George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 22 November 1793

From Henry Knox

Philadelphia 22 Nov. 1793


General Stewart declines the office of Inspector He says he would have done the same by the naval office, and that he was induced to make the application to please his father in Law; but that he intended this day to have come to me to withdraw it, as his commercial prospects are exceedingly Good—At the same time he is grateful for the offer.1

I submit a letter from Ensign John Morgan being another speciman of his indecorum. In this he objects to the proceedings of the Court Martial which have been received, as not being “the original proceedings” of the Court. I submit this letter to-day in order that if you should judge proper that the validity of those objections may be considered to morrow.2 I have the honor to be sir with the highest respect your humble Servt

H. Knox


1Walter Stewart reconsidered (see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 30 Nov. and 5 Dec.), and on 9 Dec. GW nominated him to be surveyor and inspector of the revenue for Philadelphia. Stewart served in that post until January 1796. Stewart’s father-in-law was Blair McClenachan (d. 1812), a wealthy Philadelphia merchant, shipowner, and banker, who served in the Pennsylvania House, 1790–91 and 1795, and in the U.S. House, 1797–99.

2Ensign John Morgan’s letter to Knox of 20 Nov. has not been identified, but an extract certified by War Department clerk John Stagg, Jr., was enclosed with Knox’s letter to Anthony Wayne of 29 Nov.: “It was my wish Sir to have had my trial in Philadelphia not only as a Justice due to me, but that I might have a Man of abilities and Candour and one conversant in the Law, as a Judge Advocate. (An Officer much wanted in the Amercan Army.) The one appointed on my trial I have been under the necessity to expose, as very deficient in these respects—In consequence of his incapacity &c. manifested in various instances a number of Officers amongst whom was all or most of the Members of the Genl Court Martial petitioned to General Wayne the appointment of another, after my trial was at an end. I mention these circumstances to you because even the original proceedings of the Court are very defective on these accounts and because Ensign Hyde has not transmitted to your Office a true copy of the proceedings as you will see when you shall have the opportunity of comparing the two together. I therefore beg leave to insist that you direct him to send forward the original proceedings to your Office agreeably to the articles of War—Section Administration of Justice Article 24th & as I insisted to him he should for the above reasons—This Article expressly and wisely declares that ‘Every Judge Advocate or Officer officiating as such at any General Court Martial shall transmit with as much expedition as the opportunity of time & distance of place can admit, the original proceedings & sentences of such Court Martial to the Secretary at War.’ General Waynes well know honour Talents & Character render it unnecessary for me to declare that I mean no disrespect to him for the appointment of such an ignorant & incapable Man as Ensign Hyde to the Judge Advocateship—There are few Officers of Talents & Honour in our Army who have been bred to the Law; & of those few I do not know one who can be induced to accept of the Appointment under the present regulation—Indeed the Articles of War require alterations and amendments in several respects; if the public good and Justice to Individuals be their object” (MiU-C: Wayne Papers).

At the cabinet meeting on 23 Nov., GW “Put the proceedings of the Court Martial on the trial of Ensign Morgan, & his letter to the Secy. of War, into the hands of the Attorney General to consider the legality of his complaint &c.” (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 257). Edmund Randolph reported his conclusions in his letter to GW of 24 November.

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