Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Benjamin Stoddert, 19 July 1799

From Benjamin Stoddert

Navy Dept. 19 July 1799.

Dr sir

I have directed the commanding officer of the Constellation, to conform strictly to the health regulations of the City.1 I shall deem it unpardonable conduct if he has not already done so.

I very much fear, that Talbot after all, will not go out in the Constitution—or if he Should, that Truxton will quit the Service.2 This avarice of rank, in the infancy of our Service, is the Devil. What think you of an early introduction of this principle in the Navy Service—I presume not to meddle with the land—that the Prest may appoint if he pleases, a Lt. to command the oldest Captains on any particular enterprize? I ask not this in levity, but for your serious opinion. I have thought for sometime, of getting Truxton, & some other Capts. of more understanding, to go on a cruise under the command of a younger officer. Something like this, or the British practice of laying by indifferent men on half pay, must be adopted—or the best concerted plans will be ruined in the execution.

I have the honor to be   with very great esteem D sir   Yr most Obed Sevt

Ben Stoddert

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; LC, RG 45, Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, Miscellaneous Letters Sent by the Secretary of the Navy, National Archives.

1On July 19, 1799, Stoddert wrote to “The Officer Commanding the Frigate Constellation in the absence of Captain [Thomas] Truxton” that he had received from New York a letter “of which the following is an Extract”: “Our Health Physician represented to me that an infectious disease brought from the West Indies has existed and still exists on board the Frigate Constellation—that the Lieut. who commands in the absence of Captain Truxton disregards all the Quarantine Laws and keeps open a free communication with his Vessel, thereby exposing the health of the Citizens. He is a man of warm temper & may colour strongly but his statement is probably not without foundation. The intention is not that this go to you as Complaint but as ground of some Instructions to the Commander to acquiesce in the Necessary precautions” (Naval Documents, Quasi-War, April 1799–July, 1799, 515–16).

2For an explanation of the contents of this sentence and the remainder of this paragraph, see Silas Talbot to H, January 15, May 13, 1799; Stoddert to H, February 6, May 3, 1799.

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