James Madison Papers

Amendment to Report on War Department, [16 January] 1782

Amendment to Report on War Department

MS (NA: PCC, No. 27, fol. 153). In JM’s hand.

[16 January 1782]

*That at all times in the absence of the Secretary at War, the Assistant be authorised to transact all such business within the department as shall be assigned to him by the said Secretary, who shall be responsible for the conduct of the Assistant1

1By letters of 11 and 14 January, respectively, addressed to the president of Congress, Secretary at War Benjamin Lincoln sought permission to visit briefly his home in Massachusetts and to appoint an assistant, a secretary, and two clerks (NA: PCC, No. 149, I, 97–104). Each letter, received by Congress on the day it was written, was referred to a committee consisting of Ezekiel Cornell (R.I.), Richard Law (Conn.), and JM. The docket of the report notes that it was submitted to Congress on 16 January. This fact is not mentioned in the printed journal. Congress adopted the report on the following day (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, (35–37).

Besides recommending the additions of office personnel and the leave of absence requested by Lincoln, the committee in the original draft of the report included the statement “that at all times in the absence of the Secretary at War the business in the War Office shall devolve on his assistant subject to the orders of the Secretary at war Who shall be responsable for the transaction of the business in his absence in the same manner as when present.” In view of the asterisk at the beginning of JM’s suggested substitute for this portion of the report, he most probably offered the amendment in committee rather than in Congress.

In February General Lincoln appointed as assistant secretary his former aide-de-camp, Major William Jackson (1759–1828) of Philadelphia. Jackson, who recently had been the assistant of John Laurens during his mission to France, served later as secretary of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and as a private secretary of President Washington during his first administration (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XX, 323 n.; XXXII, 499 n.; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , IV, 417).

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