From Nathan Rice
Oxford [Massachusetts] May 5th. 1800
By the regulations for the recruiting service the Soldiers were not allowed to possess any articles of clothing except those furnished by Government.1 Those not being all of the best quality, when received; can not reasonably be supposed to be at this time in the most perfect order. The appearance of my Regiment in this respect, altho not greatly inferior to others, makes but a shabby figure. If the new clothing is not to be issued to any untill the expiration of a year from the time of their enlistment—the Regiment never can appear handsomely clad. Would it not be ultimately Oeconomy and promote the good of the service to issue to a regiment at one time even before the expiration of the year—at least a part thereof say Hat, Coat, vest, 1 pr. linnen overalls—those to be worn only when on duty as guards or for exercise. It would excite the ambition of officers and men. Should the old clothes be wholly worn out before new ones are issued, the latter can have no relief, when men are ordered in fatigues. I would therefore submit to your consideration whether it will not be best to issue before the expiration of the first year.2
With the highest consideration I am Sir yr. Obedt Servant
N Rice Lt. Colo. Commandt.
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan.
1. Article XXI of the March, 1799, War Department pamphlet Rules and Regulations Respecting the Recruiting Service (H to Jonathan Dayton, August 6, 1798, note 6; H to James McHenry, March 21, 1799) reads: “No recruit is to be permitted to keep in his possession, after being sworn, any other cloathing, but that which he may receive from the public, except shirts, stockings, and shoes. The officer is therefore, to oblige him, to dispose of all his private cloathing, not excepted by this section, immediately, or to take the keeping of it upon himself, until an opportunity offers, to sell it for account of the recruit.”
2. H sent a copy of Rice’s letter to McHenry on May 13, 1800 (listed in the appendix to this volume). H’s letter to McHenry reads in part: “… I have not thought proper to issue an order in the case without your sanction. If the troops should not be disbanded before the year expires it is certain they will be in a very naked and distressed situation unless Clothing be issued by anticipation.”
On the copy of Rice’s letter in the William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan is written: “Justice at least, if not Generosity ought to be done to Officers & men in this Case. If their Cloathing is due before the 14 of June, let them have it. J.A.” The copy of Rice’s letter is endorsed: “Oxford May 5. 1800. Lt Col Comm N Rice to General Hamilton on advances to the Soldiers of Cloathing—and President’s Note on that subject.” Below the endorsement McHenry wrote: “To be filed with my letter (conversation preceding my resignation) to the President.” See McHenry to H, May 12, 13, 20, June 2, 1800.