George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James McHenry, 21 October 1798

To James McHenry

Mount Vernon 21st Octr 1798

Private & Confidential
My dear Sir,

Enclosed is a copy of the Presidents letter to me, which I request may be, with this letter, burnt as soon as they are read, & no more said respecting the contents than might be proper for him to hear repeated again; Otherwise, a knowledge that the contents of my letters to, and from him, are in possession of others, may induce him to believe, in good earnest, that intriegues are carrying on, in which I am an Actor—than which, nothing is more foreign from my heart.1

I return the Press copies which were enclosed to me. But in future, whenever you require my opinion on any points, let them be stated in your letter, or on a paper to remain in my possession; without wch my acts, & proceedings, will appear incomplete & misterious.2

Do you mean to furnish me with a copy of the letter you wrote to the President from hence, & of his Instructions to you, or not?3 Long, long since I informed you that it would be extremely useful to me (if I was to have any hand in selecting the Officers for the four Regiments & Cavalry, proposed to be raised in the Southern division of the Union) to be furnished with a list of the Captains & Subalterns therein, who served in the Revolutionary Army; but none has ever been sent.4 This, with the dates of their Commissions might be a means of coming at many valuable Officers, and preventing many disputes hereafter.

Has Mr Wolcott received any answer to his letter to the President? and to what effect.5 You know that I am always Your sincere friend and Affecte Humble Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. It is sometime since Nelly Custis enclosed you a Postnote, furnished by me to discharge your advance for the Colours—Has it ever been received?6

ALS, LNT: George and Katherine Davis Collection; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; copy in the hand of McHenry’s clerk, DLC: Hamilton Papers.

1Not only did McHenry fail to destroy GW’s letter as requested, he had his clerk make a copy of it for Alexander Hamilton.

2The identity of the letterpress copies to which GW refers here is unclear. As GW’s second letter of this date appears to indicate, McHenry’s second letter to GW of 16 Oct. and its enclosures did not arrive at Mount Vernon until later in the day.

4See GW to McHenry, 3 September. In his letter to McHenry of 13 Nov., GW acknowledged possession of “a list of the Genl & Field Officers who served in the Revolutionary War, and of the Captains and subalterns from the States so. of the Potomac.” McHenry had enclosed the latter list in his letter to GW of 30 October. These two lists were likely combined to form a List of Officers [of all ranks, from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia] of the late War who continued to the end thereof or were deranged by Acts of Congress, which is in DLC:GW, filed at the end of 1798.

5GW later in the day received McHenry’s letter of 16 Oct. informing him of the president’s having sent the commissions for the three major generals. See GW to McHenry, 21 Oct. (second letter). On 26 Oct. McHenry noted that Adams had not responded to Wolcott’s letter.

6For details regarding Nelly Custis’s request that McHenry have a standard crafted for a company of volunteer dragoons, see McHenry to GW, 13 Aug., and note 3 of that document. See also McHenry’s letter to GW to 26 Oct. and note 2 of that document.

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