James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Alexander Smyth, [ca. 6 July] 1812

From Alexander Smyth

[ca. 6 July 1812]

The President being about to sign the Commission of General Smyth, & the Secretary of war having declared that it is for the President to fix the rank of the General Officers; as two other gentlemen were approved by the Senate as General officers on the same day, General Smyth offers his claims to the consideration of the President.

Had General Cushing and General Armstrong been nominated as general officers before General Smyth was nominated, he would have yielded rank to them with pleasure; but as he was nominated some days the first, and as he conceives the President, and not the Senate, is “the fountain of honor,” by military principles it becomes his duty to claim rank of them.1

With General Armstrong it is presumed there can be no question, as he never was more than ⟨a⟩ major before he was made a General officer; and his nomination was some days later than General Smyth’s, his confirmation actually later, although on the same day.

Col Cush[i]ng as a Colonel, ranked Col Smyth. But on the 28th of March Col Smyth was appointed by the Secretary of War to do the duty of Inspector General, and on the first of July was nominated by the President to the Senate.

Had the Senate promptly proceeded to the consideration of the nomination, Genl Smyth would have been confirmed some days before General Cushing was nominated.

Upon these grounds, General Smyth claims rank of General Cushing, as well as of General Armstrong, it being his duty to make the claim.

He would respectfully suggest, that it is best that the question be now settled, by inserting in the commission different days from which these officers shall take rank respectively.

RC (DNA: RG 94, Letters Received, filed under “Smyth”). Undated; date assigned here on the basis of Alexander Smyth’s 6 July commission. Docketed by a War Department clerk as received 18 July 1812.

1JM had nominated Smyth as inspector general of the army on 1 July 1812. The Senate confirmed the appointment on 6 July. John Armstrong and Thomas Cushing had been nominated as brigadier general and adjutant general, respectively, on 3 July. The Senate confirmed Armstrong’s appointment on 4 July and Cushing’s on 6 July (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:281, 285, second 285, 288).

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