHenry
New York June 27. 1799
It is a pity, My Dear Sir, and a reproach, that our administration have no general plan. Certainly there ought to be one formed without delay. If the Chief is too desultory, his Ministers ought to be the more united and steady and well settled in some reasonable system of measures.
Among other things—It should be agreed what precise force should be created naval and land, and this proportioned to the state of our finances.1 It will be ridiculous to raise troops and immediately after to disband them. Six ships of the line & twenty frigates and sloops of war are desireable—more would not now be comparatively expedient. It is desireable to complete and prepare the land force which has been provided for by law.2 Besides eventual security against invasion, we ought certainly to look to the possession of the Floridas & Louisiana—and we ought to squint at South America.3
Is it possible that the accomplishment of these objects can be attended with financial difficulty? I deny the possibility. Our Revenue can be considerably reinforced. The progress of the Country will quickly supply small deficiencies, and these can be temporarily satisfied by loans—provided our loans are made on the principle that we require the aliment of European Capital & that lenders are to gain and their gains to be facilitated not obstructed.
If all this is not true our situation is much worse than I had any idea of. But I have no doubt that it is easy to devise the means of execution.
And if there was every where a disposition without prejudice and nonsense to concert a rational plan I would chearfully come to Philadelphia and assist in it. Nor can I doubt that success may be ensured.
Break this subject seriously to our friend Pickering. His views are sound and energetic; and try together to bring the other Gentlemen4 to a consultation. If there is every where a proper temper & it is wished send for me & I will come.
Js. McHenry Es
ALS, Columbia University Libraries; ALS (photostat), James McHenry Papers, Library of Congress; copy, in the handwriting of Ethan Brown, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
2. H is referring to the authorized increases in the Regular Army as well as in the Additional Army and Eventual Army. See the introductory note to H to James Gunn, December 22, 1798.
3. H is referring to Francisco de Miranda’s plans for the liberation of Spanish America. See Miranda to H, April 1, 1797, February 7, April 6–June 7, August 17, October 19–November 10, 1798; H to Miranda, August 22, 1798; King to H, May 12, July 31, October 20, 1798, January 21, March 4, 9, 1799; H to King, August 22, 1798; Timothy Pickering to H, August 21–22, 1798.
4. Attorney General Charles Lee, Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert, and Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr.