Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Josias Carvel Hall, 24 August 1799

From Josias Carvel Hall, 24 August 1799

Havre-de-Grace Augt 24th 99


I am this Day honored with your’s of the 19th. & 21st Inst. Capt Norris is now here with his Battalion I will talk to him in private &, if you please, pass over what has proceeded. He has been of very little use in his recruiting Station. I will detain him here to do Duty in the Encampment.

The Returns shall hereafter be properly addressed

The Secretary of War, on application to that Purpose, has promised Horse-mens Tents. I have experienced so much Delay, that I do not expect their arrival in time to be of much use this Season If I had them I would remove a little Distance from this Place. It would subject the Officers to the necessity of living in Camp—The recruiting Qualifications are not necessarily those of a good Officer If a general Rule in this Case was admissible I should rather think it the reverse. It was on this Principle that I proposed sending particular Officers on this Duty. General Principles to be addopted on the Subject of relative Rank will save much Trouble & be less likely to create jealousy in those appointed: But, perhaps not prudent invariably to pursue it. I am not personally much interested in the Business: tho’ I believe I am the oldest Officer of my Rank in the Army. The Truth is, I do not feel myself much flattered by the Appointment: When I made a Tender of my service I realy thought the Country in some Danger from predatory Invasion & if that should happen it might be necessary to give a little Check to the Lecensious Temper of the Times; & in Consiquence left a Discretionary Power in my Friend, in Office, to bring forward or surpress my Name as Circumstance should advise.

I am aware that the Sentance of Death may be the Penalty of Desertion & that can be adjudged only by a general Court-Martial. If I have appeared urgent in the Case of the Prisoners in Confinement, it was from the Inconvenience & Risk of Keeping them, & under the Persuasion that the Extent of their Punishment will ultimately be Floging, to which a Regimental Court is adequate. Death I know is rearly inflicted in the American Army & particularly so in Times of Peace. I would propose Major Hopkins as Presidt & Lieut Campbell Smith as Judge Advocate. I daily expect the arrival of the recruiting Parties called who are called in; from those at that Time attending a Court can be formed. There is one Deserter with Major Bealls Battalion. I have ordered him to be sent to this Place to be tried; with the Witness with the others. If your order comes to Hand before I go to muster Major Bealls Batt: the Court can sit & decide in my absence & the recruitg. Service go on again immediately on my Return—

The Acct. was I find omited; but went on the next Day has I presume come to hand. The Surgeon has this Day arrived—Your second Letter of the 19th I have also received. I wish the application of ⟨Ja⟩mes Hamilton had been enclosed as intended. It ⟨—⟩, perhaps, have enabled me to answer more to the ⟨p⟩urpose. Lieut. Alexander is sick absent. I have not therefore an Opportunity of enquiring from him. But from the best Information I am able, at this Time, to obtain, & which I believe to be correct, ⟨I believe⟩ There is no Doubt on my Mind that Lt Alexander has acted perfectly constant with the Law & your explanatory Instructions when he enlisted, the alledged Prentice of said Hamilton. I am told he had the advice of respectable Counsel before he would accept of him. When Lieut: Alexander joins us, you shall be furnished with an authentic Statement. In the mean time if you so direct the Man shall be discharged. With great Consideration I am Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

J. Carvel Hall

(ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress). There are five "X" marks in the left margin of the letter, three on the first page, and two on the second page.

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