To James Ross
New York December 18. 1800
The suggestion has come to me in various shapes. The truth is Col Smith has been engaged in large and various pecuniary transactions and the consequence was that his affairs became extremely embarrassed. In the course of a struggle with great pecuniary difficulties—things of questionable shape never fail to occur. If Col Smith has not escaped this consequence, it is not wonderful. The affair, of which I have heared, bearing hardest upon him is one with Major Burrows,3 in which a transaction respecting Constable4 was cited. Constable has acquitted Col Smith of ill intention and the result of my inquiry is that this acquittal was just.
On the whole, I am satisfied that Col Smith has meant well amidst a vortex of perplexing circumstances & that no objection from want of pecuniary fidelity ought to prevent his appointment. In other respects there will be no question.
Besides—nothing new I believe has occurred since he was appointed Col of ye. 12th. Will it be said that a man was fit for so honorable an5 office and not fit for that of Surveyor of a Port—integrity being the question?!
I sincerely hope that the objection may be relinquished & that he may be confirmed. A thousand considerations recommend it. Let me entreat your good offices.
Yrs. with the truest regard
James Ross Esqr
ALS, RG 46, Records of the United States Senate, National Archives; copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.
1. William S. Smith, a veteran of the American Revolution and John Adams’s son-in-law, was appointed secretary of the American legation in London in 1785. After a brief tour of Europe with Francisco de Miranda, he returned to the United States in 1788 and successively held the offices of United States marshal for New York and supervisor of the revenue for the District of New York. Although Adams nominated Smith as adjutant general with the rank of brigadier general on July 18, 1798, the Senate rejected the nomination. On January 8, 1799, he was appointed lieutenant colonel commandant of the Twelfth Regiment of Infantry (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 292, 293, 299, 303). On December 8, 1800, Adams nominated Smith as surveyor and inspector of the revenue for New York. After Smith’s nomination had been considered by a committee consisting of Gouverneur Morris, James Hillhouse, and James Gunn, the Senate confirmed Smith’s appointment on February 23, 1801 (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 357, 380, 384). A copy of the committee’s report, dated February, 1801, and its accompanying documents, including the copy of H’s letter printed above, is in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.
2. For Smith’s financial difficulties, see Benjamin Walker to H, October 4, 1796, note 1; H to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., April 22, 1797, note 10; H’s draft of George Washington to James McHenry, second letter of December 13, 1798; H to William Ward Burrows, March 10, 1800. See also Robert Morris to H, May 10, 1796; H to Charles Williamson, May 17–30, 1796; Walker to H, July 6, 1797; Timothy Pickering to H, July 18, 1798.
3. Burrows, a resident of Kinderton, Pennsylvania, had been considered for an appointment as commissioner of the revenue in January, 1798 (Jacob Read to H, January 18, 1798). On July 17, 1798, he was appointed a major in the Marine Corps (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 286, 290). On May 1, 1800, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and appointed the first commandant of the Marine Corps (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 350, 351).
4. William Constable.
5. In MS, “&.”