Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from James McHenry, 7 January 1800

From James McHenry

War Department 7th January 1800.


Being much pressed to prepare information called for by Congress, I can at present only notice the subject of your letters of the 2nd1 & 4th inst.2

Not considering the question whether rations can be issued to Officers’ Servants (who are not Soldiers) as within the Executive Competency to determine, I have embraced it in my report to the President as a subject for a Legislative provision.3

I shall not object to your calling on one of the Cavalry Officers, not in actual service, to aid the Deputy Paymaster General in the execution of his functions. Altho’ the law does not contemplate an assistant to a Deputy, yet on your Representation one would seem indispensible. With respect to extra allowance to the Assistant, I am more at a loss. I incline to the opinion however that it ought not to exceed 24 Dollars, or the Extra Allowance which the law provides for a Brigade Quarter Master or Brigade Inspector,4 and that the Officer who is called upon must consider this allowance as excluding him from any claim for travelling expences.

I take this occasion to observe that several General Courts Martial have been held by your order; for instance those on Major Hoops & Captain Fry5—the proceedings of which have not been forwarded as the Articles of War require, to this office.6

I have the honour to be,   Sir,   Your most obedient servant

James McHenry

Major Genl. Alexander Hamilton.

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

1H wrote four letters to McHenry on January 2, 1800, all of which are listed in the appendix to this volume. The letter of January 2, which McHenry is replying to in the letter printed above, proposed “that the servants of officers who are not soldiers should be permitted to draw rations.”

2H wrote two letters to McHenry on January 4, 1800, both of which are listed in the appendix to this volume. In the letter of January 4 to which McHenry is replying, H supported the request of Captain Benjamin Williamson, deputy paymaster, for a clerk to assist in the work of Williamson’s office. To support this request H enclosed a letter from Williamson to him, dated December 9, 1799 (listed in the appendix to this volume).

3This is a reference to McHenry’s report of January 5, 1800, to John Adams. Adams sent this report to Congress in a letter dated January 13, 1800 (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Military Affairs, I, 139).

4See Sections 12 and 13 of “An Act for the better organizing of the Troops 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); II (Boston, 1850). description ends 752–53 [March 3, 1799]).

5For the courts-martial of Adam Hoops and Frederick Frye, see H to McHenry, second letter of September 2, 1799.

6This is a reference to Article 24 of the “Administration of Justice,” which had been amended on May 31, 1786 (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXX, 316–22). Article 24 reads in part: “Every Judge Advocate, or person officiating as such, at any general Court-Martial, shall transmit, with as much expedition as the opportunity of time and distance of place can admit, the original proceedings and sentence of such Court-Martial, to the Secretary of War, which said original proceedings and sentence, shall be carefully kept and preserved in the Office of the said Secretary, to the end, that persons entitled thereto, may be enabled, upon application to the said Office, to obtain Copies thereof.” In 1794 the “Administration of Justice” was printed as an appendix to the articles of war, which were published as Rules and Articles for the Better Government of the Troops. See H to Jonathan Dayton, August 6, 1798, note 11.

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